Farming in Ancient China: Lesson for Kids

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  • 0:04 Rice and Millet
  • 0:59 Farming Tools
  • 1:49 How Did They Farm?
  • 2:34 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Kathryn Miedema Dominguez

Kathryn has taught elementary students for over ten years and has her master's degree in elementary education.

Expert Contributor
Grace Pisano

Grace has a bachelor's degree in history and a master's degree in teaching. She previously taught high school in several states around the country.

Ancient China depended on farming in order to feed its people. Rice was one of the first crops they learned to grow, and they still produce it today. In this lesson, you'll learn about the tools and different methods of farming they used.

Rice and Millet

Did you know that China produces the most rice in the world? If you eat rice, then it probably comes from China. Ancient Chinese began farming rice over 9,000 years ago. Farming made life easier because people no longer had to travel to hunt animals, but could grow their food where they lived. Rice and millet were the two main crops grown in Ancient China.

Rice paddy (field) flooded from river.
Rice paddy

Rice needs a lot of water, so the Chinese figured out how to flood the fields from rivers to make rice paddies (fields for growing rice). Rice was - and still is - grown in the southern region of China because there are two large rivers that supply a lot of water.

Millet was another main crop grown by the ancient Chinese. Millet is a grain that was boiled to make a porridge. It was farmed in the northern region because it doesn't need a lot of rain to grow and the north has a cooler, dry climate.

Millet grown in the northern region of China.

Farming Tools

In the beginning, planting and harvesting was done by hand. This takes a lot of time and requires many people to farm. Can you imagine farming without any tools? Later, the Chinese created tools to make it easier, such as the spade and plow.

The spade is like a small shovel with a sharp edge. The Chinese made them from the shoulder blades of animals. They would use them to dig, or to cut the stalks of millet or rice. They could plant and harvest faster with a spade.

Chinese iron plow pulled by an animal.
Chinese plow

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Additional Activities

Creating a Comic Strip

For this lesson extension, your older elementary school students will be creating a comic strip that combines facts about farming in Ancient China with their own unique storyline and twist.

Begin by giving all students a piece of copy paper and coloring materials. Then, explain to them that they will be creating a comic strip. If this is a new activity for your students, you may want to have an example ready to show them. The point of the comic strip is to create a short story that includes four (4) facts about farming in Ancient China. However, students can make up fictional characters, situations, and settings for their comic strip.

An example comic strip could include a farmer first creating the spade based on a need he saw, two farmers talking about crop rotation or a field trip to an Ancient Chinese farm where the tour guide explains farming techniques to a group of people.

To ensure that students include the four facts required, have them write the facts in red and the rest of the writing in black. Students may create as many comic squares as they wish and illustrate however they please. After students have completed their work, allow them to share with classmates or peers.

If you have the resources and students are interested, this is an assignment that could be completed on the computer or tablet.

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