Resources to Learn about China

Writing CaligraphyPerhaps you are preparing to host a Chinese international student in your home or maybe you’re preparing an Ancient China unit study for your homeschool. Maybe your interest in China stems from a biography you’ve read or a friend’s plans to teach English there. Today’s blog gives some great resources for various ages to learn about China. Our guest blogger today is a friend who has lived in China and done some good research on it. Thanks to my friend who writes:

Because I’ve lived in China for several years, I’m particularly sensitive to whether or not books are fair, accurate and up-to-date. I particularly enjoy China books written by people to love China and want to understand what makes it tick.

Whatever your reason, there are some great China resources out there and there’s always more to learn about this complex place. Here’s a partial bibliography:

China Resources for Children

(my public library carries most of these)

For Age 5 and under

China in Colors (Pendergrast) presents basic facts about China alongside full-page photographs. Simple facts are given and presented according to color (i.e. dancers in red, white rice, etc.)

Mei Mei Loves the Morning (Tsubakiyama) depicts daily life in a Chinese family as a grandfather and granddaughter go on an outing together. Our family loves the lovely watercolors in this large picture book, though since it is more than a decade old, some things have changed.

 Gai See (Thong) features children shopping with Grandma in Chinatown, introducing many Chinese foods and products along the way.


Welcome to China (DK) (Jenner) is a great starting place to introduce modern China.

Ancient China (Friedman) is a nice, simple introduction to China. It includes lots of pictures and a list of other China resources. For upper elementary, try DK Eyewitness: Ancient China (Cottertell.)  Don’t forget to search the card catalog for books on pandas, the Great Wall and the Silk Road.

Speak and Sing Chinese with Mei Mei (Hu) audio CD and Play and Learn Chinese with Mei Mei (Hu) both do a great job teaching some spoken Chinese. For written Chinese and other China-related topics, see books by Ed Young and Huy Voun Lee at your local library.

Dancing to Freedom (Li) tells the true story of a Chinese boy that grows up during the Cultural Revolution and becomes a world-famous ballet dancer. The story is tastefully adapted for kids and gives insight into certain aspects of Chinese culture.

Deb Brammer’s Peanut Butter Friends in a Chop Suey World shows an American missionary family adapting to Chinese culture in Taiwan. It’s a great book about learning to understand and be friendly toward people who are different that we are.

There are many famous missionaries from the past that served in China. (Check separate posting here.)

China Resources for Adults

Culture (secular)

Encountering the Chinese (Hu, Grove, Zhuang) is a great introduction to Chinese culture. To understand more about recent Chinese history, try Wild Swans (Chang), which chronicles the true story of three generations of women in her family. It is rich with description and historical insights. Peter Hessler and Leslie Chang have both written on China as well.

The Church in China

Sometimes I’m asked if the moving depiction of the Chinese church in Safely Home (Alcorn) is accurate. I believe that the situation it describes is mostly one of the past. To get a better glimpse of ministry environment today, you might read Careful Enough (Forbes.) This novel aimed is at young adults. For a factual (and technical) discussion of Chinese church history, see A New History of Christianity in China (Bays.) (Don’t forget to check out my link on missionary biographies from the past.)

Outreach Resources

Song of a Wanderer (Li) is the testimony of a highly-educated Chinese man who came to faith in Christ. It is available in Chinese and English and has been used very successfully in evangelism (contact Ambassadors for Christ.)

[Image by Deposit Photos/c3JR.]

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