The story is told in flashbacks from
the point of view of a 61-year-old Liu
Bang, the founding emperor of the Han
Dynasty. Liu Bang has been
experiencing nightmares and living in
fear and apprehension, as he
constantly suspects that someone is
trying to kill him. In his whole life,
he has only been afraid of two
persons: Xiang Yu, who fought with him
for supremacy over China after the
fall of the Qin Dynasty; Han Xin, a
man who previously served Xiang Yu,
but later became a general under him,
and helped him defeat Xiang Yu. Liu
Bang then reflects on key events in
his life, such as the Feast at Hong
Gate and the Battle of Gaixia.
Among all his subjects, Liu Bang
regards Han Xin, Xiao He and Zhang
Liang as the three most important
persons who assisted him in overcoming
Xiang Yu in the Chu–Han Contention.
However, he believes that Han Xin
wants to rebel against him, and he has
Han imprisoned for the past six years.
Liu Bang reluctantly releases Han Xin
and lets him stay in Zhang Liang’s
residence. Liu Bang’s wife, the
empress Lü Zhi, eventually forces Xiao
He to lure Han Xin into a trap under
the guise of inviting Han to attend a
banquet. Han Xin was captured, charged
with treason and executed, and his
dead body was suspended inside a bell.
Xiao He cuts off Han Xin’s head and
presents it to Liu Bang. Liu Bang also
dies shortly after, and it is said
that he finally found peace in death
because he has been living in a life
full of suspense and uncertainty.