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CHAPTER 29

The mansion is rented. The eldest son and his wife with their possessions and servants, and Lotus and Cuckoo with theirs, move into the once Great House. Wang Lung, however, still can't pull up his roots. He remains with his poor fool, his youngest son, and a farm wife to look after them. Ching and the farm workers live in the old farmhouse, and the uncle, his wife, and son have taken over Lotus' former quarters where they are well out of Wang's sight and hearing. Meanwhile, Ching has found a village bride for Wang's second son.

Ching is old now and Wang will not let him work in the fields, nor does he work there himself. Instead he rents out much of his land to tenant farmers, taking half their crop. However, he still takes pleasure in walking around his fields.

One happy day the uncle's son, bored in a house where there are no longer any women slaves, announces that he is going to the wars. Wang Lung, pretending regret, is generous with silver for the young man's needs and sees him off with relief.


The eldest son's wife is about to give birth. Wang buys incense to burn before the goddess of mercy and promises the goddess a new red robe if his grandchild is a boy. Waiting, he is amazed at the fuss in the house, remembering the stoic calmness with which O-lan bore her children. Lotus, who now has first-wife status, comes with Cuckoo to tell him the child is a boy. Now the pretentious eldest son, in imitation of a great family, has ancestor tablets (a family tree) hung on the wall even though the ancestors were only poor farmers.

Ching is dying. Wang Lung hurries to his old friend's bedside, buys him a fine coffin, and wants to bury him in the family ground, but because Wang's sons object, he has Ching buried just outside the enclosure. Wang wears mourning clothes and insists that the eldest son do so as well, although, as this son says, Ching was only an "upper servant." Wang Lung feels this loss as though Ching were of his own family. Now at last Wang Lung, with his retarded daughter and his youngest son, moves into the mansion in the town.

One by one, in this chapter, Wang Lung's links with the past and with the land are finally broken: Ching's death, the renting out of the land, and finally the move to the mansion in town. The eldest son is ashamed of the family's humble beginnings but Wang Lung does not object. He himself has mixed feelings; he is both proud and resentful of his son's refinement. After all, didn't he create his son's attitudes and ambitions? In relationships with parents, isn't their example more important than their speeches? How do you feel when someone preaches one thing and seems to do another?

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