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Chinese number1.

China – What’s it to me?

Focus concepts:

  • Heritage
  • Culture

Effective teaching:

  • Making connections to prior learning and experience
  • Enhancing the relevance of new learning

Learning intentions

Students will:

  • consider ancient inventions from China and more recent inventions from New Zealand
  • reflect on how China’s inventions connect with students in New Zealand today
  • participate in a human continuum exploring what current knowledge and understanding they have about China.

Activity 1 – Discussion about Chinese inventions

Divide your students into groups. Give each group 3–4 of the pictures from Appendix 5.

Inventions from China:

Sundial, alcohol, tea, silk, iron and steel smelting, porcelain, compass, gunpowder and fireworks, moveable type printing, papermaking, paper money, paper ink, abacus, decimal system, kite, acupuncture, suspension bridge, wheelbarrow

See Top 10 greatest inventions of ancient China for more details on many of these inventions.

Ask the class: "How are all these items connected?"

Give the students time to consider the items and then stop the class and ask: "Has anyone guessed that they are all ancient inventions from China?"

For example, paper was invented in AD 105 in the Han dynasty. Before this, documents were written on bone or bamboo and papyrus. This led to the development of ink, printing presses, writing, and paper money. It was through the Silk Road that the four great Chinese inventions of papermaking, gunpowder, the compass, and printing spread across the world. For more information, see Chinese inventions on the website of The Society for Anglo Chinese Understanding (SACU) .

Ask each group to choose an item (or two) and discuss its absence in their life.

Key questions

  • What if we didn’t have this invention today?
  • How have these inventions changed through time?

Activity 2 – New Zealand inventions

Ask the students to identify as many New Zealand inventions as they can and list these on a table (like the one below). (Some suggestions are given.)

NZ inventions

What does this tell us about New Zealand culture?

  • tranquilizer dart gun
  • spreadable butter
  • jet boat
  • electric fence
  • bungy jumping (commercialised)
  • animal eartags
  • putorino (Māori wooden trumpet)
  • mountain buggy
  • sheep-processing robot
  • buzzy bee
  • Māori trench warfare
  • kite fishing
  • no. 8 wire

Categorise these into groups by using a highlighter/colour.

Key question

  • What does this tell us about New Zealand?

For example, the rural history of New Zealand is strongly reflected in these inventions, or fun and outdoor adventure, or relative youthfulness of occupation in New Zealand. Compare with China and its strong focus, for example, on recording information, natural medicine, and using number systems.

Connecting with China today

How does the past inform culture in China today?

The following activity is specifically designed to identify any experts in the class who have a lot of knowledge about China. It also serves to reveal any misunderstandings held by students here, including stereotyped information, to inform future teaching and learning.

Activity 3 – Human continuum

Post a sign true at one end of the classroom and false at other end.
Students move to the end of their choice as the teacher reads out the following true/false statements. If unsure, they stay in middle.

Create and adapt your own true and false questions and add to / replace the list as you see fit. Note: The correct statement needs to be read out straight after the question so that misinformation isn’t perpetuated.

Facts about China

True or False

  • China is the fourth largest country in the world in terms of land size.
  • True: It is approximately the same size as the United States.
  • There are more Chinese than any other people group in world.
  • True: One-fifth of the world’s population live in China – 1.4 billion people.
  • Black is a lucky colour in China
  • False: Red is most lucky colour – it is traditionally the colour of happiness and joy – yellow is also lucky; yellow and gold signify heavenly glory / the king’s robes.
  • The date and time of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games opening ceremony has been specially chosen because it is lucky.
  • True: 8/08/08 has been chosen as 8 is the luckiest number and represents prosperity.
  • The yen is the currency in China.
  • False: The yuan is the local currency – pronounced "u-en".
  • The capital city of China is Shanghai.
  • False: The capital city of China is Beijing.
  • Chinese people celebrate New Year on 31 December every year.
  • False: Chinese New Year is based on a lunar calendar and changes every year according to the time of the full moon. Generally it falls in January or February, eg in 2008, Chinese New Year was on 8 February.
  • China manufactures 70% of the world’s toys.
  • True

For more information on China, visit China in brief on the China Culture website.

Activity 4 – Building the Great Wall

As a reflection at the end of this activity, pass out some ‘bricks’ (i.e. coloured cardboard about 10–15cm by 8cm) to students and ask them to record what they know about China’s culture and heritage. This will form a ‘wall’ of understandings that can be added to throughout the learning. The wall can contain facts, but could also record perceptions, thoughts, values and questions.

Consider setting up a current issues focus (see Appendix 1) during the course of this unit.

Language focus

Refer to language lesson 1 – Greetings and introductions.

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