Skip to Main Content
Image of Lexington High School

Enduring Legacy of Ancient China: Pastoral Nomads

Essential Question

Silk Road: How were pastoral nomads important to the Silk Road & China?

     Who are the pastoral nomads?

     What do they value?

     How are they different than settled people?

     Who are the Mongols?

     What was the relationship between China and the Mongols?

Pastoral Nomads: Who Are They?

The following document contains a primary and secondary source. A section from Marco Polo about the Mongols and information about Ghenghis Khan.  What I really like about this combination is that it gives us good information but it then asks the reader to consider the source. Is Polo's account trustworthy based on his other works? Are his descriptions accurate? Questioning the source is a crucial skill for any researcher/student especially with primary sources. Practice is always needed.

This piece could help answer:

     Who are the pastoral nomads?

     What do they value?

     Who are the Mongols?

Use: I would assign this as a two day reading assignment for the students, they would be asked to annotate the whole document. As a class they should first discuss the primary source. Then talk about questioning the author's evidence when compared with other sources. The next discussion day pull evidence from and discuss the secondary information given.

Pastoral Nomad and Chinese Relationships

"Excerpts describing the 'barbarians' who lived outside the Chinese empire from Records of the Grand Historian (Shiji) by Sima Qian, written between 105 and 90 b.c.e."

I like this document for a couple of reasons. First, it has a Chinese historian describing a group of Pastoral Nomads. We get a description but then ask "Who is the audience for this document?" The second, and more sophisticated aspect is that historians often describe and point out things that differ from their own culture. If an historian writing for his own culture points out that they "...have [sic] no cities, permanent dwellings, or agriculture." Which implies that he writes for a culture that does have these things. Another lens with which to view primary sources and ways to learn about it's author.

Pastoral Nomads and Chinese: Diplomacy

The following two primary sources show the Chinese perspective of what the relationship between the Pastoral Nomads and Chinese was like in two short pieces.  Students may want to think about point-of-view verses fact. These may be used for general research purposes or used in a group setting. For advanced students I would assign one of the two reading to be annotated during class then shared out the next day. For the less advanced I would give the student a shortened version to read and annotate during class, to be shared as a group and discussed the next day.

Questions it may help answer:

     Who are the pastoral nomads?

     What do they value?

     How are they different?

     What was the relationship between the pastoral nomads and the Chinese?

I like this simple chart as a primary source as it can show students how data can be analyzed to support or illustrate a relationship between and among groups.  How it can show what is valued within a system. This should be used after they learn about silk production and the tribute system.

Questions it may answer:

     What do they value?

     What was the relationship like between the Pastoral Nomads and the Chinese?


Helpful Websites and Links

Lexington High School Library Media Center