A Lesson Plan for Ancient China. Based on what people believe is the right and proper thing to do, how and why might a follower of Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism, and Legalism behave when faced with the same problem?

Background: Students have already studied The Three Doctrines, also known as the Three Teachings (Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism) and Legalism, and have some background. 

Directions: Students will imagine themselves to be, in turn, a follower of Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, and Legalism.

Orally Present Brief Review of Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism and Legalism:

  1. Confucianism: Respect for family, hard work and education

  2. Taoism: Keeping your life simple

  3. Buddhism: Respect for other property and all life

  4. Legalism: All power to the legal ruler

Orally present problem: Based on what people believe is the right and proper thing to do, their behavior, or their response to a particular problem could be very different. From their point of view, they would be behaving in a good or proper manner. From your point of view, they might be behaving very oddly. Even if people behave in the same way, are they behaving that way for the same reason? If you don't understand another person's point of view, do you think you might misunderstand them? Could that lead to problems that might be completely unnecessary? Of course! It's important to try and understand other peoples points of view, and important for them to try and understand yours.

Transition: Given the same situation, let's see if we can figure out what a Buddhist, a Taoist, a Confucianist, and a Legalist might do, and why, when facing the same problem!

Handout of Selected Questions: Give each student a handout that lists seven questions. Direct students to write down how they feel an individual would answer these questions if they were, in turn, a Buddhist, a Taoist, a follower of Confucianism, or a loyal citizen governed by Legalism. (See below for handout)

Discussion: Prior to class discussion of each question, read, or have a student read, each specific question.

Student Responses (See below)

Close Class: Homework (See below)


The Three Doctrines & Legalism

  1. A student knows that they are failing a class. Students from each of these doctrines know they will be in trouble when their parents find out. How do they handle this situation? (see student responses #1 below)

  2. A student's friends smoke and are trying to get them to start. How do they handle this situation? (see student responses #2 below)

  3. A student has just found $20 in the hall. What should they do?

  4. A student's parents have just spent a lot of money on a new outfit. The student has been playing around and has gotten ink all over it. What should they tell their parents, or should they?

  5. A student really likes a new student in school, but all the other students are making fun of the new student's clothes. How should the first student act?

  6. A student knows that an older brother or sister is cheating on tests. How should the student act?

  7. A student sees an opportunity to take something they have really wanted, without being caught. How should that student act? (see student responses #7 below)

Here are my 6th grade kids answers to 3 of these questions.

To questions 1, 2, & 7 in handout above.

Confucianism Taoism Buddhism Legalism
1. Inform parents. Apologize for not living up to standards expected; promise to try and do better 1. Not worry about it and hope the problem will go away. (Taoists more probably would try to recognize why they are failing, and do something to change their behavior if it would make them happier.) 1. Try to improve. If they don't improve, accept punishment gracefully. 1. Inform parents, expect and accept punishment.
2. Inform whoever was smoking that their behavior was wrong, report this action to the principal, avoid these people until they corrected their wrong doing. 2. Announce pleasantly that smoking would make them unhappy because its bad for your health. 2. Help them to try and stop smoking. 2. Inform the principal.
7. Would not take it. It's against the rules. 7. Would not take it. They would have feelings about it that might complicate their life. 7. Would not take it. Respect other people's property. 7. Would not take it. It's against the law.

HOMEWORK ASSIGNMENTS: Take these questions home. Ask a member of your family how and why they would respond to your choice of two of these questions. Write down your responses in complete sentences. Thank your family for their help. Privately, try to determine if their response and their reason for that response would best fit the expected behavior of a Buddhist, a Taoist, a Confucianist, or a Legalist.



For complete units, lesson plans & activities on Ancient China, plus links to detailed information on Daily Life in Ancient China, Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, and Legalism, and more, see Ancient China.

For complete units, lesson plans, and activities on other ancient civilizations, see Mr. Donn's Ancient History Page.

Plus ...

Free Presentations about Confucianism

Free Presentations about Taoism

Free Presentations about Buddhism

Free Games about the Three Teachings

Ancient China for Kids