The vast, burnished wheat belt of the northwestern Chinese province of Shaanxi provides a timeless, almost mythic tapestry on which to unfurl the intertwined fates of the Bai and Lu families, which span 26 years in Wang's adaptation of Chen Zhongshi's 1993 award-winning novel. For centuries the two clans have lived in harmony, sharing their domination of Bai Lu Village (which means "White Deer Village"), a self-sufficient farming community whose residents' lives and moral conduct revolve around the ancestral shrine, presided over by chief clansman Bai Jiaxuan (Zhang Fengyi). In a long, leisurely stretch beginning in 1912, Wang paints the idyllic childhood friendships among Xiaowen, the son of Jiaxuan; Hawei, the son of Jiaxuan's loyal retainer, Lu San; and Zhaopeng, the son of mayor Lu Zilin (Wu Gang, also a schemer in "The Great Magician").
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