The Good Earth (House of Earth, #1)

By Pearl S. Buck

228,526 ratings - 3.99* vote

This tells the poignant tale of a Chinese farmer and his family in old agrarian China. The humble Wang Lung glories in the soil he works, nurturing the land as it nurtures him and his family. Nearby, the nobles of the House of Hwang consider themselves above the land and its workers; but they will soon meet their own downfall.Hard times come upon Wang Lung and his family w This tells the poignant tale of a Chinese farmer and his family in old agrarian China. The humble Wang Lung glories in

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Book details

Paperback, 418 pages
March 4th 2009 by Howard Publishing Co

(first published March 2nd 1931)

Original Title
The Good Earth
1416500189 (ISBN13: 9781416500186)
Edition Language

Community Reviews

Celeste Ng

It's difficult for me to explain how much I hate this book, and even harder to explain why. I don't think it's just because I hated the main character so much, and in this case at least, I don't think it's because of the weirdness that arises from a Westerner writing about a colonized country.

I do know that *part* of my intense dislike for this book comes from how it is viewed by other people (usually non-Chinese). Read the reviews and you'll see one word come up over and over again: "portrait." Says one reviewer, "In addition to lovely, rich writing, the novel provided much-needed Chinese history, class and culture lessons." Am I the only person whose hackles go up when someone refers refers to a novel like a textbook? Of course there is some historical fact in The Good Earth, and in other novels, but I have a serious problem with people conflating (and equating) fiction and history. While there's some truth in the book's portrayal, it perpetuates a lot of stereotypes about the Chinese. What's more, this book has shaped a lot of people's perceptions of China and the Chinese, not necessarily for the better. I know this happens with other cultures--but often to a greater extent with The Good Earth. Do we read Anna Karenina and feel that we now know everything about Russia? Does anyone read Midnight's Children as a straight-up account of Indian history? Yet for some reason, for a lot of people The Good Earth is *it*, the one lesson in Chinese culture and history that they will read in their lives. They end up thinking, "This is how China IS," not "This is a portrayal of how one part of China was at one point in time."

Of course, most of the above complaint about this book has to do with the reactions of the people reading it, not with the book itself. But I think there's something in how the book is pitched, and in the narrative itself, that invites that. As a story of love, partnership, and sacrifice in a marriage and family--this book does well. But it's not THE portrait of China that many readers unfortunately make it out to be.

For more thoughts on this, see my post at the Huffington Post:


This is almost spiritual in it's beauty and simplicity.

First published by Pearl Buck in 1931, this later won the Pulitzer Prize and had a significant affect on Buck’s winning the Nobel Prize for literature in 1938.

The author displayed her genius ability to observe and relate the cultural and day-to-day lives of Chinese peasants at the turn of the century. This American Christian missionary told the story of a rural Chinese man and perceptively embraced vast cultural differences, while at the same time telling a story that is universal in its relevance.

A wonderful book, should be on a short list of books that should be read in a lifetime.


Jr Bacdayan

There is a gush of red, marvelous, and mysterious blood running through my veins. I am part Chinese. A race that has given me these small eyes and this yellowish complexion. A race that I have associated with frugality, hard work, mass production, internet restrictions, and Jackie Chan. China, I've only been there once as a tourist when I was a bit younger. And as much as I'd like to think that I am familiar with the Chinese culture, I have to admit that my knowledge about that is limited and my views about them a bit stereotypical. My Grandma, the real Chinese in the family, still brings Moon Cakes during the Chinese New Year and we do maintain fireworks when celebrating. We also drink herbal tea at home and have this uncanny favoritism for Chinese restaurants during family get-togethers. Aside from that, you could say that I'm really much more familiar with Filipino and Western cultures. So when I picked up this book, I didn't know what to expect. My only assurances were that it won the Pulitzer Prize and the author is a Nobel Prize winner. The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck is a beautiful and sweeping story of farmer Wang Lu and his wife O-lan. The Land, the man, and their bond. This beautiful tale left me thirsty and craving for knowledge about this race that resides within me yet has not fully manifested itself. This may sound fancy but I have to say what I feel. This book made me fall in love with China, the Chinese culture, my Chinese roots.

