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In 8th-century China the beloved T'ang emperor Ming Huang appoints as prime minister Yang Kuochung, the corrupt brother of his favorite concubine, Yang Kwei Fei. When his concubine leaves the court because of jealousy, the emperor follows her and their affection is renewed. Yang Kuochung suppresses reports of provincial uprisings until the besieged court is forced to flee to another city. He also withholds provisions and wages from the palace guard. Disgruntled, the guard murders the rapacious official and demands the death of his sister. The concubine is found caring for the ailing emperor. In return for permission to continue her ministrations, Yang Kwei Fei promises to kill herself upon Ming Huang's recovery. The concubine honors her promise, leaving the emperor disconsolate.