Upon the premature death of her father, the beautiful Ying Ying and her mother retired to a monastery with their servant, Hong Niang. In the western wing lived a handsome, but poor, young scholar, Zhang Gong. He saw the lovely maiden, and fell deeply in love with her, and she with him. But because of strict Confucian standards of society, they could never be together. Hong Niang felt sorry for them, and acted as a go-between by funneling messages between them. When Ying Ying's mother found out, she forbade them to communicate further, until Zhang Gong won a high government post by sitting for the imperial exams. She felt if he were to be her son-in-law, he should be in high authority. Thus challenged, Zhang Gong focused on his studies, and eventually attained full honors in the Imperial exams. Upon receiving the highest rank in the land, he returned to the monastery in full glory, and claimed the love of his life, Ying Ying.