Ancient China and the Silk Road

This expedition takes students on a journey across the ancient network of trading routes known as the Silk Road, exploring how goods, beliefs, art, music, and people traveled from the countries of East Asia to the Mediterranean, resulting in the cultural fusions that occur when strangers meet. They research the styles of government during different Chinese dynasties, as well as the cultural and artistic values of Ancient China. In Science, students explore Chinese geological formations; in ELA they read various adaptations of Wu Ch’eng-en’s Journey to the West, a legendary Chinese tale that features the adventures of the heroic trickster, Monkey King. The expedition culminates in a musical theater performance of “The Wild and Wonderful Monkey King,” featuring an original script, music, set designs, and costumes. To prepare for their performance, students participate in series of Chinese art, dance, music, and martial arts workshops led by guest artists that immerse them in Chinese cultural traditions, from the Beijing Opera style of martial arts to Chinse classical dance.

Grade Level: 6
Subjects: History, ELA, Visual Arts, Music, Theater, Dance

What is the Silk Road?
How does the Monkey King compare to the heroes of Ancient Greece?
How can I use physical and vocal acting skills to create and sustain a believable character throughout a scripted scene?
What is the relationship among scenery, props, lighting, costumes, sound, and make-up in creating a unified theatrical effect?
How do props and costumes in a traditional Chinese dance contribute to the meaning of the dance?

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Students investigate the arts and artifacts of the Silk Road at the Museum of Fine Arts


Maskmaking Workshop with Li Min Mo, storyteller, educator, and artist

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Fan Dance Workshop with Chu Ling, Chinese choreographer and dancer

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Kung Fu Workshop with Gaetano Di Gaetano, Kung Fu practitioner in Beijing opera style


Chinese Percussion Workshop with Calvin Chin of the Calvin Chin Martial Arts Academy


Hip-Hop Workshop with Brian Washburn of the Tony Williams Dance Center and Urbanity Dance


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