Our family has embarked on virtual travels to various countries and regions. To explore these countries and their cultures, we have followed along with the festivals, cooked and eaten traditional foods, learned of traditional handicrafts with hands on exploration, along with many activities to immerse ourselves. Chronicled here are some of these activities.

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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Favorite Resources in Exploring and Learning about China

Throughout our year of "virtually travelling" to China, I have come across and used many resources to guide our exploration. Books, videos, and the internet are used regularly either as a starting point (inspiration for activity or recipe) or as a means in itself. I refer to them as they come up in posts, but there are a few general resources that we have used regularly that I would like to highlight.


Cultural China

This compendium on Chinese culture is fascinating, and I am engrossed anytime I am on this site - as well as reminded that our yearly exploration is only scratching the surface of the rich Chinese culture. The home page changes regularly, featuring current news, culture, history, stories, traditions to name a few. I often go on the site to look up something specific, and end up reading about half a dozen posts, having to tear myself away.
(Just now, in getting the link, I was waylaid reading about traditional toys, chabaixi tea customs, chinese greetings, and congee's health benefits)

You Tube

Of course, we often look up something we have heard or read about on youtube, and invariably find someone's take on it - though some videos are better than others :)

Hello China is a series that took 100 Chinese words that represent Chinese culture, and for each word made a 2-3min video about it with narration, animation, and great video footage. Short and sweet, these are great to introduce a concept about China to kids. They are sometimes very general, for example "music" or "family", and sometimes very specific: "chime bells", "chrysanthemum", with everything in between, including zodiac and various festivals.


Globe Trekker  travel documentary series has been a favorite in our family for years - they are our go to videos to learn about what it would be like to travel to another country. The hosts are youthful, engaging and everyone in our family can appreciate and/or relate to them - despite all of our age differences. They travel on a budget, go on and off the beaten road, and spend time with the locals. Note, these videos are not geared toward children, but are appropriate for the family, as long as you are prepared to see the reality of their travels - this has included the occasional disturbing scene, for example, in a Chinese apothecary, an attendant skinned a snake for medicinal purposes. 

BBC's Wild China  is an impressive six part nature documentary. Each episode is an hour long, and focuses on a specific area of China: its wildlife and nature and how these impact and are impacted by the local communities. It was filmed in HD and the cinematography is stunning. The girls love learning about wildlife, and really enjoyed these. We spread them out throughout the year and have been amazed at the beautiful scenery and diversity found in China. From bamboo bats (they live inside bamboo!) to cormorant fisherman, fascinating creatures and customs impressed us all. 


We read many a book related to our country of choice, from illustrated fables to books with general overviews or specific topics. I've posted about specific books throughout the year with related activities or information, and these can be found in the right sidebar under Read Your Way Around China. Here are the books and series that we particularly enjoy, and that are more generalized and therefore have not yet been mentioned:

China: Land, Life, and Culture John Tidey's series is a great set of books, each focusing on certain aspects of China: Arts and Culture; History and Government'; Land and Climate; People and Cities; Plants; Wildlife. These books are a must if you plan on studying China. Informative, colorful, filled with fun facts and photographs, these are great on their own, or as introductions to encourage further research.

The following are book series we look at for each country:

We're From . . .  With colorful photographs, these books focus on children's daily lives: their school, home, and family. Kids love seeing how other children live, and comparing with their own lives.

Festivals of the World  I love this series - with colorful photographs, it outlines the various festivals and traditions from each country, through the seasons. It focuses on the most important celebrations, but also mentions the various smaller, or more localized festivals. It's also fun to see the different traditional costumes.

Taste of Culture  This series explores the food, eating habits, cooking traditions and customs of various countries. Each book includes a few basic recipes kids could make, colorful photographs, and sections on traditional foods, staple foods, and festival fare. These books aren't as enticing to the girls as a whole, but certain sections hold their interest, such as eating customs and habits, and they help lead me in which direction to focus on for recipes. 

Games People Play  This series gives an overview of games, toys, and hobbies from ancient times to current pop culture. It is fun to compare the differences between past and present games, and those that are still used today. Also, to compare with what we play. These books give great ideas of ways to incorporate toys and games into our exploration. 

Do you have any favorite books or series in your multicultural explorations?

Books are a wonderful way to experience new worlds and ideas. Our house is filled with books, most of which are borrowed from our public library. Public libraries are an incredible resource, making books accessible to everyone, and we highly encourage everyone to discover theirs. If you are hoping to build your own home library,I've made it easy by linking book titles to Amazon.com. Please note that I have become affiliated with them, which means that if you make a purchase, you are also supporting this website


  1. This is a great list of resources. I am pinning them for our next return to China :)

  2. Great resources! I am particularly interested in the BBC Wild China. I'm going on Amazon to check it out. I wonder if they do any other countries?

    1. I absolutely love BBC Wild China - I hadn't checked about other countries, our finds are generally limited to whats available at the library - luckily there is lots, and they take suggestions - so if you find any other interesting documentaries, do share! I'll suggest it to our library :)


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