“And roots, if they are to bear fruits, must be kept well in the soil of the land.”

The beauty of this sweeping tale can be understood by hearing its voice, its message. It whispers an earnest plea of the oldest kind, it whispers "Remember the land." The land which has provided for your father, your father's father, and countless generations before him. In this age of technology, internet, GMOs and fast foods, we forget the land. We ignore the Good Earth that has sustained the lives of everyone before us, and lives of this generation.

"If you sell the land it is the end.

And his two sons held him, one on either side, each holding his arm, and he held in his hand the warm loose earth. And they soothed him and they said over and over, the elder son and the second son,

Rest assured, our father, rest assured. The land is not to be sold.

But over the old man's head they looked at each other and smiled."

This book, written in the year 1931, exposes a problem that has continually been growing worse as each generation progresses. Each son telling his father "the land will not be sold" but inwardly smiling at this statement he knows to be untrue. Each son, each daughter, each generation, saying we will save this good earth. But for every tree he plants, he cuts down two more. For every bottle she recycles, she throws out two more. For every plot turned into a garden, there are two plots turned into garbage dumps. Each man, woman, son, daughter thinking about their self, their success apart from the land. They forget that their success lies with the land. They forget the Earth that has been good to them.

“Wang Lung sat smoking, thinking of the silver as it had lain upon the table. It had come out of the earth, this silver, out of the earth that he ploughed and turned and spent himself upon. He took his life from the earth; drop by drop by his sweat he wrung food from it and from the food, silver."

This book touches a lot of other social issues like Feminism, Slavery, Concubinage, Civil Wars, etc. I will not discuss much of these issues and will only say in passing that a different culture enabled them to see nothing wrong with things we in modern times would consider abhorrent and terrifying. Things like selling daughters, feet-binding, polygamy aren't limited to China as these practices can also be found in other Asian countries. But I marvel at how Mrs. Buck was able to make it feel natural despite all these cultural differences. She effected a normalcy on these weird practices that I didn't once think that I was unfamiliar with them. This speaks of her grace and her skill as a writer. She writes with a natural grace and an earnest plea. I am engrossed by her writing, her message, her book.

The Good Earth is a timeless, moving story that depicts the sweeping changes that have occurred not only in the lives of the Chinese people during the last century, but also of everyone who has walked a part of this good earth. She traces the whole cycle of life: its terrors, its passions, its ambitions, its rewards. Her beloved and brilliant novel is a universal tale of the destiny of mankind.

"Out of the Land we came and into it we must go."

Ahmad Sharabiani

The Good Earth (House of Earth #1), Pearl S. Buck

The Good Earth is a novel by Pearl S. Buck published in 1931 and awarded the Pulitzer Prize for the Novel in 1932.

The best-selling novel in the United States in both 1931 and 1932 was an influential factor in Buck's winning the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1938.

It is the first book in a trilogy that includes Sons (1932) and A House Divided (1935). The story begins on Wang Lung's wedding day and follows the rise and fall of his fortunes. The House of Hwang, a family of wealthy landowners, lives in the nearby town, where Wang Lung's future wife, O-Lan, lives as a slave. However, the House of Hwang slowly declines due to opium use, frequent spending, and uncontrolled borrowing.

Meanwhile, Wang Lung, through his own hard work and the skill of his wife, O-Lan, slowly earns enough money to buy land from the Hwang family, piece by piece. O-Lan delivers three sons and three daughters; the first daughter becomes mentally handicapped as a result of severe malnutrition brought on by famine.

Her father greatly pities her and calls her "Poor Fool," a name by which she is addressed throughout her life. O-Lan kills her second daughter at birth to spare her the misery of growing up in such hard times, and to give the remaining family a better chance to survive.

