The narrator of the novel, daughter of Mama and Baba, wife of Dalang, and laotong to Snow Flower. Lily longs for love, even though as a woman, she's considered unworthy of receiving… (read full character analysis)
Daughter of Snow Flower's Mother and Snow Flower's Father, wife of the butcher, and laotong to Lily. Snow Flower is very sophisticated as a child and is obsessed with birds, flying… (read full character analysis)
Lily's mother, and the wife of Baba. Mama was born in the year of the monkey, so she's seen as being calculating and always looking out for herself. She regards Lily as little… (read full character analysis)
Lily's aunt, Beautiful Moon's mother, wife to Uncle, and sister-in-law to Mama. Aunt isn't beautiful but is very kind and logical in her thinking and arguing. She comes from a learned… (read full character analysis)
Snow Flower's husband. Being a butcher is considered to be one of the worst professions, but he doesn't seem to dislike it. He is physically abusive to Snow Flower, especially in the aftermath of… (read full character analysis)
Daughter of Mama and Baba, and Lily's older sister. She is quiet and compassionate, which leads her to discover Third Sister's septic shock after allowing her to lie down and rest during… (read full character analysis)
Daughter of Mama and Baba, and Lily's younger sister by one year. Lily describes her as acting as though she's spoiled and feels entitled to love, when in truth she is neither. She… (read full character analysis)
Snow Flower's mother, wife to Snow Flower's Father, and sister to Madame Wang. Lily notes that Snow Flower’s mother never seemed able to accept that her family had fallen from prosperity, and… (read full character analysis)
Snow Flower's father and husband to Snow Flower's Mother. A nasty and temperamental man addicted to opium, he sold his family's possessions to pay for opium and nearly sold Snow Flower as a… (read full character analysis)
Lily's cousin, Aunt and Uncle's daughter. The same age as Lily, Beautiful Moon's feet are bound at the same time as Lily and Third Sister's. Beautiful Moon is described as stoic and beautiful. She dies after being stung by a bee not long before her wedding.
The matchmaker who services Lily's natal village. Upset at having clients (Lily, Beautiful Moon) taken from her by Madame Wang, Madame Gao speaks openly of Snow Flower's family's misfortune in Lily's natal home.
Lily's father and Mama's husband. He's a farmer who is very poor, but becomes one of the richest men in the village after receiving bride gifts from Lily's in-laws. He is very kind to Lily and the two are reasonably close before Lily's feet are bound.
Lily's uncle and Beautiful Moon's father; Aunt's husband and Baba's younger brother. He and Aunt have a happy marriage, but both have led miserable lives overall.
Lily's oldest brother, son of Mama and Baba. He's kind, hardworking, and idolized by his younger siblings and cousin.
Lily's second brother, son of Mama and Baba.
Lily's grandmother; Baba's mother, and Mama's mother-in-law. She is very old and supervises the binding of Lily, Beautiful Moon, and Third Sister's feet. She dies at the same time as Third Sister of an unknown illness.
The diviner who deems six-year-old Lily special and first brings her feet to her parents' attention.
Dalang's grandfather, a very learned man who conducts Lily's first son's education.
Master Lu / Lily’s Father-in-Law
Lady Lu's husband, Dalang's father, and Lily's father-in-law. He's a wealthy man who collects taxes.
Lady Lu / Lily’s Mother-in-Law
Lily's mother-in-law and Dalang's mother. Lady Lu is very powerful in her position, but she treats Lily relatively fairly, save for attempting to forbid Lily from seeing Snow Flower. She dies during the typhoid outbreak.
Lily's daughter. She's intended to be laotang with Spring Moon, but Lily forbids the arrangement.
Snow Flower and the butcher's daughter, a very beautiful girl who looks exactly like Snow Flower. She's named in honor of Beautiful Moon and is meant to be laotong with Jade, but Lily calls off the arrangement. Spring Moon commits suicide on her wedding night.
Lily's Husband / Dalang
Lily's husband, son of Master and Lady Lu. He's a kind and fair husband and he and Lily come to feel great affection for each other.
Lily and Dalang's first son. He thrives as a child and is very intelligent. He studies briefly with a tutor and then with Uncle Lu.
Lily and Dalang's second son.
Lily's second sister-in-law.
Lily's third sister-in-law.
Lily's fourth sister-in-law.
Lily and Dalang's third son.
Snow Flower's (Eldest) Son
Son of Snow Flower and the butcher, father of Peony. He's born weak and nobody believes he'll live, so he's ignored. He begins to blossom when Snow Flower and Lily teach him women's chants in the mountains.
Snow Flower's Second Son
Son of Snow Flower and the butcher, a strong and seemingly perfect child. He dies unexpectedly in the mountains at age five.
Snow Flower's Mother-in-Law
The butcher's mother. She was born in the year of the rat and as such, is greedy, rude, and conniving. She is never kind to Snow Flower. She can't read nu shu and doesn't care for verbal recitations either, alienating her from Snow Flower and Lily.
A member of the sworn sisterhood with Plum Blossom and Willow; Snow Flower's friend.
A sworn sister with Lotus and Willow and Snow Flower's friend.
One of the sworn sisterhood with Plum Blossom and Lotus; Snow Flower's friend.
Peony / Snow Flower's Granddaughter
The daughter of Snow Flower's eldest son, wife of Lily's oldest grandson. She has five children and has promised Lily to burn the text of the novel when Lily dies.
Old Man Zou
A man who runs a stall at the Temple of Gupo fair. He serves Lily and Snow Flower taro every year when they visit the temple.