To respect the health and safety of our community, we are temporarily closed. Learn more here.

Tickets
Museum Hours
To respect the health and safety of our community, we are temporarily closed.
Cafe Hours
The cafe temporarily closed.
Location
200 Larkin St.
San Francisco, CA 94102
415.581.3500
Tickets

Lesson Plans and Activities

Download free teacher packets by geographical region, or choose museum highlights.

Museum Highlights

Assembling Personal Narrative
Grades: 4–5, 6–8, 9–12
Students will: 1.) Observe and discuss how artist Santiago Bose uses cultural symbols and artistic methods as postcolonial critique. 2.) Create an assemblage using found objects that conveys their personal identities. 3.) Interview a family member to uncover a photograph or symbol that recalls their heritage and include this in their assemblages. 4.) Write a first person narrative telling a story about their assemblages.

China’s Terracotta Army
Grades: 6–8
In groups, students will research and present information about the First Emperor’s accomplishments and legacy.

Code of the Samurai in Art and Literature
Grades: 6–8
Students will view representations of literary epics, read related excerpts, and discuss how those scenes exemplify the code of the samurai.

Create Your Own Mandala
Grades: 6–8
The act of creating a mandala can be a quiet, meditative act, as well; drawing repeating patterns, especially of meaningful images or symbols, can be a calming experience that helps keep the artist centered and focused.

Fold a Paper Lotus Flower
Grades: 4–5, 6–8

Gathering Goods for the Marketplace
Grades: 6–8
Students will research objects from the Asian Art Museum’s collection and choose one that they think will earn the most money in the marketplace. Then they will create a commercial to try to sell their object to the class using evidence as to why the object/idea was considered valuable at the time.

The Spread of Buddhism Across Asia
Grades: 6–8
Understand, through the analysis of artifacts and maps, how Buddhism changed as it spread across Asia and came to reflect the countries that embraced it.

Artful Storytelling Lesson
Grades: 6–8, 9–12
Students gain an appreciation and understanding of art and culture, and build language skills by reading; developing scripts; making choices about gesture, voice, and expression; and performing traditional stories alongside art objects in the Asian Art Museum’s collection galleries.

Rituals of the Hajj
Grades: 6–8, 9–12
This lesson explores the religious and historical significance surrounding the various rituals of the hajj and the relationship linking Islam, Christianity, and Judaism.

South Asia

Art in Focus: The Legend of Krishna

The legend of Krishna has inspired Hindu art, poetry, music and philosophy for more than 2,000 years. This packet highlights the celebrated legend of this Hindu god as depicted in South Asian painting.

Beliefs Made Visible: Understanding Hindu and Buddhist Art in South Asia
Grades: 6–8

Explore the basic tenets and influences of Hinduism and Buddhism throughout Asia.

India! A Celebration

This packet was produced to accompany the exhibition India: A Celebration, shown at the Asian Art Museum in fall 1997.

Epic Literature – The Ramayana (Story of Rama)
Grades: 4–5, 6–8, 9–12
Students are introduced to the Ramayana (Story of Rama) and recall events by sequencing related art objects on a Story Hill. Then students make connections between artistic and literary depictions of character by comparing Vishnu and Ravana.

Making Rangoli: A Celebration of Color
Grades: 6–8, 9–12
Students will: 1.) Examine the Hindu tradition of threshold art. 2.) Discuss how Indian values are expressed in the ephemeral art of threshold painting. 3.) Draw traditional connect-the-dots threshold art designs. 4.) Make colored rice flour and create an auspicious floor painting.

Diwali Festival and Threshold Art
Grades: 9–12
Students will: 1.) Examine the Hindu tradition of threshold art. 2.) Research how Diwali (Festival of Lights) is commemorated in India. 3.) Draw traditional labyrinth threshold patterns. 4.) Work in teams to create a large labyrinth floor painting in celebration of Diwali.

 

Southeast Asia

The Story of Rama

In this unit, students are introduced to the basic background of Balinese Hinduism and to one of its main texts, the Ramayana.

 

Warrior Kings and Divine Jesters: Indonesian Rod Puppets

This packet is designed to give an introduction to the world of Indonesian three-dimensional rod puppet theater (wayang golek) and to the stories told in performances using these puppets. Stories include Islamic and Javanese historical tales as well as Indonesian versions of the Ramayana, the epic story of the hero Rama.

 

Create a Thai Style Shadow Puppet
Grades: K–3, 4–5
Create your own shadow puppet and perform a scene from the Ramayana.

 

Good and Evil? Dynamic Opposites in the Story of Rama
Grades: K–3, 4–5, 6–8
Students brainstorm the qualities of good and evil and draw conclusions about the Balinese concept of “dynamic” or balanced opposites. Then, students will relate the idea of “dynamic opposites” in the Ramayana (Story of Rama) to present-day situations by identifying a current problem, creating a visual identify for their own pair of opposing characters, and scripting a dialogue.

