Chinese New Year crafts and books for kids

Chinese New Year Crafts and Books for Kids: The Year of the Horse

The Chinese year 4712 begins on Jan. 31, 2014. It’s the Year of the Horse which is PickyKidPix‘s year and also those born during February 03, 1954 to January 23, 1955; January 21, 1966 to February 08, 1967; February 07, 1978 to January 27, 1979; January 27, 1990 to February 14, 1991; February 12, 2002 to January 31, 2003; and January 31, 2014 to February 18, 2015.


The Year of the Horse Personality

Those born under the sign of the Horse are a flexible group of people. They tend to be stubborn when it comes their ideas, but they are also incredibly patient when it comes to hearing out what other people have to say. They favor straight forward, occasionally blunt conversation. And yet they generally avoid starting up any unnecessary trouble. This combination then makes those under the Horse sign a bit of a puzzle to the people around them. Though this certainly does not stop people from trying to figure them out. from Senn

Here’s more:

People born in the year of the horse have ingenious communicating techniques and in their community they always want to be in the limelight. They are clever, kind to others, and like to join in a venture career. Although they sometimes talk too much, they are cheerful, perceptive, talented, earthy but stubborn. They like entertainment and large crowds. They are popular among friends, active at work and refuse to be reconciled to failure, although their endeavor cannot last indefinitely.

They cannot bear too much constraint. However their interest may be only superficial and lacking real substance. They are usually impatient and hot blooded about everything other than their daily work. They are independent and rarely listen to advice. Failure may result in pessimism. They usually have strong endurance but with bad temper. Flamboyant by nature, they are wasteful since they are not good with matters of finance due to a lack of budgetary efficiency. Some of those who are born in the horse like to move in glamorous circles while pursuing high profile careers.  They tend to interfere in many things and frequently fail to finish projects of their own. From Travel China Guide


Picture Book to Celebrate The Year of the Horse

For a picture book to celebrate The Year of the Horse, I chose The Magic Horse of Han Gan by Chen Jiang Hong.

The illustrations capture gorgeous traditional Chinese paintings as well as the life of artist Han Gan who lived in China 1,200 years ago. He was reputed to be so skilled in painting horses that one of his paintings comes to life! [picture book, ages 5-8]


Han Gan Biography

Han Gan’s short biography:

Han Gan was a Tang Dynasty painter.

Here’s a longer one:

He came from a poor family in either Chang’an, modern day Xi’anShaanxiLantian, modern day Shaanxi; or Daliang, modern day KaifengHenan. As a young man, Han Gan was recognized by Wang Wei, a prominent poet, who sponsored Han in learning arts. Han became a student of Cao Ba, a court painter. After his studies, Han became a painter in the Tang court.

Han painted many portraits and Buddhistic themed paintings during his career; however, he is most widely remembered for his paintings of horses. He was reputed to be able to not only portray the physical body of the horse, but also its spirit. His reputation rose and surpassed that of his teacher. Horse painters of later generations studied Han. He is honored with a crater named for him on Mercury. from Wikipedia

Han Gan Paintings

Portrait of “Night-Shining White”, a favorite steed of Emperor Xuanzong

Han Gan horse painting

Herding horse (silk painting, 34.1*27.5 cm, by Han Gan, Tang Dynasty)

Night Shining White Han Gan

Night Shining White by Han Gan

A Groom With Horses Han Gan scroll art

A Groom with Horse by Han Gan (scroll art)

Chinese New Year Crafts and Books for Kids

At Chinese New Year celebrations people wear red clothes, decorate with poems on red paper, and give children “lucky money” in red envelopes. Red symbolizes fire, which according to legend can drive away bad luck. The fireworks that shower the festivities are rooted in a similar ancient custom. Long ago, people in China lit bamboo stalks, believing that the crackling flames would frighten evil spirits.

Top 10 Chinese New Year Books for Kids

If you need a children’s book on Chinese New Year, I have a dozen or so choices for you. These Chinese New Year picture books cover the celebration as well as crafts and activities for kids. There’s also a chapter book themed around Chinese New Year by Grace Lin!

Chinese New Year Books for Kids

Red Envelope Crafts for Kids (and for our 2nd Grade China Unit)

The Red Envelopes have a lot of significance for Chinese New Year and other celebrations. I have Chinese paper money printables and the etiquette for using Red Envelopes. This craft activity was used to teach 2nd graders about China and includes the Chinese inventions including paper and paper money.

