When Chu Pingyang and his friend Jing Tianci were children, they came across Jing’s grandmother sitting outside of a dilapidated church on a prayer mat in front of an image of Jesus. She held a bible and repeated the word “Jerusalem”. From then on, Pingyang was intrigued with the word; he liked the sound and mystery of it, and he never forgot it. Speaking with a visiting professor from Israel on the eve of receiving his Ph.D., Pingyang realizes that his fascination with “Jerusalem” had its roots not only in the word itself, but also that it had come to represent the secrets and guilt that he carried with him throughout his life. Aged twelve, Pingyang witnessed Jing Tianci take his own life by cutting his wrists. Pingyang did not call for help or stop him, and his friend died.
Nineteen years late Pingyang returns from Jerusalem to his hometown, and purchases an old house. Chu’s old friends are scattered about – some still in their hometown and others in Beijing – but they want to reunite after all these years. This time, their reunion will be very important.
After nineteen years, these childhood friends have established different lives: one sells false documents, one is a government worker, another is a manual labourer, one is a housewife, and one is a mental patient. But, one thing has remained the same: they have all harbored heavy thoughts. For many years, they have all been tormented by the death of Jing Tianci, the boy who killed himself. Despite their different experiences, it is impossible to escape this feeling of “original sin”. In an act of redemption, the friends try to honour Tianci’s greatest wish to live in a house where he could see and hear the river, and buy such a house for Tianci’s sister, Qin Fuxiao. In a further act of redemption, the old friends renovate the church where Pingyang had heard Tianci’s grandmother repeating ‘Jerusalem’. Reunited and emancipated from their guilt, this is a wonderful moment in the lives of the old friends. From here, Pingyang’s friends will move on in their lives: one of them will work with crystal, one of them will find himself in prison, and one of them will leave the mental institution to start a new life.