The Legend of the Purple Hairpin is written by Tong Dik Sang, a famous Cantonese opera dramatist, who based it on a Tang Dynasty novel, The Story of Huo Xiaoyu, and the classic Yuan Dynasty play, The Legend of the Purple Flute, by Tang Xianzu. This is another of Tong Dik Sang’s operas which eulogize the theme of love and devotion.

In the Tang Dynasty, a young scholar, Li Yi, has travelled to the capital, Changan, to take the national civil examination. During his stay in the capital, he is told that a pretty young woman who loves to dress in purple admires his poetry greatly. She is a courtesan named Huo Xiaoyu. He hopes that he will have a chance to meet her. On the evening of the Lantern Festival*, he and his friends roam around the city to enjoy the magnificent lanterns and the beautiful maidens strolling by as they look for the one dressed in purple.

Li Yi by chance picks up a purple hairpin that belongs to Huo Xiaoyu, who falls in love with him at first sight. She gives him the hairpin as a token of her love for him. Li Yi’s close friend persuades him to go to her family to ask for her hand. Xiaoyu’s mother is eager to have a talented son-in-law to restore their family fortune and agrees to the marriage proposal. The couple have the informal wedding that same night.

The next day after the wedding, the examination result is announced. When Li Yi is awarded the first place in the examination, he and his wife, Xiaoyu, are overjoyed with this good news. However, good fortune soon turns into a disaster for a high court official’s daughter has a chance meeting with Li Yi on the night of the Lantern Festival and she too falls in love with him. She begs her father to arrange a marriage, so she can marry Li Yi. When Official Lo proposes the marriage to Li Yi, he refuses because he considers himself married to Xiaoyu. His refusal angers Official Lo, who then sends Li Yi to the frontier as a reprimand and so forces the newly-wed couple to separate from each other.

While Li Yi is away for three long years without any means of correspondence with his wife, Xiaoyu’s livelihood becomes harder as days go by. She stops being a courtesan after the marriage, so she has to rely on pawning her jewellery to support her family and Li Yi’s downtrodden friend. When Li Yi returns from his frontier posting, Official Lo detains him in his house in order to force the young man to marry his daughter. Li Yi is told if he refuses, Official Lo will expose his scheme against the state. If this happens not only he but his family will also be punished. Li Yi still rejects the proposal and tries to kill himself, but Official Lo continues with the wedding preparation.

Meanwhile, Xiaoyu is forced to sell off her precious purple hairpin. She then comes to know that the Lo family has bought the hairpin for their daughter’s wedding to Li Yi. Helpless and heartbroken, Xiaoyou goes to pray in the temple, where she accidentally meets a mysterious person in a yellow robe. He helps Li Yi to see Xiaoyu again, but Li Yi is taken by force back to the Lo family. At the mysterious man’s suggestion, Xiaoyu goes to Official Lo’s mansion to demand the release of her husband. At her arrival, the Lo household is busy preparing for the wedding ceremony. Her presence infuriates Official Lo, who devises a scheme to kill her right in the main hall.

In the nick of time, the man in the yellow robe appears. He reveals his true identity, that of the Fourth Prince. He is under the Emperor’s instructions to investigate Official Lo for treason. Now that he has the needed evidence, he arrests Official Lo. In the end, Li Yi’s and Xiaoyu’s devotion and love for each other are justly rewarded and they are able to be formally married.

紫釵記是任、白仙鳳鳴劇團的首本名劇。是已故名編劇家唐師滌生先生根據明代戲劇大師湯顯祖【玉茗堂】四記之首的紫釵記改編而成。
話說隴西才子李益與長安名妓霍小玉於元宵邂逅,李益深感與小玉有緣、向她求婚;李益更願與小玉生則同衾、死則同穴。忽然傳來喜訊,李益欽點狀元;更因於霍小玉家拜謝神恩,所以拒絕即時到盧太尉府堂拜謁;此舉觸怒太尉,他為洩心頭之忿、決定派李益到塞外任參軍。李益一去三年、音訊全無;小玉思郎成病,經濟更陷困境,唯有忍痛吩咐侯景先把用作上頭之用的紫玉釵典賣。原來三年來盧太尉把李益的書函暗中沒收、三年後召他回長安,但不許他回家、要先來拜府;此時假冒的鮑三娘到太尉府、獻上紫釵並偽稱小玉已於上月改嫁、故賣去舊物;太尉勸李益改聘其女燕貞為妻;李益心如絞碎、準備吞釵自盡。太尉怒不可遏、更誣告李益詩中有叛國之意;李益恐連累家人、無奈逼於就範。小玉誤會李益薄倖、悲痛莫名。小玉在崇敬寺巧遇黃衫客並向其細訴自己與李益的事、激起黃衫客鋤強扶弱之心。黃衫客強把李益帶到小玉家中、讓二人重聚;李益遂把太尉威逼及自己吞釵拒婚之事告之、並拿出紫釵作証;二人和好如初;但好景不常、盧太尉師命人强搶李益回府即時與燕貞成婚。黃衫客知悉此突變,告知小玉李益並未負心、小玉才是狀元妻、他囑小玉戴鳳冠、披霞珮到太尉府據理爭夫。小玉果然闖進府內、更直斥太尉恃勢欺人、太尉一怒之下、要誣告李益叛逆之罪;小玉恐怕李益被誅九族;唯有跪向太尉求情;此時黃衫客即四王爺登堂、並追問太尉既知李益有被誅九族之罪、為何仍要以女妻之,太尉無言以對;韋夏卿亦挺身作証指斥太尉壓逼李益拋棄妻子、更把好友崔允明打死;太尉見事敗、忙跪下求情。黃衫客秉公辦理、罷免太尉官職、更親自為媒、讓李益與小玉再續紫釵緣。