As Jing-mei takes the train with her father from Hong Kong to visit her aunt in Guangzhou, she realizes she is becoming Chinese. Her mother had warned her this would happen, but she had denied it until now. After they visit her aunt, they will go to Shanghai to meet her long-lost sisters. When Canning Woo received the letter from the sisters, he gave it to the Joy Luck Club ladies. Instead of writing a letter breaking the news of Suyuan Woo's death, they wrote a letter to the sisters saying she was coming to see them, and they signed it with her name. Jing-mei begged Lindo to write another letter explaining that their mother had died, afraid her sisters would think their mother died because Jing-mei did not appreciate her enough. Lindo seemed satisfied at Jing-mei's recognition of her own shortcomings and wrote the letter. All of Suyuan's family died when a bomb struck their house. This makes Jing-mei and her sisters the only links to their mother's past.
When they arrive in Guangzhou, Canning Woo's aunt, Aiyi, is there with the rest of her family to greet them. Aiyi is only five years older than Canning, and they cry openly with joy upon seeing each other after so long. The whole family goes back to the hotel where Canning and Jing-mei will be staying. Jing-mei is embarrassed by the luxuriousness of the hotel, having not realized that they would have such lavish accommodations for such little money. The family decides to catch up over American food in the hotel, and Jing-mei finds herself hard-pressed to find what she expected of Communist China amid her surroundings. She suddenly misses her mother and wishes she could ask her questions about all the little things she took for granted.
Jing-mei's father tells her that her sisters' names are Chwun Yu, "Spring Rain," and Chwun Hwa, "Spring Flower." Suyuan's name means "Long-Cherished Wish" written one way, and "Long-Held Grudge" written another. He tells Jing-mei that Jing means "pure essence" and mei means "younger sister." This means she is her "mother's long-cherished wish ... the essence" of her sisters. Jing-mei considers how disappointed her mother must have been in how her wish turned out. Then Canning tells Jing-mei the story of why her mother abandoned her sisters in China.
When Suyuan fled Kweilin to find her husband, she took her babies and as much as she could carry. Eventually, horribly weak with dysentery, she had to abandon everything. Not wanting her babies to die with her, she stuffed valuables and information into each of their shirts, along with a note asking that someone take care of them and return them to her address in Shanghai. Then she walked away to die. She awoke in the care of missionaries, and when she reached Chungking, she found out that her husband was dead. Canning met her in a rehabilitation center, terribly weak and pulling out her hair.
A peasant woman named Mei Ching had found Jing-mei's sisters. She and her husband lived in a cave during the war, and they cared for Chwun Yu and Chwun Ha. After her husband died, she took them to Shanghai to the address written on the note. But the address was for a factory, and besides, Suyuan and Canning had already left for America. Over the years, Suyuan wrote to many old friends in China, asking them to look for her daughters to no avail. She insisted that she and Canning go back to China, but he told her it was too late, thinking she just wanted to go for a visit and not to find her daughters. He thinks the possibility that they were dead, which he must have accidentally planted in her mind, is what grew until it killed her in the form of an aneurysm. After Suyuan's death, her schoolmate happened upon the long-lost sisters by accident and gave them Suyuan's address in San Francisco.
The next day, Jing-mei and Canning fly to Shanghai to finally meet her sisters. As soon as they step into the airport, Jing-mei's sisters recognize her and yell for her. They look strangely like and unlike Suyuan. They embrace, and Jing-mei suddenly realizes that the Chinese part of her is persisting within her family. Canning takes a Polaroid of the three sisters together. As it develops, they see their mother's features come to life in their faces. Finally her "long-cherished wish" has come true.