Yichang municipality, Hubei province, China, early 1970s. High - school student Jingqiu is one of many educated urban youth sent to the countryside to be "re - educated" under a dictate from Chairman Mao. Jing's father is a political prisoner somewhere in China, and her mother, a former teacher branded as a "capitalist," is now reduced to menial work to support Jing and her two younger siblings. When Jing arrives with a group at Xiping village in the Yangtze River's Three Gorges region, she meets geology student Jianxin, nicknamed "Old Three," who is the son of a high - ranking military officer, but whose mother committed suicide after being branded a "rightist." Despite their disparate social backgrounds and a political atmosphere that forbids the relationship, Jingqiu and Jianxin fall desperately in love. But their budding romance is cut short by fate...A sensitive and searing love story, Under the Hawthorn Tree is sure to become an instant classic.