During the Ming Dynasty, Long is sold to the palace. He is taken under the wing of a physician and is taught about women and the power of sexual performance.
The story shows Long's growth to one of the highest positions in the palace, as well as dealing with harem intrigues, jealousies, and deceptions. The isolated harem was filled with women who could be put to death at the Emperor's whim.
Subplots entail the Physician Li who instructs Long about sex and teaches him wisdom. Little Sister becomes Long's ward when he finds the beautiful girl hiding from the treacherous harem women. Seeing his kindness, she vows never to leave him.
The book begins with a poor boy who, in the end, rises to power, not only to gain respect, but to obtain revenge.