Pearl S Buck
Her friendship with Emma Edmunds White, R-MWC Years and After
Hello! My name is Marci Stables and I am writing this Web page for my English 103 class. I am the youngest of six children and enjoy being the baby of the family. I have a dog who's name is Jessie that I love a lot. I enjoy being around children and driving around in my car. This is my first attempt at a Web page so please, stick with me.
Pearl S. Buck Extravaganza
Her friendship with Emma Edmunds and her years at RMWC
Jews and the Silk Road
Domestic Life of the Chinese Farmer
Pearl S. Buck attended Randolph-Macon Woman's College in 1910. It was here on the opening day of school that she first met Emma Edmunds White. Emma writes about this meeting in the Alumnae Bulletin vol.32 no.2. She writes, "A timid freshman, I glanced around the room, feeling that I was very "different" from most of the girls; but soon my eyes picked out one girl more different than I" (White 4). She was Pearl Sydenstricker. This young woman dressed differently and acted differently than those around her because she came from a different place. The element that most set her apart was her clothing. Because she came from China, where she had lived all of her life, she wore the Chinese "grass" cloth.
As a student at R-MWC, Pearl was very active in the school so she would be accepted. During her freshman year, Pearl joined the Franklin Literary Society. This group encouraged readings and student writings. She continued her affection for writing by publishing a short Christmas story in "The Tattler," the college's magazine.
Her sophomore year, Pearl had the honor of becoming class treasurer and a representative in Student Government. At R-MWC, there is a tradition of rivalry between the classes that graduate in even- numbered years and those that graduate in odd-numbered years. During this year, Pearl, Emma Edmunds and several of their friends, who were all Evens, sabotaged the "Undersea" party being given by the Odds. They did this by placing raw fish in the fishing nets the Odds had placed to use as decorations.
During her junior year at R-MWC, Pearl was again afforded a class office. However, this time she had the honor of becoming class president as well as a representative to the student council. She also became a member of the Young Women's Christian Association , Kappa Delta Sorority, a representative of the Pan-Hellenic Association and a chosen member of Am Sam, the friendship society. As a senior, Pearl became editor of "The Tattler." Around mid-semester she was forced to give up this position so that she could help her brother with family problems.
Pearl always thought of Emma Edmunds White as the only true friend she had from her college days. She confided everything in Emma, even things she would never tell anyone else. And Emma kept these secrets all of her life. Pearl considered Emma to be her one true friend from college because she was the only classmate of Pearl's to keep her promise to take care of and watch over Pearl's retarded daughter, Carol, when she put her in a home here in the US while she went back to China. Emma not only kept her promise to visit Carol, but she also handled the money for her education as well as treating her as she would her own daughter.
Emma and Pearl were such good friends that they continued to write each other long after college. In one of the letters written by Pearl to Emma, Pearl says that she promises to keep Emma's engagement a secret. However, Pearl thought that Emma's "betrothed" should have asked her, Pearl, for permission to marry Emma, as a man would have asked a father for his daughter's hand in marriage.
One surprising aspect of Emma and Pearl's friendship, was how Pearl kept Emma abreast of her financial situation. Granted, this was so that Emma knew when to expect money for Carol, but there are not many friendships in which the financial income is so closely shared. In fact, Pearl used the writing of her books not for any literary merit but as a means to support her daughter in the institution. The thought of being famous "fills her with horror" (Buck Letters).
Throughout her life, Pearl continued to send Emma a copy of each book she wrote and sought her approval of each of them. After the writing of her award winning book, The Good Earth , Pearl was afraid of the reception her next book, Sons, would receive. So, in this particular case, Emma's approval was uniquely important. Emma approved of Pearl's work and let her friend know the quality of her work.
When Pearl S. Buck returned to Randolph-Macon Woman's College in 1933 to give the Commencement address, she arranged and paid for Emma to travel to Lynchburg and spend this time with her. This proved to be a very exciting development for Pearl. Not only was she returning to her Alma Mater but she was going to see her friend again after 10 years of letter writing.
Pearl and Emma White kept in touch until Pearl Buck's death in March of 1973. Pearl even sent Emma dresses for her children and sent money for Emma's daughter to buy new clothes for college. She did this so that Emma's daughter would not feel different as she and Emma had felt.
Works Cited Buck, Pearl. "Letters to Emma Edmunds White." White, Emma Edmunds. "Pearl S. Buck." Alumnae Bulletin 32.2 Feb. 1939 4-12
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Peony is a novel about the struggle of a young man between two cultures, the Chinese culture and the Jewish culture. Throughout the novel, David struggles with the question "Would he keep himself separate, dedicated to a faith that made him solitary among whatever people he lived, or would he pour the stream of his life into the rich ocean of all human life about him?" (Buck 189). In the end, David accepts the Chinese way in most aspects of his life, and yet he retains an amount of the Jewish culture also.
