羅州州官劉彥昌因與三聖母相戀，生子沉香，三聖母被鎮於華山，劉與元配王氏另有一子秋兒。弟兄二人在塾中讀書，沉香因細故誤將太師秦燦之子秦官保打死。 劉彥昌得知大駭，請夫人王氏一同盤問，沉香直認不諱，秋兒亦挺身自承，皆願往秦府償命。然劉彥昌因沉香無母，格外護持，王夫人不忍，遂由劉彥昌將沉香自後門放逃，攜秋兒赴秦處自首償命。秦燦遂將秋兒亂棍擊斃。 沉香得霹靂大仙渡化得道，又得寶斧，遂至華山劈山救母。
Liu Yan-chang, the magistrate of Luozhou, falls in love with a goddess, Third Holy Mother, who soon gives birth to a son, Chen-xiang. Third Holy Mother is then imprisoned in Huashan Mountain. Liu has another son, Qiuer, by his original wife, and the two brothers are sent off to school to study. One day, Chen-xiang accidentally kills Qin Guan-bao, the son of Grand Preceptor Qin Can, over some trivial matter.
Liu Yan-chang is shocked upon learning of the incident and invites his wife, Wang, to question the boy about it. Chen-xiang confesses immediately, and Qiuer also confesses of being an accomplice and volunteers to go to face the grand preceptor with his brother. As Chen-xiang is motherless, his father has always been more protective of him, so Wang asks the boy to escape through the back door and go to see the grand preceptor with her son to pay with his life. Qin Can gives the order to beat Qiuer to death. Enlightened by Fairy Pi-li, Chen-xiang learns martial arts from him and is given a magic ax. He soon goes to Hua-shan Mountain to save his mother by splitting the mountain.