Animals Inside the Forbidden City

Animals Inside the Forbidden City lesson plan

A famous section of Beijing, the capital of China, is surrounded by a moat. Imagine being in The Forbidden City, where animal statues decorate streets and tops of buildings.

  • 1.

    Find information about Beijing and The Forbidden City. Look at pictures. How old is this famous area? Why does it have such an intriguing name? Why are statues of animals such as dragons, horses, and lions so prominently displayed? Imagine walking these ancient Chinese streets. Then create a replica of a real or imaginary animal. You could even combine two familiar animals to make a new creature!

  • 2.

    We suggest using a paper plate as a base when you sculpt with Crayola Air-Dry Clay. To color the clay, knead a few drops of Crayola Tempera Paint into a handful of clay—or wait until you are finished and then paint it.

  • 3.

    To make a head, roll a small ball of clay. Add horns, ears, eyes, or mouth by pinching the clay and shaping. Use toothpicks, craft sticks, plastic dinnerware, or other sculpting tools to etch features into your animal.

  • 4.

    Form an oval for a body. Cut a roll of clay into four pieces to make legs. To attach parts, scratch the surfaces to be joined, dampen slightly with water, and press them together. Air-dry the clay for at least 3 days.

  • 5.

    Cover your painting area with newspaper. Paint your animal with Crayola Tempera Paint. Air-dry the paint.

  • 6.

    Present your animal to your class with a story about its imagined origins in China. What memorable events have taken place in its part of The Forbidden City?


  • Students research information about China’s capital and the area known as The Forbidden City.
  • Students identify real and imaginary sculptures displayed on Beijing’s streets and rooftops.
  • Students sculpt and paint replicas of these sculptures and invent a story about how their creature came to be displayed in The Forbidden City.


  • The Forbidden City in Beijing is known for its symmetrical and logical plan. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, a city planned by William Penn was built with the same type of logical plan. What are the differences in these two cities? What are their similaritie
  • Learn more about Chinese history. The emperor Qubilai Qan chose Beijing for his personal seat in 1260. Who was he and why is he important to China’s history?
  • Build a replica of The Forbidden City using recycled boxes, cardboard, and Air-Dry Clay. Add creatures to scale in appropriate places.
  • Assessment: Students can name the capital city of China and briefly describe its history. They sculpt a replica animal, invent a story about how their statue came to be on display in The Forbidden City, and identify at least one event that took place in that section of Beijing.