Che Daoyu has seen a great deal in his eighty years. Born in poverty in a farming village in the Chinese countryside, he lived through the Chinese Civil War, the Great Leap Forward, the Cultural Revolution and Reform and Opening. He is a wise and respected man in the neighborhood of Zhudi, on the outskirts of Shanghai, where he can be found every day telling the fortunes of the people of his community.
Zhudi was, until recently, a small farming town in the countryside near Shanghai. Over the past twenty years, a steady flow of migrants and the inexorable expansion of the city have consumed the small town and are transforming it into yet another neighborhood of the city itself. It is a community in transition filled with people in transition.
At the center of the neighborhood is a small park where the people of the community meet and street vendors ply their trades. The film centers on one day in the life of Mr. Che as he is bombarded by the fears and desires of the people of his community. Bankers and housewives, rich and poor, young and old look to Mr. Che for a glimpse into their futures. Marriage, affairs, divorce, business, health: vital matters are discussed and Mr. Che’s words are weighed heavily.
Meanwhile, the daily grind of the people of the community goes on around the park. Mr. Li, a veteran of many cities and many days struggling to get by, sells vegetables on the side of the road. Liu Wen Xia and her husband, their young son far away in their hometown, sell flatbread out of their small stand. Mr. Zhou, a retired truck driver, cares for Huamei birds, bringing them to the plaza to hang in the trees and sing. Su Er Dai, the young daughter of a Muslim noodle shop owner, spends her days playing in the streets and watching the crowds flow by. Zeng Xiaolan, nineteen years old and just arrived in the city, experiences her first taste of life and work outside her small hometown as she sells clothes in a local shop. Each of these characters survives in a world balanced between the countryside and the city, tradition and modernity, the past and the future.