China (Ninth through Seventeenth Centuries): Commerce, Technology, and Intercultural Contacts

Maranda Wilkinson

Franklin County School District

Franklin County, Tennessee

Zheng He

Zheng He. Source: Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy at http://staff.imsa.edu/~esmith/treasurefleet/treasurefleet/zheng_he.htm.

Overview

This module was developed and utilized in a seventh-grade world history and geography course. It is designed to address nearly all China-related Tennessee state world history and geography standards that focus upon (roughly) the late ninth to mid-seventeenth centuries. Topics include East Asia geographical features, Song developments and technology, Mongol China rule, the Silk Road, Zheng He’sMing dynasty voyages, and Marco Polo’s influence on trade. However, the module should easily be adapted for use in other states for middle school or possibly high school world history, world geography, or world cultures courses.

East Asian and Eurasian land and maritime trade routes, often beginning or ending in China, played a pivotal role in facilitating the development and dissemination of Chinese technology and goods to areas far beyond imperial China. The rise of the Mongol Empire and Mongol Rule in China, along with later Ming contributions, further stimulated the spread of commerce and technology. An infusion of jigsaw and reciprocal teaching methods, along with complementary teacher-centered instruction in this module, will allow for more student-driven learning of content. 

Estimated module length: Approximately six or seven fifty-minute class periods, depending on familiarity with jigsaw and reciprocal teaching methods and the incorporation of extensions provided. 

Objectives

Students will:

Identify and locate geographical features of East Asia relevant to technology and trade.

Understandhow Chinese technology and trade influenced the empire and much of the ninth- to seventeenth-century world.

Learn about and evaluate the effects of Mongol expansion and Marco Polo influences on the spread of Chinese technology along trade routes, specifically the Silk Road.

Identify the significance of Zheng He’s voyages during the Ming dynasty.

Compare and contrast trade routes from the past, specifically the Silk Road and maritime routes plotted by Zheng He, to China’s newly proposed Silk Road.

Create a digital advertisement detailing a chosen Chinese development or technological advancement and its significance. (See Project extension: Chinese technological and commercial innovations during Class No. 3)

Assess the significance and legacy of Chinese developments and technological advancements in the contemporary world.

Evaluate the importance of Chinese developments and technological advancements on the rest of the world.

Prerequisite knowledge

The assumption is that students will have gained prior knowledge of several East Asia geographical features, the Silk Road, and ancient Chinese developments and technologies in preceding grade levels and should be somewhat familiar with them. Prior to module employment, students are not required to know exact locations of East Asia geographical features, specific Song dynasty developments and advanced technologies, Silk Road trade route locations, Mongol expansion, or Zheng He sea routes and voyage details. Depending on educator preference, this module may either be used to introduce or provide a more in-depth learning experience regarding these topics if extensions are utilized.

Module introduction

Class No. 1

Class No. 1 will serve as an introduction to East Asia geographical locations and resources. Maps are provided for students. Students will identify and locategeographical features of East Asia relevant to technology and trade. They will also be introduced to the Tang and Song dynasties, and their roles in trade.  

Warmup: Asia physical map

Estimated time: ten minutes

Provide students with the Asia physical map and allow them several minutes to label the listed geographical features using only prior knowledge (the answers are available here). After several minutes, have them gauge their work with a partner’s. Review landform locations as a whole group to ensure accuracy. (Ensure the inclusion of these in the labeling: China, Gobi Desert, Himalayan Mountains, Japan, Korean peninsula, Pacific Ocean, Plateau of Tibet, Sea of Japan (East Sea), Yangtze River, and Yellow River.)

Part 1: Landforms pros and cons worksheet

Estimated time: ten minutes

Provide students with the East Asia landforms pros and cons worksheet, which includes an East Asia resource map. Share with students that landforms play a key role in the development of civilizations and trade. Remind students that the very first civilizations, including Mesopotamia and Egypt, developed along water sources. Instruct students to brainstorm with a “shoulder partner” and write down pros and cons on the provided worksheet of each East Asia landform depicted, considering how each could affect people, agriculture, technology, and trade. Allow studentsto share their findings with the rest of the class. Instruct students to fill in beneficial information on their worksheets that theirs may be lacking as other students share their findings.

