Golden Lotus is based, in part, on Jin Ping Mei, a famous erotic novel of ancient China. Li Han-Hsiang adapted part of the story into this film, which starts with Hsi Men Ching, a successful merchant, wooing Pan Chin Lien, the beautiful wife of one of the townspeople.
Ximen Qing, a rich mandarin, deserts his wives to play with the courtesans. One of his young spouses, tired of languishing, consoles herself with a lackey.
Across China, the filmmaker searches and finds survivors of Bound Feet - China's 1000 year old tradition of erotic beauty and female survival. Through the exclusive portrayal of 12 women of a bygone era,film reveals the dark secret of the Chinese civilization and women's changing destiny in a society once, and perhaps still, dominated by men.
A woman is cursed with beauty in China and becomes prey for men. Raped by the prefect of her ballet school and sent to work camp, she escapes to decadent Hong Kong by marrying a wealthy banker. She finds herself drawn to sadomasochistic affairs and in flashbacks discovers she is the reincarnation of a famous courtesan of ancient China.