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A Unit Overview: Investigating the Legacies of China's Terracotta Army (lessons)

Excavation photo: Underground Army of the First Emperor

Excavation photo: Underground Army of the First Emperor. Litong, Shaanxi Province. Courtesy Hamilton Photography, Seattle.


Students take on the role of archaeologists to investigate the real-world challenges of preservation. They identify the legacies of the First Emperor through role play and critical reading, and use these ideas in order to identify and celebrate the legacies of local citizens. Comparing and contrasting ancient and modern-day China introduces students to themes of continuity and change and the ways in which culture is influenced by geography, history, technology, and more.

Approx. 50 minutes per lesson (8 lessons total)
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Unit Outline (download full pdf above):
Lesson 1: Decomposing Culture (Lab)
Lesson 2: So You Want to Be an Archaeologist (Simulation)
Lesson 3: Life in Ancient China (Role play, 2 days)
Lesson 4: China's Terracotta Army (Jigsaw)
Lesson 5: Decomposing Culture, continued (Lab and Application)
Lesson 6: Asian Art Museum: China’s Terracotta Warriors: The First Emperor’s Legacy
Lesson 7: Preservation and Tourism (Debate and Written Assignment)
Lesson 8: Legacies that Live On (Final Project)

Guiding Questions:
How do archaeologists study the past?

  • What is the underground terracotta army of the First Emperor (Qin Shihuang)?
  • What are the origins of the artifacts found in the First Emperor's burial complex?
  • How was the burial complex discovered, and what remains underground today?
  • What natural scientific processes present challenges to modern-day archaeology?

Who was China’s First Emperor, and what was life like under his rule?

  • What was life in China like before the Qin Empire?
  • What strategies enabled the First Emperor to unify the seven warring states to form the Qin Empire?
  • How did the First Emperor’s quest for immortality influence the design of the his burial complex?
  • In what ways does the First Emperor's legacy live on today?

This unit is particularly conducive to practicing the following 21st-Century Skills:

  • Critical thinking
  • Communication
  • Collaboration
  • Creative problem-solving
  • Information literacy

This curriculum was designed by World Savvy in partnership with the Asian Art Museum.

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