Part 2: Tang dynasty PowerPoint

Estimated time: twenty minutes

Cue the Tang dynasty PowerPoint provided. Share with students that the establishment of the Tang dynasty following a civil war provided stability and allowed for commerce, technological developments, and intercultural contacts as available resources were utilized and trade route usage was revitalized.   

Part 3: Song dynasty video clip

Estimated time: ten minutes

Inform students that following the collapse of the Tang dynasty, the Song dynasty was established. Provide students with the video note-taking worksheet, and share that today’s viewing of the six-minute and twenty-second video “Discovering China–The Song Dynastywill serve as an introduction to the Song dynasty. Instruct them to complete the viewing guide, and after the viewing, allow students to share.

Screen capture from “Discovering China—The Song Dynasty

Source: Screen capture from “Discovering China—The Song Dynasty” on YouTubeat https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QO7NHZJ-eE4.

Closing

Inform students that Class Nos. 2 and 3 will provide a more in-depth look at the Song dynasty’s agricultural, commercial, and technological contributions to China’s legacy. Additionally, and if desired, provide students with an exit ticket of choice. (See exit ticket options in the appendix.)

Extension

For teachers wanting to cover the Tang dynasty and Buddhism more in-depthly, related YouTube links are provided in the resources section. 

Class No. 2

Class No. 2 (and Class No. 3) will serve as an introduction to the agricultural, commercial, and technological developments of the Song dynasty. The reciprocal teaching method will be utilized. Students will begin to understandhow Chinese technology and trade influenced the empire and much of the ninth- through seventeenth-century world through both “chunking” and role-playing, and will continue to develop an understanding through succeeding technology-integrated lessons in this module. 

Warmup

Estimated time: ten minutes

Students should already be placed into groups of four or more, which will serve as home groups during the jigsaw lesson, prior to the lesson’s start, and stations should already be assembled for the needs of each expert group. Today’s warmup will be for the teacher to explain jigsaw home and expert groups. Students will be assigned an expert group during this time. If familiar with the jigsaw method, teachers may dive straight into the lesson after assigning groups and distributing the Song dynasty technology handout. An additional, optional warmup/activating activity is provided on the correlating handout.

Part 1

Estimated time: ten minutes

Access (teacher and students) "The Song Dynasty in China"provided and using the following path: “Economic Revolution” tab à“Population Boom” subtab (link). Provide an introduction to students by reading this short chunk to them. After the reading, instruct students to begin their first chunk reading and role-playing following this path: “Economic Revolution” tab à“Commercialization” subtab (link). They will only read “Commercialization and Transport,” identified in green under the subtab. (The teacher may use this chunk to model the reciprocal teaching method if desired.) Groups may read aloud or quietly to themselves. After five minutes, instruct students to complete their roles within a three-minute time frame. The remaining two minutes will be utilized to share differing roles as a small group or whole class. 

Part 2

Estimated time: ten minutes

Instruct students to rotate role cards one place to the left and direct them to chunk 2 following this path: “Economic Revolution” tab a “Paper Money” subtab (link). Students will only read “From Copper Coins to Paper Notes,” identified in green under the subtab. Groups may read aloud or quietly to themselves. After five minutes, instruct students to complete their roles within a three-minute time frame. The remaining two minutes will be utilized to share differing roles as a small group or whole class.   

Part 3

Estimated time: ten minutes

Instruct students to rotate role cards one place to the left and direct them to chunk 3 following this path: “Economic Revolution” tab à“Iron & Steel” subtab (link). Students will only read “Iron and Steel” and “From Charcoal to Coal,” identified in green under the subtab. Groups may read aloud or quietly to themselves. After five minutes, instruct students to complete their roles within a three-minute time frame. The remaining two minutes will be utilized to share differing roles as a small group or whole class. 

Part 4

Estimated time: ten minutes

Instruct students to rotate role cards one place to the left and direct them to chunk 4 following this path: “Economic Revolution” tab à“Textiles & Silk” (link) AND “Economic Revolution” tab à“Ceramics” subtab (link). Students will read “Textiles & Silk” and “Ceramics,” identified in green under each subtab. Groups may read aloud or quietly to themselves. After five minutes, instruct students to complete their roles within a three-minute time frame. The remaining two minutes will be utilized to share differing roles as a small group or whole class.

