Set in 1930s China, this true story is a tragic tale of romance, sexual desire and untimely death. Beautiful, intelligent and schooled in the ancient Taoist arts of love, Lin Cheng is the wife of a provincial university professor. Julian Bell, son of Vanessa Bell and darling of the Bloomsbury set, is newly arrived in China and hungry for experience. Their mutual attraction leads to a passionate physical and spiritual sojourn in Beijing. Unable to realise their love in a society divided by cultural conflict and the threat of war, they eventually part: Julian, betrayed by his love, to fight for the Loyalist cause in Spain and Lin to contemplate suicide in her husband's house.