Early on in the film, there is a scene in which Ma Xiajun first breaks into Mi Lan’s apartment. As he explores the apartment, he finds a telescope. He plays with the telescope, whirling around the room with it, then focuses out the window, where he spies on his teacher. He then begins whilrling around again, until he notices and becomes transfixed on a portrait of Mi Lan.
Although the revelation toward that end of the film that many of the narrators memories calls into question whether or not he actually saw the portrait, this scene represents a shift in Ma Xiajun. In the very first scene of the movie, he is maybe 8 years old. Although he is 16 at the start of this scene, he still has many of the same childlike concerns and worries that he did at the begining of the film. However, his shift in focus from the teacher to Mi Lan symbolizes his shift to being concerned with trying to be an adult and especially with sex, which occupies him for the rest of the film.