Closing

As students pass their role cards in, informally assess their learning by asking students to share one new fact they learned during the day’s lesson.

Materials needed

Five large index cards per group

Chromebook/similar device per student or printouts of web pages

Class No. 3

Class No. 3 will serve as an in-depth look at the Song dynasty’s technological developments. Students will understand how Chinese technology and trade influenced the empire and much of the ninth- through seventeenth-century world. The jigsaw method will be utilized. See the Song Dynasty handout for resource and technology needs. (Note: This handout contains several resources and readings that are referenced and linked to for Class No. 3 activities. You will only need to download this resource once to receive all materials for the day's activities).

Warmup

Estimated time: ten minutes

Students should already be placed into groups of four or more, which will serve as home groups during the jigsaw lesson, prior to the lesson’s start, and stations should already be assembled for the needs of each expert group. Today’s warmup will be for the teacher to explain jigsaw home and expert groups. Students will be assigned an expert group during this time. If familiar with the jigsaw method, teachers may dive straight into the lesson after assigning groups and distributing the Song dynasty technology handout. An additional, optional warmup/activating activity is provided on the correlating handout.

Part 1

Estimated time: fifteen minutes 

Students will utilize resources provided to answer their expert group section. Once students have completed their section individually, allow time for expert groups to discuss answers among members and return to their home groups.

Part 2

Estimated time: fifteen minutes 

Students from each expert group will “teach” their home groups what they learned. Students will complete the rest of the worksheet by filling in information provided by each expert group member.

Closing/group review

Estimated time: ten minute 

The teacher will initiate and lead a whole-class discussion on each expert group’s findings to gauge assignment accuracy and assess student learning, and Song dynasty technology handouts may be collected by the teacher for grading purposes if desired.

Assessment/reflection additional options

This assessment may be given as homework or serve as an extended day’s activity in this module if writing skill practice is of necessity for standardized testing. Two options are given based for students. Students will evaluate the importance of Chinese developments and technological advancements on the rest of the world and assess the significance and legacy of Chinese developments and technological advancements in the contemporary world using the writing prompt on the Song dynasty technology handout. Students may be required to write a three- to five-paragraph essay, or lower-level modifications may be made.

Writing prompt option 1: Evaluate the importance of Chinese developments and technological advancements, and assess their significance and legacy in the contemporary world.

Writing prompt option 2: How have Chinese developments and technological advancements changed the world?

A primary document reading—Francis Bacon on the “Significance of Three Chinese Inventions: Printing, Gunpowder, and the Compass”—and related writing prompt is provided in the Song Dynasty technology handout.

Author’s notes on lesson progression and students’ reactions: Students were familiar with more traditional teaching methods (lecture followed by an activity) prior to this lesson. Due to this, role explanation took additional time; however, once students moved to their expert groups, they were fully engaged and worked diligently. When time was called, they moved back to their home groups and “taught” their home groups. A few students were a bit shy in their “teaching,” but all information was covered. Overall, students seemed to enjoy the change of pace from traditional lecture to a more interactive method of learning. Time constraints due to additional time spent on role explanation at the beginning of the lesson only allowed for a short review of the content covered and did not allow time in class for the assessment/reflection additional options suggested above. A writing prompt from Nos. 1 or 2 could have been assigned for homework, but an additional day in class spent, if possible, on this lesson would be beneficial, as writing skills development is imperative—and due to the reality that homework completion rates are low and continue to drop at some schools. Option No. 2 includes a short primary document reading and writing prompt, and this assignment could be given the following day as a means of primary document practice as well.

Project extension: Chinese technological and commercial innovations

As a project extension option that may be carried out through the module, students may create a digital advertisement detailing a chosen Chinese development or technological advancement and its significance.

Two possible digital options are:

Spreaker—Spreaker allows students to record audio and add sound effects and music into the background for a more realistic recording experience (Spreaker example for teacher).