During the devastating famine and drought, the family must flee to a large city in the south to find work. Wang Lung's malevolent uncle offers to buy his possessions and land, but for significantly less than their value. The family sells everything except the land and the house.

Wang Lung then faces the long journey south, contemplating how the family will survive walking, when he discovers that the "firewagon" (the Chinese word for the newly built train) takes people south for a fee. In the city, O-Lan and the children beg while Wang Lung pulls a rickshaw.

Wang Lung's father begs but does not earn any money, and sits looking at the city instead. They find themselves aliens among their more metropolitan countrymen who look different and speak in a fast accent. They no longer starve, due to the one-cent charitable meals of congee, but still live in abject poverty.

Wang Lung longs to return to his land. When armies approach the city he can only work at night hauling merchandise out of fear of being conscripted. One time, his son brings home stolen meat. Furious, Wang Lung throws the meat on the ground, not wanting his sons to grow up as thieves. O-Lan, however, calmly picks up the meat and cooks it. When a food riot erupts, Wang Lung is swept up in a mob that is looting a rich man's house and corners the man himself, who fears for his life and gives Wang Lung all his money in order to buy his safety.

Meanwhile, his wife finds jewels in a hiding place in another house, hiding them between her breasts. Wang Lung uses this money to bring the family home, buy a new ox and farm tools, and hire servants to work the land for him.

In time, the youngest children are born, a twin son and daughter. When he discovers the jewels O-Lan looted from the house in the southern city, Wang Lung buys the House of Hwang's remaining land. He is eventually able to send his first two sons to school (also apprenticing the second one as a merchant) and retains the third one on the land.

As Wang Lung becomes more prosperous, he buys a concubine named Lotus. O-Lan endures the betrayal of her husband when he takes the only jewels she had asked to keep for herself, the two pearls, so that he can make them into earrings to present to Lotus. O-Lan's morale suffers and she eventually dies, but not before witnessing her first son's wedding.

Wang Lung finally appreciates her place in his life, as he mourns her passing. Lung and his family move into town and rent the old House of Hwang.

Wang Lung, now an old man, wants peace, but there are always disputes, especially between his first and second sons, and particularly their wives.

Wang Lung's third son runs away to become a soldier. At the end of the novel, Wang Lung overhears his sons planning to sell the land and tries to dissuade them. They say that they will do as he wishes, but smile knowingly at each other.

عنوانها: «خاک خوب»؛ «زمین خوب»؛ نویسنده: پرل س. باک؛ تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز دوم ماه ژوئن سال 1976میلادی

عنوان: زمین خوب؛ نویسنده: پرل باک؛ مترجم: فریدون بدره ای لرستانی؛ تهران، مرجان، 1336، در 364ص؛ چاپ دیگر 1368؛ در 413ص؛ شابک 9649049339؛ چاپ دیگر 1380؛ موضوع داستانهای چینی از نویسندگان امریکایی - سده 20م

عنوان: خاک خوب؛ نویسنده: پرل باک؛ مترجم: غفور آلبا؛ پاپ اول 1340؛ چاپ دیگر تهران، امیرکبیر، 1347، در 343ص؛ چاپ دوم 1347؛ سوم 1350؛ چاپ دیگر تهران، ناهید، 1371؛ در 343ص؛

عنوان: خاک خوب؛ نویسنده: پرل باک؛ مترجم: داریوش شاهین؛ تهران، جاویدان، 1362، در 533ص؛ چاپ ششم 1379؛ هفتم و هشتم 1390؛ چاپ یازدهم 1385؛

