The story describes the young widow Dou E from Chouzhou (楚州) whose husband Cai (蔡) died two years after marrying. Dou was wrongfully accused by Zhang Lür (張驢兒, literally "The Mule Zhang") of the murder of his father, when Dou E refused to marry Zhang Lür. Before her execution (scene: 斬竇娥 "Zhai Dou E"), Dou E swore that her innocence would be proven by the upcoming abnormalities:
And all those, including the eerie "Snow in June" (scene: 六月雪 "Liu Yue Xue") did occur. After the ghost of Dou E revealed the injustice to her father - Dou Tianzhang (竇天章), who eventually became a liangjunliefangshi inspector (兩淮廉訪使) - Inspector Dou put the corrupt officials and Zhang Lür to justice at the end of the story.
The story has been repeatedly used and modified by later dramatists.
See also: Capital punishment