Paper slide videos (two minutes and twenty-two seconds)—Creating paper slide videos allows students to draw images on paper, then record video of the images with student explanation using iPads, cellphones, or other recording devices. Students may add effects to their videos by uploading them into Windows Movie Maker or iMovie.

To create a personalized rubric for your choice of extension project, sign up for a free Rubistar account and easily create a rubric tailored to your specifications.

Additional projects may be found on pages 23 and 24 of “World Civilizations and Cultures, Grades 5-8 online.

All other resources listed on Song dynasty technology handout.

Class No. 4

Class No. 4 will serve as a means of introducing students to the Mongol Empire and its various influences. Students will learn about and evaluate the effects of Mongol expansion and Marco Polo influences on the spread of Chinese technology along trade routes, specifically the Silk Road, and will continue to do so in the succeeding lesson.

Warmup

Estimated time: ten minutes

Inform students that following the end of the Song dynasty, the Mongol Empire was established. To spark interest, print five to ten questions on individual slips of paper to distribute to random students as they enter the classroom, and begin the lesson by reading the short excerpt on the Mongols. Allow the students with questions to read their question and answer choices aloud to the class, and allow the class to guess. Using the provided answers located in the e-book (Amazing Facts in World History, Grades 5–8[“Mongols”]), read the correct answer and background information to students.

Part 1: Genghis Khan

Estimated time: ten minutes

Inform students that the founder of the Mongol Empire was Genghis Khan. Prior to the viewing, distribute the Mongols and the Silk Road graphic organizer, and instruct students to write down information detailing Genghis Khan’s role in establishing the Mongol Empire and tactics of doing so based on the reading used in the warmup. As a whole class, view History’s “Genghis Khanvideo clip (four minutes). Scroll down from a somewhat-misleading title “Kublai Khan Videos” to access the “Genghis Khan” clip.

Genghis Khan

Genghis Khan. Source: Wikpedia at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genghis_Khan#/media/File:Genghis_khan.jpg.

Via a whole-class discussion after the viewing, question students about what information they included on their graphic organizer, and allow them time to fill in additional information gathered during the discussion. Share with students that Genghis Khan’s grandson, Kublai Khan, later ruled the Mongol Empire and expanded it, establishing the Yuan dynasty.  

Part 2: Kublai Khan Facebook

Estimated time: twenty minutes

Provide students with the Kublai Khan Facebook handout, as well as a device for accessing Kublai Khan’s biography. Instruct students to visit the site and complete their Facebook profiles of Kublai Khan, filling in key information in each section and even testing their creativity by sketching a profile picture of Kublai Khan. After an allotted amount of time, review their work as a whole class to gauge accuracy and knowledge gained. It is essential to make sure students take note of this particular “Interesting Facts about Kublai Khan,” located near the bottom of the website, as it leads into Part 3 regarding the Silk Road: “Trade along the Silk Road reached its peak during the Yuan Dynasty as Kublai encouraged foreign trade and the Mongols protected merchants along the trade route.” 

Kublai Khan

Kublai Khan. Source: Wikipedia at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kublai_Khan#/media/File:YuanEmperorAlbumKhubilaiPortrait.jpg.

Part 3: BrainPop’s “Silk Road” video

Estimated time: ten minutes

Cue BrainPop’s “Silk Road” video (link—five minutes and nineteen seconds) for students to view as a whole class. (If you do not have a subscription, you may easily sign up for a free trial and will be given access to this episode and related resources.) Instruct students to fill in key information about the Silk Road on their Mongols and the Silk Road chart during the viewing.  After the viewing, have students take the related quiz as a whole group or individually. There is a review option and a graded option from which to choose. Answers may simply be covered in class or reviewed later by the teacher for grading purposes.

Additional resources for this episode are available as well if there is a desired use. Inform students that focus will be placed more on the Silk Road the following day.

Closing

(See resources for exit ticket options.)

