History - Ancient China Homeschooling

Tang Dynasty and the Beginning of Printing

Yippididippideeeeeee!  We’ve replaced the keyboard!  You would think I had lots to post about, but you would be wrong.  I took a sneaky guilt-free few days off and it’s done me the world of good.  I couldn’t get onto the computer to do any work, so I decided to relax…. by decluttering!  Amazing what a bit of streamlining one’s possessions does for one’s state of mind.  I feel cleansed!  Okay, enough of that nonsense, onto what we did achieve this week.  (Blink, and you might miss it!)

We were concentrating on the Tang dynasty this week.  The children read this website along with some of our books.  I decided to do things a little differently for a bit of fun.  I gathered together bits and pieces from around the house that might give the children a hint or prompt as to things they had read about the Tang Dynasty.  For example, to prompt the children to tell me about the bird concerts I included a plastic bird.  One by one they pulled an object out of our ‘Tang Tote’ and then showed off their knowledge retelling the information they had read.  This went on until there were no more objects left in the bag.

It was during the Tang Dynasty that poetry really took off in a big way.  I had wanted to make enough paper to have made a scroll when we did papermaking last week, but it really was not happening for us.  We did still study one of the poems of the time: By Po Chu-I entitled After Passing the Examination. I’m not sure why a poet would choose passing an exam as their subject matter.  I can only assume that this new method of climbing the social ladder was so exciting that one felt compelled to write about it! Their assignment was to practice reciting it out loud, embellishing it with much feeling and emphasis.  When Daddy returned from work they gave him their own interpretation of it!

Woodblock Printing

For years the Chinese had written their books by hand onto bamboo.  That was until woodblock printing (making prints from reliefs of a carved wooden block) came into vogue.  The earliest woodblock printed fragments to survive are of silk printed with flowers in three colours from the Han Dynasty. By the Tang dynasty woodblocks were widely used printing both on silk and more frequently on paper.  Below is a picture of the earliest surviving complete printed manuscript called the Diamond Sutra:


We made our own block rubbing using clay, which we marked with a Chinese-ish picture and made it in raised relief using a knife and tooth pick:

Just cut out.  We drew a picture from a Chinese book and the children took it in turns to scrap off the clay that wasn't part of the picture to create a raised relief
Just cut out. We drew a picture from a Chinese book and the children took it in turns to scrap off the clay that wasn’t part of the picture to create a raised relief
The girls mixed up the colours they wanted and painted them onto the raised parts
The girls mixed up the colours they wanted and painted them onto the raised parts
And then used it to print a lovely picture.  We were really pleased with the outcome.
And then used it to print a lovely picture. We were really pleased with the outcome.

Yes I realise we have missed out a large chunk of Chinese history (Age of Division -time between the Han and the Tang Dynasty).  I did have the children read up about the mixture of dynasties found during this time, but with a time limit on us we chose to move onto the Tang Dynasty, which was considerably more interesting!  Song Dynasty next and then we are up to date with the Mongol Dynasty during Marco Polo’s time.

17 comments on “Tang Dynasty and the Beginning of Printing

  1. How beautiful. I love it.

  2. Welcome back. You have been missed.
    Myra, from hot Winnipeg, Canada

  3. Hello Claire… 😎 I am happy you guys are all back! x

  4. Great printing! I’ve been thinking of ways to explore printing, and you know, clay didn’t occur to me!Thank goodness for all you share 🙂 The flower print looks lovely, and with your kids gardens and herbs, it seems so emblematic. Scalliwag stationary, maybe?
    Great idea with the prompts, and happy for the break you had – we all need little cleansing! (there are a few spaces here I walk into ready to charge the clutter and organize it, take a few looks around, and walk back out of, unprepared for the challenge – maybe I need the internet taken away for a few days!)

    • I love it!! Scalliwag stationary- there is a certain alliterative appeal in that!
      I used plasticene rather than clay because it is softer and more malleable so the print comes out clearer than a dried clay.

  5. What a beautiful flower print. What fantastic work. Well done scalliwags. I think I am going to try this out too, great idea. xx

    • Hello Angela!! How lovely to hear from you! I will be returning your email, I’ve got a back log from when my computer was down. I’m very sorry it’s taking me so long!

      • No worries, you certainly are busy. I have read one or two of your posts and have been inspired to make home learning fun. Amelia is now the proud owner of a mini science kit. She is now learning measurements, numbers and basic maths too, in such a fun and perhaps messy way!!,…. Like her mum she favours the world of literacy, loves reading and talking!! Have a wonderful weekend. X

      • Sounds very exciting. Enjoy her, the days are long but I can’t even begin to say how short the years are. Too short for my liking anyway!
        You all have a great weekend also.

  6. I enjoy visiting you blog each week as you work your way through Chinese history. You have such wonderful hands on projects.

  7. It’s so cool how we have done similar projects using completely different materials. For our wood block printing we used foam.

  8. Pingback: Ancient China Unit Study | angelicscalliwags

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