Liu Zhiyuan is a poor and homeless man. A landlord in the nearby village, Li Wenkui, takes Liu in and marries him to his daughter, Sanniang. When Li dies,Sanniang’s brother and his wife mistreat the couple constantly. Hearing of a melon demon infesting their field, the brother and his wife send Zhiyuan to look after it. Zhiyuan subdues the monster and, in addition, finds a sword and a divine book. He bids farewell to his wife and joins the army in Fenzhou.
Now that her husband is gone, Sanniang suffers more abuse from her brother and his wife, being forced to draw water by day and grind grain by night.Sanniang gives birth to her son while in the mill and names himYaoqilang (meaning “boy biting the umbilical cord”) because she has to sever the umbilical cord with her teeth for lack of tools. Before he is a month old, the child is discovered by Sanniang’s brother and his wife. The couple throws the baby into the lotus pond. Fortunately, an old servant saves him and delivers him to his father in Fenzhou.
A few years later, Liu Zhiyuan has been promoted to the rank of governor. While hunting a white hare, his son, now called Liu Chengyou, comes across Sanniang, who is drawing water in tattered clothes. Taking pity on her, the child approaches the woman to learn about her life. She bites her finger and writes a letter with her blood expressing her desire to locate her husband and son. She gives the letter to Yaoqilang. Back home, the son tells his father about the woman. Zhiyuan reads the letter and tells his son that the woman must be his mother. The father and son arrive at the village to take Sanniang back, and the family is happily reunited.