Children love “treasure boxes”, especially ones filled with things that are new, uncommon, ones that tell a story: about a far-far-away land and people: how they look, what people wear, eat; what their traditions and customs are, what animals live there, etc. So, in the essence, a Continental box is a miniature story of the entire continent. You may further subdivide it into Country Boxes with objects pertaining to a particular country. You may fill it with anything that represents that continent or that country like pottery, utensils, fabrics, tapestry, bookmarks, money-currency, stamps, pictures of: children, people at work, unique foods, flags, maps, books- child level etc. Continent box (or a Country box) is a wonderful hands-on fun way to expose your child to the diversity of our world, indirectly teaching geography and culture. There is really no better way to learn:)
Montessori education is based, among other things, on peace education, which focuses on the way cultural awareness can foster a more peaceful non-violent world. Children, as part of the Montessori curriculum, gain awareness of the world around them by exploring different countries, cultures, customs, food, ethnic attire, music, climate, language, animals etc. By raising our consciousness about human diversity, we learn to understand and accept our similarities and differences; we do not tolerate discrimination, and we become more compassionate towards oneself and others. My children respect the differences, and often admire other cultures. So, I was inspired to start "making" our Continent Boxes, the activity, which became the favorite of my children!
My Parents live in Asia now, so we started with the Asia continent box. But soon, we realized that we have too many beautifully collected relics representing so many parts of Asia, that we decided to subdivide our Asia Box into few boxes: China (below), South Korea, Japan etc ...
Today Adrian is eager to explore the China🇨🇳 Box.
The Great Wall of China.
Learning the geographic location of China.
Kitty bracelet against the evil spirit.
Jade pendant with Dragon silhouette on it.
A snuff bottle, which Adrian is holding, is painted from inside, using a diminutive 90 degree angled brush. This labor (called "CuiQiXuan") is very skillful and represents a unique traditional Chinese form of art. "CuiQiXuan" is a type of backhand painting on the inner wall of the frosted container with GouBi. The inside-art-painting originated from similar snuff bottles and has two hundred years of history since the Qing Dynasty. Initially, snuff bottles were given to foreign country officials representing a cultural gift from the country of China.
Adrian cannot believe that someone had painted this bottle from the inside with a tiny brush.
Chinese🇨🇳 Money - Yuan
While the renminbi is the official Chinese currency, which means "people's currency", the Yuan 元/圆; is the basic unit of the renminbi, and is also used to refer to the Chinese currency generally, especially in the international contexts.
Julia was very interested to know how a Chinese girl looks.
Postcards from my Parents from China.
As part of the cultural education, we would then talk about the things that represent 🇨🇳 China. So, when we think of China - we think of:
- The Great Wall of China and the Great Chinese Civilization;
- Imperial Palaces and its aesthetically balanced architecture;
- Jade, or Nephrite – the "imperial gem" of China;
- Dragons (the kind and gentile ones :)
- Panda - a symbol of good luck, which recently replaced the dragon as an emblem of China;
- Green Tea and China's omnipresent Teahouses;
- Color Red;
- And, of course, the deep embedded humbleness and reverence this culture portrays.
The Great Wall of China
Summer Palace, called "The Museum of Royal Gardens" is a masterpiece of Chinese landscape-garden design.
My parents had visited the Summer Palace in Beijing (China's Capital), so they sent us the guide.
The Summer Palace is the largest and most well-preserved royal park in China. The natural landscape of hills and gardens, a vast number of lakes and open water is combined with artificial features such as pavilions, halls, palaces, temples and bridges to form a harmonious ensemble of outstanding aesthetic value.
Jade – the "imperial gem" of China
Jade ( or Nephrite) is considered the "imperial gem" of China. Chinese people believe that it protects against the evil spirit and also possess some healing properties. Since Jade was considered more valuable than gold or silver, some Chinese Kingdoms had been making yearly tribute payments to the Chinese Imperial Court in the form of the most precious white jade, which would be transformed by skilled artisans into objects of art or jewelry. Also, jade was used to create many utilitarian and ceremonial objects, ranging from indoor decorative items to jade burial suits.