 

Shadow Theater – Bringing Your Character to Life
Grades: K–3, 4–5, 6–8
Students use visual evidence to convey character by constructing a visual identity for their shadow puppet, and demonstrate principles of shadow-casting and puppet-making by performing their shadow play.

 

Epic Literature – The Ramayana (Story of Rama)
Grades: 4–5, 6–8, 9–12
Students are introduced to the Ramayana (Story of Rama) and recall events by sequencing related art objects on a Story Hill. Then students make connections between artistic and literary depictions of character by comparing Vishnu and Ravana.

West Asia

Afghanistan: Hidden Treasures from the National Museum, Kabul

This packet, developed in conjunction with the special exhibition Afghanistan: Hidden Treasures from the National Museum, Kabul, examines the nation’s role as a both a cultural hub and a connecting point along the Silk Road.

Islam and the Arts of the Ottoman Empire

Using objects from the traveling exhibition Empire of the Sultans: Ottoman Art from the Khalili Collection, this packet provides an overview of Islam and Islamic art during the Ottoman empire.

New Year Investigations: Tablescapes
Grades: 4–5
Students compare and contrast the different ways in which people commemorate the passing of a year by interviewing their families, creating a tablescape, and sharing their traditions with their classmates.

Create a Personal Kit’alar
Grades: 4–5, 6–8
In this lesson, students create a kit’alar (calligraphy) composed of the initials of their first and last name in Arabic.

Mapping the Silk Road
Grades: 6–8
Students analyze objects from South Asia, West Asia, and China to connect to the travel experiences of ancient merchants and traders, develop an understanding of the breadth of the land and sea trade, and explore how art and ideas travel and change over time and place.

Zoomorphic Calligraphy and Virtuous Qualities
Grades: 6–8, 9–12
Students will examine zoomorphic calligraphic art from the Ottoman period, describe the significance of certain animals in Ottoman and Islamic art, and create a zoomorphic composition. 

Create a Personal Murakkaalar
Grades: 9–12
Students create a murakkaalar (calligraphy album) of their name and adjectives that describe their personality written in Arabic. They will make a calligraphy reed and learn to write with it.

Himalayas

The Sacred Arts of Tibet

An overview of the culture, history and arts of Tibet, with a focus on the influence of Buddhism.

Create Your Own Mandala
Grades: 6–8, 9–12
The act of creating a mandala can be a quiet, meditative act, as well; drawing repeating patterns, especially of meaningful images or symbols, can be a calming experience that helps keep the artist centered and focused.

Korea

Goryeo Dynasty: Korea’s Age of Enlightenment

Few people are aware that the name Korea is derived from the name of the Goryeo (previously tranliterated as Koryo) dynasty. It was during this period (918–1392) that Korea became known to the world outside East Asia. This packet provides an overview of aspects of Goryeo society and Goryeo Buddhism as depicted in the arts of the period.

Temple, Palace, Scholar’s House: Three Settings of Traditional Korean Culture

This packet introduces teachers and other readers to several traditional settings of Korean culture: Buddhist temples, palaces, and scholar’s houses, as well as Confucian academies where scholars were trained. These settings provide a framework or backdrop for many of the historical art objects on display at the museum.

Create a Lotus Lantern for the Lotus Lantern Festival
Grades: 6–8, 9–12
Students will: 1.) Learn that Buddhism is a religion founded by an enlightened young Indian prince who became the Buddha. 2.) Learn how the Buddha’s birthday, a national holiday, is celebrated in Korea. 3.) Discuss how the lotus flower is symbol of purity and wisdom. 4.) Construct a lotus blossom lantern.

Illuminated Manuscripts: The Sacred Art of Narration
Grades: 6–8, 9–12
Students will: 1.) Identify the format and elements of a sutra. 2.) Examine why sutras (the teachings of the Buddha) are important historical and religious documents. 3.) Analyze why the writing of sutras is considered an important religious act. 4.) Construct and illustrate an accordion book manuscript based on the sutra format used during the Goryeo dynasty.

China

Ancient China: From the Neolithic Period to the Han Dynasty

An historical overview of ancient China — from the Neolithic period (approx. 6,000–2000 BCE) to the end of the Han dynasty (220 CE).

Brushstrokes: Styles and Techniques of Chinese Painting

Brushpainting, which includes calligraphy, landscapes, scrolls and fans, has been a major art form throughout Chinese history. This packet explores the history, development and significance of brushpainting in Chinese art. Includes discussion of painting and calligraphy techniques, and a comparison of painting styles.

