Arts of Asia in Reach
Silk Road/Trading Goods & Currency Lesson Plan
3. Strategies & Procedures

Engage (Motivation) and Explore

Setting the Context:
  • Ask students if they have ever traded or bartered anything before (e.g. a shirt, baseball cards, candy, etc) for something that they wanted from someone (e.g. baseball cap, stamps, stickers, etc.)
  • Compared to today, where items can be ordered and shipped within hours across the world, during the ancient times of China goods traveled much slower and trade was a long and dangerous process.
  • Routes or paths of travel were created from city to city; goods were never directly moved from one place to the next. Instead, they passed through many hands and often changed shape or form along the way.
  • A silk robe reaching the west side of Europe might have started out as silk fibers and threads on the easternmost side of China. At yet another post, it would be dyed with rich color. From there, it would have traveled to another trading post where it would have been woven into silk cloth. Finally, it would reach a final destination where it could be cut and sewn into an article of clothing such as a robe.
  • As items changed hands, they were exchanged from the producer or carrier of the goods to someone else in return for either money or another item that the merchant wanted.
  • Explain the difference between bartering and trading. (Using objects v. using money)
  • Describe some of the objects traded along the Silk Road.
  • Coming from the west: grapes, onions, salt, spices, horses, wool/woven rugs, nuts, wine
  • Coming from the east: camels, chrysanthemums, literature, music, ceramics, silk, tea

Leading into the Activity:
  • Describe currency and the different types of coins, such as the evolution of Chinese currency from using livestock and cowry shells to the use of coins.
  • Note the dangers that merchants experienced along the Silk Road as they traveled.
  • Note the benefit of using coins (easier to take with them). Camels were better as beasts of burden as they could carry heavier objects and last longer with less food or water.
  • Describe the shape of the cast round coin (2 different—one with a round center and one with a square)
  • The coin with the square center represented the common belief system of the universe: the round outside of the coin = heaven; the square rim inside = earth
  • Practical use of the coin with a hole in the center was to be strung along a leather cord, tied to belts. Easier to count as they were grouped by 100's and easier to carry.
  • Chinese coins were cast in Bronze.

Lesson Plan Part I

Students will have two sessions to create a large version of an ancient Chinese coin.
Each student will have the opportunity to pick and choose from a variety of coin designs used during the different dynasties that participated in trade along the Silk Road. Once students have chosen their designs, they may begin to sketch them out onto the cardboard disks. Students will then apply "puffy paint" over their sketches of the Chinese characters on their coins. After drying, the students will use sponge brushes to paint the surface of the coins to make them look aged and weathered.

Day One:
  • Each student will receive one cardboard disk.
  • Students will write names on back of cardboard disks.
  • Students will choose a coin/characters from examples on handouts.
  • Students will sketch Chinese characters onto front of cardboard disks.
  • Students will share "puffy paint" (one per two students) and trace over their sketched characters to make them three-dimensional.
  • Students will also paint the "rims" of the coins.
  • Students will set projects aside to let paint dry.

Day Two:
  • Each student will receive a tray to share with a partner containing blue, green, gold, and bronze paint.
  • Each student will use a sponge brush to apply paint to surface of coin.
  • Students may choose to use a small paintbrush to touch up areas of coin,
  • Students will set coins aside and let dry overnight.


Lesson Plan Part II

Review Material from last week- (test for K-W-L)
  • Bartering v. trading
  • Why is the route called the Silk Road?

Introduce items that were traded along the route
  • Items coming from the west: wine, grapes, salt, spices/pepper, nuts, horses (northwest), wool/woven textiles
  • Items coming from the east: silk, tea, chrysanthemums, paper, camels (Chinese used as beasts of burden), ceramics (such as Ju-ware)

Have 10 students come to front of room to act out trading of silk along the Silk Road
  • Student 1: Producer A of silk thread from silkworms
  • Student 2: Merchant A traveling from Eastern China with silk threads
  • Student 3: Trading Post/Bazaar buyer/seller B
  • Student 4: Producer B of silk cloth
  • Student 5: Merchant B traveling from Western China trading post with silk cloth
  • Student 6: Trading Post/Bazaar buyer/seller C
  • Student 7: Producer C of dyed silk cloth
  • Student 8: Merchant C traveling with dyed silk cloth
  • Student 9: Trading Post/Bazaar buyer/seller D
  • Student 10: Producer D of silk robe

Studio Activity
  • Show finished example of coin
  • Point out to students that blending all of these colors together makes the coin look more aged and weathered.
  • Show students how to apply paint by sponge brushing or "dabbing" the paint from the paper plate onto the top of the coin.
  • Remind students to keep paint off of their clothing and the tables.
  • When students are finished painting, instruct them to place their coins carefully onto the trays to allow for drying time.
  • Students can wash paint off hands with soap and water.

Follow Up
  • Have students come to the Allen Memorial Art Museum for a Silk Road Tour!

Continue to: 4. Assessment & Closure