Kweilin was reputed to be a very beautiful city, with "jagged peaks lining a curving river, with magic moss greening the banks". In China, "everybody dreamed about Kweilin", but as is often true when something is so idealized, the description was greatly embellished in the telling, and the reality could not measure up. When Suyuan arrived in the city even the first time, before the war, she immediately saw "how shabby (her) dreams were". Kweilin is symbolic of a dream that cannot be realized in real life.
There was another reason why Kweilin lost its beauty for Suyuan. The last time she was there, it was during the war with the Japanese, and Kweilin was nothing more than "a city of leftovers mixed together". The city was teeming with refugees from all over China, from "the East, West, North, and South...rich and poor...Shanghainese, Cantonese, northerners, and not just Chinese, but foreigners and missionaries of every religion...and...the Kuomintang and their army officers who thought they were top level to everyone else".
Suyuan remembers huddling in fear in the squalid city when Japanese bombers flew overhead with their deadly cargo which fell like "raining rocks". It was so crowded in the city that there was no fresh air and little to eat. It is no wonder that Kweilin "quickly...lost its beauty for (her)" ("Joy Luck Club").