Zhou Yu de huo che (2002) - Synopsis

Zhou Yu (Li) is an artisan living in Sanming, an industrial town in Northwestern China. Twice a week, she takes the train to rural Chongyang to visit her lover, a shy, handsome poet named Chen Ching (Ka Fai). Inspired by Zhou's beauty, Chen has crafted a series of poems for her, which has only drawn her closer to this quiet, gentle man. On one trip to see him, she encounters a friendly young veterinarian, Dr. Zhang Jiang (Sun Hong Lei), who tries to purchase one of Zhou's ceramic vases - a gift intended for Chang that she throws to the ground rather than sell to a persistent Zhang. As the shards of the vase shatter on the floor of the train, we see the pieces of Zhou's romantic life with Chen - their first chance encounter at a dance where Chen gives her a beautiful poem before disappearing; her return to Chongyang to pursue him; their hungry lovemaking in the library where Chen works and lives; and the rush of passion as, despite the expense and inconvenience, Zhou returns to the countryside again and again to sate her restless heart. She speaks of selling family heirlooms in order to help Chen publish his poetry, and uses her savings to set up a public reading that no one attends.

By the time she meets Dr. Zhang - an eager suitor younger and much more worldly than the sheltered Chen - Zhou has begun to realize that despite their passion, Chen does not know what kind of future he wants with Zhou. Desperate for proof of her lover's affection, Zhou walks along the rural train tracks searching for a lake that Chen compared her to in his first poem. Zhang, concerned for her safety, tags along, and urges her that whether or not she finds the lake, she must trust the passion in her heart. Although Zhang's intentions are clear, Zhou embraces him as a trusted friend. She remembers her last encounter with Chen - he has decided to take a teaching post in Tibet, effectively putting their relationship on hold. Unbeknownst to Zhou, Chen has lied to her about when he has to leave, and is already far away when she arrives again in Chongyang to see him.

But like the train she continues to ride twice a week, Zhou is inevitably drawn back to Chongyang, to the empty library, her heart frozen as she tries to contemplate her betrayal. At home, she is closer than ever with Zhang, who is now the one who brings her to the train station and picks her up when she returns. Inevitably, Zhang's patience and sincere heart win over Zhou, and they become lovers. In an ironic twist of fate, Zhang one day decides to get on the train to Chongyang to follow Zhou to her lover - the same day Zhou decides to step off the train and give herself to Zhang. In Chongyang, Zhang learns Zhou's secret - Chen Ching, the poet, is far away, nothing more than a memory. Returning to Zhou, he realizes that he will never have her heart, and tearfully lets her go.

In the mountains of Tibet, a young woman named Xiu (also played by Gong Li) arrives. She has fallen in love with Chen Ching through his poems, and has been pursuing him and watching Zhou Yu to understand the inspiration behind the poetry. Chen tells her that Zhou Yu is dead - killed in a bus accident on her way to Tibet. But Xiu isn't convinced - now, she is the one riding the trains in pursuit of her love, and she can see Zhou Yu riding with her.