Part 1 “The Story of Husheng”
1980s: As China opens up to the international world, Shanghai begins to regain the familiar sheen of a global metropolis. Young men and women meet in cafes for drinks and enrol in evening classes to prepare themselves for a bright future. Husheng, a young man in his twenties, finds himself torn between his girlfriend Baiping and Meirui, a young woman he has met in class.
Ten years later, life has moved on. One day, as Husheng passes a wet market, he runs into his old friend Taotao selling hairy crabs. The two friends catch up on gossip and the affairs of the neighbourhood street hawkers.
Part 2 “Encounters”
1990s: Husheng’s former flame Meirui is now married. One weekend, she is invited by her colleague Ms Wang to join her and her husband on a trip to the countryside. Knowing that they will be joined by another married man, Meirui nevertheless decides to go along, falling into the trap set up by Ms Wang in revenge for a past breach of faith.
Taotao, who has made his fortune selling hairy crabs, is now expanding his business to include laser disc players. While visiting an agent, he meets Pan Jing, a sophisticated young PA who invites him for a drink. But when a fire breaks out in the bar they go to, they are forced to escape together...
Part 3 “Settling Down”
Taotao invites his childhood friends Husheng and Bao to join him on a night away from the city in Suzhou. Thinking they are about to meet two prominent tycoons to discuss lucrative business plans, they find themselves spending a sleepless night on the streets with two amateur entrepreneurs. As they while away the hours, Husheng invites the two men to visit them in Shanghai, promising to take them to a restaurant run by their old friend Lili. Back home however, Bao discovers that Lili is involved in a complex intrigue with a businessman from Taiwan.
Part 4 “Memories of Childhood”
In the 1960s, when Husheng, Bao and Xiao Mao met as children, China was experiencing a period of drastic change. As revolutionary thought takes hold, fortunes rise and fall, family wealth becomes a curse overnight, and individuals find themselves crossing paths with people they might previously never have met. Bao, from a family of property-owning entrepreneurs, meets Husheng in a private school where his aunt is working as a teacher. Husheng meets Xiao Mao in an early morning queue to buy tickets for a popular revolutionary film.