The Chinese house

[Episode 15 | 1868 : Minna]

Minna and her friend Adelaide visit Mr Wong's residence to give him some news about the change to a local law regarding Chinese migration. Mr Wong shows them a magic lantern that projects images of his family.


The Australian curriculum: English

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The Australian Curriculum: English aims to ensure that students:

  • learn to listen to, read, view, speak, write, create and reflect on increasingly complex and sophisticated spoken, written and multimodal texts across a growing range of contexts with accuracy, fluency and purpose
  • appreciate, enjoy and use the English language in all its variations and develop a sense of its richness and power to evoke feelings, convey information, form ideas, facilitate interaction with others, entertain, persuade and argue
  • understand how Standard Australian English works in its spoken and written forms and in combination with non-linguistic forms of communication to create meaning
  • develop interest and skills in inquiring into the aesthetic aspects of texts, and develop an informed appreciation of literature.

English activities [2]

Activity 1: Magic lantern
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Subtheme(s): Beliefs; Inventions and electronic media; Multiculturalism
  • After viewing the clip, lead a class discussion exploring ideas around cultural beliefs. Use questions such as:
  1. How do the girls know Mr Wong is praying?
  2. Where is he praying?
  3. Whom does he say he is praying to and why does he say he is praying to them?
  4. What customs related to food, the afterlife and praying to ancestors do you find Mr Wong practising in the clip?
  • Ask class members to suggest reasons why Minna might be reading the newspaper article to Mr Wong. What is the article about and why is it relevant to Mr Wong? Why does he seem to be pleased with the content of the article?
  • Play the clip again and ask students if they can see anything in the clip to indicate that Mr Wong might be able to read in a language other than English? Examples can be seen outside the door and on the walls inside the house.
  • Mr Wong uses a magic lantern to show the girls images of his family. He says that the lantern uses a trick of light and shadow. Have students work in small groups to create a mind map using rich adjectives to describe the images of Mr Wong's parents and his promised wife.
  • Challenge students to find out more about the magic lantern. What does it look like and how does it work? They can use Student Activity Sheet E15.3: Magic lantern to create a labelled drawing that explains how a magic lantern projects images onto a surface for people to view.


Lead a class discussion designed to encourage students to draw on past experience or prior knowledge. Ask them to describe:

  1. places of worship they know about or have visited
  2. features of the buildings used as places of worship that they are familiar with
  3. traditions, customs or rituals associated with each place of worship.
  • Ask students to locate images of different places of worship from the internet, family photographs, magazines, books and newspapers. Ask them to list the religion or the beliefs that relate to each image. Organise students into small groups to investigate and report back to the class about one of the images they have found.


Activity 2: Arranged marriage
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Subtheme(s): Culture; Customs and traditions; Language and scripting
  • After watching the clip, use a large sheet of butcher paper to create a graffiti wall that provides a rich vocabulary of illustrative words and phrases words that the students could use to describe Mr Wong's home.
  • Mr Wong uses a magic lantern to show the girls images of his parents and grandmother from before he came to Australia. He also shows them an image of his 'promised wife' whom he describes as 'a peach'. 
  • As a class, discuss:
  1. Mr Wong's reference to his promised wife. Ask students what they think he might mean by the phrase 'promised wife' and why he might describe her as 'a peach'? 
  2. What does Mr Wong see as one of the advantages of having children?

  • Ask each student to use the graffiti wall created earlier by the class to help them to write a 'For sale' notice that is designed to sell Mr Wong's home.
  • In pairs ask students to complete the T-chart on Student Activity Sheet E15.4: Arranged marriage. They can list their ideas about the advantages of an arranged marriage - where the choice of partner is made by someone else - and the advantages of choosing your own partner.
  • Ask each student to use a black-lead pencil to create an image of members of their family that resembles an image projected by a magic lantern. Have students think about the use of light and shade to create interesting portraits. Display the portraits and discuss the various ways that students have defined family through their portraits.
  • Use a family-tree builder such as Family Echo, to create a family tree of Mr Wong's family. The Community Tree on the official ABC3 My Place website, may be a useful guide. Now split students into pairs and ask them to create each other's family tree by asking questions about their partner's family background.


Student Activity Sheet E15.4: Arranged marriage

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