Growing up in a multicultural society, I’ve always been fascinated by different cultures and traditions.

One culture that has always intrigued me is Chinese culture. From the vibrant festivals to the delicious food, Chinese culture is both rich and diverse.

It’s important to expose children to different cultures and help them appreciate and respect the diversity.

It can open their mind, show them a different way of living, and give them a whole new level of confidence.

In this article, I’ll be sharing some simple, fun and educational ways to introduce Chinese culture to kids, even if you have no immediate plans to visit China.

Chinese history is long and special

I’ve always found the history of China intriguing. And I think you will too!

Here are some of the most significant events, inventions and landmarks in Chinese history.

Dynasties and emperors

Terracotta Army statues

The Terracotta Army was built to protect a Chinese emperor in the afterlife. Image supplied by Mike Cairnduff.

Ancient China has been ruled by many dynasties and emperors over the centuries.

One of the most famous emperors in Chinese history was Emperor Qin Shi Huang, who ruled during the Qin Dynasty, from 221 BCE to 206 BCE.

He’s known for unifying China as well as ordering his people to build the famous Terracotta Army.

Another famous emperor was Emperor Wu of the Han Dynasty, who ruled from 141 BCE to 87 BCE. He’s known for expanding the empire’s territory and promoting Confucianism.

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(Confucius was a famous philosopher who had a profound effect on Chinese values and the way people treat each other.)

The last emperor of China, known as Puyi, was imprisoned for war crimes and eventually became a common gardener.


ancient Chinese paper book

Paper is one of the greatest Chinese inventions of all time. Image by Shan_shan on Shutterstock.

Chinese civilization goes back thousands of years, so it’s no surprise that some of the most amazing inventions originated in China.

The most famous Chinese inventions, known as the Four Great Inventions, are:

  • Paper
  • Printing
  • Magnetic compass
  • Gunpowder

Around 1265, the Song Dynasty government introduced a national currency, and paper money was invented and was used across the country.

So, you can thank the Chinese for the dollar bills in your wallet!

Significant landmarks

Temple of Heaven in Beijing

The Temple of Heaven was used by emperors to pray for good harvests. Image by Joe on Pixabay.

China is home to many significant landmarks that have played a crucial role in the country’s history. One of the most famous landmarks is the Great Wall of China.

It was built over 2,000 years ago to protect China from invaders. It stretches over 13,000 miles and is one of the world’s most impressive engineering feats.

Beijing, the capital city of China, is regarded as a very special place. It was the capital of several dynasties, including the Ming and Qing dynasties.

Today, it’s home to many historical sites such as:

  • Imperial Palace known as the Forbidden City (where emperors lived)
  • Temple of Heaven (where emperors prayed)
  • Summer Palace (where emperors went for recreation)

China’s geography is also essential to its history. The country is home to the world’s tallest mountain, Mount Everest in Tibet.

It’s also home to two of the world’s most significant rivers, the Yellow River and the Yangtze River. These rivers have played a crucial role in China’s agriculture and transportation over the centuries.

Activity: If the kids are old enough, watch the movie Avatar with them and explain that the mythical land of Pandora was based on the jagged mountains of Zhangjiajie in central China. You could then look at photos of this magical place together on Google.

Chinese customs and traditions are amazing

As someone who has lived in China, I want to share with you some of the most interesting aspects of Chinese culture and traditions.

Here are a few things that you might find fascinating:

Lucky numbers

lucky number 8 in China

The luckiest number in China. Image by Liza Trinidad on Pixabay.

In Chinese numerology, lucky numbers are significant.

It’s important to choose good numbers for special things and events such as wedding dates, dates for moving into a new house, and telephone numbers.

The luckiest number is eight as it sounds like ‘wealth’ in Mandarin Chinese. And there are lots of lucky number combinations too.

Unlucky numbers in China include:

  • Four – it sounds like the Chinese word for ‘death’
  • Seven – it sounds like the Chinese word for ‘gone’

Many door numbers and car registration numbers in China don’t contain any fours, especially in the last digit. Chinese people believe this is bad luck.

Festivals and celebrations

four moon cakes on plate

Kids love eating moon cakes during Mid-Autumn Festival. Image supplied by Mike Cairnduff.

Chinese people love to celebrate, and there are many festivals and celebrations throughout the year.

One of the most important is Chinese New Year, which falls in January or February depending on the lunar calendar. It’s also called Spring Festival, because it marks the beginning of spring.

During this time, Chinese families get together to eat delicious food, exchange red envelopes filled with money, and set off firecrackers to scare away evil spirits.

Lantern Festival marks the end of Chinese New Year celebrations. People hang colorful lanterns in the streets and eat sweet glutinous rice balls called tangyuan.

Another important Chinese festival is Mid-Autumn Festival. The locals spend time with loved ones eating mooncakes and admiring the moon.

There’s an interesting legend behind this festival which you can read about here.

