For centuries China had Emperors. By the end of the 19th century, the emperor was losing control of his country.The Qing Dynasty had ruled China since 1644 andwould continue until 1911 when the last emperor,Pu Yi, abdicated.
The last years of Imperial China were chaotic; Chinahad long fought against western innovations and foreignpresence in their country. In 1900 The Boxer Rebellion took place. At least 250 foreigners were murdered, but eventually the foreigners defeated the rebellion.After this, however, the Imperialists realized that theyhad, through their isolation, fallen behind the rest ofthe world.
Tzu-Hsi was the Dowager Empress during the BoxerRebellion. When she realized that she was close todeath, she had to choose her successor; she chosePu Yi, her three year old nephew.
After the Dowager Empress’s death, her young nephew was to reign. However, he did not like politics and the people did not support him.Eventually, General Yuan Shih-k’ai took overthe government and the five year old Emperorabdicated. He continued to live in theForbidden City however.The Forbidden City was run by eunuchs, and Pu Yididnt meet another child until he was seven, when hisbrother and sister visited him.
When he was nine a warlord named Chang Hsun decidedto restore Pu Yi to the throne. This was unsuccessful, but life remained the same for P’u Yi. In 1924 the army of another warlord, Feng Yu-hsiang, surrounded the Forbidden City. But this warlord did not want to restore Pu Yi to his throne. Feng was both a Communist and a Christian, Pu Yi was forced to leave the Forbidden City for the first time since becoming emperor.
This time was indeed chaotic. Warlords ruledand robbers (and worse) roamed throughoutthe land. This is the setting of The Good Earth.Farmers such as Wang Lung knew nothing aboutpolitics. The just wanted peace in which to workon their land and provide for their families.
During this time children highly respectedtheir elders. The oldest man in the family was in charge of the family. Old womenwere also respected (even though they were females).
In general, however, females were considered to be beneath men. Only by giving birth to male children coulda woman have any hope for respect. Thus, she would be called a "mother of sons."
And so it went. Families considered themselves lucky if they had nodaughters at all. In very poor families, or ones with too many girls, femaleinfants were often left outside to die in the elements or sold into slavery.
In our society we tend to have theopposite view. Parents try to givetheir children everything they canand old people are often putin a nursing home. In Chinano one would have been removedfrom their home because they wereold. Any family that even consideredsomething like that would be outcasts.
This was not a good time to be a female. Even in wealthy families females were considered to be property. If a husband grew tired of his wife he could simply throw her out and she hadno recourse but to try to go back to her parents. Ifshe were unable to do this, she was left to fend for herself in any way she could.
Many countries at this time were not verytolerant of diverse religions. However, inChina many people believed in more thanone religion. To be safe, people mightobserve more than one religion in order toavoid angering other "Gods."
Religions in China:ConfucianismConfucius (Kong Zi) lived from 551 to 479 BC in the state of Lu (inmodem Shandong province). He came from a family of officials andhis concern was with the restoration of the Way (Dao) of the ancientsages. His teaching was therefore related mainly to society and itsgovernment. He advocated strict conformity, and thought thatfostering correct behaviour, within the context of the family, wouldproduce an ordered society. He was not particularly interested inreligion, except insofar as it related to social life.
However, in 59 AD during the Han dynasty, it was decreed that sacrificeshould be made to Confucius and this began a process which was to makeConfucian philosophy into the foundation of the Chinese political order.Confucius himself had only accepted the legitimacy of sacrifice to onesown ancestors, but from now on an official Confucian cult emerged, withits own temples. It gradually became linked with the state cult of theEmperor.From the fifth century AD Confucian orthodoxy retreated before thepopularity of Buddhism and Daoism. But a renaissance came during theSong dynasty when Confucianism responded to the challenge anddeveloped its own metaphysics. This new trend is known as Neo-confucianism, and its main exponent was Zhu Xi (1130-1200). Itsubsequently became the main orthodoxy of the scholar officials until thedemise of the imperial system in 1912.In contemporary China, the Confucian cult has disappeared, but theConfucian approach to government and society retains a powerful hold onmany people.
Daoism (Taoism)The origins of Daoism are obscure, but it is first seen as a rival toConfucianism. The teachings of early Taoism are ascribed to LaoZi (Lao Tze) in the fifth century BC who is the reputed author ofthe most influential Taoist text, the Dao De Jing (The Way and itsPower). Where the Confucian stressed ethical action, the Taoistspoke of the virtue of Wu Wei (non-action), going with the flow ofthings.Like the Confucianists, Daoists looked back to a golden age. Thegood ruler, they thought, guided his people with humility, notseeking to interfere with the rhythms of social life conductedwithin the larger patterns of the natural world and the wholecosmos.The Daoist adept was concerned to achieve immortality, seen astransmuted earthly existence. This led to the development ofalchemy and to methods of meditation aimed at reaching materialimmortality.
