Living in the Chinese Cosmos | Asia for Educators

Class Materials

See also Religions in Asia through Art and Human Systems: Religions for additional lists of resources on Asian religions on AFE, including Shinto, Shamanism, Islam, Hinduism, and others.


• Introduction to Confucian Thought [Asia for Educators]
A background reading about the impact of Confucian philosophy on Chinese government and society.

• What Did Confucius Say? [Asia for Educators]
A short background reading about Confucius the person and his writings.

• Teaching/Learning through Confucius: Navigating Our Way through the Analects [PDF] [Education About Asia, Association for Asian Studies]

Lesson Plan • Confucianism: Understanding and Applying the Analects of Confucius [PDF] [Education About Asia, Association for Asian Studies]
A lesson plan asking students not only to explain the meaning of a passage from the Analects but also to give a contemporary example of the situation Confucius describes.

• Confucianism and Daoism [Stanford History Education Group/SHEG]
In the 5th century BCE, China was thrown into a period of intense warfare among rival states. The conflict created a need for new political models to solve the crisis. As a result, this period led to the development of many new philosophies. Two of the most influential of these philosophies were Confucianism and Daoism. In this lesson, students read from Confucian and Daoist texts to answer the question: What did ancient Chinese philosophers think was the ideal form of government?

Video Unit 

• The Confucian Tradition [Asia for Educators]
A video unit on Confucius and the influence of his teachings. Featuring Irene Bloom and Wm. Theodore de Bary from Columbia University - and Asia Society President Emeritus, Robert Oxnam.

Section Topics:
1. Confucius and the "Confucian Tradition"
2. China at the Time of Confucius
3. Who Was Confucius?
4. What Did Confucius Do?
5. What Did Confucius Teach?

Video Unit 

• Confucian Teaching [Asia for Educators] A video unit on Confucian teachings covering the three essential values on which Conficianism rests: filial piety, humaneness, and ritual. Featuring Irene Bloom, Wm. Theodore de Bary, and Myron Cohen from Columbia University - and Asia Society President Emeritus, Robert Oxnam.

Section Topics:
1. Three Confucian Values • Filial Piety (Xiao) • • • Ancestor Worship • • • Humaneness (Ren) • • • Ritual (Li) • • • • • Ritual in Everyday Life
2. Reciprocity/The Five Relationships • Man Is a Social Being
3. On Government • The Gentleman
4. On Education • The Classics
5. Is Confucian Thought Religious? • The Emperor and the Mandate of Heaven

Primary Source w/DBQs • Selections from the Confucian Analects [PDF] [Asia for Educators]
Primary Source w/DBQs • Selections from the Confucian Analects: On Humaneness [PDF] [Asia for Educators]
Primary Source w/DBQs • Selections from the Confucian Analects: On Confucius as Teacher and Person [PDF] [Asia for Educators]

Mencius/Mengzi/Meng Ke, 4th Century BCE

Primary Source w/DBQs • Selections from the Mencius: On Human Nature [PDF] [Asia for Educators]

Xunzi/Xun Qing/Xun Kang, ca. 310-ca. 219 BCE

Primary Source w/DBQs • Selections from the Xunzi: "Human Nature Is Evil" [PDF] [Asia for Educators]
Primary Source w/DBQs • Selections from the Xunzi: "Encouraging Learning" [PDF] [Asia for Educators]
Primary Source w/DBQs • Selections from the Xunzi: "A Discussion of Rites" [PDF] [Asia for Educators]


• Introduction to Daoism [Asia for Educators]
A brief introductory overview of Daoism and the writings of Laozi and Zhuangzi.

• Daoism [Asia Society]
An introductory overview.

Lesson Plan 

• Attitudes Towards Nature in Daoist Art [Asia Society]
A short lesson that "helps students understand the difference between how many Westerners view nature versus how many Chinese (particularly Daoists and the literati) felt about the natural world around them. [Uses] Chinese poems and landscape paintings as primary sources."

Laozi, ca. 3rd Century BCE
Primary Source w/DBQs • Selections from the Laozi (Daodejing) [PDF] [Asia for Educators]

Zhuangzi/Zhuang Zhou, ca. 360-280 BCE
Primary Source w/DBQs • Selections from the Zhuangzi: Chapter 3, "The Secret of Caring for Life" [PDF] [Asia for Educators]


• Buddhist Art and the Trade Routes [Asia Society]
An extensive site, covering three main topics: 1) Trade Routes; 2) Buddhism and its Imagery; and 3) India: Origins of Buddhist Art. Also discusses the Buddhist art of specific regions -- Korea/Japan; China/Mongolia; Himalayas; Southeast Asia; and Sri Lanka. With maps, images, a glossary of terms, and bibliography.

• Visual Connections between Buddhism and Ancient Greece [Smithsonian Learning Lab]
Using the Project Zero Visible Thinking routine "See Think Wonder," this activity investigates the cultural connections between Ancient Greece, Rome, and Gandhara as seen through a sculpture of the Buddha, created in the 2nd century CE. Buddhist sculptures from Gandhara are significant, not only because they show the extent of Alexander the Great's influence on Asia, but also because they are some of the first human depictions of the Buddha in the history of Buddhist art.

 Encountering the Buddha: Art and Practice Across Asia [Smithsonian Learning Lab]

 “Using Monkey to Teach Religions of China,” Ryan Bradeen and Jean Johnson in Education About Asia, Volume 10, Number 2, Fall 2005


• Chinese Paper Gods | C. V. Starr East Asian Library, Columbia University

• Chinese Hell Scrolls | Ken E. Brashier, Reed College

• Chinese Belief Systems [Asia Society]
Essay examining Chinese belief systems, including ancestral rites and divination, the teachings of the philosophers Confucius and Laozi, and Buddhism.

• Popular Belief in Ancient China [China Mirror, U of Michigan]
A "Daybook" (an almanac) discovered in a tomb from 216 BCE tells about beliefs and predictions and gives a rare glimpse into the everyday lives of people living in China more than 2,000 years ago. It tells us much about the religious and cosmological ideas people had back then and murky was the boundary between religion and science in traditional societies. The Daybook is written in ink on bamboo slips gathered into a roll. Bamboo and wood slips and silk cloth were the usual media for writing before the invention and spread of papermaking in the Han Dynasty (206 BCE-220 CE).

• Sacred Kinship and Sacrifice in Ancient India and China [PDF] [ExEAS]
This unit, developed by Thomas Wilson and Lisa Trivedi for their students at Hamilton College, helps students understand a world in which society and governance were subsumed within a larger religious order and in which effective social, political, and economic administration depend upon proper performance of ritual obligations... This unit aims to establish a pedagogical framework for a comparative study of ancient India and ancient China on the basis of reading primary sources across cultural traditions. This comparison aims not at finding universals, but examining practices (such as ritual sacrifice) and ideas (such as origin myths) in light of questions that arise outside of any one tradition in order to understand both what is common and what is distinctive.