This depiction of childhood and adolescence draws heavily from the filmmaker's own boyhood. Like many of their compatriots, Hou's family moved from the mainland to Taiwan in 1948 and was unable ever to return. The film focuses on the widening generation gap in a family cut off from its cultural heritage.
Wu Tung, the lascivious god of Carnal Desire, falls for one of his conquests, only to see her destroyed by other jealous gods. Distraught, he demands the girl's village to send him a virgin every month or face his wrath.