Activity: Why not get the kids involved by encouraging them to make crafts for some of the big holidays? They can make and decorate red packets for Spring Festival, lanterns for the Lantern Festival, and draw pictures of the moon for Mid-Autumn.

Chinese zodiac

Chinese Zodiac animal decorations

There are 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac. Image by DMHai on Shutterstock.

The Chinese calendar is very different and more interesting than the Western version and the zodiac is a big part of that.

It’s also a unique part of Chinese culture and an integral part of many Chinese festivals.

The Chinese zodiac is symbolized by animals ranging from snakes to pigs, rats, and tigers. To many kids, learning what animal sign they are and what this traditionally means for their lives and futures can be exciting and intriguing information.

This will also give them a soft entry point to Chinese festivals, especially Lunar New Year.

Arts and crafts

Chinese decorations made of timber and metal bell

Bells are commonly used in Chinese handicrafts, and so too is the color red. Image supplied by Mike Cairnduff.

China has a rich history of art and crafts, with many traditional techniques still being used today.

Some popular materials include:

  • Paper
  • Silk
  • Jade
  • Bronze
  • Wood

When artists make things like decorations, they like using the color red because it’s thought to bring good fortune and luck.

A famous Chinese art form is the dragon dance. The dragon is a symbol of good luck and prosperity, and during festivals, people will dance with a long dragon made of cloth and bamboo.

Activity: One of my favorite crafts is making paper fans. They can be decorated with beautiful Chinese characters or painted scenes, and the kids love being able to create their own.

Martial arts

chinese kid doing martial arts

Martial arts are very popular in China among all age groups. Image supplied by Mike Cairnduff.

Lots of kids dream about being Jackie Chan, easily defeating their enemies with impossible flips and strikes!

Well, China is home to numerous martial arts, many of which go back hundreds if not thousands of years.

If your child wants to learn the discipline, control, and power of China’s traditional martial arts, then here are some of the forms they can try (with parental guidance, of course):

  • Kung fu, which is usually the style shown in Chinese movies
  • Shuai jiao, which is Chinese wrestling and good for self-defense
  • Shaolin, which has all the flashy stunt moves your kids could ever want
  • Tai chi, which is purely for health and longevity.

Activity: Watch YouTube videos on Chinese martial arts and teach the kids some simple moves. Or, sign up to some classes at your local martial arts center.

Chinese food is yummy

As China is so large and there are lots of different cultures and customs within the country, it means that Chinese cuisine is also very diverse.

Popular dishes

bowl of dumplings and fried rice

Dumplings and rice are Chinese staples. Image supplied by Mike Cairnduff.

Some of the most popular Chinese dishes include:

  • Rice
  • Noodles
  • Dumplings
  • Soup

Rice is a staple food in China and is eaten at almost every meal, particularly in the south of the country. Noodles are more popular in the north and west.

Dumplings are a type of Chinese food that are filled with meat or vegetables and then boiled or steamed. They’re very filling and you don’t need to eat rice or noodles with them!

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One of the most popular cooking techniques in China is stir-fry. This involves quickly frying small pieces of meat and vegetables in a wok. The food is then seasoned with various sauces and spices.

Most Chinese people don’t have an oven in their kitchen, so baking isn’t common.

Activity: Try making dumplings with the kids. Here’s a kid-friendly dumpling recipe that you can do while the kids help out in the kitchen.

Eating habits and etiquette

bowl of noodles with chopsticks resting on bowl

It’s best to rest your chopsticks on the bowl like this. Image supplied by Mike Cairnduff.

Everyone in China uses chopsticks to eat. Spoons are also common because the Chinese love soup.

It’s considered rude to stick chopsticks straight up in a bowl of rice as it resembles incense sticks to commemorate the dead. Instead, chopsticks should be placed horizontally on the bowl or on a chopstick rest.

Tea is a hugely important part of Chinese food culture and is always served during meals. It’s customary to pour tea for others before pouring for yourself.

If there’s a Chinese restaurant in your town, you could take your children there and introduce them to Chinese food. Just remember that the food will probably be catered to Western tastes.

Dishes like lemon chicken, General Tso’s chicken, and fortune cookies, are foreign inventions and not authentic Chinese food.

Activity: Buy some unique snacks at your nearest Chinese supermarket, or buy them online, and try them with the kids. While some people may find snacks like chicken claws disgusting, the Chinese love them and it’s important to keep an open mind about each other’s food preferences.

Language and education are important

Chinese students sitting in classroom looking at phone

Chinese students learn English at school for many years. Image supplied by Mike Cairnduff.

Mandarin Chinese is the official language of China, with over 1 billion speakers worldwide.

Learning Mandarin is an important part of education in China, and students start studying it from a young age. Mandarin is a tonal language, which means that the tone of your voice can change the meaning of a word.

