Introduction to the Lesson Plans

It has never been more important for Americans to learn about China. Now one of our nation’s leading trading partners, a rising political power on the world stage, and an area of increased study in multicultural education, it is essential that American teachers and students become knowledgeable about China’s influence on our world. Art museums with Chinese collections, such as the Peabody Essex Museum, can play a significant role in engaging students with Chinese culture. PEM supports teachers in their efforts by providing access to primary source materials, rich curricular resources, and knowledgeable staff.

Symmetry in Chinese Art(Elementary Lesson)

This lesson uses the exhibition Perfect Imbalance: Exploring Chinese Aesthetics to analyze the concept of symmetry. Symmetrical or near symmetrical design is an integral component of Chinese art and the Chinese image of the cosmos. In addition to symmetry, students will also explore common geometric shapes through the Chinese puzzle of the tangram.

Revering Antiquity (Middle School Lesson)

This lesson focuses on reverence for the idea of antiquity as a central theme of the Chinese aesthetic tradition. In Chinese art, reverence for the past is shown in many ways including historical allusions, antiquarian themes, referencing traditional artistic processes, and respect for past masters. Revering antiquity touches upon issues relevant to middle school students who begin to question tradition as they forge individual identities. To frame a discussion about reverence for the past, we have selected written excerpts from four diverse sources. In each reading, the author codifies, questions, or praises the tradition of reverence for antiquity and his role in society and place in history.

Images of the Cosmos (High School Lesson)

This lesson helps students appreciate Chinese aesthetics, particularly the Chinese tradition of depicting images of the cosmos. By reading a core text from the Chinese philosophical canon, the Daodejing (lit. The Way and its Power, also Romanized as Tao Te Ching), traditionally attributed to Laozi (sometimes Romanized as Lao Tze); students will have the opportunity to reflect upon the Chinese tradition of cosmic imagery, in both art and literature.