The performance tradition has focused on the love story between Du Liniang and Liu Mengmei. Du Liniang is the daughter of an important official. Her maid encourages her to abandon her dull studies and take a walk in the garden, where she falls asleep. She dreams of her lover Liu Mengmei, whom in real life she has never met, before being awoken by falling petals. Unable to recover the enchantment of her dream, she wastes away and dies. In hell, the underworld judge determines that her marriage with Liu Mengmei is predestined, and that she cannot be retained. Instead, she is sent to haunt him, who now inhabits the garden where they had their dream. Recognising the girl he met in his dreams, he agrees to exhume her. Du Liniang asks him to go to tell her father the news of her resurrection, but he treats Liu Mengmei as a grave robber and impostor. In the end, Liu Mengmei is only saved from a tortuous death by the announcement of the results of the imperial exams. He has topped the list; the emperor pardons all.