A tale of romance, deception, a vengeful ghost and more unfolds on the banks of the West Lake in Hangzhou, where young scholar Pei Yu meets and falls in love with beautiful concubine Li Huiniang. Recently wed to a high-ranking official, Li rejects Pei’s advances but as he leaves, sighs, “What a charming young man …” Unfortunately, Li’s jealous husband Jia Sidao overhears his concubine admiring the scholar. In a rage he has her murdered and buries part of her body in the Red Plum Mansion.
Meanwhile Pei encounters tavern girl Lu Zhaorong, whose beauty so resembles Li’s that he initially mistakes her for his new love. Lu quickly falls for Pei. But Minister Jia, now seeking a concubine to replace the concubine he has had murdered, also plans to propose to her. Pei advises Lu to feign madness to avoid Jia’s unwanted attention. After meeting them both, Jia dismisses the apparently crazy Lu and retains Pei in his mansion.
Chaos quickly mounts as Pei encounters the ghost of Li. Jia learns Lu was not insane and seeks Pei’s head. Li’s spirit helps Pei escape the minister’s vengeful clutches, and ghost and scholar flee to nearby Yangzhou, where Lu awaits her lover … Don’t miss the many twists and turns of this classic story, sure to surprise, confound and delight.
Scene One: “The Encounter under the Willow”
After a chance meeting with a beautiful young woman, the scholar Pei Yu finds himself smitten. When he happens to meet her again at the West Lake, he discovers that she is Li Huiniang, the newly acquired concubine of high-ranking official, Jia Sidao. Due to her circumstances, Huiniang is unable to return Pei’s feelings but as she watches him leave she sighs, “What a charming young man!” Overhearing her, Jia is filled with jealous rage. Despite the pleas of his first concubine Wu Jiangxian, he orders Huiniang to be killed and has her head buried in the Red Plum Mansion. Hearing that the daughter of a nearby tavern owner is the image of Li Huiniang, Jia’s nephew, Jia Yingzhong, suggests that his uncle take her in Li’s place. Delighted, Jia sends his nephew to the tavern with money and a betrothal gift.
Scene Two: “Chance Encounter in the Plum Garden”
Passing through a neighbouring valley, Pei Yu sees plum blossoms blooming in the garden of a tavern. As he reaches over a trellis to pick a sprig, he loses his balance and falls into the garden. The tavern owner’s daughter, Lu Zhaorong, is surprised to see a stranger in her garden. Because of Zhaorong’s uncanny resemblance to Huiniang, Pei at first thinks she is the same woman he encountered at West Lake, and after a brief exchange the two also find themselves drawn to each other. When Yingzhong arrives with betrothal gifts, Lu Tong, Zhaorong’s father, refuses Jia’s offer. But Yingzhong is persistent and forces him to accept. As a last resort, Pei suggests that Zhaorong should pretend to be insane, and volunteers to find a way to enter Jia Sidao’s residence and protect her.
Scene Three: “Feigning Madness and Causing Havoc at the Jia Residence”
Jia Sidao is waiting eagerly to receive his new concubine. But when the bridal procession arrives, he is bitterly disappointed to find that the young woman is insane. Pei, who has managed to gain a position as one of Jia’s aides, persuades him to reject her. After much ado, father and daughter escape, fleeing to Yangzhou. But Jia detains Pei, urging him to stay for a while in the study at the Red Plum Mansion. Unaware that Jia has become suspicious and ordered Yingzhong to kill him during the night, Pei complies.
Scene Four: “Saving Pei from the Trap”
Awake, and reading late into the night, Pei encounters Jia’s first concubine Jiangxian as she performs mourning rites for Huiniang. Learning that the woman he had first fallen in love with has been brutally murdered, Pei is filled with grief and falls into daze. In his grief-stricken state, he sees a girl in red approaching and realises it is Huiniang’s ghost. Though divided by death, the lovers open their hearts to each other. Convinced of Pei’s loyalty, Huiniang warns him that Jia is plotting to have him killed. Just before midnight, Yingzhong leads his assassins into the study where Pei is staying. But Huiniang defends Pei and helps him to escape. Furious that his plan has been thwarted, Jia accuses Jiangxian of helping Pei and vows that she will be punished.
Scene Five: “Confrontation with the Ghost”
After their escape, Huiniang tells Pei to go into hiding while she returns to rescue Jiangxian. True to his vengeful nature, Jia has ordered Yingzhong to beat Jiangxian. But when Huiniang suddenly appears, Jia recognises her as the ghost of the lover he has had murdered and cowers in terror. Taking advantage of his fear, Huiniang orders Jia to face the wall as she helps Jiangxian escape. She and Pei then make their way towards Yangzhou.
Scene Six: “The Spirit Joins the Body”
Since arriving in Yangzhou, Zhaorong has succumbed to a fatal illness. Sensing this, Huiniang makes a pledge to Pei Yu that if Zhaorong passes away, her spirit will enter Zhaorong’s body and be resurrected. When Pei arrives at the Lu family home, Zhaorong’s father informs him that his daughter has just died. But as he speaks, Zhaorong descends from her chamber and tells him that she is the resurrection of Huiniang. Jia and his cohort arrive, and Lu Tong berates Jia for the death of his daughter. During the commotion, the Prime Minister arrives with an Imperial Edict accusing Jia of attempting to overthrow the Emperor. Stripping him of his title and rank, he orders him to be exiled to Gaozhou. Pei Yu and Huiniang are finally married, and the legend of the reincarnation at Red Plum Mansion becomes known far and wide.