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Chinese number 2.

The middle kingdom


Learn how to:

  • say where they are from
  • write the word for China in Chinese characters.

Activities – Where are you from?

Possible activities (adapt according to level of students)


See if you can find a video to show the students of New Zealand students saying where they are from. Students can try to guess which country they are from.


Introduce the sentence pattern “Wŏ shì Xīnxīlán rén” – “I am a New Zealander”. Students can practise saying the sentence to each other. (Substitute the English word for the country they are from if they are not from New Zealand.)


Students could practise a short dialogue, using the words they know.


Introduce the word for China – “middle kingdom”, discuss the meaning of the Chinese character for the word China. Students can practise writing the word China in Chinese characters.


Watch the cultural footage relating to calligraphy with the class.


Writing Chinese characters

Unlike the English language, Chinese does not have a written alphabet. Instead, there is a system of characters which represent ideas and sounds. The system of Pinyin is the equivalent of our alphabet, but is only used to help with pronunciation.

Some characters reflect their meaning in a quite literal sense. For example, the word for “China” is “Zhōngguó”. The characters that represent this word illustrate how Chinese people viewed China as being at the centre of the world – literally a “middle kingdom”.

Zhōngguó (translates to 'middle kingdom') in Chinese characters.

First character – Shows a piece of land (could represent whole world) and China is in the middle of the land – represented by a line through the centre.
Second character – The square is a piece of land; the centre represents a king 王, the small dash is the treasure or precious jewels; close the door at the bottom, you have a nation/a land with a ruler.

Sentence pattern

Wŏ shì Xīnxīlán rén.
I am a New Zealander.

Did you know?

If you came from a place, you are a person of that place and in Chinese you just add the word “rén”, which means person, to the country name to say where someone is from. So, “Xīnxīlán rén” is “New Zealand person” or, as we would say in English, “New Zealander”.

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