The Grandeur of the Qing | Asia for Educators

II. Lesson Plans

Exploring Trade and the World Economy:
A City Street and Shops in 18th Century China

Sean McManamom, Bronx High School of Science, Bronx, New York

Class Activities

  1. Have students open the page of “Interactive Urban Mapper for 18th Century Suzhou”
    (Cut and paste this url.)
    There are 8 different categories of shops and other establishments "pinned" in the scroll. (See list in upper right-hand corner of the link). Divide students into eight groups and assign each group one of the categories. Allow students to explore their categories together for five minutes.
  2. Ask students to imagine that they are one of the characters they see in the city. (Each student can choose a different character, be it a merchant, a farmer, an official, an entertainer, a housewife, a child, a peddler, or member of the Emperor’s advance party or entourage.) Have them work together to determine:
    • Who is each character?
    • What type of life does he lead – does he travel, live and work only in Suzhou?
    • What might be the economic and social position of the person in the society? How is his position a reflection of the power of the Qing?
    • What might be this person’s impression of the Emperor and his entourage?
    • What activities might this person engage in within the city? What would he buy? Sell? Where would he eat? Would he have entertainment available to him?
  3. Ask students to make a list of some of the shops in their district as well as any evidence of commercial activity they see along the street itself.
    • What types of goods are being carried and traded?
    • Where do these goods come from – can students determine if they are from Suzhou? From other parts of China? From countries beyond China?
    • What impressions of the Chinese economy do students have from viewing the activity on the Suzhou street?
    • What type of transportation is available and what is its significance?
    • What evidence is there, if any, of international trade and China’s involvement in it? Use examples.