Taoist influence in The Good Earth





Taoist influence in The Good Earth:  The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck is
a story that takes place in the early twentieth
century in China. It is a novel about a man, Wang Lung, and some of the
events he
endures in his lifetime.
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[Category]:
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[Paper Title]:
Taoist influence in The Good Earth
[Text]:
Taoist Influences in The Good Earth
The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck is a story that takes place in the early
twentieth
century in China. It is a novel about a man, Wang Lung, and some of the
events he
endures in his lifetime. This story has many references to Eastern religions
and
philosophies. One of the most prominent influences in this story is the
Chinese philosophy
of Taoism. The Good Earth relates to Taoism in a number of ways. Three ways
that The
Good Earth shows the influence of Taoist philosophy are the appreciation of
nature, the
Taoist practice of turning to nature during times of social activism , and
the Taoist belief
in simplicity and that money and hierarchical government are not important.
The Taoist appreciation of nature plays a huge role in The Good Earth. The
Taoists believe that "the order and harmony of nature is far more stable
and enduring than
either the power of the state or the civilized institutions constructed by
human learning"
(Waley 56). An early Taoist belief is the practice of Wu-wei, which is best
described as
"action modeled by nature" (Waley 56). Wang Lung owes everything he
has to the earth
and has no trouble admitting it. Wang Lung and his family even go so far as
to create
shrines to the earth, as shown in this passage from the story, "Together
this man and this
woman stood before the gods of their fields" (Buck 16). Wang Lung may
not be an
admitted Taoist, but he certainly follows some aspects of the Taoist way of
life.
Another way that Wang Lung displays elements of Taoism in his behavior is
when
he decides to work only in the night during the revolution. Removing oneself
from social-
political conflict is a typical Taoist behavior. This passage from The Way
and it\'s Power
by Arthur Waley explains this behavior, "Throughout Chinese history,
people weary of
social activism and aware of the fragility of human achievements would retire
from the
world and turn to nature. They might retreat to a countryside or mountain
setting to
commune with natural beauty ." Wang Lung may not have retreated to a
countryside or
mountain setting, but he would have if he had the chance since his greatest
desire was to
return home to his land. This quote from the point in the story when Wang
Lung was
afraid he may have to fight in the war, proves that. "Now I am truly
tempted to sell the
little slave and go north to the land" (Buck 92).
The Taoist belief in simplicity also plays a huge role in this story. This
quote from
The Tao of Pooh explains the significance of the Uncarved Block. "The
essence of the
principle of the Uncarved Block is that things in their original simplicity
contain their own
natural power, power the is easily spoiled and lost when that simplicity is
changed" (Hoff
10). Although Wang Lung becomes quite prosperous, he is still a simple man at
heart.
After overhearing a conversation between two men about what they would do if
they had
lots of gold and silver, Wang Lung replied, "If I had the gold, and
silver and the jewels, I
would buy land with it, good land, and I would bring forth harvests from the
land!" (Buck
87).
The Taoist way of life plays a part in the life of Wang Lung, the main
character of
The Good Earth. He shows this Taoist influence by his appreciation of the
earth and what
it brings to him, his pacifist nature, and his simple way of thinking and
living. Wang Lung
may not have realized it the Taoist way of life has influenced the way he
lives greatly.
 
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