The time and place of The Good Earth is never explicitly stated, but using certain context clues, the time and place can be very closely inferred. The book opens with a focus on a single peasant farmer in northern China, obtaining his wife, a slave, from a prominent house in the city nearby. To get there
...He wound his way in among the fields along the narrow path. In the near distance the grey city wall arose. Within that gate in the wall through which he would pass stood the great...House of Hwang (Chapter 1).
Later in the story, during a famine, this character and his family must move south in hope of food and survival. They ride a train to get to a large city. The details suggest the railroad is relatively new. Therefore, it can be inferred that the story takes place sometime around the end of the 19th century. It might be suggested that they move south to Shanghai, therefore the first fifty pages take place in farmlands north of Shanghai.