Since the death of his mother, Baoliu has grown apart from his father and bitterly resents his father's new wife. One night an intruder breaks into the family's home and Baoliu's stepmother is murdered. Baoliu is accused of the crime, convicted, and sentenced to be beheaded-a common practice in twelfth-century China. At the last minute a business arrangement, a kadi, is made-and another man is paid to die in Baoliu's place. As Baoliu witnesses the execution of his innocent substitute, he vows to clear his name and restore the family's honor. Critically acclaimed author Don Wulffson follows Baoliu, an outcast of society, willing to do anything and everything, as he struggles to prove his innocence.