A HISTORIC MIRROR
If the cognitive and educational functions are the primary value of Pearl Buck's literary works, as I have emphasized in my discussion, then critics may challenge the purpose of reading Pearl Buck for learning about China and East- West cultural issues with these questions: "Why must we read her instead of Chinese writers? Are her books in any way more valuable than the books of her contemporary Chinese writers? Even though she opened the eyes of Americans and other Westerners to what the majority of Chinese people are really like, what is the significance of her description of the Chinese peasants' life to the Chinese readers themselves?" What most American critics do not know and most Chinese critics are reluctant to admit is that Pearl Buck's novels are indeed more valuable than those of her contemporary Chinese writers in at least one sense--- her novels serve as a historic mirror that reflects the Chinese peasants' life more truthfully than do the mirrors held by the other writers, because theirs are tinted red with communist ideologies.
If we break the barrier of national pride and the traditional classification by nationality, it will not be hard to see that Pearl Buck's literary creation indicated a new direction for Chinese writers, who, consciously or unconsciously, followed her lead. When we examine the Chinese novels, which have a history of at least six centuries if we regard Shih Nai-an Shui Hu Zhuan ( All Men Are Brothers) as the beginning, we find no novels were written about the life of ordinary Chinese peasants and farmers. In discussing the significance of Lu Hsun's literary works in the history of Chinese literature, Hsujee Huang made a statement which I translate into English as follows:
For thousands of years in ancient agricultural China, the position of peasants was the lowest, and therefore, they were never portrayed in classical Chinese literature except some poems which pitied them. Although Shui Hu Zhuan is about the peasants' uprisings, yet the genuine peasants who are engaged in agricultural work are very few in the novel. . . . It was not until after the May Fourth New Culture movement that Chinese peasants