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Destiny Determined: Power & Ritual in Asia image
Destiny Determined: Power & Ritual in Asia
Grade level: 9-12 Subject: World History Duration: One or two class periods

lesson plan support

Students will
  • brainstorm with the class a list of symbols that represent our cultural values;
  • research symbols of China and Japan; and
  • create a timeline showing how symbols have evolved in these two countries.
  • Newsprint and markers
  • Paper and pencils
  • Computer with Internet access
  • Destiny Determined: Power and Ritual in Asiavideo and VCR
  1. Ask students to identify symbols that represent our culture's values. Write their ideas on a sheet of newsprint. Possible suggestions include the

    • U. S. flag, representing unity;
    • Statue of Liberty, representing freedom;
    • White House, symbolizing the center of leadership;
    • Capitol building, representing the center of lawmaking; and
    • Arlington National Cemetery, representing the heroism of our soldiers.

  2. Explain that all cultures have symbols that represent the values of their society. Then tell students that during this lesson they will have an opportunity to research symbols of two cultures very different from our own: China and Japan.
  3. Set the stage for students' research by showing the Behind the Great Wall and Secrets of the Samurai segments from the video.
  4. Discuss the symbols identified in these segments. Make sure that students mention the Great Wall of China, the rituals of the samurai, and Himeji Castle.
  5. Have students pick a partner and then decide which of these two cultures they would like to study in more detail. Tell them their goal is to develop a cultural timeline. The Chinese timeline should cover the period from 221 B.C. to the 17th century; the Japanese timeline should cover the 12th century to the 17th century. Feel free to modify the timeline dates to cover more time or less.
  6. Give students time in class to conduct their research. The following Web sites have useful information:

    Web Sites for China

    Web sites for Japan

  7. After students have gathered their research materials, give them time in class to work on their timelines. For each time period, students should include at least one symbol that represents the values of that time.
  8. If time allows, give students an opportunity to share their work. Conclude the lesson by discussing how the cultural symbols of China and Japan are alike, and how they are different. What does each set of symbols reveal about its culture?

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Use the following three-point rubric to evaluate students' work during this lesson.
  • Three points:Students researched the topic carefully and thoroughly; developed a creative and comprehensive timeline; participated actively in class discussions.
  • Two points:Students researched the topic; developed a competent timeline; participated somewhat in class discussions.
  • One point:Students did not complete their research, developed a timeline with gaps and misunderstandings; did not participate in class discussions.

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  • Have students research American values in the late 20th and early 21st centuries and then identify related symbols. Symbols may include the stock market, computer, and reality television shows. Ask students to write a page describing what one of more of these symbols say about our culture.
  • Ask students to imagine that they were sent back in time to either Japan or China during a time period they researched for their timelines. Based on what they learned about that culture, ask students to describe what daily life would be like. What values are important to that culture?

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Great Wall of China
Definition: A fortress built around the country that extends 6,400 kilometers from the Bo Gulf of the Yellow River to north-central China; the Great Wall was built by Emperor Shi Huangdi of the Qin Dynasty in the year 200 B.C.
Context: Because the world was so unsettled during the Qin Dynasty, the emperors built the Great Wall as a way to keep out invaders.

Himeji Castle
Definition:A large, indestructible fortress that was first built in 1333; it was transformed into a three-storied castle in 1581 and then into a five-storied structure in 1601.
Context:The Himeji Castle is so well built that it has never been damaged, even during World War II.

Qin dynasty
Definition:A period in Chinese history between 221 and 206 B. C. that is remembered as the time when a strong central government was established in China
Context:Shi Huangdi, the first emperor of the Qin dynasty, is known for setting up a strong central government and standardizing the country's weights and measures, currency, and writing system.

Definition:Members of the warrior class in Japan; they influenced Japanese culture from the 1000s until the mid-1800s.
Context:The samurai developed a unique system of values and conduct that prized personal honor and obedience as well as loyalty to their lords.

Silk Road
Definition:A group of trade routes connecting China and Europe that was used frequently from 100 B.C. to the 16th century
Context:Although its name came from the large quantities of silk carried on its trade routes, the Silk Road also brought new ideas to China.

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This lesson plan addresses the following curriculum standards created by the National Council for the Social Studies:
  • Culture
  • People, Places, and Environments
  • Power, Authority, and Governance
  • Production, Distribution, and Consumption
  • Global Connections

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Marilyn Fenichel, education writer and editor

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