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On the train, Wang buys some food for his family. He then listens to some men and learns the basic knowledge on how to exist in the South. He is told how to buy some mats and bind them to make a hut. They then teach him the rudiments of begging. The thought of begging distresses Wang and he asks if there will be work there.
On reaching their destination, Wang Lung, with some difficulty, buys some mats and shapes them to form a hut. O-Lan helps him. They later join the other villagers and move towards the great kitchen, where steaming white rice from huge cauldrons is served to all. When Wang Lung has his fill and tries to take some home, a guard stops him. No one is permitted to leave with food. On further questioning, Wang is told that the food is provided by rich men, some who do it out of kindness and some to gain a place in heaven.
The next day, Wang goes out into the streets to beg. He then finds a job pulling a rickshaw. His first customer is an old teacher who pays him a silver coin. All day and all night, he pulls the rickshaw until he has gathered enough money to pay for rice for his family.
Life in the South is not going to be easy. On the train, Wang is told he must make a straw house out of mats and beg in order to exist. The concept of begging is alien to Wang Lung, though not new to O-Lan. She had begged before being sold as a slave. Wang Lung is determined to find work and begins to pull a rickshaw; content to work and earn whatever he is given by his customers. He feels a certain relief on seeing that he can earn enough money to provide rice for the family. Wang Lung is surprised that, unlike his own land, this land is providing plenty of food, and the people look well fed. Food is often donated and served free to the poor or sold to the needy for a meager price.
O-Lan's resourcefulness is a constant surprise. She teaches her children to beg, and even slaps them to make them realize the desperation of their situation. She herself runs from one corner to another, while holding one of her children closely and begging loudly. O-Lan and her children earn as much money from their efforts as Wang does from his excruciating work pulling a rickshaw.
Wang's father, of course, is too old to earn any money and refuses to beg; he knows, however, that he will be fed and looked after because the Chinese custom of caring for parents is ingrained in Wang Lung.