China: The Glorious Tang and Song Dynasties
From a workshop for Teachers

During the Tang (618–906) and Song (960–1279) dynasties, the Chinese empire enjoyed a blossoming of foreign exchange as trade expanded along the Silk Road and sea routes. In this era China also witnessed the flourishing of Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism and saw the development of porcelain making and reproduction printing. This packet examines the trade, commerce, religion, philosophy, literature and art of these dynasties. Student handouts include readings and activities on Tang and Song dynasty literature, art and science.

Chinese Calligraphy Teacher Packet

Learn more about the art of Chinese calligraphy and how contemporary artists are interpreting this ancient art form.

Taoism and the Arts of China
This packet introduces Taoism and its expression in Chinese art. 

New Year Investigations: Tablescapes
Grades: 4–5
Students compare and contrast the different ways in which people commemorate the passing of a year by interviewing their families, creating a tablescape, and sharing their traditions with their classmates.

Mapping the Silk Road
Grades: 6–8
Students analyze objects from South Asia, West Asia, and China to connect to the travel experiences of ancient merchants and traders, develop an understanding of the breadth of the land and sea trade, and explore how art and ideas travel and change over time and place.

Scholar/Literati Scroll Project
Grades: 6–8
Students will become members of the “literati/scholar” class by demonstrating their understanding of Chinese history, philosophy, and poetry. They will also display high achievement in the “Three Perfections”: calligraphy, painting, and poetry. This project is designed to be a creative alternative to daily or weekly assignments which might otherwise be assembled in a notebook or binder at the end of the 7th-grade Medieval China unit.

Unit: Life in China: Tang and Song Dynasties
Grades: 6–8
Students will: 1.) Identify key terms, people, places, dates and events from the Tang and Song Dynasties. 2.) Understand what life was like in the Tang and Song dynasties and compare with student life today in the United States. 3.) Identify and analyze key events and decisions of the Tang and Song Dynasties. 4.) Analyze how the Tang and Song civilizations influenced the modern world.

Japan

Arts of the Samurai

An examination of the samurai through precious art objects from the Asian Art Museum’s collection.

Arts of Edo Japan

An in-depth examination of Edo period (1615–1868) Japan, focusing on the flourishing arts of the period.

Experience Chanoyu: The Japanese Art of Tea

An exploration of artworks dating from the 1400s to the 1900s that were used in a traditional Japanese tea gathering or chanoyu.

Hokusai and Hiroshige: Great Japanese Prints

A historical and cultural overview of Edo period (1615–1868) Japan as a context for examining Japanese woodblock prints.

Make a Temple Book or Japanese Screen
Grades: K–3, 4–5, 6–8
Students will create their own books and stamps, and they can inscribe poetry or good wishes on each others books. They will then take their books with them on a pilgrimage to the Asian Art Museum, the Japanese tea garden, or the beach, and record their impressions.

Create a Simulated Woodblock Print
Grades: 4–5, 6–8, 9–12
Students will be able to identify, compare and contrast images of traditional Japanese woodblock prints. They will then create their own simulated woodblock prints.

Getting Started with Zazen (Seated Meditation)
Grades: 4–5, 6–8, 9–12
In Zen Buddhism, zazen (pronounced: zah-zen) is a sitting meditation. Zazen is not focusing on a specific object or thought. Instead, it is the liberating of one’s mind of all thought into a state of emptiness (a complete emptiness that is also complete fullness) from which the practitioner hopes to experience spontaneous awakening to the inner self (enlightenment).

Code of the Samurai in Art and Literature
Grades: 6–8
Students will view representations of literary epics, read related excerpts, and discuss how those scenes exemplify the code of the samurai.

Exploring Japan’s Geography through Visual Analysis
Grades: 6–8
Students will: 1.) Build geographical awareness by identifying geographical features and resources that are specific to Japan. 2.) Analyze how these features affected Japanese culture and econmic life. 3.) Develop argumentative responses utilizing their conclusions.

History and Traditions of the Samurai
Grades: 6–8
Students will use images of samurai armor and weaponry to learn related vocabulary. They will describe the functional and aesthetic aspects of armor through focused viewing and reading, and they will draw conclusions about the changing code of the samurai over the course of 800 years.

Samurai Warrior Codes: Comparing Perspectives from the Kamakura, Muromachi, and Edo Periods
Grades: 6–8
The term bushido is often used to describe the samurai warrior code during medieval and modern times. The definition refers to a late 19th-century description, which was actually quite different than codes from earlier times. In this activity, students will compare warrior codes from different times with the modern definition of bushido, then will choose which code they think matches the samurai in the screen painting, the Battles at Ichi-no-tani and Yashima from The Tale of the Heike.

The Samurai (Vocabulary)
Grades: 6–8, 9–12

 

Celebrating Asian Pacific American Heritage

The Asian Art Museum honors important Asian Pacific American artists with in-depth learning packets, which are free for teachers, parents, and students to download.

Find Out More