Wang, a poor water seller, is tasked with finding lodgings for three gods. The only person who is willing to take them in is the town prostitute, Shen Teh. When the gods leave the next day, they decide to pay her for their lodging. Shen Teh uses the large amount of money she is left to buy a tobacco shop. She plans to do good with her new wealth and to help people, but it becomes clear that people only start to take advantage of her. Shen Teh fears she will lose her shop because of the way others are benefiting from her kindness.
Eventually, she assumes the persona of Shui Ta, her male cousin, who is a ruthless businessman. This allows her to make the business profitable and to exploit others as opposed to being exploited. The play continues with Shen Teh wanting to be good but having to revert to being Shui Ta in order to survive. Finally, Shui Ta is judged by the gods in a court and Shui Ta reveals that she is actually Shen Teh to the gods alone. She explains that she had wanted to be good, but that the world was so evil that she found it impossible. The gods are not impressed with her explanation and tell her that if she is good she will have nothing to worry about. This advice however is shown to be rather naive based on the action of the play.