Before becoming the emperor of the Sung Dynasty, Zhao enjoys friendship and camaraderie with righteous and chivalrous heroes. Whenever he sees injustice, he extends his sword to help. Once, after having punished a bandit, he disguises himself and seeks refuge with his uncle in Qingyou Temple at Taiyuan. One day while touring the famous mountainous scenery he hears a woman’s sob coming from the temple’s caves. He discovers the young girl Jingniang detained inside the cave. Jingniang reveals that she was accompanying her father on their way to Yangqu County to make an offering in a temple when they encountered two bandits,Zhang Guonyi and Chou Gin, who kidnapped her and imprisoned her in the cave.Zhao’s uncle is too weak and cowardly to intervene.
Following his traditional code of honor, Zhao Kuangyin offers to escort Jingniang back to her home village and they swear to be brother and sister. During the thousand-mile walk together, Zhao kills the bandit Shuand lets Jingniang ride the bandit’s horse while he walks alongside. Impressed by his honorable behavior,Jingniang expresses her indebtedness and gratitude and makes several attempts to hint that she is willing to be his spouse. Zhao does not respond, even after they arrive at her home, where her family members express concerns about the petty gossip regarding her chastity and what may have happened during her abduction or during the long walk home. The family wants to betroth Zhao Jingniang to Zhao Kuangyin.
Being a man of honor, Zhao adheres strictly to code that a man should perform chivalrous duties without seeking or expecting any rewards. The suggestionJingniang’s family makes highly insults Zhao and his sense of honor. Enraged, he leaves. As a result, Jingniang is filled with sadness and shame. Unable to tolerate her family’s insults, she hangs herself.