Journey to the West (vol. 1)
The Divine Root Conceives and the Spring Breaks Forth
As the Heart's Nature Is Cultivated, the Great Way Arises
Before Chaos was divided, Heaven and Earth were one;
All was a shapeless blur, and no men had appeared.
Once Pan Gu destroyed the Enormous Vagueness
The separation of clear and impure began.
Living things have always tended towards humanity;
From their creation all beings improve.
If you want to know about Creation and Time,
Read Difficulties Resolved on the Journey to the West.
In the arithmetic of the universe, 129,600 years make one cycle. Each cycle can be divided into twelve phases: I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, X, XI and XII, the twelve branches. Each phase lasts 10,800 years.
Now within a single day, the positive begins at the time I; at II the cock crows; at III it is not quite light; at IV the sun rises; V is after breakfast; and at VI one does business. VII is when the sun reaches noon; at VIII it is slipping towards the West; IX is late afternoon; the sun sets at X; XI is dusk; and at XII people settle down for the night.
If you compare this with the big numbers, then at the end of Phase XI Heaven and Earth were still one, and no beings had appeared. 5,400 years later came the beginning of Phase XII, when all was darkness and there were still no people or other creatures; for this reason it was called Chaos. Another 5,400 years later Phase XII was drawing to a close and a new cycle was about to begin. As Phase I of the new era approached, gradually there was light. As Shao Yong said,
“When winter reaches the mid-point of Phase I
The heart of Heaven does not move.
Where the Positive first appears
Nothing has yet come to life.”
At this time, Heaven first had a foundation. 5,400 years later, in the middle of Phase I, the light and pure rose upwards, and sun, moon, stars, and constellations were created. These were called the Four Images. Hence the saying that heaven began in I.
Another 5,400 years later, when Phase I was nearing its end and Phase II was imminent, things gradually solidified. As the Book of Changes says, “Great is the Positive; far-reaching is the Negative! All things are endowed and born in accordance with Heaven.” This was when the earth began to congeal. After 5,400 more years came the height of Phase II, when the heavy and impure solidified, and water, fire, mountains, stone, and Earth came into being. These five were called the Five Movers. Therefore it is said that the Earth was created in Phase II.
After a further 5,400 years, at the end of Phase II and the beginning of the Phase III, living beings were created. In the words of the Book of the Calendar, ”The essence of the sky came down and the essence of earth went up. Heaven and Earth intermingled, and all creatures were born.” Then Heaven was bright and Earth was fresh, and the Positive intermingled with the Negative. 5,400 years later, when Phase III was at its height, men, birds and beasts were created. Thus the Three Powers-Heaven, Earth and Man-now had their set places. Therefore it is said that man was created in Phase III.
Moved by Pan Gu's creation, the Three Emperors put the world in order and the Five Rulers laid down the moral code. The world was then divided into four great continents: The Eastern Continent of Superior Body, the Western Continent of Cattle-gift, the Southern Continent of Jambu and the Northern Continent of Kuru. This book deals only with the Eastern Continent of Superior Body. Beyond the seas there is a country called Aolai. This country is next to an ocean, and in the middle of the ocean is a famous island called the Mountain of Flowers and Fruit. This mountain is the ancestral artery of the Ten Continents, the origin of the Three Islands; it was formed when the clear and impure were separated and the Enormous Vagueness was divided. It is a really splendid mountain and there are some verses to prove it:
It stills the ocean with its might,
It awes the jade sea into calm.
It stills the ocean with its might:
Tides wash its silver slopes and fish swim into its caves.
It awes the jade sea into calm:
Amid the snowy breakers the sea-serpent rises from the deep.
It rises high in the corner of the world where Fire and Wood meet;
Its summit towers above the Eastern Sea.
Red cliffs and strange rocks;
Beetling crags and jagged peaks.
On the red cliffs phoenixes sing in pairs;
Lone unicorns lie before the beetling crags.
The cry of pheasants is heard upon the peaks;
In caves the dragons come and go.
There are deer of long life and magic foxes in the woods;
Miraculous birds and black cranes in the trees.
There are flowers of jade and strange plants that wither not;
Green pine and bluish cypress ever in leaf,
Magic peaches always in fruit.
Clouds gather round the tall bamboo.
The wisteria grows thick around the mountain brook
And the banks around are newly-coloured with flowers.
It is the Heaven-supporting pillar where all the rivers meet,
The Earth's root, unchanged through a myriad aeons.
There was once a magic stone on the top of this mountain which was thirty-six feet five inches high and twenty-four feet round. It was thirty-six feet five inches high to correspond with the 365 degrees of the heavens, and twenty-four feet round to match the twenty-four divisions of the solar calendar. On top of it were nine apertures and eight holes, for the Nine Palaces and the Eight Trigrams. There were no trees around it to give shade, but magic fungus and orchids clung to its sides. Ever since Creation began it had been receiving the truth of Heaven, the beauty of Earth, the essence of the Sun and the splendour of the Moon; and as it had been influenced by them for so long it had miraculous powers. It developed a magic womb, which burst open one day to produce a stone egg about the size of a ball.
