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Chinese lantern festival (levels 1–2)

This unit explores the traditions surrounding the Chinese lantern festival which has been part of Chinese New Year celebrations since the Han Dynasty (206 BC – 221 AD).

This unit of work encourages students to explore how the Chinese lantern festival is celebrated and to discover why this festival is significant to people of Chinese descent. Students will use an inquiry approach to develop their understandings.

At the start of this unit students are required to reflect on festivals and special occasions that they celebrate with their family and friends. Students then research the Chinese lantern festival by listening to a story, viewing images and interviewing a person from the Chinese community. Students use art, drama and dance to explore the customs and traditions behind the Chinese lantern festival. At the conclusion of the unit, students are encouraged to reflect on their new learning and share what they have found out with others.

NB: The Chinese Lantern Festival is celebrated in February/March each year. This event gives Chinese communities the opportunity to share their traditions and culture with other New Zealanders.

Approximate duration of unit: 14 to 17 lessons

Teaching and learning chapters



 Achievement objectives:

 Key concepts:

 Conceptual understandings/learning intentions:

Today we are learning that …

 Level 1

 Social sciences:

Students will gain knowledge, skills, and experiences to:

Understand how the cultures of people in New Zealand are expressed in their daily lives.

Cultural expressions

Chinese New Zealanders express their culture in their daily lives.  

There are similarities and differences in the cultural expressions of Chinese New Zealanders and other New Zealand cultural groups.

 Level 2

 Social sciences:

Students will gain knowledge, skills, and experiences to:

Understand how cultural practices reflect and express people’s customs, traditions, and values.

Cultural practices




Chinese New Zealanders express their customs, traditions and values through their own cultural practices.


Key competencies

  • Thinking
  • Using language, symbols and texts
  • Managing self
  • Relating to others
  • Participating and contributing

Cross curricular links

  • Visual arts
  • Dance
  • Drama

Useful resources

School journals

Born in the Year of the Rabbit, School Journal, Part 2, Number 3, 2008

Teasing the Lion, School Journal, Part 2, Number 3, 1991


Moonbeams, Dumplings and Dragon Boats: A Treasury of Chinese Holiday Tales, Activities and Recipes by Nina Simonds. Illustrated by Meilo So.

Five traditional Chinese festivals are featured. The section on the lantern festival includes the legend of the festival's origins, a recipe for sweet rice balls, and instructions for making lanterns and playing the lantern riddle game.

D is for Dancing Dragon: A China Alphabet by Carol Crane. Illustrated by Zong-Zhou Wang.

This alphabet book format is used to good effect here to introduce young readers to many aspects of Chinese culture. Includes a feature page on the lantern festival.

Festivals of the world: China by Colin Cheong.

This book of Chinese festivals also has a feature on the lantern festival and has some great pictures of the lion dance and dragon dance.


  • This unit is designed to provide Year 1 & 2 students with a better understanding of China through an inquiry into the Chinese Lantern Festival.
  • Lantern Festival (or Yuanxiao Festival)
  • Lantern Festival (Please be aware that, as Wikipedia is a public document, accuracy of information cannot be guaranteed.)

  Freeze frames and mime

About freeze frames

Freeze frames are a series of poses made by students to communicate a story or idea. The students need to hold their poses still which is why they are called ‘freeze frames’.

A director is needed during the presentation of the freeze frames. They tell the audience to close their eyes while the performing group gets into position. Once the performers are ready the director tells the audience to open their eyes. The performers hold their positions for 4-5 seconds and the director then asks the audience to close their eyes again while the performers change their poses. The performers need to move quickly so that the audience does not have to wait too long for the next freeze frame. A freeze frame performance usually includes 4–6 freeze frames.

About mime

Mime is a dramatic technique that focuses solely on movement with no sound. Students cannot speak and they need to devise other ways of communicating using body language, facial gestures and props. Movements in mime are often slow and exaggerated.


Asia:NZ would like to thank all those that have contributed towards the development of this unit.

Mike Tapp – writer.

Christina Ward – writer.

Sophie Shih – for sharing her lantern making expertise.

The Arts Implementation Team from the Auckland College of Education (now Faculty of Education, University of Auckland).

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