The Year Of The Monkey

Possible Classroom Concepts: Social Studies – Counties Around The World (China, Japan)

Language Arts-Literature, Symbols, Communication

Possible Art Concepts: Art History – Wang Yani,  Mori Sosen, Au Ho-Nien,  Ohara Koson

Chinese Brush Painting, Symbols

Happy Chinese New Year!


When I heard it was the year of the monkey, I was reminded of a snow monkey lesson I taught when fourth grade still studied Japan. I would begin by talking about Chinese brush painting and how the brush strokes were used for both writing and creating images. Brush of the Gods is a historical fiction picture book that tells the story of Wu Daozi, a painter from the Tang Dynasty and introduces both kinds of brush stroke painting in the process.  The above project took four one hour art classes to complete. I’m sure this would take up way too much instructional time in the regular classroom. So, I’ll make some abbreviated alternatives. A good way to teach the strokes used in Chinese writing or images is to learn how to paint bamboo.  For classroom purposes, you can use watercolors for your bamboo.  Some hints: Notice the brush is held sideways when making the stalk.  I taught the students to “Press and press.” When painting the stalk. The leaves are painted in the same direction as the brush. the stroke for leaves is “Drag press drag” to get the points on either end of the leaves. Now that the students know their way around a brush, they could try out painting some Chinese words and phrases.  If you happen to be studying how communication changes over time, this post may be of interest to you.

If you are introducing the Chinese New year and wish to talk about the year of the monkey, check out child prodigy artist, Wang Yani  and her monkey paintings. See her in action at age four here.


 Mori Sosen’s Monkey Performing the Sanbaso Dance

Or, you might want to read the story behind Sosen’s dancing monkey in the Monkeying Around section of this essay. Look at more Asian monkey paintings herehere, and here. Discuss with students all the different monkey poses. Then have the students create their own monkey pictures. Primary students might create fingerprint or handprint monkeys.  Intermediate students could create a nice furry textured monkey by using the wet on wet watercolor technique. Students simply use a clean wet brush to moisten their paper. Then, they quickly paint in the large shapes that make up their monkey. After the painting is dry, details can be added with a marker.

So, whether you are teaching countries around the world, communication or just need a new literature lesson, I hope you found a little something you can use in your classroom.

Hope you come back soon!



  1. Randall E. Goff · February 13, 2016

    Great post Kris! Just happen to have Brush of the Gods sitting on my desk!

    Sent from my iPhone


  2. Randall E. Goff · February 14, 2016

    I love your monkey project and especially the connection to the Chinese New Year, can you think of an adaptation so I can do something similar with first grade?
    Thanks for all of your research, it is like taking mini workshops on a subject!

    Sent from my iPad


  3. Pingback: Before They Were Presidents | OH THE ART PLACES WE CAN GO
  4. Pingback: Year of the Dog! | OH THE ART PLACES WE CAN GO

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