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Interpreting the Evidence

Bazaar in Peking (Beijing), 1930

  • Documents in this Activity:
  • Historical Eras:

    Turn of the Century and WWI (1890 - 1930)

  • Thinking Skill:

    Historical Analysis & Interpretation

  • Grade Level:

    Lower Elementary
    Upper Elementary
    Middle School
    High School
    College University

  • Topics:

    Global History and Geography

  • Primary Source Types:


  • Regions:


  • Creator:

    NYS Archives Partnership Trust Education Team

  1. Load Bazaar in Peking (Beijing), 1930 in Main Image Viewer

Suggested Teaching Instructions

Document Description
A typical business street in Peking (Beijing), 1930.
Historical Context
Beijing, the capital city of the People’s Republic of China, is located in northeastern China.  Founded before 1000 B.C., the city has a long and rich history.  It had already existed for more than 2000 years before Genghis Khan attacked and set fire to the city in 1215 A.D.  Genghis Khan’s grandson, Kublai Khan, rebuilt Beijing, which continued to grow, develop, and change in the following centuries.  In its long history, the city has gone by several different names.  At the time of this photograph, Peking was the name the Western world used for Beijing.  Today, Beijing is both a historic and modern city.  Towering skyscrapers stand in contrast to famous historic sites such as the Forbidden City, the Temple of Heaven, and the Great Wall of China.  On the street, you may see people dressed in traditional clothing beside people dressed in the latest designer fashions.

This photograph from 1930 shows a Beijing street filled with businesses.  Many people living in Beijing today enjoy shopping, and they have more options than ever for where to go.  A person in Beijing can shop at modern shopping malls, department stores, and supermarkets, or visit more traditional open-air markets and street vendors.  While traditional shops may sell items such as silk, porcelain, or antique screens, many Chinese spend their money on popular items such as automobiles, computers, and video cameras.

Essential Question
How does culture influence local economies?
Check for Understanding
Describe the scene in the photograph and discuss the influence of culture on the economy.
Historical Challenges
What forms of currency were used in China before the yuan?
Interdisciplinary Connections
Math: Chinese currency is called the Renminbi, or “people’s currency.” The basic unit of money in China is called the yuan. If one US dollar equals about eight yuan (depending on the exchange rate), how many yuans would your school lunch cost? Find out what the current exchange rate is for converting dollars to yuans. Has the exchange rate been rising or falling? Research what factors affect exchange rates.
English Language Arts: The signs in this photograph are written with Chinese characters. Research how Chinese writing developed and how English writing developed. How are they different? What are some advantages of each type of writing? What systems of writing are used for other world languages?