Author’s note on class discussion and student interests: Students were highly interested in the Amazing Facts in World History questions on the Mongols. One particular question (No. 3) stumped students, leading to a discussion on reasons why nomadic people would have only eaten certain foods during that time frame. One student asked, “Why was there no reference to the Mongols eating vegetables?” Students concluded that because they were nomadic, they may not have had time to plant crops. They also reasoned that the terrain may not have been suitable in some locations. Question No. 2 regarding bathing led to a discussion on sanitation and the spread of germs and disease. Students were engaged the remainder of the lesson, as the warmup questions piqued their interest in the Mongols.

Class No. 5

Class No. 5 will serve as a focus lesson on the Silk Road itself, tying in Marco Polo and Zheng He’s routes with their influence and significance in spreading Chinese technologies. Students will continue to learn about and evaluate the effects of Mongol expansion and Marco Polo influences on the spread of Chinese technology along trade routes, specifically the Silk Road, and they will identify the significance of Zheng He’s voyages during the Ming dynasty. Please make note that Marco Polo was in Asia from 1271 to 1295 and in China for seventeen of those years. Zheng He made his famous voyages from 1405 to 1433. While their time frames vary, both historical figures were highly influential in spreading trade and technology, specifically military technology through Chinese maritime exhibition in Zheng He’s case.

Students will also compare and contrast trade routes from the past, specifically the Silk Road and maritime routes plotted by Zheng He, to China’s newly proposed Silk Road as a means of connecting the past with the present.

Warmup

Estimated time: six to seven minutes

Open the lesson with a viewing of “The Silk Road: Connecting the Ancient World through Trade (five minutes and nineteen seconds) to review Silk Road background information already covered and allow students to begin making connections to contemporary times. After the viewing, explain that today’s lesson will focus on two figures who significantly influenced trade along the Silk Road: Marco Polo and Zheng He.

Map of China’s Silk Road

Map of China’s Silk Road. Source: World Economic Forum at https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2017/06/china-new-silk-road-explainer/

Part 1: Marco Polo (1254–1324)

Estimated time: thirteen to fifteen minutes

Distribute the Marco Polo and Zheng He Venn diagram. Instruct students to add information on Marco Polo into the area designated for him. Cue the BrainPop “Marco Polo” episode (link—six minutes and thirty-three seconds)for students to view as a whole class. (If you do not have a subscription, you may easily sign up for a free trial and will be given access to this episode and related resources.) After the viewing, have students take the related quiz as a whole group or individually. There is a review option and a graded option from which to choose. Answers may simply be covered in class or reviewed later by the teacher for grading purposes.

Additional resources for this episode are available as well if there is a desired use. In a whole-class discussion, ask students these questions: What pieces of information did you include in your Venn diagram? Do you think Marco Polo’s travels aided in additional Silk Road or later trade? Why? After the Mongols lost control of China andSilk Road trade slowed, what means did Europeans turn to in order to keep trade with the East alive? Based on what you learned earlier about the Song dynasty, do you think any of those technologies or at least the knowledge of them could have been spread along the Silk Road by Marco Polo’s travels and/or stories? Reiterate to students that trade along the Silk Road did not consist solely of goods; customs, beliefs, and a wide range of practical knowledge—on subjects ranging from medicine to the functions of gunpowder—were also traded or shared along the way. Marco Polo’s stories, whether outlandish in nature or not, sparked further interest in Asia and what it had to offer. 

Part 2: Zheng He

Estimated time: thirteen to fifteen minutes

Explain to students that Zheng He was a Ming dynasty admiral whom the emperor tasked to make a series of seven voyages from 1405 to 1433to various places, including, most notably, most of Southeast Asia, and that his maritime routes were both influential in spreading Chinese technologies and increasingmaritime trade that China and other countries had already been conducting for hundreds of years. Instruct students to add important information into their Venn diagrams for Zheng He as they access “The Ages of Exploration: Zheng He,” taking special note of goods traded and Zheng He’s legacy. If individual devices are unavailable, copies may be printed from the site for student use. Once complete, review information students have listed as a class. Point out to students that the increase in trade with China was important for Southeast Asian countries but not nearly as much for the Chinese, who already had a sophisticated economy for the time. The most important reason the Ming emperor commissioned the voyages was to demonstrate Chinese military and political power.

