Three Ancient Philosophies




Dear 7A,

The people of ancient China were inventive both physically and mentally.

For instance, they invented paper, gunpowder, the compass and movable printing. They also began to spin silk around 6000 years ago.

Their ideas were also original and far-reaching. It is their ideas and philosophies that you will be exploring today.

Kind regards from Ms Green





1 First Task

Work through this handout, in which the ideas of Confucianism and Taoism are simply presented. Which set of ideas is closer to your own philosophy of life or world view?

2 Taoism Tiny Cards

Cycle through the 20 cards in this starter set of flashcards on Taoism. You may like to create an account with Duolingo – Tiny Cards. This site allows you to create your own flashcards for revision and learning.

Tiny Cards Set – Taoism


3 Choose two of the three philosophies below.

Each one has two recommended websites and some related questions. Read the sites carefully and answer the questions in a Word file or in your workbook.

If you are working on your laptop, you can find copyright free symbols and pictures at these three sites: | |


Philosophy for Kids
United Religions Initiative – Children 

  • What does the word “Tao” mean?
  • Who is thought to be the founder of this philosophy?
  • What do Taoists believe?
  • Draw or find a picture of Taoism’s famous symbol. What Taoist ideas does it express and represent?


 Kids’ World – Buddha

 OUP Blog – 10 Facts about Buddhism


a Summarise the story of Siddhartha Gautama and his path to enlightenment.

b Present the three universal truths that he identified during his deep meditation period. Use a symbol or picture to illustrate or represent each one.

c Present  the four noble truths that Siddhartha Gautama identified. Illustrate each one with a symbol or picture.



 Philosophy Slam

Ancient History Encyclopedia

a Select 2 quotations from Confucian teachings, write them down and then explain them in your own words.

b List and explain the main ideas in the moral code of Confucius. Choose a symbol or simple picture to represent each one.


4 Your own philosophy of life

Type out the most fundamental point of your own personal philosophy of life and put it into a comment for others in the class to read. For example, this is mine: 

Kindness towards others is a fundamental principle that my mother taught me. I believe that mercy is more important than justice and forgiveness more healing than retribution. I would prefer to be a victim of injustice than a person who acts unjustly.

Happy philosophising, 7A!

The Mandate of Heaven

Dear 7Y,

Imagine that you could invoke a powerful spiritual being to justify your position, your actions and your power. Every time someone questioned your actions or doubted your motives, you could fall back on your entitlements as the chosen one of this powerful being, who had theoretically ordained you and anointed you as the person in charge. If your underlings believed in the existence of this being, your position would be impregnable.

Or would it?

There’s usually a downside to this kind of religious propaganda, even though it has been employed by many monarchs and emperors in history to underpin their supposedly unassailable authority. If things started to go wrong, if the crops failed or there was a flood or natural disaster, the very argument that you once used to justify your domination might also be used to dispute its validity. Perhaps that divine being is questioning your so-called birthright. Perhaps you don’t deserve that birthright any more.

For centuries, the “Mandate of Heaven” was the basis of the Chinese emperors’ overwhelming power, yet this belief in a divine blessing could be hijacked by opponents as proof of their unworthiness too. For this reason, the dynasties of China could last for centuries and seem invulnerable, only to be challenged, to fall and to be replaced. The concept of the “Mandate of Heaven” could be conveniently used to explain both their lasting power and their fall from grace.

Yet another of those odd little internal contradictions in human history…

Kind regards from Ms Green (no relationship to John and Hank)

♦ John Green’s take on the Mandate of Heaven and on Chinese history in general:

♦ Other links about the Mandate of Heaven:

ThoughtcoMr Donn’s simpler version

♦ Simple interactive quiz on this topic 

♦ Encounter a Chinese dynasty at Thoughtco

  • After reading your text on the ancient dynasties of China, select one that interests you in particular and create a dossier on its origins, rise to power, cultural and technological achievements and legacy.
  • Then construct a little quiz for your fellow students at this link. Use a variety of question types, including multiple choice, chronological order and matching. You will need to create an account in order to do this, using your school email account. If you would prefer, you can make a set of Tiny Cards on your chosen dynasty.

Yet another tyrant leaves his mark…

Introductory Kahoot:

Class Mode | Preview Mode

Dear 7Y,

Terracotta Soldiers • Intended as guardians for Qin Shi Huang’s Tomb •

It seems that in every age and almost every land, at least since we’ve been living in so-called civilisations and not roaming as hunter-gatherers, some people have developed a desire for power that makes them forget their humanity.

This drive to seize absolute control of others’ lives leads power-hungry people to commit horrific and heartless acts of cruelty. They oppress their own people and usually the peoples that they conquer. The pain such tyrants inflict is never forgotten. 

The famous historian, Sima Qian, said of Qin Shi Huang, the tyrant who united China and in the process terrorised its people:

Qin is a man of scant mercy who has the heart of a wolf.

If the Qin should ever get his way with the world, then the whole world will end up his prisoner.


Your task today is to find out about the life and actions of Qin Shi Huang. Which actions of his would you characterise as tyrannical? In other words, which actions were inhumane, oppressive, cruel and merciless? Use the links below or others.

♥ Set out your written or typed notes in a format that allows four subheadings like or similar to those below. You may choose to copy this table into a Word document if you find it useful for corralling your thoughts.

Kind regards, Ms Green

Qin Shi Huang

Examples of Tyrannical Acts




The Confucian Purge




Warring States and Unification




Political and Cultural Achievements





Asian  BBC Time Magazine Social Studies for Kids