Wang Lung tells his eldest son to arrange to rent the house, and the family prepares to move. When they’re ready to leave, Wang Lung finds he can’t leave his land, so he tells his sons that he’ll come to the great house a day before his grandson is born. He says he must bring his eldest daughter with him, since no one else will take care of her, and his eldest son is ashamed because his wife refuses to have the eldest daughter around her.
For the moment, Wang Lung’s deep-rooted love for the land—emblematic of his original status as a simple farmer—wins out over his sense of triumph at living where the Hwang family lived. Even at this momentous occasion in his life, he remains loyal to his favored daughter, who depends on him completely for survival.
The uncle’s family moves into what were Lotus’s courts, but Wang Lung can tell that his uncle will die soon, and then he can throw out his uncle’s son. Wang Lung’s house is peaceful and he rests. Eventually he asks Ching to find a wife for his second son. Ching goes to various villages to look at the women, and he returns with news of a fitting maiden. Wang Lung is satisfied, and lets Ching set up the marriage. He’s glad that he only has one son left to marry off. He sleeps in the sun like his father did.
Wang Lung is hopeful that the trouble with his uncle’s family that he has long endured will soon be entirely over. As Wang Lung makes further arrangements for the continuation of his family line, he becomes more like his father, the old patriarch figure who thought himself worthy of continual rest until his death. Thus the cycle of life marches on.
Wang Lung decides that he should decrease the work necessary to run his lands by renting some of them out. Men from the villages become his tenants and give him half their harvests. Sometimes Wang Lung sleeps in his house in town, but he always comes back to his land at dawn.
Wang Lung begins to cut some of his connections with the land, as he no longer directly controls the work on it, but only receives the money and food that others produce. He also begins to move physically away from the land.
Wang Lung’s uncle’s son grows restless, and when he hears about a war in the north, he asks Wang Lung for money so he can go join the fighting. Wang Lung hides his pleasure at this idea and gives him the money, hoping he might die in the war. He comforts his uncle’s wife at her son’s leaving, and his house is peaceful.
Wang Lung thinks he’s finally finished dealing with the trouble that his uncle’s family has caused. The mention of a war reminds the reader that events of the broader world still go on throughout the time of the story, despite Wang Lung’s ignorance of them.
As his grandson’s birth approaches, Wang Lung spends more time at the house in town, amazed to think that he’s living where the Hwang family used to live. He buys beautiful fabric to decorate the house and clothe the slaves. He even begins to eat delicacies. Cuckoo laughs to see how similar the situation is to when she used to live here, and Wang Lung is pleased to hear her compare him to the Old Lord.
As Wang Lung cuts more of his ties with the land, he becomes increasingly like the Hwangs. He’s conscious of the similarities, but he takes them entirely as positive changes in his life, forgetting that he’s only living in the House of Hwang because the Hwangs destroyed their fortune by indulging themselves too much.
One morning Wang Lung hears his eldest son’s wife in labor. He’s frightened of her screams, so he brings incense to a temple in town, though a woman should rightfully do it on this occasion. He begins to worry that the baby might be a girl, and says he’ll buy a robe for the temple figure if it’s a boy, but not if it’s a girl. He buys more incense and brings it to the temple in the country, asking the gods for a grandson. When he returns home, everyone ignores him in their flurry of action.
Since Wang Lung is powerless to fight his daughter-in-law’s pain the way he’s fought misfortune like the locusts, he finally has to turn to the gods once again. Even so, he bargains with them like the rich man he is rather than showing them the pure respect he might have once. His prayers demonstrate once again how highly boys are valued above girls.
Finally, Lotus comes to tell him that he has a grandson. Wang Lung is joyful and laughs at his anxiety. He sits remembering O-lan giving birth to all of his children silently and alone, in contrast to his eldest son’s wife, who shrieked and caused panic. Wang Lung remembers O-lan nursing her son in the field. His eldest son comes to tell him they need to find a woman to nurse his son as all the important town women do. Wang Lung sadly agrees.
In this house of excessive luxury, Wang Lung remembers the contrast of his early years, which were difficult but abundant in their own way. O-lan now seems particularly strong and admirable in comparison to the woman who’s married his son. The son wants to make sure the house is run in a way that fits the family’s social status.
Wang Lung’s eldest son throws a great feast to celebrate the birth of his son. Afterwards, he tells Wang Lung they should make tablets of ancestors like great families have. Wang Lung likes the idea and has it done. Then he buys the robe he promised the goddess before his grandson’s birth. On his way home, he receives word that Ching is dying. Wang Lung blames the earth gods’ jealousy of the robe, and he rushes to Ching’s bedside.
Some traditional Chinese religion includes worship of ancestors, so the eldest son wants to participate more properly in this veneration of the family by setting up an official presence of the ancestors in the house. It also makes the family seem more established and important. If the earth gods jealously caused Ching’s death, it’s probably because Wang Lung no longer tends to his own lands.
Wang Lung demands to know what happened to Ching, and the laborers tell him that Ching, now an old man, was showing a new laborer how to use a tool correctly and overexerted himself. Wang Lung has the new laborer brought before him and beats him. When Ching moans, Wang Lung goes to sit by him and holds his hand. He tells Ching he’ll buy him a beautiful coffin. When Ching dies, Wang Lung weeps and arranges a funeral and mourning fitting for one better than a servant. He wants to bury Ching in the family plot, but his sons say the family shouldn’t be buried with a servant. Instead, Wang Lung buries Ching at the entrance to the plot.
Wang Lung’s depth of emotion at Ching’s death shows how close he has grown to Ching and how much he values his friendship. In this situation, Wang Lung feels that social rules are constricting, as he wants to pay Ching the respect that he thinks he deserves, but he’s supposed to treat his friend as nothing more than a servant. In fact, Wang Lung feels that Ching is more like family—certainly more like family than Wang Lung’s uncle, who does receive burial in the family plot.
Wang Lung stops going to his land so often, and he rents it all out but refuses to sell any of it. He sets a laborer’s family to take care of his uncle and uncle’s wife. He brings his youngest son and eldest daughter to live in the town and rarely returns to his house in the country.
Ching was acting as Wang Lung’s link to his land. Now that Ching is gone, Wang Lung drifts even farther from the land that’s given him his fortune, and he becomes more and more like the Hwangs.