Why did the aunties give Jing-mei $1,200 in an envelope?

The aunties give Jing-mei $1,200 so that she can travel to Shanghai to meet her sisters for the first time. Jing-mei's mother had been forced to abandon her babies in China, and she had later spent years trying to locate them before she died.

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After Jing-mei watches her aunties play mah-jongg for a while, she attempts to leave. The older women protest and finally insist that they need to tell her something important about her mother, who has recently died. This catches Jing-mei's attention, and she sits down to listen, realizing that they all...

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After Jing-mei watches her aunties play mah-jongg for a while, she attempts to leave. The older women protest and finally insist that they need to tell her something important about her mother, who has recently died. This catches Jing-mei's attention, and she sits down to listen, realizing that they all look fairly "uncomfortable."

Before leaving Chungking, Jing-mei's mother had been forced through circumstance to abandon her twin daughters; she clung to hope that a kind stranger would find the girls and care for them. The aunties tell Jing-mei that her mother had been searching for these daughters for years, desperate to find the children she had left in China. The previous year, she had managed to get an address for them. The aunties had written to these daughters, asking for a meeting.

The aunties give Jing-mei her sisters' response and also give her $1,200 for a trip to Hong Kong and then to Shanghai to meet her sisters. The women try to cover up their generosity, claiming that the money consists mostly of mah-jongg winnings that belonged to Jing-mei's mother, but Jing-mei recognizes the sacrifice they have made to bring all of Suyuan's daughters together. Jing-mei begins sobbing and laughing as she considers what she will tell her sisters about their mother.

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