A story that details the the lives of ordinary civilians amidst the magnanimous changes in Chinese society over the years. At the end of the 1970s, the Zhou family lived in a provincial city in the north. The father, Zhu Zhi Gang, has just participated in the Third Front Movement in Xi Nan. The eldest son, Zhou Bing Yi, responds to national call to become part of the first batch of "educated" youths sent to live and work in the rural areas. The eldest daughter, Zhou Rong, follows her poet husband to the countryside of Guizhou. The youngest son, Zhou Bing Kun, is the only one left at home with their mother.
In the span of 50 years, the Zhou family is swept with the tides of change in China. Zhou Bing Yi enters politics after graduating from university and experiences ups and downs in his career during the drastic reforms. Zhou Rong stays on to teach after receiving her Ph.D. She has a difficult love life and ends up living in France for twelve years. Zhou Bing Kun and Zheng Juan, a beautiful yet misfortunate woman, develop romantic feelings for each other and continue to mature through their own efforts. Relatives and friends in the neighbourhood learn to move forward together. In fulfilling their own missions in life, the Zhou family represents an epic tale about the contemporary Chinese people.
Adapted from a novel "A Lifelong Journey" (人世间) by Liang Xiao Sheng (梁晓声).