Based on an Eileen Chang novel, a story of romance and fate set in the Shanghai of the 1930s. Manjing (Wu Chien-lien), a young woman from a once-well-off family, works in a Shanghai factory, where she meets Shujun (Leon Lai), the son of wealthy Nanjing merchants. Despite Shujun's reservations about Manjing's family (her sister, Manlu (Anita Mui) works as a nightclub "hostess"), they manage, in stages, to fall in love. The expected progress through engagement to marriage is interrupted, first by Manjing's ambivalence about taking this step, then by Shujun's rejection of her family, and finally by that family's baroquely conceived abuse and enslavement of Shujun. After a long period of seperation, Shujun and Manjing meet, but realize that their happiness remains only in memory, in a nostalgic re-imagining of opportunities missed, understandings never arrived at.