Chinese legends speak of the dragon residing inside you—this Ang Lee-directed tale, however, makes the 'hidden one' clash with the 'wild one'. Lu Mu Bai (Chow Yun Fat) and Shu Lein (Michelle Yeoh) are two old-style warriors still following the ideals of honour and selfless duty during the Ching dynasty.The code allows them to serve as role models for the society—it also forces them to suppress their true feelings for each other.
They are challenged in this incredibly political tale by two extreme forces: an ex-disciple and murderer of Bai's teacher, and Jen (Zhang Zhiyi), the daughter of Beijing's governor. While the ex-disciple represents a reactionary response to a life of denial (she couldn't become a warrior because of her female status), Jen is shown angling for a life of freedom and adventure. She steals Bai's sword with the murderer's help, but instead of pursuing and taming her, Bai urges Jen to become his disciple.