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Pearl Sydenstricker Buck (June 26, 1892March 6, 1973) also known as Sai Zhen Zhu (Simplified Chinese: 赛珍珠; Pinyin: Sài Zhēnzhū; Traditional Chinese: 賽珍珠), was a Pulitzer Prize-winning American writer who spent the majority of her life in China. In 1938, she became the first American woman to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, "for her rich and truly epic descriptions of peasant life in China and for her biographical masterpieces." With no irony, she has been described in China as a Chinesemarker writer.

Humanitarian efforts

Many of Buck's life experiences and political views are described in her novels, short stories, fiction, children's stories, and the biographies of her parents entitled Fighting Angel (on Absalom) and The Exile (on Carrie). She wrote on a diverse variety of topics including women's rights, Asian cultures, immigration, adoption, missionary work, and war.

In 1949, outraged that existing adoption services considered Asian and mixed-race children unadoptable, Pearl established Welcome House, Inc., the first international, interracial adoption agency. In nearly five decades of work, Welcome House has placed over five thousand children. In 1964, to support children who were not eligible for adoption, Buck established the Pearl S. Buck Foundation to "address poverty and discrimination faced by children in Asian countries." In 1965, she opened the Opportunity Center and Orphanage in South Korea, and later offices were opened in Thailand, the Philippines, and Vietnam. When establishing Opportunity House, Buck said, "The to publicize and eliminate injustices and prejudices suffered by children, who, because of their birth, are not permitted to enjoy the educational, social, economic and civil privileges normally accorded to children."

In the late 1960s, Pearl toured West Virginia to raise money to preserve her family farm in Hillsboro, WVmarker. Today The Pearl S.marker Buck Birthplacemarker is a historic house museum and cultural center. She hoped the house would "belong to everyone who cares to go there," and serve as a "gateway to new thoughts and dreams and ways of life."


was born in Hillsboro, West Virginiamarker to Caroline Stulting (1857-1921) and Absalom Sydenstricker. Her parents, Southern Presbyterian missionaries, traveled to China soon after their marriage on July 8, 1880, but returned to the United States for Pearl's birth. When Pearl was three months old, the family returned to China, to be stationed first in T'sinkiang-p'u and then in Zhenjiangmarker. Pearl grew up bilingual, tutored in English by her mother and in classical Chinese by Mr. Kung.
Chinese man in Zhenjiang, c.

The Boxer Uprising greatly affected Pearl and her family. Pearl's Chinese friends deserted her and her family, and there were not as many Western visitors as there once were.

In 1911, Pearl left China to attend Randolph-Macon Woman's College , graduating (Phi Beta Kappa) in 1914. From 1914 to 1933, she served as a Presbyterian missionary, but her views later became highly controversial in the Fundamentalist-Modernist Controversy, leading to her resignation.

In 1914, Pearl returned to China. She married an agricultural economist missionary, John Lossing Buck, on May 13, 1917, and they moved to Suzhou, Anhui Province, a small town on the Huai River (There are two cities in China with the English name 'Suzhou', one in Anhui and one in Jiangsu Province. The one where the Bucks lived was in Anhui). It is this region she described later in The Good Earth and Sons.

1920 to 1933, Pearl and John made their home in Nankingmarker (Nanjing), on the campus of Nanjing University, where both had teaching positions. Pearl taught English literature at both the University of Nanjing and the Chinese National University. In 1920, the Bucks had a daughter, Carol, afflicted with phenylketonuria. In 1921, Pearl's mother died, and shortly afterward her father moved in. In 1924, they left China for John's year of sabbatical and returned to the United States for a short time, during which Pearl earned her Masters degree from Cornell Universitymarker. In 1925, the Bucks adopted Janice (later surnamed Walsh). That fall, they returned to China.

The tragedies and dislocations which Pearl suffered in the 1920s reached a climax in March 1927, during "Nanking Incident." In a confused battle involving elements of Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalist troops, Communist forces, and assorted warlords, several Westerners were murdered. Since Absalom was a missionary, the family decided to stay in Nanjing until the battle reached the city. When violence broke out, a poor Chinese family allowed them to hide in their hut while the family house was looted. The family spent a terrified day in hiding, after which they were rescued by American gunboats. They traveled to Shanghai and then sailed to Japan, where they spent the following year. They later moved back to Nanjing, though conditions remained dangerously unsettled.

