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Human Rights & Social Issues

Ann Tyson, Pearl Buck and their feelings about China


Ann Scott Tyson, a reporter who worked in China in the 1980s (photo from The Christian Science Monitor (CSM) ), and Pearl S. Buck in 1932 (photo from Amold Genthe and wiki)

When Ann Scott Tyson revisited China after three decades, she still found tons of issues she dislikes or disapproves here and there although many things have changed.

Nevertheless, by the end of the trip, for “looking for her old neighborhood in eastern Beijing”, she came to Ritan Park.

“I approach a familiar red-pillared pavilion on the edge of a small lake.

“The sounds of a Chinese erhu (a two-stringed musical instrument) fiddle and drum meet my ears, and without warning a wave of emotion sweeps over me. Tears roll down my cheeks as I sit on a bench, listening to the amateur opera group perform, exactly as I remembered …”

Mark Sappenfield, her editor at CSM, wrote this: “It is, in some ways, what Ann saw within China, too — a country that, one man said, has become blinded by materialism. Yet China is hardly without values. The government has actually identified 12 core values … But sitting on a park bench in Beijing, moved to tears … Ann saw other core values expressed by a gentleman who sat next to her: harmony, civility, friendship …”

Each foreign visitor has his/her unique feeling about China, subject to too many variables such as where, when, how, whom he met, etc. Yet, not until you had sensed some sort of “harmony, civility and friendship” did you realize how far and how deep you had understood the root values of this 3,000-year-old civilization.

Pearl S. Buck (1892-1973) was one of the foreigners who was willing and able to appreciate these values. She was only five months old when she was brought to China as her parents were American missionaries. In 1911, Pearl left China to attend college back in Virginia and began her wonderful writing career, including being awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1938.

I was particularly impressed by her English translation of 水滸傳 (one of the Four Great Classical Chinese Novels) into “All Men are Brothers”, and of course, her novel “The Good Earth”. It was published in 1931, became a Broadway play in 1932 and then a successful box-office film in 1937.

When I read it ten years ago, I was amazed overwhelmingly by her passion in portraying how a peasant couple struggle against all kinds of hardship for their children and the family as a whole. Harmony, civility and friendship are also the values we can find from this story.

“U.S. President George H. W. Bush toured the Pearl S. Buck House (in Nanjing University) in October 1998. He expressed that he, like millions of other Americans, had gained an appreciation for the Chinese people through Buck’s writing.”

Chinese values emphasize co-operation, co-existence and hopefully a decent life for everyone, you and me, that is it.

The opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of China Daily Mail.

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About keith K C Hui

Keith K C Hui is a Chinese University of Hong Kong graduate major in Government and Public Administration and the author of "Helmsman Ruler: China's Pragmatic Version of Plato's Ideal Political Succession System In The Republic" (2013).

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