|Based on actual events that took place during the Opium War, this historical film promotes Chinese nationalism. Particularly noteworthy is the role play in this film by the Chinese masses, including women.
Emperor Danguang sends Commissioner Lin Zexu to Canton to take charge of the anti-drug campaign. Upon his arrival, Lin disguises himself as a merchant to collect information about the opium trade so that he can observe at first hand the problems caused by the drug. When foreigners refuse to turn in their opium, Lin blockades their residence. One of them tries to sneak out with the help of a Chinese official but is caught by local Chinese fishermen. Using this event as a bargaining card, Lin pressures Yu Jun into coughing up the money needed for the improvement of the coastal defences. Meanwhile, the British ambassador to China, Eliot, tells the opium dealers to turn their goods over to Lin, promising them that the British government will compensate them for their losses.
After Lin destroys the opium, the British government sends a fleet of warships. Taken by surprise by this turn of events, the Chinese Emperor gives in to British demands. Lin is removed from his post and sent into exile. Qi Shan replaces Lin and demolishes the coastal defences as a gesture of goodwill to the British. But the local people continue their resistance to the foreigners. (Encyclopedia of Chinese Film, ed. Xiao Zhiwei and Zhang Yingjin)