The story set in Dunhuang, China, portrays a young painter named Mo Gao, who pursues the best art and a girl named Yue Ya, who breaks through the feudal barriers to pursue her love. Crazy about the mural paintings in Dunhuang Caves, Mo Gao wades across the desert though critically ill, and is fortunately rescued by Yue Ya. They fall in love but are opposed by Yue Ya's father. Under her father's threats, Yue Ya gives up her life for human equality and true love. Once sorrow-stricken, Mo Gao finishes his artistic and poetic masterpiece.