Ashima is a brave and beautiful girl of the Sani people, beloved by all. One day as she is down at the lake to fetch water, she hears the sound of a shepherd's flute coming from the hills across the lake. She replies in song. The two trade music back and forth for several minutes but do not meet. Some time later the shepherd, a young man named Ahei, approaches a group of girls washing clothes in a lake and asks for Ashima. They tease him and do not tell him. One day the village has a festival with lots of dancing and music. At one point Ahei plays his flute. Ashima recognizes it, and the two fall in love. Azhi, the son of a rich man, is also attracted to Ashima. When he asks her to marry him, she refuses, telling him that poor girls do not marry rich boys. One day when Ahei is away tending his sheep, Ashima is kidnapped and taken away to the fortress of Azhi's father. Ahei, returning from the pastures, hears and rides off in pursuit. When he reaches Azhi's walled mansion, he challenges Azhi to a contest of singing riddles. Ahei wins, but Ashima is not released. Ahei then takes out his magic bow and send an arrow into the family shrine of his opponents. They relent and release Ashima, who rides away with Ahei on his horse to return home. However, Azhi is vengeful, and as Ashima and Ahei are in a valley, he opens a floodgate, sending a river into the valley. Ashima is drowned. Grieving, Ahei calls out her name. Ashima replies, having been turned into a stone pillar (part of the famous Stone Forest in China's province of Yunnan), telling the Sani people that whenever they call out her name, she will reply to them.
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