The Flowers of War is set during the Second Sino-Japanese war. While Japan is invading schoolgirls take refuge in the Roman Catholic Church. John is a mortician from the United States that finds the girls and joins them. He also meets an orphaned boy and a prostitute looking to hide. John pretends to be a priest and tries to help everyone escape.
When the Japanese find the church the general promises to let them live if the girls sings for him. John receives the invite but is fearful for the girls and turns in down. The army takes the girls and the prostitute as well thinking she is part of the group. Shu tries to tell the other girls they are better off killing themselves and jumps from a tower.