It is in this metaphor for the broader significance of Wang Lung's life that we come to understand, at least to some degree, the part religion plays in Chinese culture. Rather than being filled with iconography, tithing or text, as is Western religion, Wang Lung's form of worship is a very personal one that has been passed down through "the rain of generations…until now there was only a faint feathery shadow." (p. 21). In many litany-like passages, Wang Lung bows down to the land that makes his life worth something. "Wang Lung thought of his land and pondered this way and that, with the sickened heart of deferred hope, how he could get back to it. He belonged, not to this scum which clung to the walls of the rich man's house; nor did he belong to the rich man's house. He belonged to the land and he could not live with any fullness until he felt the land under his feet and followed a plow in the springtime, and bore a scythe in his hand at harvest. He listened, therefore, apart from the others because hidden in his heart was the knowledge of possession of his land, the good wheat land of his fathers, and the strip of rich land which had bought him from the great house." (p. 121-122) And in this worship, we see clearly what is meaningful to Wang Lung—both his commitment to the Gods that fuel the land and to the land itself.

What makes The Good Earth so special and so unique is the book's ability to tell its reader about China through hundreds of subtle cues about the way the characters live their lives. Wang Lung's relationship to religion and the land is just one of the many instances of the ability Pearl Buck has to bring this understanding to delicate and powerful fruition.


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