In the beginning of the novel, David struggles with his parents in trying to decide whether to take a Jewish bride to carry on the religion, or to take a bride out of love, which in this case would be a Chinese bride. In the first chapters of the book, David has several arguments with his mother over marriage. Madame Ezra is a religious fanatic who would rather return to the poverty of their homeland than risk their religion's becoming obsolete in the world of the Chinese. In her pursuit to preserve the Jewish religion, she forgets about the way the Chinese tolerate this foreign culture in their world, when in other lands the Jews are being persecuted.
The persecution of the Jews leads David to discuss with his father's partner, Kao Lien, the reason for this persecution. In response to David's questions about why the Jewish people were being killed , Kao Lien responds, " They were hated because they separated themselves from the rest of mankind. They called themselves chosen of God. Do I not know? I come of a large family, and there was one among us, my third brother, who declared himself the favorite of my parents. And we hated him. If he died I would not mourn." (Buck 163) What Kao Lien is trying to tell David in this passage is that the Jews are being persecuted in other lands because they declare themselves better than those around them. When David argues with him that it is said in the Torah they are the chosen ones, Kao Lien interrupts and tells David, " [The Torah was] written by Jews, bitter with defeat. Here is the truth-- I give it to you whole. We were a proud people. We lost our country. Our only hope to keep ourselves a people was to keep our common faith in one God, a God of our own. That God had been our country and our nation. In sorrow and wailing and woe for all that we have lost has been our union. And our rabbis have so taught us, generation after generation." (Buck 163) The idea that one of his own people could believe that the Jews brought about their persecution confuses David and causes him to have doubts about what the rabbi is teaching him.
David encounters for himself the animosity that can grow from the profession of the Jewish faith. In chapter 6, he meets Kung Chen, his father's Chinese business partner, outside the synagogue and takes him inside. When they encounter the rabbi, David is embarrassed when the rabbi starts calling Kung Chen evil and a son of Adam while David is a son of God. David sees for himself how this profession of religion alienates the Jewish people from the society in which they live.
At the end of the novel, the decision David has made regarding whether he would be a believer in the Chinese faith or the Jewish faith is apparent in his actions. David has become mostly Chinese by the end of the novel and has "poured his life into the rich ocean of all human life about him." He and Kueilan, the Chinese daughter of his father's associate, were married. When Peony enters their home at the end of the novel, she notices that the distinctly Jewish decorations are gone and David is content with his life as a Chinese Jewish merchant.
At the same time we see that he has retained some of his Jewish ancestry. When faced with Peony's full acceptance of life as his concubine, the teachings of his mother and of his religion prevent him from taking her and making her his concubine, a distinctly Chinese custom. By locking the door and barring Peony entrance, David has declared to himself and to Peony that although he loves her, by the residual amount of faith left him by his mother, he cannot make Peony his concubine. David's assimilation into the Chinese world corresponds with many other true aspects of the life of the Chinese Jew. David serves as an example of the gradual mixing of the Jewish and Chinese people. For example, in the beginning of Peony, Pearl Buck writes, "they had come as merchants and traders in a small steady human stream." This is actually how the Jewish people arrived in K'aifeng. Although the specific route that was taken by the Jews is not mentioned, it was probably what is now known as "the Silk Road"(Hopkirk 9)
Another historical factor that is incorporated into the novel is that by 1850, the Jews had no teacher and almost no knowledge of their religion and even less Hebrew. (Chazars-Dreyfus 35) Buck seems to foreshadow this in the novel through the death of the rabbi, leaving no one to carry on the traditions and the religious aspects of Judaism. "Peony shows through the life of Ezra's family the assimilation of the Jewish people in China. This is a unique occurrence, because we know that Jews have not assimilated anywhere else in the world, except in the United States" (Liao 13)
Works Cited Buck, Pearl. Peony. United States of America: Publishers Group West, 1996. Chazars-Dreyfus. "China" Jewish Encyclopedia. 4th ed. New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1903,1910. Hopkirk, Peter. Foreign Devils on the Silk Road: the Search to Lost Cities and Treasures of Chinese Central Asia. London: Murray,1980. Liao, Kang. Pearl S. Buck: A Cultural Bridge Across the Pacific. Westport: Greenwood P., 1997
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The Jewish people in China today do not even know that they are Jewish. Though they may have a Jewish last name, the religion is virtually extinct in Modern China. Many dates have been found that prove the Jews presence in China, but many of those dates contradict themselves. The exact time that the Jews arrived in China is still not known today.
