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Chinese lantern festival (levels 3–4)

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 stories, reading texts and viewing images. Students may also choose to interview 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: 15 to 20 lessons

Teaching and learning chapters



Achievement objectives:

Key concepts:

Conceptual understandings/learning intentions:

Today we are learning that …

Level 3

Social sciences:

Students will gain knowledge, skills, and experiences to:

Understand how cultural practices vary but reflect similar purposes.

Variance in cultural practices

Similar purposes in cultural practices  

The cultural practices of Chinese New Zealanders and other New Zealand cultural groups do vary but they often reflect similar purposes.

Level 4

Social sciences:

Students will gain knowledge, skills, and experiences to:

Understand how people pass on and sustain culture and heritage for different reasons and that this has consequences for people.

Passing on culture and heritage

Sustaining culture and heritage


Chinese New Zealanders and other New Zealand cultural groups pass on and sustain their culture and heritage in different ways and for different reasons.

The passing on and sustaining of culture and heritage has consequences for Chinese and other cultural groups in New Zealand.


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.



  • 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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