The King of Masks is an elderly street performer, a master of the Sichuan opera art of changing masks so fast that it seems to be magic. His only son died some time ago, and he is a lonely man who desires an heir not just for himself but for his art. It is in the tradition that the art must not be passed down to anyone but a direct heir and only to a boy, never a girl. The story takes place in Sichuan earlier this century during a time of great famine and social disruption. Many poor families are forced to sell their children to stay alive. The King of Masks discovers a cute and lively boy for sale, and takes him home. The boy nicknamed Doggie, is thrilled and offers the King of Masks an uncomplicated affection that the old loner has long craved. But then the King discovers that Doggie is in fact a girl. He tries to send her away, Doggie, who has no one else to care for her and nowhere else to go, begs to be allowed to stay, if only to cook and clean for him. He finally gives in, and trains her to do acrobatics, which she performs on the street. One day, Doggie discovers a young boy who has been kidnapped by gangsters. She doesn't realize that he's the son of a wealthy family. All she can think of is that at last, her "grandpa", the King of Masks can have a bonafide grandson and heir. She thinks he will be thrilled with her and indeed he is overjoyed. Despite Doggie's talent and loyalty is still pines for a male heir. This incident leads to huge trouble when the police find the boy on his houseboat. The police relieved to solve this difficult case are not troubled by the King of Masks protestation of innocence or the lack of evidence, they throw him in prison to await what will undoubtedly a harsh and unforgiving sentence. Doggie is frantic. She comes up with a plan to save him.