ancient China

The Beginnings of Ancient China Mini-Lesson

Objective: Students will learn about the early beginnings of ancient China—including its unification in 221 B.C. under the Qin dynasty.

Suggested Time: 15 minutes

Reading Level: Upper Elementary

Teacher Background

China is the world's oldest continuous civilization and its first great dynasty was the Shang. (c. 1650-1027 B.C.) However, under the MORE

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Print or Project

  1. A Visual Overview: Show the slideshow of photos to your class. Each has a descriptive caption and kid-friendly copy for your students to read. (Please note that there is also more extensive teacher note copy just for you.)
  2. Creative Caption Review: Once you've been through the slideshow for an overview, go back through it again. This time ask students to explain why the captions do (or do not!) work. (Example: Do you think the caption "A Bronze Beginning" is a good one for the photo of early markings from the Shang dynasty? Why or why not?)

Click the thumbnail slides below to see the captions and kid-friendly copy up close.

  1. Continue the Conversation: Invite students to share what they know about Chinese traditions. Such things as acupuncture, herbal medicines, and even chopsticks have been a part of Chinese culture for thousands of years.
  2. Write about it: Ask students to imagine they are the First Emperor writing an order to make the terra cotta army. What instructions would they give to workers to make sure each soldier was unique?

Extension Activities

Reinforcements: These worksheets will be useful as you further develop your teaching unit. The Word Power worksheet will give your students vocabulary practice with key terms from this mini-lesson and the related activity will help reinforce key concepts on ancient China.


Ancient China Word Power
Grade: 4 - 6
Students practice vocabulary relevant to ancient China by reading the definition and using the word in a sentence.



Chinese Calligraphy
Grade: 5 - 8
Combine painting, poetry, and calligraphy to create Chinese scrolls. This is a fun and educational art activity for the Chinese New Year.



Excerpted from:

Eyewitness: Ancient China

This book is a spectacular and informative guide to the history of the great Chinese empire and the customs and traditions of its people. Stunning real-life photographs and lifelike models offer a unique "eyewitness" view of life in imperial China, from its earliest beginnings in the Bronze Age to its final days in the early years of the 20th century.

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