Duke Ling was the ruler of the Jin state. In his court, Minister Zhao Dun and General Tu'an Gu were two of his most influential subordinates. However, Tu'an Gu had a deep hatred for Zhao Dun. He wanted to destroy his rival, Zhao Dun, and exterminate the Zhao family. General Tu'an Gu succeeded in framing Zhao Dun, and slaughtered 300 members of the Zhao family. Soon thereafter, a decree was forged in the duke's name to order the death of General Zhao Shuo, the son of Zhao Dun. Zhao Shuo had namely been spared during the massacre as he was married to the daughter of Duke Ling, Lady Zhuang. When General Zhao Shuo received the forged decree, he commits suicide.
Zhao Shuo and his wife were expecting a child, but the infant was born after the tragic circumstances involving his father's death. Tu'an Gu, intending to get rid of the newborn infant, orders General Han Jue to surround the palace. Lady Zhuang entrusts her newborn child to the physician Cheng Ying, a retainer to the Zhao family. However, she knew—as Cheng Ying had indicated—that she would be pressured to reveal where her child is, thus she took her own life. As the physician Cheng Ying was entrusted to keep the child safe, he attempts to escape with the child hidden in his medicine chest. While Cheng is departing through the palace gates, he is stopped and questioned by Han Jue.
Eventually, Han Jue discovers the child, whom Cheng Ying had tried to hide and keep safe. However, troubled by his sense of compassion, he allows Cheng Ying and the infant to escape. Thereafter he commits suicide by taking his sword to his throat, realizing that he will be tortured into exposing what happened to the orphan.
After these events, Tu'an Gu threatens to kill every infant in Jin if the Zhao orphan is not produced. Cheng Ying, who was fearful, consults the retired Minister Gongsun Chujiu. To prevent this massacre, Cheng Ying decides to sacrifice his own child in desperation so that the safety of the Zhao orphan and every infant in the state was ensured.
Gongsun Chujiu departs with Cheng's child, whom he presented as the Zhao orphan. In the self-sacrifice, both Gongsun and the child were found and murdered. Cheng Ying silently suffers and weeps for his own child before he parts with him.
Twenty years has passed since the third act. Cheng Ying has taken care of the orphan during his early life. The Zhao orphan, now known as Cheng Bo, has reached maturity. General Tu'an Gu has no child of his own, thus he had adopted the Zhao orphan, unknowingly of his true identity, and named him Tu Cheng. On a fateful day, the orphan is in Cheng Ying's study, where he discovers a scroll depicting all the people involved in the tragic events relating to his early life. Cheng Ying decides the time has come to show the tragedy of the Zhao family and reveal to the orphan the truth of his origins. Various tragic events featuring many loyal friends and retainers, who gave their lives, were depicted on the scroll.
After discovering the truth, the Zhao orphan kills Tu'an Gu in the streets and avenges his family. The orphan, now known as Zhao Wu, is reinstated with his family titles and properties.