خاک خوب (زمین خوب)، کتاب نخست، از رمانی سه گانه «خانه ی زمین» است، که برای نخستین بار در سال 1930میلادی انتشار یافت، و به دنبال آن، کتابهای «پسران» در سال (1932میلادی) و «خانواده پراکنده» در سال (1935میلادی) منتشر شدند؛ در «خاک خوب (زمین خوب)»، زندگی «وانگ لونگ»، دهقان فقیر شهرستان «آن هوئی» روایت می‌شود؛ نویسنده باورهای دهقانان متوسط «چینی» را، که با فقر و گرسنگی و جنگهای داخلی پیش از انقلاب، درگیر بودند، با دقتی باورمندانه توصیف میکنند؛ اما، از ورای شخصیت «وانگ لونگ» است، که روحیه ی «چینی» سر برمی‌دارد؛

هشدار: اگر این مجموعه را نخوانده اید و میخواهید خود بخوانید، از خوانش ادامه ریویو خودداری کنید

در داستان؛ «وانگ لونگ» به زمین پای‌بند است، زیرا زمین «خون و گوشت هر کس» است؛ «وانگ لونگ» نیز، با استفاده از آشفتگی آنروزها، خود، مالکی بزرگ می‌شود؛ با اینحال، «خاک خوب (زمین خوب)»، تنها رشد و بالندگی یک دهقان نیست، که در ایام کهولت، به «گل گلابی» دلفریب، دل می‌بازد، و موجب ناخشنودی پسرانش می‌گردد؛ بلکه این اثر، با اینکه یک رمان است، نوشته ای مستند و ارزشمند نیز هست، درباره ی دورانیکه، «وانگ لونگ» هنوز فقیر بود؛ دورانیکه خود او فریاد برداشته بود: «دیگر چه! پس این وضع هرگز عوض نخواهد شد؟»، و به او پاسخ داده بودند: «چرا، رفیق، روزی عوض خواهد شد؛ وقتی که ثروتمندها زیادی ثروتمندند، امکاناتی وجود دارد؛ و وقتی که فقیرها زیادی فقیرند، امکاناتی وجود دارد.»؛

پسرانش: «وانگ» ارشد، «وانگ» دوم، و «وانگ» سوم، که پرتوان و نامدار به «ببر» است، و او یکی از آخرین سرلشکران ماجراجوی رژیم کهنسال، خواهد شد؛ پس از مرگ پدر، آنها زمینها را تقسیم میکنند؛ اما «ببر»، برادرانش را از سر باز میکند؛ زمین برای او، اهمیتی ندارد؛ او چیزی جز پول نمی‌خواهد، تا ارتشی در اندازه ی جاه طلبیهای خویش ایجاد کند؛ او که «سالار جنگ» شده، پیروزیهای خویش را پشت سر می‌گذارد؛ اگر پسرش «یوآن» به دنیا بیاید، خوشبختی او کامل خواهد شد؛ آرزو دارد، از پسرش یک «سرلشکر کوچک» بسازد؛ اما پسر جوان، که بسیار هوشمند و متنفر از کشتار است، خود را به دست اندیشه‌ های نو می‌سپارد؛ تضاد شدید، میان کهنه پرستی «ببر»، و تحول‌ طلبی پسر بسیار محبوبش، قدرتی دراماتیک به کتاب دوم می‌بخشد

یوآن؛ سنتهای خانوادگی را می‌گسلد، و از نفوذ «وانگ» سوم می‌گریزد؛ با اینحال، چون مبارزی سمج نیست، عضویت خود، در «انجمن مخفی» را، مدتها به تعویق می‌اندازد؛ سرانجام، به اصرار یکی از پسرعموهایش، تصمیم خود را عملی می‌کند، به امید آنکه «رنجهای ملت فقیر»، که او شاهد طغیان آن بوده، پایان گیرد؛ «یوآن»، کمی پس از آنکه جانب انقلاب را می‌گیرد، دستگیر می‌شود، و تنها در برابر باجی کلان، که بستگانش می‌پردازند، از مرگ نجات می‌یابد؛ همین که آزاد می‌شود، به خارج از کشور می‌رود، تا آموزش خود را کامل کند، و با تمدن غرب آشنا گردد؛ کتاب با تولد عشقی ساده، میان «یوآن» و «می‌لینگ»، یک دانشجوی «چینی»، پایان می‌گیرد؛ و نهایتاً سالار پیر جنگ به دست دهقانان شورشی کشته می‌شود

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 27/09/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی

Books Ring Mah Bell



The story is absorbing and exquisitely written. A memorable classic that is a must for any book club or readers who enjoy well written historical fiction novels.

