Asterisk denotes entries on real places.
Ling Tan’s house. Home of a village family headed by its patriarch, Ling Tan. The family includes five children, three boys and two girls. Ling Tan is a simple farmer who is happy to see his family well provided for through their collective labor. He owns a few cattle, pigs, and chickens. As in Pearl Buck’s other novels, The Dragon Seed emphasizes her protagonists’ deep attachment to their home and fields. The ten members of the Ling family live in a substantial eight-room house surrounded by a wall and secured by a strong gate.
At first, the Ling family members are not harmed as the nearby city falls to the Japanese. Then the invading troops move west and loot Ling Tan’s house, wantonly destroying most of the family’s possessions, raping and then murdering an elderly woman relative. One of Ling Tan’s sons goes west with the retreating Nationalist government but returns. Another becomes a guerrilla leader based in a Buddhist temple in the hills east of the city. Except for the youngest daughter, who flees west to live in a relocated missionary school, all surviving family members gather regularly in their home and village. Although outwardly complying with the Japanese orders, the Ling family turns their home into a site where information and arms are gathered for retaliatory attacks on the Japanese.
*Nanking. Capital city of the Republic of China from 1928 to 1937, during which period its population grew from 250,000 to around 1,000,000. Nanking is not mentioned by name in the novel; however, the novel’s unnamed big city matches Nanking’s description and historical circumstances. Buck lived in Nanking on the grounds of the Jinling University compound within Nanking’s walls from 1921 to 1934 and clearly built her descriptions of the city in the novel from the Nanking she knew. Some action occurs in Nanking, especially in a walled Christian compound where women of the family fled in fear of Japanese troops. Other action in Nanking involves a merchant son-in-law who collaborates with the Japanese.