We use The Greatest Power by Demi to read about the inventions China contributed to the world.

Red Envelope Chinese New Year Crafts for Kids

Chinese New Year Crafts Party for Kids

My oldest daughter is studying Chinese in middle school and her teacher planned an elaborate Chinese New Year party with many craft ideas. The ideas were drawn from Moonbeams, Dumplings and Dragon Boats: A Treasury of Chinese Holiday Tales, Activities & Recipes by Nina Simonds.

Chinese New Year Crafts Party for Kids


Will you celebrate Chinese New Year this year? If so, I’d love to hear what you are doing. We will be making dumplings!

p.s. I have other book lists for Chinese New Year

Best Chinese American Books for Kids by Cool Asian Kids

Top 10: Best Southeast Asian American Children’s Books (ages 2-14)

Top 10: Chinese American Children’s Books (ages 2-14) UPDATED2

Top 10: Korean American Children’s Books (ages 2-16) UPDATED3

Top 10: Japanese American Children’s Books (ages 2-16)UPDATED2

Chinese New Year Chapter Books: Grace Lin’s Pacy Series

Chinese New Year crafts and books for kids

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Follow PragmaticMom’s board Teaching Kids Chinese on Pinterest.

By Mia Wenjen, PragmaticMom


  1. We’ll be checking out some of those Chinese New Year books – thanks for the recommendations!
    maryanne recently posted…Using Microscopes With Young ChildrenMy Profile

    • Hi MaryAnne,
      Happy Year of the Horse … coming up Jan 31st. I finally got to meet Giselle of Kids Yoga Stories yesterday and she is sooo nice! We were glad to have the connection of both knowing you and she told me how you went to the Stanford blogger meet up the day after arriving cross country! (and how calm you are!). Hope you enjoy the books!!
      Pragmatic Mom recently posted…Get Kids Reading Strategies: 12 Surefire WaysMy Profile

  2. Han Gan is the perfect artist for the year of the horse. I liked that picture book, too.
    Erica recently posted…15 Adventure Picture Books for KidsMy Profile

    • Hi Erica,
      His style is so different from some famous Western artists that focus on realism that it might be hard to see how his paintings make horses come alive… but I’m glad that the message is that Han Gan captures a horse’s personality and spirit rather than exact physical form. That’s an interesting perspective to see art from. Happy Year of the Horse! Do you have a horse person in your family? My middle daughter is year of the horse.
      Pragmatic Mom recently posted…Get Kids Reading Strategies: 12 Surefire WaysMy Profile

  3. I love the look of Han Gan book! Will be adding this post to my round up of Chinese New Year ideas this Monday.
    Natalie recently posted…Cooking With Children: Lomo SaltadoMy Profile

  4. Great resource!! Thanks for sharing at After School!

  5. Fabulous line up Mia. Thanks so much for bringing these Chinese New Year gems to our attention on the Kid Lit Blog Hop. He he, we can’t wait for you to join us next hop….
    Julie Grasso recently posted…Dragon Defender :Blog TourMy Profile

  6. Meg Welch Dendler

    Thank for this great post! What a fantastic resource for home schooling and teachers who want to share with their students. Well done! And thanks for taking part in the Kid Lit Blog Hop!
    Meg Welch Dendler recently posted…Turpentine Creek Volunteer Day: Putting My Actions Where My Mouth IsMy Profile

  7. Renee @ MDBR

    Han Gan’s illustrations are so beautiful – I am totally moved by them. You have really put together a fantastic post for Chinese New Year. I will be looking into the red envelope crafts (and etiquette). Thanks for sharing in the Kid Lit Blog Hop!
    Renee recently posted…Book Review: My Yellow Umbrella by Chris RobertsonMy Profile

    • Thanks so much Renee,
      Han Gan’s horses are so different from how Western Renaissance masters would portray a horse. I find the different perspectives so interesting. Glad you liked his art and the picture book. I am half Chinese and some of the Red Envelope etiquette was new to me so that was fun to learn from a Chinese American mom friend who did a presentation with me for 2nd graders last year for the China unit.
      Pragmatic Mom recently posted…Super Easy Valentine Card Craft for KidsMy Profile

  8. You’ve put a lot into your Chinese New Year resources! Thanks for sharing with After School.
    Anna recently posted…17 Super Science Activities for Kids (guest post)My Profile

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