The Good Earth is a novel by Pearl S. Buck published in 1931 that dramatizes family life in a Chinese village in the early 20th century. It is the first book in a trilogy that includes Sons and A House Divided. It won the Pulitzer Prize and is considered a classic.

The novel is set in a timeless China and provides no exact dates although the author does provide subtle hints that the novel that it is just before the revolution. This is the story of Wang Lung a poor farmer in a small village who in the opening chapters of the book marries O-lan. They have four children together, three boys and one girl. With hard work and determination Wang Lung and to O-lan he build a life for their family but not without struggles and hardship.

This is my second reading of this classic and when this came up as an online group read I really looked forward to re-visiting this story because when I read a book like this with a reading group I tend to immerse myself more in the story and get a better understanding of the novel from the discussion after reading.

I think the characters are beautifully imagined and the story flows from beginning to end.
A novel that educates the reader about China, the Chinese people and their traditions and customs.
This is a novel that can be read and re-read and still the reader will never tire of its message and characters.

A great discussion novel and a book sits proudly on my real life book shelf.


“The sun beat down upon them, for it was early summer, and [O-Lan’s] face was dripping with her sweat. Wang Lung had his coat off and his back bare, but she worked with her thin garment covering her shoulders and it grew wet and clung to her like skin. Moving together in a perfect rhythm, without a word, hour after hour, he fell into a union with her which took the pain from his labor. He had no articulate thought of anything; there was only this perfect sympathy of movement, of turning over this earth of theirs over and over to the sun, this earth which formed their home and fed their bodes and made their gods. The earth lay rich and dark, and fell apart lightly under the points of their hoes. Sometimes they turned up a bit of brick, a splinter of wood. It was nothing. Some time, in some age, bodies of men and women had been buried there, houses had stood there, had fallen, and gone back into earth. So would also their house, some time, return into the earth, their bodies also. Each had his turn at this earth…”
- Pearl S. Buck, The Good Earth

The Good Earth is a remarkable, entertaining, moving, and unforgettable novel. It held me – from the first page to the last – in its lyrical grasp.

With that said, let me hasten to add that I did not find it remarkable, entertaining, moving, and unforgettable for the same reasons it has been turning up in English classes since its 1931 publication date.

Pearl S. Buck’s classic tale of a Chinese peasant family has been a fixture on syllabuses for decades. It has been used – with the best of intentions, I think – as an introduction to a culture unfamiliar to many Americans, both then and now. The trouble, of course, is that basing your knowledge about a massive country with a history that stretches back over thousands of years is ludicrous, to say the least.

The Good Earth is about a specific spot in China, centered on a single family, and set at a specific (though non-specified) time. It is fiction, and not even historical fiction. The setting is so enveloping, so fully-realized, that it is seductive to say This is China! But it’s not. The Good Earth is no more representative of China than, for instance, Gone With the Wind is representative of the United States.

Thankfully, I never read this in school, meaning I was never subjected to the forced extrapolations that students are required to draw from a novel of this sort. Instead, I read it as a follow-up to Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai’s The Mountains Sing, a saga about a North Vietnamese family living through Vietnam’s tumultuous 20th Century. I had no real notion of what I was getting into with The Good Earth. I only knew that I wanted to travel somewhere I hadn’t been, and spend some time with people I hadn’t met.

To that end, the striking thing about The Good Earth is how universal a story it tells. This is the quintessential rags-to-riches epic. The central character, Wang Lung, may be Chinese, but he could just as easily be Ragged Dick from a Horatio Alger story. He is a striver, an ambitious farmer who loves the earth, is willing to work hard, and holds a considerable grudge against the House of Hwang, a wealthy family that slights him in a way that he never forgets.