In 1935, the Bucks were divorced. Richard Walsh, president of the John Day Company and her publisher, became Pearl Buck's second husband. The couple lived in Pennsylvania.

Pearl S. Buck died of lung cancer on March 6, 1973 in Danby, Vermontmarker, and was interred in Green Hills Farmmarker in Perkasie, Pennsylvaniamarker. She designed her own tombstone, which does not record her name in English; instead, the grave marker is inscribed with Chinese characters representing the name Pearl Sydenstricker.

Selected bibliography


  • My Several Worlds (1954)
  • A Bridge For Passing (1962)



  • East Wind:West Wind (1930)
  • The House of Earth (1935)
  • The Mother (1933)
  • This Proud Heart (1938)
  • The Patriot (1939)
  • Other Gods (1940)
  • China Sky (1941)
  • Dragon Seed (1942)
  • The Promise (1943)
  • China Flight (1943)
  • The Townsman (1945) -- as John Sedges
  • Portrait of a Marriage (1945)
  • Pavilion of Women (1946)
  • The Angry Wife (1947) -- as John Sedges
  • Peony (1948)
  • The Big Wave (1948)
  • A Long Love (1949) -- as John Sedges
  • Kinfolk (1950)
  • God's Men (1951)
  • The Hidden Flower (1952)
  • Come, My Beloved (1953)
  • Voices in the House (1953) -- as John Sedges
  • Imperial Woman (1956)
  • Letter from Peking (1957)
  • Command the Morning (1959)
  • Satan Never Sleeps (1962; see 1962 film Satan Never Sleeps)
  • The Living Reed (1963)
  • Death in the Castle (1965)
  • The Time Is Noon (1966)
  • Matthew, Mark, Luke and John (1967)
  • The New Year (1968)
  • The Three Daughters of Madame Liang (1969)
  • Mandala (1970)
  • The Goddess Abides (1972)
  • All Under Heaven (1973)
  • The Rainbow (1974)


  • Of Men and Women (1941)
  • How It Happens: Talk about the German People, 1914-1933, with Erna Pustau (1947)
  • The Child Who Never Grew (1950)
The Man Who Changed China: The Story of Sun Yat-sen (1953) for young readers
  • My Several Worlds (1954)
  • For Spacious Skies (1966)
  • The People of Japan (1966)
  • The Kennedy Women (1970)
  • China as I See It (1970)
  • The Story Bible (1971)
  • Pearl S. Buck's Oriental Cookbook (1972)

Short Stories

  • The First Wife and Other Stories (1933)
  • Today and Forever: Stories of China (1941)
  • Twenty-Seven Stories (1943)
  • Far and Near: Stories of Japan, China, and America (1949)
  • Fourteen Stories (1961)
  • Hearts Come Home and Other Stories (1962)
  • Stories of China (1964)
  • Escape at Midnight and Other Stories (1964)
  • The Good Deed and Other Stories of Asia, Past and Present (1969)
  • Once Upon a Christmas (1972)
  • East and West Stories (1975)
  • Secrets of the Heart: Stories (1976)
  • The Lovers and Other Stories (1977)
  • Mrs. Stoner and the Sea and Other Stories (1978)
  • The Woman Who Was Changed and Other Stories (1979)
  • The Good Deed (1969)
  • "Christmas Day in the Morning"
  • "The Refugee"
" The Chinese Children Next Door"  for children


Museums and Historic Houses

Several historic sites work to preserve and display artifacts from Pearl's profoundly multicultural life:

See also


  • Peter J. Conn, Pearl S. Buck: A Cultural Biography (Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996. ISBN 0521560802.)
  • Elizabeth Johnston Lipscomb, Frances E. Webb Peter J. Conn, eds., The Several Worlds of Pearl S. Buck: Essays Presented at a Centennial Symposium, Randolph-Macon Woman's College, March 26-28, 1992 (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1994. ISBN 0313291527.)
  • Liao Kang, Pearl S. Buck: A Cultural Bridge across the Pacific (Westport, CT, London: Greenwood Press, 1997. ISBN 0313301468.)
  • Karen J. Leong, The China Mystique: Pearl S. Buck, Anna May Wong, Mayling Soong, and the Transformation of American Orientalism (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005. ISBN 978-0520244238.)
  • Pearl Buck's Portrait of Her Fighting Missionary Father (NY Times, November 29, 1936.)


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