A corrupt local official, Xi Men Qing, who lusts after women and money, pursues his brother's young wife, Lee Ping Er. Ping finds Men attractive, and under her drunken husband's nose, she and Men work their way through the illustrations of a pillow book, the "Golden Lotus." Men pursues the same feat with his fourth concubine, Pan Jing Lien, who lives in the compound next to Ping. Jing's jealousy compounds a tale of humiliation, childbirth, death, and depravity. Does karma or enlightenment await anyone?