Part 3: WorldMap interactive Silk Road

Estimated time: ten minutes

Allow students time to explore the layers of the interactive map, and then have students identify which East Asia geographical features were crossed by Marco Polo’s routes and Zheng He’s maritime routes to help with more East Asia geographical features identification. If individual devices are unavailable, this may simply be completed as a whole class, viewing the map from the whiteboard/interactive Smartboard.

For an additional interactive map of Marco Polo’s journey, see “Marco Polo’s Journey” here.

Closing: Silk Road compare and contrast

Estimated time: five minutes

Explain to students that China has proposed a new Silk Road, which will involve land and maritime routes. Share with students the link to the One Belt, One Roadmap of China’s New Silk Road. If individual devices are unavailable, this may simply be completed as a whole class, viewing the map from the whiteboard/interactive Smartboard.

Individual device option: Allow students time to compare and contrast the interactive Silk Road map from Part 3 to the One Belt, One Road map. Students may informally jot down their findings on their own paper and submit it as an exit ticket for the day, or a whole-class discussion may be utilized to share findings.

Whole-class option: Changing between maps, allow students time to compare and contrast the interactive Silk Road map from Part 3 to the One Belt, One Road map. Students may informally jot down their findings on their own paper and submit it as an exit ticket for the day, or a whole-class discussion may be utilized to share findings.

Author’s note on class discussion and student interests

Students took particular interest in exploring the layers of the WorldMapinteractive Silk Roadin Part 3. Students made mention of the time it must have taken to trade goods compared to today. 

Extension

If time permits, allow students to listen to and view the song written about Marco Polo on History. 

References and resources

https://www.brainpop.com/socialstudies/famoushistoricalfigures/marcopolo/:This is a video on Marco Polo by BrainPop.

http://worldmap.harvard.edu/maps/SilkRoad:WorldMaphas an interactive Silk Road, created by Harvard University.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vn3e37VWc0k: This is a link to “The Silk Road: Connecting the Ancient World through Trade” by TEDEducation on YouTube.

http://www.history.com/topics/exploration/marco-polo: This is a fun Marco Polo song, created by History.com. 

http://www.eduplace.com/kids/socsci/books/applications/imaps/maps/g2_u5/index.html: These maps by Eduplacelay out Marco Polo’s journey.

http://exploration.marinersmuseum.org/subject/zheng-he/:This is a link to the entry on Zheng He from “The Age of Exploration” onThe Mariners’ Museum website.

https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2017/06/china-new-silk-road-explainer/: This page is an explanation of China’s One Belt, One Road initiative with a map by the World Economic Forum. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QO7NHZJ-eE4: This is a link to “Discovering China—The Song Dynasty” by NTDonChina on YouTube.

http://www.cte.iup.edu/preinduction/HO_Video%20Note%20Taking%20Worksheet.pdf: This is a printable video note-taking worksheet.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nsN7NLs-0jI: This is a link to “The Life of the Buddha” animation, which was posted by username “lathrios” on YouTube.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yguW_CsC4Qo: This video, “The Fall of the Golden Age—The Tang Dynasty/History of China,” was posted by username “It’s History” on YouTube.

http://statteacher.blogspot.com/2016/08/ring-o-prompts.html?m=1: This site contains exit ticket options.

http://afe.easia.columbia.edu/songdynasty-module/index.html: This is a link to “The Song Dynasty” entry on the Asia for Educators site.

http://www.adlit.org/strategies/22371/: This site contains jigsaw classroom strategies by AdLit.org.

http://rubistar.4teachers.org/index.php: This Rubistartool helps you create rubrics for your learning activities.

https://books.google.com/books?id=Xrd2BgAAQBAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false: This is the Google Bookspost of Amazing Facts in World History, Grades 5–8by Don Blattner ([city of publication needed here]: Mark Twain Media/Carson–Dellosa Publishing, 2003). See “The Mongols” chapter on page 51.

http://www.history.com/topics/kublai-khan/videos/genghis-khan: This is a video on Genghis Khan from History.com.

http://www.ducksters.com/biography/world_leaders/kublai_khan.php: This is an entry on Kublai Khan by the Ducksters Education Site.

https://www.brainpop.com/socialstudies/worldhistory/silkroad/: This is a video on the Silk Road by BrainPop.