As time passed Daoism found itself indirect competition with the foreignteachings of Buddhism. It borrowedBuddhist practices and also drew on folkreligious traditions to create its ownreligious form and ethos. It secured anessential place in popular religious life,but in this form it has ceased to bear muchresemblance to the philosophical preceptsof the early teachers. The earlier, morephilosophical Daoism has continued toinspire Chinese painters and poets throughthe ages and its teachings appealed tomany a scholar official who adhered to astrictly Confucian ethic in public life.
BuddhismBuddhism is the only foreign religion that has been widely accepted inChina. It first entered China in the second century AD and by the Tangdynasty was the most dynamic and influential of all religions. However,its very success led to a severe curtailment of its activities in the lateTang, since officials began to see its power as a threat, both to theirown power and to the order and prosperity of society. After this itremained an important element in Chinese life, but took its placealongside Daoism and a revitalised Confucianism.Both Confucian and Daoist teaching were non-dualistic - matter andspirit formed a continuum within a cosmos that was self-generating andimpersonal. Buddhism, however, taught a radical dualism. Through along process of adaptation, various Chinese schools emerged such asChan (Zen) and the Pure Land school, which were far more congenialto traditional Chinese thought. Zen, with its meditative techniques, andPure Land with its stress on faith in the Amitabha Buddha as the way tosalvation, became the dominant forms of Chinese Buddhism. Theseteachings with their focus on sudden enlightenment and on salvationthrough grace rather than through ascetic practices appealed to manyordinary Chinese.
IslamIslam first came to China in the seventh century AD (during theTang dynasty). It was brought by Arab traders to the ports on theSouth-East coast and by Arab traders and soldiers to the North-West. It remains the religion of minorities to this day.In later centuries many of the various nationalities in the Northand North-West converted to Islam from Buddhism andNestorianism and as these peoples were incorporated into Chinaduring the Qing dynasty, China acquired a sizeable Muslimpopulation. Meanwhile male Muslim settlers from the Middle Eastmarried Chinese women but retained their distinctive customs.Thus the community was formed which came to be known as theHui people, who have since also settled in other parts of China,along trade routes and in major cities, even as far as Yunnan andLhasa.There are perhaps as many as 15 million Muslims in China today,of whom over seven million are Hui. Politically, Islam isimportant both because China seeks good relations with Muslimcountries and because the non-Hui Muslims live in strategically
In China, happy occasions wereassociated with the color red.Brides dressed in red for theirweddings and eggs were dyedred to celebrate the birth of a son.
White was the color of mourning.When someone died, an astrologer Was consulted to determine a “lucky” day for the burial.
Another custom in China at that time was footbinding.At about the age of 5, girls’ feet were bound in order to shape them into tiny “lotus feet.” This custom went on for over a thousand years. At the beginning, onlywealthy girls and women had bound feet, but eventually, this custom spread to all of the levels of society.
The smaller a woman’s feet were, the more attractiveshe was. Men looked at a womans feet before looking ather face. A woman with bound feet often had tohave help in order to walk and it was impossible to run.Some say that men wanted women’s feet bound sothat they could not run away!
Footbinding was a very painful processand sometimes even resulted in death.As the circulation was cut off from thetoes, they sometimes died and fell off.Another result might be that the footmight become infected and gangrenewould set in. This would,most likely, result in death.
Not even a womans husband eversaw her bare feet. We can certainly see why!
The following slides contain information about Pearl Buck, the author of The Good EarthAfter reading this information, it will be time for you to take the quiz linked to the next slide.
One of the most popular American authors of herday, humanitarian, crusader for womens rights,editor of Asia magazine, philanthropist, noted for hernovels of life in China. Pearl S. Buck was awardedthe Nobel Prize for Literature in 1938. The decisionof the Swedish Academy stirred controversy,especially among critics who believed that Bucklacked the stature the Nobel Prize was intended toconfirm. Nowadays Bucks books are generallyconsidered dated although attempts have beenmade to rehabilitate her work.
