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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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