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China Sky

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Title: China Sky  
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Subject: Pearl S. Buck, 1941 in literature, Benson Fong, Ruth Warrick
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China Sky

China Sky
1942 edition
Author Pearl S. Buck
Country United States
Language English
Genre Historical novel
Publisher John Day Company
Publication date
Media type Print (Hardback & Paperback)

China Sky is a novel by Pearl S. Buck published in 1941.[1] The story centers on love, honor, and wartime treachery in an American-run hospital in the fictional town of Chen-li, China, during the Japanese invasion.

The book was the basis of a 1945 film of the same name starring Randolph Scott, Ruth Warrick, Ellen Drew, and Anthony Quinn.

Plot summary

Dr. Gray Thomison grew up the only son of a wealthy American family and chose to build a hospital in Chen-li, where he is the resident doctor in charge. Dr. Sara Durand is a 28-year-old American from rural Kansas in charge of the women's ward. She was brought to the hospital two years before the novel begins. Sara and Gray both speak Chinese and English. They are very committed to helping their patients, and they admire the Chinese people and their culture. Sara and Gray have worked closely together; Sara is in love with Gray but she has not told him.

The story opens during an air raid. Sara and Siu-mei, a young Chinese intern played by Carol Thurston, evacuate patients and babies from the women's hospital. Sara is in charge of the hospital while Gray is away fund-raising in America. Sara stays in the women's ward with the terminal patients and those who cannot be moved, while Dr. Chung, a young Chinese doctor just out of American medical school, tends patients in the men's ward.

A cable from Gray tells Sara that he is bringing his new wife to Chen-li. Sara fixes up the bungalow near the hospital for the couple. Before they arrive, Chen-ta, the leader of the local guerrillas, brings Yasuda, an injured Japanese prisoner, to the hospital. He does not trust the Chinese to keep him alive. He asks Sara to operate on him and care for him. Dr. Chung assists and gives blood for Yasuda.

There is an air raid the night that Gray's wife, Louise, arrives. Gray takes her to safety in the caves, then returns to the hospital to tend the male patients. She is angry and terrified. Dr Chung and Yasuda both speak to her in English.

Louise is in love with Gray, but petulant and angry to be living amidst Chinese people and Japanese bombing. She does not speak Chinese and does not like the Chinese people. She wishes to return to America with Gray. Gray's cook-boy, Siao Fah, does not respect Louise and spies on her. Louise makes friends with some English-speaking men from nearby Treaty Port, including Harry Delafield, an English businessman.

Dr. Chung believes the Japanese will win the war, so he makes friends with Yasuda. Yasuda promises to make Chung governor of the province after the Japanese victory.[2] Chung enlists his younger brother, Chung Third, to join Chen-ta's guerrillas to gather information for the Japanese. Chung convinces Louise to assist him in helping Yasuda send messages to the Japanese by writing letters in English to a man named Delafield. These messages stop the hospital from being bombed. Chung gives Yasuda a poison to make him appear sick and unable to be released back to Chen-ta.

Siu-mei and Dr. Chung begin courting. He is attracted mainly by her wealthy family, but she falls in love.

Chung brings letters to Louise for her to sign and mail. Siao Fah intercepts one letter, gives it to Sara, who gives it to Gray. Gray and Sara question whether Louise is being faithful to Gray, but nobody mentions the letter itself to Louise.

Chen-ta's guerrillas begin losing battles. The citizens of Chen-li stop coming to the hospital because it is not suffering the same fate as the rest of the town. Sara and Gray are committed to helping the people and do not know what is going wrong.

Siu-mei's father and five other elders from Chen-li visit Chen-ta in his hide-out. With the guerrillas losing, the elders are worried for the safety of Chen-li. Chen-ta begins to suspect Chung Third of spying, and he also lets Siu-mei's father know that he is interested in his daughter.

One night, Sara discovers Dr. Chung and Yasuda discussing a map. Yasuda appears healthy. That same night, Ya-ching, a nurse in love with Chung, is spurned by him when she becomes pregnant by him. Ya-ching plans her revenge when she discovers that Chung is keeping the Japanese prisoner in the hospital by administering poison pills. She intercepts a message from Chung Third to Dr. Chung, but she does not tell anyone. She makes harmless substitute pills and gives them to Yasuda one night, then tells Siu-mei that Chung was poisoning Yasuda and using Chung Third to gather information about the guerrillas.

Ya-ching witnesses Yasuda murder Dr. Chung, then drowns while returning to her own village. Nobody learns that Yasuda murdered Chung; Yasuda threw the body out a window to make it look like suicide. Louise discovers Chung's body. Gray and Siu-mei see a healthy Yasuda. Gray learns from Yasuda that Dr. Chung and Louise are passing information to the enemy.[3] Yasuda promises Gray Japanese support in exchange for safety.

Siu-mei and her father travel to tell Chen-ta about Dr. Chung's treachery. Chen-ta has Chung Third killed, then he goes to the hospital to collect his prisoner. Gray sends Louise back to America and goes on working with Sara, whom he now knows he loves. The Japanese resume bombing the hospital.


  • Sara Durand - 28-year-old American doctor in charge of the women's ward at the hospital in Chen-li.
  • Gray Thomison - American doctor who built the hospital in Chen-li and is resident in charge of the hospital.
  • Siu-mei (Ling) - young Chinese intern in the women's hospital. Dr. Chung courts her because she is from a wealthy family. Her father, Mr. Ling, does not approve, but does not interfere; he tells Chen-ta, "her choice is not mine."[4]
  • Dr Chung, Chung Ming-liang[5] or Chung En-liu[6] - a traitorous Chinese doctor, about age 31, just out of American medical school.
  • Louise Thomison - Gray Thomison's pretty American wife, a New York socialite.
  • Siao Fah - Gray's Chinese cook-boy; "squat, pock-marked";[7] dedicated to Gray, disdainful of Louise.
  • Chen-ta, the Eagle - chief of the Tong Mountain guerrillas,[8] Chinese fighters near Chen-li. He is attracted to Siu-mei when he meets her at the hospital.
  • Yasuda - Chen-ta's injured Japanese prisoner, a powerful and well-educated fighter who speaks four languages, including English, but no Chinese.[9]
  • Ya-ching - a "pale and pock-marked" nurse[10] who is in love with Dr. Chung until he spurns her and their unborn child.
  • Chung Third - Dr Chung's younger brother, who joins Chen-ta's guerrillas to learn their plans and pass this information to Dr. Chung for Yasuda.
  • Harry Delafield - an English businessman working in nearby Treaty Port who becomes attached to Louise.[11]
  • Mr. Ling - Siu-mei's father, a respected elder in Chen-li[12] who admires Chen-ta.

Notes and references

  1. ^ Buck, Pearl S. (1941). China Sky. The John Day Company, Inc.  Times Triangle edition reprinted 1945.
  2. ^ Buck, China Sky, Times Triangle edition, p. 152
  3. ^ Buck, China Sky, Times Triangle edition, p. 262
  4. ^ Buck, China Sky, Times Triangle edition, p. 167
  5. ^ Buck, China Sky, Times Triangle edition, p. 81
  6. ^ Buck, China Sky, Times Triangle edition, p.246
  7. ^ Buck, China Sky, Times Triangle edition, p. 18
  8. ^ Buck, China Sky, Times Triangle edition, p. 24
  9. ^ Buck, China Sky, Times Triangle edition, p. 29
  10. ^ Buck, China Sky, Times Triangle edition, p. 64
  11. ^ Buck, China Sky, Times Triangle edition, p. 124
  12. ^ Buck, China Sky, Times Triangle edition, p.160
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