Because this is a story about a man trying to jump into a higher income tax bracket, it follows a familiar arc from humble goodness to raging assholery to potential redemption. Call me crazy (or drunk), but the comparison that jumped into my head was Theodore Dreiser’s An American Tragedy, except that famine replaces murder (which, yes, is an important distinction).

When The Good Earth opens, we are introduced to Wang Lung, who lives with his elderly father, eking a living from the earth. It is his wedding day, which for Wang Lung, means going to the House of Hwang to pick up the wife – or “slave” – he has purchased. The woman, whose name is O-Lan, becomes the essential element in Wang Lung’s plan for upward economic mobility.

The Good Earth is written in the third-person, though we are privy to Wang Lung’s thoughts and feelings alone. It is a testament to his complexity that he is allowed to be a jackass, and often.

With the exception of Wang Lung and O-Lan, none of the other supporting characters have much psychological depth or dimension. They lack interior lives. Nonetheless, they are unforgettable, especially the villainous ones. Everyone leaves a mark in your memory.

The Good Earth is a bildungsroman that follows Wang Lung from relative youth, onward through his years. There is not a central plot. Rather, events unfold episodically, over the course of days and months and years. Some incidents are small, some are large, some are absolutely unforgettable. The most memorable set-piece in The Good Earth is a terrible famine that comes on the heels of a punishing drought. Now, most of us have read about famines in history books, whether that is the Ukrainian famine caused by Stalin’s collectivization schemes, the Bengal famine during World War II, or the Great Chinese Famine during the time of Mao. It is one thing to know the overwhelming statistics from those tragedies. It is another thing to have the process recounted in unsparing detail, as Buck does here.

I found The Good Earth to be beautifully written. Buck creates a distinct idiom for the narrative – especially with regard to the dialogue – that is mesmerizing. The verisimilitude here is not the point, as I suspect that repeated phrases such as “such an one” and “hither and dither” may not be perfect recreations of the way that actual Chinese farmers spoke. Yet I appreciated the stylization, and the fact that it was applied consistently. It created a fully-formed world, even if that world should not be accepted as historical fact.

This is a natural place to pivot to the reality that it is not the 1930s anymore.

It just so happened that I read this as a debate about cultural appropriation in literature arose in the wake of Jeanine Cummins’s American Dirt (which followed on the heels of a debate being had in the community of romance writers). Because this discussion – to the extent that trading death threats can be called a discussion – is being had, I feel compelled to state the obvious: Pearl S. Buck was not Chinese.

The daughter of American missionaries, Buck spent the bulk of her life living in China, where she learned the language, made friends, and seemed to genuinely care about the country and her people. To be sure, Buck was not a cultural tourist. Equally true is the fact that she was not Chinese.

I have nothing to add, except to say there is no law – at least in America – keeping an author from writing about whatever he/she/they wants. There is also no law – at least in America – keeping an author’s critics from voicing disapproval and leaving no-read-one-star ratings of the book. If this sounds like a weaselly position to take, well, there is no law – at least in America – against being a weasel.

Worth noting, I suppose, is that unlike James Clavell (Shogun) and Michael Blake (Dances With Wolves), among others, Buck does not tell this story through the eyes of a western intermediary. Westerners are almost completely nonexistent, showing up only on the fringes of a trip to the city, where they are cluelessly-confident bunglers. There is also none of the racial condescension that tends to show up in China-based novels written by non-Chinese authors. Wang Lung is not a stereotyped unskilled laborer, speaking pidgin English and kowtowing to foreign overlords. (I’m thinking, for instance, of The Sand Pebbles, which I otherwise enjoyed, but which employs its Chinese characters as “coolies”).

Since we are dancing around emotionally fraught topics, I should also add that the treatment of women in The Good Earth is deplorable. Low-born girls are sold as slaves or into arranged marriages, while high-born girls have their feet bound and are groomed for refined coquetry. The female role is rather sharply defined as either sexual object or domestic help.

