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Belief Systems in China: Confucianism, Daoism, and Buddhism
581 BCE - 1368 CE

Why This Unit?

This teaching unit explores the three main traditional belief systems , that is, religions or philosophies of China: Confucianism, Daoism (Taoism), and Buddhism. It provides background on each of these systems, including how, when, where, and by whom they were developed and diffused throughout China. Using translations of primary sources , students will examine the major tenets of each belief system, their specific differences, and their importance in the historical development of China. Students will understand the significance of belief systems in helping to establish a sense of belonging and building social cohesion, focusing on China in the premodern era. Students will also be encouraged to reflect on the impact that their own belief systems have on their lives.

 

Unit Objectives

Upon completing this unit, students will be able to:

1. Explain the meaning of “belief systems” and give examples.

2. Trace the spread of the three main belief systems in China over time, and assess their impact on politics, economy, society, and culture there.

3. Identify the similarities and differences between Buddhism, Daoism, and Confucianism.

4. Draw inferences about the effects of a particular belief system on a society residing in a geographic region.

5. Describe how and why Buddhism spread in China during the period of the Tang dynasty.

 

Time and Materials

This unit will take three to four 50-minute class periods (150-200 minutes in class).
Materials required: pencils, overhead or computer projector, transparencies, and history textbooks with glossaries or dictionaries.

Table of Contents

Why this unit?

2

Time and materials

2

Unit objectives

2

Author

2

The historical context

3

Table of dates

5

Lesson 1: What are belief systems? Differences between a religion and a philosophy

7

Lesson 2: Three main belief systems of China: Confucianism, Daoism, and Buddhism

11

Lesson 3: The spread of Buddhism

34

This unit and the Three Essential Questions

41

This unit and the Seven Key Themes

41

This unit and the Standards in Historical Thinking

41

Resources

42

Correlations to National and State Standards

44

Conceptual links to other teaching units

44

Complete Teaching Unit in PDF Format

 

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