There are actually hundreds of different languages and dialects in China, including:

  • Yue (most Chinese who emigrated to the United States spoke Yue, also known as Cantonese)
  • Min (spoken in Fujian province and parts of the east coast)
  • Xiang (spoken in Hunan province)
  • Wu (spoken in the Shanghai area)

Chinese characters are another important aspect of education in China. There are over 50,000 characters in the Chinese language, and students must learn thousands of them in order to read and write fluently.

Students also learn English from a young age, but most students are shy and they don’t like making mistakes in public.

So, by the time they’re adults, their English proficiency is quite low unless they go on to further study like university.

Activity: Get the kids involved in trying Chinese calligraphy. It’s challenging but fun and it may even improve their own artistic writing. You could sign up to your local China association and find out when they run events like calligraphy classes.

Sport is loved by millions

table tennis match

Table tennis is a national sport in China. Image by Djimenezhdez on Pixabay.

Chinese people love sport and it’s very much part of the local culture.

Three of the most popular sports in China are:

  • Table tennis
  • Badminton
  • Basketball

In the early 1950s, Chinese leader Mao Zedong declared table tennis a national sport.

Its popularity spread throughout the country, making Chinese athletes the strongest in the world within a short period of time.

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Badminton is another national sport of China. It’s a highly accessible sport – all you really need is a racket and shuttlecock.

And, although basketball isn’t a traditional Chinese sport, it’s very popular with young people nowadays. Chinese guys, in particular, love watching the American NBA and many have favorite players they regularly watch online.

Activity: Get some bats and a ping-pong ball, and create a makeshift ping-pong table on your outdoor table if you have one. Or, use chalk to make a court on the ground and teach the kids the rules of badminton.

Modern China is exciting

I’m constantly amazed by the rapid economic and technological growth that has taken place in China over the past few decades.

The country is now the world’s second largest economy and has become a global leader in technology and innovation.

Economy and technology

WeChat facial recognition software

Tencent-owned WeChat has facial recognition software. Image by WangXuefei on Pixabay.

China’s economy has undergone a massive transformation since the 1980s. The country has shifted from a centrally planned economy to a market-oriented one, which has led to significant economic growth.

China is now a major player in international trade and has become a hub for manufacturing and technology.

China is also home to some of the world’s leading technology companies, including:

  • Alibaba
  • Tencent
  • Huawei

These companies have made significant contributions to the development of new technologies such as 5G networks, artificial intelligence, and e-commerce.

You may have also heard about WeChat. It’s the most popular Chinese app and practically every Chinese person with a smartphone has it.


Chinese hooded sweatshirt with Chinglish on it

Funny Chinglish clothing. Image supplied by Mike Cairnduff.

Since China’s modernization, you can walk down any street in the country and see the same clothes as you would back home.

But this doesn’t mean that everything is the same. China still has its unique fashions and trends, some of which can seem a little strange to westerners:

  • Fake designer and sports brands
  • Made-up English words on tops, known as Chinglish
  • Open-crotch pants for babies called kaidangku

Environment and wildlife

giant panda

China is doing what it can to save the panda. Image by Lukas W. on Unsplash.

The giant panda is one of China’s most iconic animals and is a symbol of the country’s commitment to conservation and environmental protection.

The Chinese government has made efforts to protect the habitats of the giant panda and other endangered animal species. The country has also taken steps to address environmental issues such as air and water pollution and has invested heavily in renewable energy sources.

Despite these efforts, China still faces significant challenges in balancing economic growth with environmental protection.

The country’s rapid economic development has put a strain on its natural resources, and there is still much work to be done to ensure that China’s economic growth is sustainable and environmentally responsible.

To sum it up

Chinese culture is known for its unique customs, traditions, and beliefs, which have developed throughout its long history.

By introducing children to Chinese culture, we can help them open up their eyes and learn about different ways of life.

Children are naturally curious and love to learn about new things. So, by incorporating fun activities and games, we can make learning about Chinese culture an exciting experience for them.

I hope you liked my article on Chinese culture for kids. You might also like this modern Chinese history timeline which covers the last 80 years or so.

Or, refer to Mike’s mega Chinese culture guide for many more cultural nuggets.

Keep learning about China

It’s such a diverse and huge country and there’s so much to explore:

Main image credit: Chubykin Arkady on Shutterstock.

FAQ about Chinese culture for kids

How do you introduce Chinese culture for kids?

Start with food because it’s probably the easiest. You could tell them how people eat different things in different countries, and then eat some Chinese food together once you’ve learned how to use chopsticks.

What are five interesting facts about China for kids?

China’s official name is the People’s Republic of China, there are approximately 1.4 billion people living there, it’s the largest country in Asia, yuan (or renminbi) is the national currency, and Hong Kong used to be governed by the UK.

What are five interesting facts about Chinese culture for kids?

The Chinese invented paper, the number eight is considered lucky, Lunar New Year is a two-week festival, the Chinese use chopsticks to eat, and a typical Chinese meal includes rice or noodles (depending on the part of China you’re in).