Sun Wangquan (Zhang Yimou) returns to his remote and primitive mountain village after studying for years in the city in this tedious drama. He hopes to raise the standard of living for the desert wasteland with simple technology that can produce a steady water supply. Sun is coveted by two women.
He solves the dilemma by marrying the obnoxious woman for the dowry and keeping the kind one as his mistress. The villagers combine their efforts to begin construction on a much-needed well.