This, it should go without saying, is not a moral worldview that Buck is promoting, but a rendition of things as she saw them. Since there is a long, problematic history of Chinese portrayals (or caricatures) in western culture, this can be troubling. There is always the inherent danger of promoting unfair or inaccurate stereotypes. At the same time, there is no denying that Buck wrote about what she witnessed, and that in a patriarchal milieu such as Wang Lung’s, the general subordination of women was commonplace. Not just in China, obviously, but all over the world.

On the plus side, O-Lan is – in my opinion – the real hero of The Good Earth. She is described as homely and slow-witted, with her chief virtue being her doggedness. At least, that is how she is seen by Wang Lung. Anyone paying the slightest attention, however, will soon learn that she is indomitable, hickory-tough, and twice as clever as Wang Lung on his best day.

Many great novels are described as timeless. They work wherever and whenever you read them. The Good Earth is certainly a classic, but it is not timeless. It is of its time, and the way we view it will continue to vary and change. There are aspects of The Good Earth that will make it a nonstarter for many readers. For all that makes it discomfiting, or potentially discomfiting, I loved it.

Stripped of its trappings, The Good Earth is a moving and humane portrayal of one family’s journey. It is not always happy, and the ending is surprisingly dark. There are elements of King Lear and Anna Karenina, among other influences. But make no mistake, the intimacy, the empathy, and the unforgettable characters are all Pearl S. Buck.


I really, really wish I hadn't google-searched 'foot binding' after reading this book.

In the tradition of a beloved college professor, I give The Good Earth a subtitle which reveals more of the moral stuff which fills it. Ahem. :
The Good Earth: Mo' Money, Mo' Problems.

The Good Earth is packed with cautionary tales of wealth and idleness, tradition and progression, and lust. Wow, the character studies one could do in this book! Just things I noticed:

- The very thing Wang Lung detested, O-lan's unbound feet, actually helped him produce his wealth because she could help him with the land, and do all of the labor in the house. Women with bound feet could move very little because it was excruciating to walk.

- With wealth came idleness and a detachment from the land. The antagonists of the story in the end were Wang Lung's own rich, idle sons. There was very rarely ever 'peace' in Wang Lung's house from the time he became rich to the end of the book. And in the times of peace, we see that Wang Lung blatantly ignored the problems and troubles in his house. Ignorance is bliss when you live with the likes of Lotus. Can I get a holla-back? ;)

Henry Avila

Wang Lung on his wedding day gets up at dawn as usual, a poor Chinese farmer's son, who lives with his widowed old father, but is a very hardworking, strong, and ambitious young man, they occupy, a three room house made of dirt bricks, with a straw thatched roof. After getting his ill father hot water, feeding the ox and doing the rest of the chores, Wang for the second time in the year, takes a bath secretly, with the precious water , ashamed to waste it, for such an unnecessary thing, hiding from his father this dishonorable deed. Putting on his best clothes, going for a long walk later, to the Great House of Hwang, the guard at the gate mocks him, demands a bribe for entrance, everywhere laughs are heard, as the farmer travels through the large luxurious estate, with so many beautiful houses. Amazingly looking objects, the bridegroom sees, never knowing of their existence, meeting O-Lan, his bride, for the first time, she is a tall plain looking woman, an unwanted slave, in the great house, beaten everyday, for no apparent reason, maybe to keep strict discipline there. O-Lan was sold by her poor family at ten, and has worked as a slave ever since, she is about twenty years old... Talking to the Old Mistress of the house, scared of her Eminence, is the awed farmer, all had been arranged by his father, bringing the bride back home, no real wedding ceremony, the old one is happy that he will be a grandfather, hopefully soon, grandsons, the only ones that count in China, in the late 19th Century. The small wedding feast, just five guests, including his lazy uncle, younger brother of his father, his son (the cousin also indolent) and three neighbors, Wang and his woman are both virgins on their wedding night. O-Lan is also hard working, a fine cook, always taking care of the house, the old man , in the fields with her husband, giving birth alone, to many sons (daughters also), and then the same day going back to help with the plowing. Silently, without complaints, a perfect wife, if only she wasn't so bad looking Wang thinks... After good harvests, buying land from the faltering House of Hwang, a famine occurs, people are starving to death, the uncle , his wife and son, are always asking for food and money, from Wang, when there is none, Wang has to decide stay and maybe die or go south , with his family, to a city where food is in abundance and abandon his land , that he loves, maybe forever, his modest dreams crushed, the desperate struggles, the backbreaking work, the scorching Sun beating down, the freezing mornings, cold to the bone, done for nothing ? Spellbinding story of a destitute peasant family, climbing literally from rags to riches and encountering difficulties as the new Twentieth Century arrives. Can they survive the changing, callous world?


