Sui Tang Yanyi begins in the 580s with the conquest of the Chen dynasty (557-589) by the Sui dynasty under Emperor Wen, and concludes with the return of the Tang dynasty’s Emperor Xuanzong to the capital Chang’an in 758 near the end of the An Lushan Rebellion (755-763).
The plot is made up of three main story lines.
The first, with Emperor Yang of Sui and his concubine Zhu Gui’er (朱貴兒) as the central characters, covers the events in the political arena and inner palace in the final years of the Sui dynasty.
The second story line narrates a turbulent period known as the transition from Sui to Tang, when heroes such as Qin Shubao,Shan Xiongxin (單雄信), Cheng Yaojin (程咬金) and Xu Maogong rise up to overthrow the Sui dynasty,
followed by stories of how Li Shimin (the future Emperor Taizong of Tang) defeated his rivals and eventually solidified the Tang dynasty’s sovereignty over China.
The last story line tells of the romance between Emperor Xuanzong of Tang and Consort Yang, and the events of the An Lushan Rebellion.