An-mei’s mother is forced to leave the family home by her own mother, Popo, after her first husband dies and she (shamefully in the eyes of the community) becomes the unimportant fourth wife to a rich merchant named Wu Tsing. As the young widow of An-mei’s father, An-mei’s mother was expected to honor his life forever by never remarrying. An-mei doesn’t learn the full story of An-mei’s mother’s tragic life until she goes to live with her mother following Popo’s death. At Wu Tsing’s mansion, An-mei’s mother must submit to his second wife, who dominates the household with her manipulative personality. Second Wife even takes An-mei’s baby brother as her own to be the official mother of Wu Tsing’s heir. An-mei learns that her mother was raped by Wu Tsing, and her mother had no choice then but to marry him rather than live with the dishonor. An-mei’s mother finally takes power by killing herself on the most spiritually superstitious day of the year, forcing Wu Tsing to honor An-mei so as to not enrage An-mei’s mother’s unsettled spirit.