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 its 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) Although Wang Lung becomes quite prosperous, he is still a simple man at heart.
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