"One does not live half a life in Asiawithout return. When it would be I did notknow, nor even where it would be, or towhat cause. In our changing world nothingchanges more than geography. The friendlycountry of China, the home of my childhoodand youth, is for the time being forbiddencountry. I refuse to call it enemy country.The people in my memory are too kind andthe land too beautiful." (from A Bridge forPassing, 1963)
Pearl S. Buck was born in Hillsboro, West Virginia.She spent her youth in China, in Chinkiang on theYangtse River. She learned to speak Chinese beforeshe could speak English. Her parents weremissionaries. Bucks father, Absalom Sydenstricker,was a humorless, scholarly man who spent yearstranslating the Bible from Greek to Chinese. Hermother, the former Caroline Stulting, had travelledwidely in her youth and had a fondness for literature.Bucks life in China was not always pleasant. Whenshe was only a child, the family was forced to fleefrom the rebel forces of the Boxer Rebellion.
After being educated by her mother and by aChinese tutor, who was a Confucian scholar, Buckwas sent to a boarding school in Shanghai (1907-09) at the age of fifteen. She also worked for theDoor of Hope, a shelter for Chinese slave girls andprostitutes. Buck continued her education in theUnited States at Randolph-Macon WomansCollege in Virginia, where she studied psychology.After graduating in 1914, she returned to China asa teacher for the Presbyterian Board of Missions.Her mother was seriously ill and Buck spent twoyears taking care of her.
Buck married Dr. John Lossing Buck, anagricultural expert, devoted to his work. Whenher mother recovered, they settled in a villagein the North China. Buck worked as a teacherand interpreter for her husband and travelledthrough the countryside. During this periodChina took steps toward liberal reform,especially through the May 4th Movement of1917 to 1921. In the 1920s the Bucks moved toNanking, where she taught English andAmerican literature at the university. In 1924she returned to the United States to seekmedical care for her first daughter, who wasmentally retarded. In 1926 she received herM.A. in literature from Cornell University.
The Bucks went back to China in 1927. During thecivil war, they were evacuated to Japan - Bucknever returned to China. In 1935 Buck divorced herfirst husband and married her publisher and thepresident of John Day Company, Richard Walsh,with whom she moved to Pennsylvania.As a writer Buck started with the novel EASTWIND: WEST WIND (1930), which received criticalrecognition. She had earlier publishedautobiographical writings in magazines and a storyentitled A Chinese Woman Speaks in the AsiaMagazine. Her breakthrough novel, THE GOODEARTH, appeared in 1931. Its style, a combinationof biblical prose and the Chinese narrative saga,increased the dignity of its characters. The bookgained a wide audience, and was made into amotion picture
In 1936 Buck was made a member of the NationalInstitute of Arts and Letters. She became in 1938the third American to win the Nobel Prize inLiterature, following Sinclair Lewis and EugeneONeill. In 1951 she was elected to the AmericanAcademy of Arts and Letters. During World War IIshe lectured and wrote on democracy andAmerican attitudes toward Asia. Through herpersonal experiences, Buck had much first-handknowledge of the relationships between men andwomen from different cultures. In her books one ofthe major themes was interracial love. In THEANGRY WIFE (1949) she wrote about the love ofBettina, a former slave, and Tom, a southerner whofought for the army of the North. In THE HIDDENFLOWER (1952) a Japanese family is oversetwhen the daughter falls in love with an Americansoldier.
Buck and Walsh were active in humanitariancauses through the East and West Association,which was devoted to mutual understandingbetween the peoples of Asia and the UnitedStates, Welcome House, and The Pearl BuckFoundation. A friend of Eleanor Roosevelt,Margaret Mead, and Paul Robeson, she alsoadvocated the rights of women and racialequality before the civil rights movement. As aconsequence of these activities, the F.B.I. keptdetailed files on her for years.
After the communist revolution in China, Buckbecame disillusioned about the chances forinternational cooperation. THE PATRIOT (1939)focused on the emotional development of anuniversity student, whose idealism is crushed by thebrutalities of war. Buck gradually shifted heractivities to a lifelong concern for children. Shecoined the word Amerasian and raised millions ofdollars for the adoption and fostering of Amerasianchildren, often abandoned by their American fathersstationed in the Far East.
Bucks own family included nine adopted children aswell as her biological daughters. THE CHILD WHONEVER GREW (1950) told a personal story of herown daughter, whose mental development stopped atthe age of four. The subject is also dealt with in Bucksfamous novel The Good Earth. The book was filmed in1937. Irving Thalberg had wanted to produce thenovel since the 1931 publication. Thalberg employedmany Chinese as extras and authentic backgroundshots were made in China. Luise Rainer won anAcademy Award for best actress. Buck did not firstcomplain her small royalty, until years later, whenMGM ignored her plea for a substantial donation tohelp Amerasian children This ends the presentation.