Princess Turandot asks her court dignitaries three riddles, and those who do not answer correctly lose their heads. When young Calaf sees the Prince of Samarkand ride by on the cart of those condemned to death, he decides to put an end to the whims of Turandot, who is the despair of her father, the Emperor of China. Turandot, however, has Calaf brought before the judges, who explain to him that the "executions" are merely a joke invented by the capricious to enliven the dreary life at court. Calaf falls in love with Turandot, and in order to see her he devises a plan with the help of a servant and the young Mian Li. At night, Turandot,and Calaf meet in the imperial gardens. China rejoices, and only the Lord High Judge of the Society of the Headless is unhappy because there will be no more riddles and beheadings.