In 1894, 60-year-old Empress Cixi (Lisa Lu) officially steps down to let her nephew, Guangxu (Ti Lung), become China's ruler. Though young and naive, Guangxu soon realizes that Cixi has no intention of relinquishing her power, as all of his attempts to take initiative are thwarted by officials loyal to the former empress. Unable to control the palace, Guangxu is further depressed by his unhappy marriage to Jingfen (Ivy Ling Po), so he takes solace in the company of Zhen (Siu Yiu), a concubine.
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