In a wonderfully mythical landscape of grandiose beauty and vastness, an old blind master of string playing moves from village to village to perform his songs and sing his ballads. The old man has built his whole life on hope and dreamed of another world, longing for the absolute: According to a prophecy that he received as a boy from his dying master, he should be able to see the moment he hit 1000 strings of his Sanxian - a three-string instrument - would have shattered. His pupil, who is also blind, on the other hand, does not want to build his own life on a hope the fulfillment of which he cannot foresee. Here and now the boy is captivated by the love for a girl who promises more from death than from life. Chen Kaige, one of the most successful fifth-generation directors in China, has literally placed his poetic parable between water and desert, sky and earth: with the indication that the heart can see much more than the eyes. At the same time, the film poses the question of the deepest meaning of art and existence as well as the need for a goal and a belief: in contrast to the troubled doubts of the lonely master about the fulfillment of his life, there is the end at which the student is alone and free can determine his own path.