While nephrite jade possesses mainly grays and greens (and occasionally yellows, browns or whites); jadeite jade, which is rarer, can also contain blacks, reds, pinks, and violets.
One of the main Chinese treasures is the Jadeite Cabbage
, intricately cut from a solid piece of jade. It was transported to Taiwan for preservation during the Chinese revolution. It is now part of the Chinese Emperor's collection displayed at the National Palace Museum in Taipei, Taiwan.
Most Chinese women wear bracelets similar to the above, which are cut from a solid piece of Jade.
Nephrite can be found in a translucent white to very light yellow form which is known in China as mutton fat jade. It can also be found in an opaque white to very light brown or gray which is known as chicken bone jade, as well as in a variety of green colors.
Jade, which can vary in color, predominantly comes in green.
Dragon is still a very popular and strong symbol of China. Chinese people actually believe that dragons once roamed the Earth, but that dragons had been kind in nature (not the fire-breathing monsters as perpetuated by western religious writings).
Panda, a quintessential Chinese symbol of friendship and peace, is often compared to Yin and Yang because of its black and white stark contrast to one another on panda's pelt. Panda's calm demeanor is a demonstration of how, when balanced, Yin and Yang are harmonious and peaceful. Chinese people adore panda, and many revere it as a symbol of good luck. Recently, the panda has replaced the dragon as an emblem of China. The image appears on many coins, souvenirs, dinnerware and more.
The giant panda 大熊貓; is a bear native only to few mountain ranges in central China. It is easily recognized by the large, distinctive black patches around its eyes, over the ears, and across its round body. Though panda is a carnivore, its diet is 99% bamboo, and only occasionally it might consist of other grasses, wild tubers, or even meat in the form of birds, rodents or carrion.
We read a book about Panda and its decreasing population.
Green Tea and the Teahouses
Green tea is the most popular drink in China. There are many tea houses, where you can have a tea ceremony and taste a variety of very good Chinese green teas. Usually, after the ceremony, people would buy the tea they liked, but a purchase is not required. Along with green tea, one can also buy tea cups, kettles and other small souvenirs.
China is well known for its production of freshwater cultured pearls. Unlike saltwater pearls, which are usually cultivated in protected lagoons or volcanic atolls, freshwater pearls are cultivated in lakes, rivers, ponds and other bodies of fresh water and are famous for its lustrous glow and unusually sparkling color.
To the left is "obereg" - an object, that according to superstition, has a magical ability to protect its owner from various misfortunes. (Most Chinese families hang an obereg, but larger, in their homes for good luck.) To the right is a napkin holder in a form of a traditional women red silk dress.
Traditional Chinese attire.
Notably, the red color is Chinese women’s favorite color of clothing. Red is even worn by brides (on the picture above) since it symbolizes love, wellbeing, and health. “White” on the other hand, Chinese people associate with death and wear it when someone had died.
Traditional children's clothing
Children had so much fun learning about the far-far-away land, about its people, traditions, customs. And they could connect even more with this foreign, but intriguing country by holding a little cup made by a Chinese pottery artisan, by reading postcards affectionately written to them by my parent, and by trying on a bracelet or a string of pearls. I want to sincerely thank my parents for providing all the treasured objects, the information, and all these beautiful pictures of China, which they took first-hand.
More on Continent Boxes:
- Read here a post about a Chinese 🇨🇳 New Year🐉 of a🐓 Rooster, and how we celebrate it.
- Read here Martisor Day - How we celebrate the Beginning of Spring 🌸 with Eastern-European Continent 📦 Box.
- Read here International Women's Day 💐 (IWD) - How We Celebrate with Western-European Continent 📦 Box.