Raised as an aristocrat in 16th century Joseon, an era when class status dictated one’s destiny, Hwang Jin-yi discovers a shocking secret about her birth: she was born illegitimate. She therefore belongs to the lower class, and has no recourse but to give up her aristocratic status. Before embarking on the life of a gisaeng, she decides to give up her virginity to a man of her own choosing, and spends her first night with Nomi, a long-time family servant, whom she is aware loves her deeply. As a gisaeng, Jin-yi becomes celebrated for her legendary beauty, wit, and talents in singing, dancing and poetry. But although she is surrounded by an entourage of noblemen showering her with gifts and admiration, she lives a solitary life of tragic isolation. Jin-yi’s only solace is the game she and the local governor play on her noble clients, tricking them into exposing their hypocrisies. But when a bandit leader matching Nomi’s description is spotted in the region, Jin-yi begins to question the life she endures.