Suyuan and Canning arrive in America with only fancy silk dresses.
They are welcomed by American missionary ladies from First Chinese Baptist Church.
Suyuan hides her silks and wears only the plain clothing dispensed by the missionaries.
At the church, Suyuan and Canning meet the Hsus, Jongs, and the St. Clairs.
Sensing that the women of these families have also borne unspeakable tragedies, Suyuan invites the ladies to form the Joy Luck Club.
We flashback further back in time.
Suyuan started the first Joy Luck Club in Kweilin during the second Sino-Japanese War.
The Joy Luck Club consists of four women, one to fill each corner of Suyuan’s mah jong table.
The women take turns hosting a wonderful banquet every week, where the club members all eat, play mah jong, tell stories and jokes, and just generally liven their spirits.
Suyuan is very good at mah jong.
Suyuan’s husband warns her that the Japanese are about to march on Kweilin, and asks her to join him in Chungking.
With no means of transportation, Suyuan manages to procure a wheelbarrow and start walking to Chungking.
She walks until the wheel breaks. Then she walks until her hands bleed so badly she can’t carry anything. When she arrived in Chungking she had lost everything except the three fancy dresses she had on.
She had abandoned her babies at some point on the way to Chungking.
Now for a different flashback:
As her daughter grows up, Suyuan is convinced that Jing-mei can be a prodigy, just like Waverly.
Suyuan coaches Jing-mei with fierce determination in a number of different prodigy-like activities.
One night, Suyuan sees a little Chinese girl playing the piano on The Ed Sullivan Show and decides Jing-mei should try piano.
It’s a dismal failure, but Suyuan wants Jing-mei to continue her piano lessons.
The mother and daughter fight. Suyuan says that her house only has room for an obedient daughter.
When Jing-mei turns thirty, Suyuan offers her the piano. The flashback ends.
In a flashback to a more recent time, the last Chinese New Year’s Eve dinner, Suyuan gives her daughter her "life’s importance," a jade pendant.
In a later flashback, we see that Suyuan was saved on the road to Chungking by American missionaries. She met Canning at the hospital where she was treated for dysentery.