During the Chinese Revolution in 1949, three couples flee from China to the island of Taiwan. Gen. Lei Yifang (Huang Xiaoming) returns to Shanghai highly decorated, and swiftly wins the hand of wealthy debutante Yunfen (Song Hye-kyo). Yen Zekun (Takeshi Kaneshiro), a Taiwanese doctor settling down to normal life in his hometown after years as a forcibly drafted field medic in the Japanese army during WWII. Perhaps a little more than conveniently, he meets Zhou, who has moved into the house once occupied by his Japanese paramour Masako (Magami Nagasawa) – a friendship anchored by their shared longing for a distant beloved. Yu Zhen (Zhang Ziyi), an illiterate young woman who came into the equation when Tong pays her to have a photograph taken together as a couple as a proof of marriage, which would provide his family back home with more food rations. This financial exchange is a harbinger of Yu's unraveling existence, as unforgiving circumstances eventually force her to go into the skin trade so as to secure enough money to travel to Taiwan with hope of finding her missing lover.