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Chapter 20

One day, Wang's uncle returns suddenly and appears at the house. Politely, Wang offers him a meal, on which his uncle feasts heartily and after which his uncle prepares for bed. The uncle looks around the house and delights to see how rich Wang is, to be able to afford these accommodations. The next morning, he awakes and tells Wang some dreaded news: he will return with his wife and son, and they will live in Wang's house from now on. Angrily, Wang welcomes the extra relatives into his house, since he cannot turn them away out of respect and filial piety.
Sparing no time at all, the uncle's wife surmises that Wang is in love with another woman - the first member of the family to take notice of the cause of Wang's altered behavior. O-lan is shocked, but the uncle's wife tries to tell her that it is normal: all rich men take second wives. Wang overhears this and realizes this is the solution to his never-ending thirst. He asks his uncle's wife if she can oversee the transaction to bring Lotus into his home. Once she learns that Cuckoo is the keeper at the tea house, she agrees to the task since it will be easily accomplished. Wang is thrilled, offering everything he has to procure Lotus.
Wang waits for the task to be done, and when it takes longer than expected, he is extremely apprehensive. He orders O-lan to clean the house since he is worried that Lotus might see it in disorder. Poor O-lan can only obey, although she knows what is about to happen. Wang confirms his impending actions by refusing to sleep with O-lan anymore, and he proceeds to build a whole other court for him and Lotus. He pretties up the new rooms and even adds a little pool in the courtyard, although he asks no one for help besides the uncle's wife since he is too ashamed to speak to Ching or O-lan about his plans.
Through all this, Wang does not speak to his family except to scold his children if they were dirty or O-lan if she was poorly groomed. So harsh are his reprimands that one day, O-lan weeps terribly and can only mutter that she has given birth to sons (which gave Wang no legitimate complaints against her). Wang is silenced but he does not change his mind. His mood is quickly uplifted by the news that Lotus has agreed to come, and he rewards the uncle's wife handsomely.
Lotus arrives at the end of the summer with Cuckoo who has come to be her servant. Though he is initially wary about his decision, all his doubts vanish when he sees Lotus again and is stirred by her beauty. O-lan and the children are not around to see her arrival, and so only the uncle's wife helps make her way to her new apartment. She emerges from the chambers after awhile and comments to Wang that Lotus us not as young as she looks and would probably have agreed to come to any man's house for the promise of silk and satin, even a farmer's house. When she realizes that she has spoken too frankly, she quickly adds some praise for Lotus to appease Wang.
O-lan returns and ignores the arrival of Lotus, carrying on as always to feed the family and attend to the house. Wang, however, is smitten with Lotus and spends each day in her presence, watching and providing the best for her. He is enamored, and finally satisfied.

Browse all book notes

Historical Context
Main Characters
Points to Ponder
Did You Know
Plot Summary
Chapter 1
Chapter 2 and 3
Chapter 4 and 5
Chapter 6 and 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10 and 11
Chapter 12 and 13
Chapter 14
Chapter 15
Chapter 16
Chapter 17
Chapter 18
Chapter 19
Chapter 20
Chapter 21
Chapter 22
Chapter 23
Chapter 24
Chapter 25
Chapter 26
Chapter 27
Chapter 28
Chapter 29
Chapter 30
Chapter 31
Chapter 32
Chapter 33
Chapter 34


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