Books About Ancient China

Growing Up in Ancient Chiina by Ken Teague
This illustrated book is very straightforward and factual as it takes children back to Ancient China and shows common experiences such as what it was like to have a birthday, get dressed, eat dinner or go to school. We loved that it made us understand daily life of children in Ancient China.

The Great Wall of China by Leonard Everett Fisher
This true to life story has very realistic black and white illustrations and quickly shows the reality of the circumstances around the building of the famous Great Wall. We like learning through story and this one was short and engaging enough to make an impression that lasts.

Yeh Shen retold by Ai-Ling Louie
Many cultures have a Cinderella story of some sort. Yeh-Shen is the Cinderella story of China. The story does involve the superstitious approach to life common to Chinese culture, but is delightful and helps children see how Chinese people think and respond to one another. This book reveals subtle codes of conduct without moralizing.  (We also read Lon Po Po, which is a Chinese story much like Little Red Riding Hood.  It was fun to discuss the differences and similarities between the two stories and how varieties of the same fable can often be found around the world). 

Little Pear by Eleanor Frances Lattimore
Little Pear is a young boy who lives in a small village in China. Little Pear is like any normal boy. As he looks for fun he ends up in a pickle. He’s like the Ancient Chinese version of Denis the Menace.

The Good Times Travel Agency: Adventures In Ancient China by Linda Bailey
Three siblings wander into a shop and end up time traveling by going into a book on Ancient China. While the older two think their younger sister is in peril, she is actually living the high life in the Emperor’s palace. Meanwhile, they are on the run for seeing the secret of how silk is made. To get back to their time they have to go through the whole book. This illustrated book gives a great parallel between royal and common lives in Ancient China and is fun and engaging for kids.

The Ch’i-lin Purse: A Collection of Ancient Chinese Stories by Linda Fang
I’ll just quote Amazon here: A professional storyteller, Fang uses the tales she heard, read, and loved as a child in Shanghai. Now she has written down nine of those stories whose origins are legends, novels, and operas hundreds of years old. Dramatic, humorous, and touching by turns, the stories often concern difficulties overcome by characters who are kind or clever, or both…A fine, flavorful collection.

You Wouldn’t Want to Work on the Great Wall of China by Jacqueline Morley
We are fans of the You Wouldn’t Want to series. Caveat: These are NOT literature. They are purely humorous (with callouts and cartoon bubbles) but yet, they relay many true facts about the historical event or era portrayed. Not recommended for your sensitive child (as the cartoon figures get squished, etc), but for boy-humor, there’s no better way to have fun while accidentally learning a lot.

The Silk Route: 7000 Miles of History by John S Major
This book is filled with child-friendly, illustrated maps as you start from one end of the route and follow traders through deserts, towns and various cultures to the other. Many details of life as it was lived by traders are shared without seeming “teachy.”

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