A Russian churchman, Alexei Vinogradoff, postulated that Jews arrived in China before the birth of Moses. He based this hypothesis on "2 Samuel 5:11 which states, 'King Hiram of Tyre sent envoys to David with cedar logs, carpenters and stone masons; and they built a palace for David,' and a poem that is part of the folklore of the Chinese Jew that enlarges the details of 2 Samuel by saying that among gifts were gifts to Hiram from the emperor of China such as silks, a favored Chinese commodity" (Pollak 255).
The earliest records found of the Jewish presence along the path known as the Silk Road was in 406C.E. These records are from a "solid mass of manuscript bundles rising to a height of 10 feet" (Pollak 260), found by Sir Marc Aurel Stein in a cave along the Silk Road. According to the Jewish Encyclopedia however, the Jews had apparently not arrived by the end of the 10th century C.E.
In 1163 a Jewish synagogue was built in the city of K'ai-Fung-Foo. In 1279, the Jewish people rebuilt the temple and made it bigger. By 1390, the Jewish people had gained more land on which to make their synagogue even bigger. In 1421, the Chinese Jews gained permission from the Chinese government to repair the synagogue. During the year of 1461, a flood swept through K'ai-Fung-Foo that destroyed the Jews synagogue.
"In the years of 1277-1294 and 1320 Chinese government records indicated that Jews were living spread out through the empire" (Pollak 264). During the year 1329, the first government papers were written that indicated the Jewish presence in China. In the years 1489, 1512, and 1663, three marble tablets were found. Each of these tablets was inscribed with the Jewish history, though instead of being written in the original language of the Jews, these tablets were inscribed with Chinese characters.
During the 17th century, the Chinese Jews were discovered by Catholic missionaries in K'ai-Fung-Foo. At this time there were 500-600 Jews living in this city alone.
In 1872, the Chinese Jews began to fall apart. They were going through "destitution and religious decay" (Chazars 35). It is at this point that the Jews began to drop in number. By 1900, only 140 Chinese Jews were left in K'ai-Fung-Foo.
The Jews are assumed to have reached China through an unnamed access route that led from the lands of the west, through the treacherous Taklamakan desert and mountains. In the period of the Han Dynasty, 206BC- 220AD., the travels of a Chinese emissary, Zhang Qian, brought China into political contact with kingdoms in Central Asia and opened up the East-West trade route, known as the Silk Road. The Silk Road was originally established as a way to trade horses. Later, it was used by merchants to trade, gold, precious metals, woolens, linens, ivory, coral, amber, precious stones, asbestos, and glass into China and trade fur, ceramics, iron, laquer, cinnamon, rhubarb and bronze.
The Silk road was not actually named until the 1870's. The Silk Road extended from Istanbul to Xian and was a very dangerous route for merchants to utilize. The aspects of the route that made it so treacherous were the "sandstorms" which "lost goods, killed travelers, and mummified their remains" (Hopkirk 10). The area of the Taklamakan desert that was especially dangerous due to "icy passes in mountain where the merchants would freeze to death, slip and fall into a ravine or by lost by an avalanche" (Hopkirk 9). However, though these dangers existed, the trade route was continued to be used for it's direct path from the world of the west.
By the Tang Dynasty, 618-907, the "art of sericulture had been mastered by the Persians and, though silk was not to be produced in Europe until the 12th century, the heyday of the route was over. However, silk continued to play a most important role as a tributary gift in local trade with the "Western barbarians", who were radically to change Chinese culture by introducing new arts, skills and ideas" (China pages 2).
In Peony, Pearl Buck uses the information from the historians on the Silk Road and the Chinese Jews to characterize Ezra and his family. In the novel, the family is Jewish and experiences the decline of their religion because of blending into the Chinese culture. Ezra and his family also encounter the Silk Road as the means through which they make their money to survive.
Works Cited Chazars-Dreyfus. "China" Jewish Encyclopedia. 4th ed. New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1903,1910. Hopkirk,Peter. Foreign Devils on the Silk Road: the Search to Lost Cities and Treasurers of Chinese Central Asia. London: Murray,1980 Pollak, Michael. Mandarins, Jews, and Missionaries: The Jewish Experience in the Chinese Empire. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1980. Http://China.pages.co.cn/chinese_culture/silk/silk.html; Chinese Culture, Silk Road.
