3-4 Activities

3-4 Activities

These activities for Maine and the China Trade were updated in late 2008 and early 2009, along with the Learning Results.

Ideas to try....


At the time of Maine’s participation in the China Trade, China was an agricultural society, whereas the U.S. had entered the industrial age. Compare how the Chinese produced crops—tea, rice, sugar, etc.—with American agriculture at the time. Learn more about the production of silk.

Economic interdependence: list reasons why Americans wanted to trade with China. List reasons why the Chinese wanted to trade with the U.S. Who had the bigger list at different times in history?

Career and Education Development

Chinese boys had an opportunity to obtain desirable civil service jobs. Learn more about what they had to know, and how they acquired this knowledge in school. How does that process compare to getting jobs today, in private and public sectors?

English Language Arts

When western merchants went to Canton, there were many restrictions, including a ban on learning the Chinese language. What systems of communication were devised, and what variations in language were created to serve trade? This has occurred in other places in the world as well. It relates to the forms and purposes of language, specifically spoken communication.

Find out how the Chinese historically explained natural phenomena by creating legends or myths. Other cultures did this also. Compare and contrast.

Research Projects

Clipper ships, silk production, Chinese emigration, Chinese customs and stories, or other features of Chinese culture. Written pieces could include different styles: giving directions to make silk or sail to China; cooking a Chinese meal; creating a story about life in China; writing a Chinese fairy tale; or describing an American seeing China for the first time or a Chinese person coming to America.


Math activities could include measurement and graphing using products. Distances and speeds from various ports can be used to create math problems. How did ships measure their speed and direction in the 19th century?

Learn more about the ship types that went to China. Hull shape, size, capacity, and sail area contributed to the differences between the kinds of vessels. Learn more about force (from the wind) and its relationship to these other factors.

Science and Technology

The railroad had an impact on settlement in the U.S., and Chinese workers were instrumental in building it. Washington State, Oregon, and Hawaii were all influenced by U.S. trade with China and the quest for trade goods such as fur and sandalwood. These goods could be good research topics, both from an economic and environmental perspective.


Investigate Chinese influences on Americans and American daily life. What influences can you find today?

What do you think about the treaties that were made between the U.S. and China during the 19th century? How about the opium issue? American traders were engaged in smuggling opium into China, although the British established this precedent. The resource list offers readings about opium.


Pick several cities that developed because of trade—Shanghai, for example. Locate it on a map and decide why it developed there. Find some other big cities on a map—try to figure out why they are located where they are.


Experiment with watercolor—try to get some of the effects obtained by Chinese artists.