Treasure of the Rubbermaids 6: Made in China

The on-going discoveries of priceless books and comics found in a stack of Rubbermaid containers previously stored and forgotten at my parent’s house and untouched for almost 20 years. Thanks to my father dumping them back on me, I now spend my spare time unearthing lost treasures from their plastic depths.

I bitch about having to mow my lawn, but when I’m done, I usually sit on my deck and have a few ice cold beers. Then I take a hot shower and get in my car to go to the grocery store where I buy a cart full of food without giving it a second thought.

Chinese farmer Wang Lung (I wanted to type Wang Chung there. Damn you ‘80s!) spends all day doing back breaking labor in his own fields and there’s still barely enough food to keep from starving. His big reward is a cup of hot water in the morning with maybe a few tea leaves in it on special occasions, and he sponges himself off with hot water every couple of months whether he needs it or not.

So maybe I shouldn’t complain about walking around behind a power mower for an hour or two a week during the summer?

The book begins on Wang Lung’s wedding day. His bride, O-Lan, is a slave in the great house of his town, and they’ve never met. He splurges by taking a bath, buying her a couple of peaches, and getting a little pork and meat for their wedding feast which O-Lan prepares. For a honeymoon, they go work in the fields together. This whole section made me laugh thinking about the women on those reality wedding shows like Bridezillas.

Wang Lung and O-Lan make a good couple. They’re both hard working and she soon bears him sons which is kind of important to the Chinese. (And she returns to the fields right after giving birth with no assistance. O-Lan is a dream client for an HMO.) Together their family will go through bad times including droughts and famine, but O-Lan’s steady nature and Wang Lung’s farming skills eventually bring them prosperity.

The one thing that sets Wang Lung apart from other farmers is his constant desire to acquire new land. Part of this is pride, but Wang Lung realizes that owning good farm land is the key to providing the necessary cushion to keep from starving during bad years. Plus, he genuinely loves working his crops and bringing them to harvest. His fierce love of the land is the one constant in his life, but he obviously never went through a real estate crash. (Diversify, Wang Lung! Diversify!)

This book works on a lot of levels. As a depiction of a culture that little was known about when it was published, it’s fantastic. I liked how Buck never comments or judges on things that are kind of horrifying like selling girls for slaves or binding their feet, but treats them as just the way things are to all the characters. She just let the facts speak for themselves. It’s also works as a family drama with trials and tribulations worthy of a soap opera. You could also read it as a plain old rags-to-riches success story.

Despite being set in a time and place so alien to me, the characters still seem very real and relatable despite the cultural differences. Wang Lung doesn’t seem that different from any modern American farmer I’ve known. I think it must be universal that farmers everywhere like to gather and shoot the shit whether it’s at a Chinese tea house or a diner in Kansas.

And when a successful Wang Lung experiences a mid-life crisis and falls for a younger woman, you realize that it’s no different from any modern guy divorcing the wife who stood by him for years. It’s just that the sports car hasn’t been invented yet so Wang Lung can’t go buy one.

This is one of those classics that has an easily readable style and a compelling story that still seems fresh even though it was published over 70 years ago.