Now back at home from the city, Wang Lung feels like he never left. He uses the gold to buy seeds and an ox. Before they even reach home, he notices a strong-looking ox plowing a field and asks to buy it. Its owner refuses, but Wang Lung feels that he must have it, so he eventually convinces the farmer to sell the ox for far more than it’s worth. He leads it home with them.
As Wang Lung had to let his ox be killed during the famine, buying a new ox acts as a symbol of the family’s recovery. Wang Lung wants to put their struggles behind them and get his crops growing again, for which he needs an ox to plow the land.
The door, roof thatch, and farm tools have been stolen from their house. Wang Lung buys new tools and mats to cover the roof, and in the evening he looks out over his land, ready for planting. For a while he doesn’t want to interact with other people, and when the villagers come to visit, he accuses them of stealing from his house while he was gone. They say that it was either his uncle or bandits.
After feeling out of place in the city for months, Wang Lung wants nothing more than to devote his entire self to his land, which is his home. Essentially, everything has been taken from the house except for the walls, which are made of earth. Thus, everything he has is the earth—which can’t be taken.
Finally Wang Lung’s neighbor, Ching, tells him that robbers lived in his empty house and attacked the surrounding area. There are rumors that Wang Lung’s uncle was involved. Ching looks awful, and Wang Lung asks what he’s eaten to survive. Ching says he has eaten garbage and unidentified meat. His wife died, and he gave his daughter to a soldier. Now he doesn’t have any seed to plant. Wang Lung gives him seed and offers to plow his land for him. Ching weeps, but Wang Lung reminds him of the beans Ching gave him before he left.
Though Wang Lung has always felt a responsibility towards his uncle, his uncle seems to have no problem blatantly stealing from his own relatives, indicating a moral baseness. Though Ching once stole from Wang Lung, the two now begin to form a fast friendship based upon providing each other with the very means of survival at crucial moments. This will bind them to each other for life.
Wang Lung is glad to discover that no one knows where his uncle has gone, though he’s angry at the news that his uncle sold all his daughters. Wang Lung spends all his time in the fields, even napping in the dirt. O-lan repairs the house, and one day she and Wang Lung buy new furniture and set up a shrine to a god of wealth. Wang Lung notices that no one has taken care of the gods in the temple, and he feels that the gods deserve this for the famine they sent. Before long the house is put together again, O-lan is pregnant, and the crops are sprouting. Wang Lung begins to fear his own happiness, and he thinks he’d better give the gods some incense, since they control the land.
Perhaps out of a sense of guilt, Wang Lung seems quick to judge his uncle for selling his daughters when he himself considered doing the same not long before. Reunited with his land, Wang Lung can hardly bear to leave it, as though it’s a lover. However, after this point, Wang Lung’s success makes him turn his eye away from the land and towards the luxuries of wealth. This change is foreshadowed by his disregard for the gods of the earth, and his establishment of a shrine to a god of wealth instead.