King Li Yu, the sixth son of King Li Jing of the Southern Tang Dynasty, is a master of poetry and literature but neglects state affairs. Having ascended the throne,Li is constantly stricken by the memory of his late wife, their domestic strife, and, above all, the threat from the emerging mighty Song to the north. Veteran statesman Chen Qiao urges Li to remarry and to devote more time to the revitalization of the kingdom. Touched by the sincerity of Chen’s niece, Li marriesher and crowns her Queen Xiaozhou.
After the defection of Li’s brother, Prince Zheng, the Song envoy demands the total surrender of Southern Tang. Later, the Song emperor deceives Li into losing trust in his own general, Lin Renzhao, and stripping him of all military duties. To vindicate himself, GeneralLin commits suicide. His death deeply disheartens the Southern Tang army. The Song troops attack the capital, Jingling, when all in the palace are celebratingLi’s birthday. Queen Xiaozhou persuades Li to personally assume the army leadership for the last stand. Despite the soldiers’ heroic resistance, Jinling finally falls. King Li and his queen try to die for their country by setting fire to themselves, only to be stopped by the enemy. Li subsequently decides to surrender to Song to spare his subjects from further suffering. King Li and Queen Xiaozhou leave to begin a life of exile and captivity.