When the country of China is mentioned in conversation, it is usually in conjunction with the Great Wall, not its citizens. This film embarks on a remarkable journey through working class China in the late 1980's, as three characters struggle to help each other in a nation still trying to get to its feet.

The plot is simple, allowing the characters the attention they deserve. Dong Zi (Shi Yu) comes to the city from the countryside because of the opportunity to make money. He earns an honest living as a petty "shoulder pole" on the docks and is permitted to crash with Gao Ping (Guo Tao), an older gentleman and self-proclaimed businessman who tries to show him the ropes because they are from the same town. But Gao has a vendetta against a man who cheated him out of money. Though he dresses better and lives a fuller life than Dong, he is none the happier for doing so.

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