In order to change his destiny, Gao Jialin, a young man living in the Gao Family Village in northern Shaanxi, works hard to better himself. After experiencing the vicissitudes of the world and the successive tests of fate, he is an ordinary man who leads an extraordinary life amidst the tide of the times.
In the 1980s, Gao Jialin was known as the “No. 1 Scholar” in his village. Despite growing up in poverty, he has read countless poems and books and his heart is higher than the sky. The gaokao was his one chance to change his destiny, but he unexpectedly fails. Jialin works hard to become a primary school teacher instead, but he is pushed out by the establishment.
As he hits rock bottom, he receives encouragement from country girl Liu Qiaozhen who reignites his hope in life and his passion in writing. Jialin’s uncle returns to the village which indirectly provides him with the opportunity to work as a reporter. Meanwhile, Jialin meets Huang Yaping, a like-minded classmate, which causes him to fall into a dilemma. Nonetheless, Gao Jialin arms himself with a pen and manages to get himself to Shanghai.