Towards the end of the Song dynasty, Yuan troops invade the south, and the Song emperor flees to Yaxi. Carrying on her late husband's work, Madame Xu, an ordinary woman, organizes a volunteer army in resistance against the Yuan troops. Zhang Da, the former commander of troops in Chaozhou, has been demoted several times by the muddle-headed emperor. Together with his wife, Chen, the now-commonerZhang assists Madame Xu in military affairs.
One day, an imperial envoy brings the message that the emperor wants Zhang to lead the volunteer army to his rescue. The locals become impassioned by the news and resolve to serve the country. They persuade Zhang to forget past grudges and go out to battle as head of the army.
A few months later, the situation at the front turns critical. Madame Xu and Chen lead locals on a rescue operation. By the time they arrive, Zhang Da has been defeated and captured. Yuan General Hongfanthreatens to kill Zhang if Chen and her men do not surrender, but the volunteer army will not comply. Zhangencourages the locals to continue to fight. Unable to rescue her husband, Chen has to retreat. Before his death, Zhang kills the traitorous imperial envoy.
The Yuan troops press on and the volunteer army is doomed to failure. To cover her men's retreat, Chensends a letter challenging the general to a battle. Her soldiers break the siege, but the heroine, Chen, dies for her country.