Jews and the Silk Road, a PowerPoint presentation by Marci Stables and Brigid O'Leary
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In China during the time of The Good Earth, the life of the farmer was centered around his fields. Because he lived from the land and the land gave his family all that they needed, he respected the land and depended on it as a source of life. Because Pearl Buck grew up in a China like the one she wrote about in the Good Earth, all aspects of the farmer's life and the rich merchant's life can be compared to the true state in China.
The house in which Wang Lung and his family lived was made of a thatched type roof and mud-brick walls. The house had open rooms separated by doors that hung by wooden hinges. In the farmer's house, they did not have the courtyards that are known to occupy several spaces in the houses of the rich merchants. Wang Lung's house seems to be a small three room home in which the kitchen is in the same room with the stable where the ox lives, separated from the sleeping quarters of Wang Lung and his father by the simple swing of a wooden door that barely served to keep the wind out. They had windows made simply from square holes cut in the side of the wall and covered with a thin paper to serve as the "pane of glass" through which they look. Of course, because the covering is paper, Wang Lung has to have a tiny hole to peer through. In the typical farmer's house, at least three generations of a family would live, with the sons taking care of their older parents and their own family. But the house was not the main focus of the farmer nor of the farmer's wife. The main focus of their lives was the fields and the crops that could be coaxed from them.
In the Good Earth, rituals were undertaken by the farmer that show yet another aspect of China. For example, at the birth of the first born son, eggs were bought and dyed red to be handed out throughout the city to let the people know of the birth of a son. Also, red sugar was bought and used to "restore" the mother from childbirth. At the time that the son was brought before the rich merchants of the city, he was dressed from head to toe in red clothing. Also, the idols that were worshiped by the farmer were dressed routinely in red paper clothes. Red seems to be a symbol of great joy in China, for example, the use in the birth of the first born son and in the showing off of that first born son to the rich merchants, as Wang Lung and his wife did with their first born son. Another tradition that would seem to be unique to the farmers, is that of the earth gods to which they give incense in the hope that they will continue to have prosperous harvests. For the farmer, the tradition of drinking tea is one that seldom occurs. When Wang Lung uses the tea leaves they have in their home to celebrate his marriage day, he is berated by his father on the waste of the tea leaves, but then the decision was made to save them and reuse them. For the farmer, having tea was a rare occurrence since they had to spend their time in the fields and use whatever money earned in buying the necessities for the farm and for themselves.
The wife of the farmer has a method of childbirth and childcare uniquely their own. O-lan gave birth to the child alone, without a midwife or someone else to help her. In fact, she worked in the fields up until the hour that the baby was ready to be born. Once the child was born, she simply picked herself up, cleaned up the room, and continued her chores as though nothing had happened. As for the rearing of the child, the baby was left to the grandfather's tending so that O-lan could work in the fields. As the child grew older, a cloth belt-type device was used so that the grandfather could keep up with the little one while not having to move.
When compared to the rich merchants, the life of the farmer, while being a much simpler way of life, is also the hardest way to live. The farmer is attached to his land and knows that it is through the land on which he walks that he survives. On the other hand, the rich merchant forgets from what his wealth comes and squanders it away.
We perceive a change in Wang Lung and his family when they return from the far away city and become a rich merchant family. They move away from the land, the source of their money, they remove themselves from the work of the land, and they begin to take for granted all the important things that had been an essential part of their lives before. One of the things they take for granted is family and the importance of knowing where you come from and where their money comes from. Because Wang Lung forgets these important things, his sons grow up without learning of the value that should be placed on the land one owns. When we use the word "value," we are not talking of knowing the monetary value of the land, because this the boys know well. But of the value that comes from the hard work. Many generations of Wang Lung's family has worked hard on the land and the hard work their father did in order to gain the amount of land that made them such wealthy people in the village.
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About Me!!!!! Hi!! I gave you a brief introduction, but now I'll tell you a little more about myself. I come from a pretty large family with lots of cousins and uncles and aunts (lots of presents too). But the best part about living at my house is that I have my own dog that lives indoors with us. He is a chow-husky-golden retriever mix and has ice blue eyes. He's my BABY!!!. We call him lots of names, but his given name is Jessie. While I am away at Randolph-Macon Woman's College, my mom, sister and dad are spoiling Jessie at home. He won't even eat from a plate anymore!! My mom hand feeds him!! Well, enough about my baby. I have lived in Virginia all of my life and so it was natural to move to Lynchburg to go the college here. I chose R-MWC because they have an excellent pre-med program and the availability of an internship my junior and senior years. This was important to me because I want to be either a Radiologist or a Neonatologist. It is hard work here, but I enjoy the small campus life and look forward to my years spent here. Here is a picture of Randolph Macon Woman's College in 1911.
If you would like to get in touch with me, you can write
( for the next four years anyway!!!)
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