Peik Lin gawks at the estate, hoping to be invited in for a drink so she can snoop around.
Briefly, Peik Lin asks Nick how long his grandma has lived at Tyersall Park.
When he says since she was young, Peik Lin now wonders who this woman is. She expected the house to belong to Nick's grandfather.
As Nick and Rachel head up the property, he explains the large number of guests are there to witness the tan hua flowers bloom.
These flowers usually bloom only once a decade, at most, and only at night for a few hours. It's a pretty big deal.
Rachel and Nick are greeted at the door by a man with a bowl of rose water. She asks if she should drink it (oh boy, Rachel).
She feels "awed (and a little silly) by the ritual" (2.2.17).
There's a large stuffed tiger in the entryway that Nick's grandfather shot when he found it hiding under the pool table in the house.
We learn Nick grew up in the house until he was seven. Rachel describes it as a palace, but Nick doesn't seem to appreciate how large the house is.
Commence a series of descriptions of the house and Rachel's awe at all the details.
Commence a montage of people, including Felicity (Astrid's mom), Mrs. Singh (the daughter of a maharaja), Dickie and Nancy (Nick's aunt and uncle on the T'Sien side of the family).
Dickie and Nancy say they know Rachel's grandfather in Taipei. Rachel corrects them that she's not from Taipei but from northern California.
Nick whisks Rachel through even more introductions.
In the center of the room, Rachel notices a stately woman who "seemed to command the attention of the room" and the resemblance between Nick and the woman (2.2.53).
She assumes it is Nick's Ah Ma and introduces herself in Mandarin.
You know what they say about assuming things?
Well, Rachel is embarrassed to find out this is not Ah Ma, but Nick's great-aunt Rosemary, who graciously corrects Rachel.
Nick introduces Rachel to Ah Ma in Cantonese. Flustered, Rachel blurts out in English and Ah Ma replies in reluctant English and returns to her other conversation.
Many people notice this interaction and smile.
Rachel feels very awkward.
Nick assures Rachel that Ah Ma is not annoyed, she's just busy. He also explains the "ladies-in-waiting" that flank his grandmother: a gift from the King of Thailand (2.2.71).
Rachel feels overwhelmed by everything: the "army of white-gloved servants," "the mind-blowing opulence" (2.2.77). She wishes Nick had prepared her better.
Astrid arrives with her son. Rachel is relieved to see a friendly face.
The dinner gong (aka xylophone) rings.
While Nick and Astrid take Cassian to the nursery, Rachel helps herself to the buffet, meets Nick's snarky cousin Oliver T'sien who had been sitting by Ah Ma when Rachel introduced herself.
Oliver lets Rachel know her reputation precedes her, as told by the "whispering gallery" (2.2.102).
As he ushers her to a table to prevent her from having to talk to Dickie and Nancy more, Oliver lets her know they're spying for the opposition and will pick her "apart like a rotting carcass" (2.2.112). This family seems awesome.
Rachel bravely asks about the branches of the family tree. Oliver clarifies it: T'siens, Youngs, and Shangs are bound together through the marriage of Rosemary T'sien's daughter to Ah Ma's brother. Yeah, that's right. Niece marries uncle (by marriage, so it's totally fine).
But why this intermarriage? According to Oliver, it keeps the family fortunes neatly tied together within the families.
When Nick and Astrid return, Oliver compliments Astrid's earrings and estimates the cost around half a million. Rachel is gob smacked.
Oliver asks about Michael's whereabouts and mentions he thinks he saw him in Hong Kong with a little boy.
Astrid keeps her composure but wants to die. She asks Oliver when he was in Hong Kong — last week.
When Michael was supposedly in Shenzhen.
Side note: this is not far-fetched. Shenzhen is across the border from Hong Kong.
There's a little talk about the Asian art market: Oliver is a dealer and says the interest is picking up to get hands on Chinese goods sold off to Americans and Europeans years ago.