Wang Han is 11 years old and is growing up during the Cultural Revolution in the countryside of China. His calm, everyday life in which adults work in the factory and children go to school is disrupted. While he is playing, Wang’s new shirt, which has been made with great difficulty, is stolen. The culprit is a man suspected of murder who has escaped and asks the boy to help him.
Apart from the story of Wang Han and his ward, 11 Flowers sketches a portrait of a society under a harsh regime. The consequences of the Cultural Revolution are noticeable for everyone in everyday life. There is poverty and violence: Wang Han's father, an intellectual, is forced to do manual labour and has a harsh confrontation with the Red Army. The film has many autobiographical elements: for instance, Wang Xiaoshuai was born in the same year and the same region as the protagonist.