China has always fascinated me. The music is beautiful, some of the folklore is so unique, and I used to love watching Kung Fu movies like Fearless Kung Fu Elements (it is so bad, after watching it 25+ years later). The problem is that I never was taught about the history of China as a kid other than my mom making me see the movie China Cry (but I still didn’t understand the background issues of the society of China for the time period it depicts).
I didn’t really know much about anything until I was an older teenager. Once I became an adult I did my own self research from reading missionary stories, historical fiction books, and going through rabbit holes of information on oppression they suffered. I didn’t even know about the Tienanmen Square Massacre until I was in my twenties (and I was old enough to know about it when it was happening, but no one told me it was happening when it did, probably because I was five and a half, but still, you’d think someone would have taught me about it).
That being said, I don’t want my sons to be in the dark like I was. We started with tying in some history from our Japan study into one of the wars between Japan and China and then went right into learning about China. I also wanted to teach them about how America treated immigrants from China and what they went through in the 1800s through the mid 1900s.
Of course then we learned about Mao. We had a whole great family discussion about this study. Leto cried out of shock when I read one of the children picture books below and started to explain things that people went through during Mao’s dictatorship.
To end the study, we have plans to see the New Shanghai Circus!
Here’s some of the chapter books we read about China:
The House of Sixty Fathers
I am pretty sure this is about the second Sino-Japanese war, though I don’t remember them specifically mentioning what it was called in the book, nor which year it took place in. The idea is that Japan invaded China and a little boy and his family escapes by a sampan boat, but soon he gets separated from his family. This story talks about starvation, guerrilla warfare, and the American troops that came to help China. I feel it was very important for us to read this because it showed the hardships and sad problems that war can create for families, as well as the ability to try to survive best you can. I think it helped open up my sons’ eyes a lot more to all that was mentioned.
In The Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson
This is a fictional story about a little girl who lived in China with a large family, but left to live in NYC with her parents. She talks about the various culture in the city and what it was like to learn English and attend a school as the only Chinese kid in class. She learns about a sport that is popular in the US called baseball and a man who was changing racial prejudices within the sport (and becomes her hero). I could tell my sons really loved this one.
Li Lun, Lad of Courage
This book is about a young boy who is afraid of fishing on the ocean. His father is angry at his cowardliness and sends him up to the mountain to plant rice as his grandfather had done. In the process, he struggles and works hard in order to receive back his father’s pride. It was a short book and really odd to think that an eleven or ten year old boy would be sent off on his own to survive for several months as a punishment, but it did show my sons about taking responsibility and being in charge of something so important.
Pretty much the first missionary who went to China who decided to live like the Chinese and look like the Chinese and learn as they do was Hudson Taylor. Most missionaries before then would try to make them like Westerners (drives me bonkers when I read those). This book is all about Hudson Taylor’s life. The first half is about his life before he went to China though. It talks about his trust in God through prayer to take care of him (and goodness they include some great crazy miracles). I really wish this talked more about China (it does enough but I wanted much more). It is really a wonderful story and he is one of the best missionaries I have read about in general, so it was nice to share about his life with the boys.
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon
This was our favorite book from all that we read. It was such an awesome book! The story is about a little girl who thinks she should travel alone (ahhh) to meet the Old Man of the Moon and ask him to give her family fortune, as they are poor farmers who can barely survive. Throughout the book she meets people or creatures who tell tales of adventures and each one has a life lesson, but it is all a part of the one big story that this is. My sons were obsessed with it and didn’t want to stop reading it once I started it. It is about 400 pages but we got through it in a matter of days because they loved it so much and I’d read chapter after chapter after chapter.
The Story of Noodles (we read one about paper and kites too, but this was our favorite)
Dragon craft shown in video above is found here.