Young Red Army soldier Gu Qing is sent to the northern Shaanxi region of China to learn local folk songs in 1939. He stays with a poor grumpy widower, along with his son Hanhan and his precocious teenage daughter Cuiqiao. The three are initially suspicious of the stranger, but they warm to him after hearing of the new ideas of the Communist party. Soon he teaches the silent Hanhan a song with the line, "Only the Communists can save the poor," but it is with Cuiqiao -- who will soon be sold into marriage to an older man who she has been betrothed to since infancy -- that Gu's talk of a new society has the most effect. She is no longer willing to accept her fate; she wants to join the Communist party where women are given the same treatment as men. When Gu leaves the village, he tells her that he will return to take her to Yan'an, the Communist party stronghold. Unfortunately the officer arrives too late and the results are tragic.
by Jonathan Crow synopsis