Wang Lung's accumulation of wealth begins when he and Olan travel to the city to escape the famine sweeping across the land. In the city, both Wang Lung and Olan get caught up in a mob that loots and pillages a rich man's house. Through pure coincidence, Wang Lung comes across the owner of the house who fears for his life; he gives Wang Lung silver in exchange for his life. At the same time, Olan also has stolen jewels and pearls from the rich house. When the family returns to their land, Wang uses the money to buy seeds to replant, and he takes the majority of Olan's jewels to buy more land from the House of Hwang.
Wang Lung's strategy of land acquisition, buying more and more land from the Hwang estate, increases his fortune as he can afford to plant and harvest more crops each subsequent year. He slowly grows into the status of a rich land owner, but his rise to wealth would have never been possible without Olan's theft of the jewels from the rich house in the city.