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The Good Earth / 大地

For me reading a book is not as simple as choosing one and dedicating your time to it. Choosing a book to read is a very delicate matter. I lived in China for one and a half year before I’d even heard of Pearl Buck, I lived in the same province she had lived in and taught in the city she had taught in for a short period. The first time I had heard of The Good Earth was when a student introduced it to me as her favorite book. I tried to get hold of copies of the book in English and failed, I finally turned to some folks and friends at home and mentioned that I must get hold of this book. So on Christmas 2010 a parcel lay under the Christmas tree unopened and to my surprise it was the thing I had wanted most.

I admire and I’m inspired by strong women and upon first hearing about Pearl S. Buck I was shocked that I never knew of her existence before coming to China. The Good Earth was the best-selling fiction book in America in 1931 and 1932, and won the Pulitzer Prize and she was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1938. She was a great Humanitarian, teacher and writer of over 70books, she should never be forgotten.


Before beginning to teach in Anhui province I had taught in one of Henan’s poorest provinces and was already aware of the struggles of farming life in China, many of my friend’s parents where farmers. I had been warned that the city I was going to in Anhui was known for it’s water shortages as they had very little rainfall. The novel is about a struggling young farmer(Wang Lung) who’s sick dying father as not left him much just a little land and the ability to farm it. The first chapter begins on Wang Lung’s wedding day, and we learn much about him as the book goes on. He feels some magical connection to the land he was left, when he turns the earth he is one with the land and his ancestors, through his struggle this great land of his feeds him and he is blessed with a wife (O-Lan) and sons and a daughters that is until the devastating famine and drought, that causes the family to flee to a large city in the south of China.

在安徽省教学之前我曾在河南最贫困的城市之一当老师,那时候我就已经意识到中国的农耕生活的艰辛,我许多朋友的父母都是农民。在我来安徽之前别人警告我说,这个城市极度缺水因为他们有降雨量很少。这部小说是关于一个挣扎的青年农民(横龙)的故事。他的父亲临死前只给他留了一小块的土地和种田的能力。小说以横龙的婚礼开篇,随着故事的深入我们可以了解他更多的故事。他觉得他和那块土地之间有强烈的感应,在这片土地上他能看到祖先的影子,在他与这块神奇的土地一起生活的期间他有了妻子(O LAN)、儿子和一个女儿。当毁灭性的饥荒和干旱降临,他们举家逃往中国南方的大城市。

Although the characters in the book are fictional there is a balance between historical information and settings, for example the Novel is set in Suzhou and Pearl Buck had moved to Suzhou, Anhui Province on May 13th, 1917 with her husband John Lossing Buck an agricultural economist. During the Cultural Revolution she was known and respected as a writer of Chinese peasant life.

虽然书中的人物都是虚构的,但他们却与历史发展有一定的联系,例如故事发生于安徽宿州而赛珍珠与她的丈夫John Lossing Buck(农业经济学家)在1917年5月13移居到安徽宿州。在文化大革命期间,她被尊称为“中国农民生活作家”。


The Pearl S. Buck’s BirthplacePearl S. Buck International

Zhenjiang Pearl S. Buck Research Association, China

University of Pennsylvania website dedicated to Pearl S. Buck

Pearl Buck interviewed by Mike Wallace on The Mike Wallace Interview February 8, 1958


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