Chang-hi-tang, a beautiful sixteen-year-old girl who has been sold to a house of ill repute to keep her family from starving. Immediately befriended by a wealthy man, the delicate and talented young girl is brought as second wife into a childless household. Her sweet demeanor and her ability to bring forth a son cause the first wife to vow revenge. Hi-tang, above reproach, follows her mentor’s directions in all things, even to serving the tea with which the elder wife poisons her husband. Hi-tang is accused of the murder by the elder wife, who also claims that Hi-tang’s son is really her own. the wise emperor devises a test. He orders the child placed in a chalk circle, from which each wife may try to pull the child and claim him. Because of her true mother love, Hi-tang refuses to try pulling her son away from the other woman across a chalk circle, for fear of hurting him. She thus proves her innocence. She is made empress when it is revealed that the new emperor is the true father of her child. Hi-tang had always thought that the prince had come to her only in a dream.
Ma Chun-shing, the duped husband whose first wife is unfaithful and treacherous while his second is always loving and trustworthy. He elevates in his heart the beautiful young wife and thereby brings down the wrath of the barren Mrs. Ma. On one occasion, the victim of jealousy, he believes his young wife has given away jewels and robes to a lover, but he discovers that the man is her unfortunate brother. When Mr. Ma considers divorcing his first wife so that he may elevate...
(The entire section is 673 words.)