When the wind blew on this egg it turned into a stone monkey, complete with the five senses and four limbs. When the stone monkey had learned to crawl and walk, he bowed to each of the four quarters. As his eyes moved, two beams of golden light shot towards the Pole Star palace and startled the Supreme Heavenly Sage, the Greatly Compassionate Jade Emperor of the Azure Vault of Heaven, who was sitting surrounded by his immortal ministers on his throne in the Hall of Miraculous Mist in the Golden-gated Cloud Palace. When he saw the dazzling golden light he ordered Thousand-mile Eye and Wind-accompanying Ear to open the Southern Gate of Heaven and take a look. The two officers went out through the gate in obedience to the imperial command, and while one observed what was going on the other listened carefully. Soon afterwards they reported back:
“In obedience to the Imperial Mandate your subjects observed and listened to the source of the golden light. We found that at the edge of the country of Aolai, which is East of the ocean belonging to the Eastern Continent of Superior Body, there is an island called the Mountain of Flowers and Fruit. A magic stone on the top of this mountain produced a magic egg, and when the wind blew on this egg it turned into a stone monkey which bowed to each of the four quarters. When he moved his eyes, golden light shot towards the Pole Star Palace; but now that he is eating and drinking, the golden light is gradually dying.”
In his benevolence and mercy the Jade Emperor said, “Creatures down below are born of the essence of heaven and earth: there is nothing remarkable about him.”
On his mountain the monkey was soon able to run and jump, feed from plants and trees, drink from brooks and springs, pick mountain flowers and look for fruit. He made friends with the wolves, went around with the tigers and leopards, was on good terms with the deer, and had the other monkeys and apes for relations. At night he slept under the rockfaces, and he roamed around the peaks and caves by day. As the saying so rightly goes, “There is no calendar in the mountains, and when winter's over you don't know the time of year.” On hot mornings he and all the other monkeys would play under the shade of some pines to avoid the heat. Just look at them all:
Climbing trees, picking flowers, looking for fruit;
Throwing pellets, playing knucklebones;
Running round sandy hollows, building stone pagodas;
Chasing dragonflies and catching locusts;
Worshipping the sky and visiting Bodhisattvas;
Tearing off creepers and weaving straw hats;
Catching fleas then popping them with their teeth and fingers;
Grooming their coats and sharpening their nails;
Beating, scratching, pushing, squashing, tearing and tugging;
Playing all over the place under the pine trees;
Washing themselves beside the green stream.
After playing, the monkeys would go and bathe in the stream, a mountain torrent that tumbled along like rolling melons. There is an old saying, “Birds have bird language and, animals have animal talk.”
All the monkeys said to each other, “I wonder where that water comes from. We've got nothing else to do today, so wouldn't it be fun to go upstream and find its source?” With a shout they all ran off, leading their children and calling to their brothers. They climbed up the mountain beside the stream until they reached its source, where a waterfall cascaded from a spring. They saw
One white rainbow arching,
A thousand strands of flying snow,
Unbroken by the sea winds,
Still there under the moon.
Cold air divides the greeny crags,
Splashes moisten the mountainside;
A noble waterfall cascades,
Hanging suspended like a curtain.
The monkeys clapped their hands and explained with delight, “What lovely water. It must go all the way to the bottom of the mountain and join the waves of the sea.”
Then one monkey made a suggestion: “If anyone is clever enough to go through the fall, find the source, and come out in one piece, let's make him our king.” When this challenge had been shouted three times, the stone monkey leapt out from the crowd and answered at the top of his voice, “I'll go, I'll go.” Splendid monkey! Indeed:
Today he will make his name;
Tomorrow his destiny shall triumph.
He is fated to live here;
As a King he will enter the Immortals' palace.
Watch him as he shuts his eyes, crouches, and springs, leaping straight into the waterfall. When he opened his eyes and raised his head to look round, he saw neither water nor waves. A bridge stood in front of him, as large as life. He stopped, calmed himself, took a closer look, and saw that the bridge was made of iron. The water that rushed under it poured out through a fissure in the rocks, screening the gateway to the bridge. He started walking towards the bridge, and as he looked he made out what seemed to be a house. It was a really good place. He saw:
Emerald moss piled up in heaps of blue,
White clouds like drifting jade,
While the light flickered among wisps of coloured mist.
A quiet house with peaceful windows,
Flowers growing on the smooth bench;
Dragon pearls hanging in niches,
Exotic blooms all around.
Traces of fire beside the stove,
Scraps of food in the vessels by the table.
Adorable stone chairs and beds,
Even better stone plates and bowls.
One or two tall bamboos,
Three or four sprigs of plum blossom,
A few pines that always attract rain,
All just like a real home.
He took a good, long look and then scampered to the middle of the bridge, from where he noticed a stone tablet. On the tablet had been carved in big square letters: HAPPY LAND OF THE MOUNTAIN OF FLOWERS AND FRUIT, CAVE HEAVEN OF THE WATER CURTAIN. The stone monkey was beside himself with glee. He rushed away, shut his eyes, crouched, and leapt back through the waterfall.
“We're in luck, we're in luck,” he said with a chuckle. All the other monkeys crowded round him asking, “What's it like in there? How deep is the water?”
“There's no water, none at all,” replied the stone monkey. “There's an iron bridge, and on the other side of the bridge there's a house that must have been made by Heaven and Earth.”
“How ever could you see a house there?” the other monkeys asked. The stone monkey chuckled again.
“The water here comes under the bridge and through the rocks, and it hides the gateway to the bridge from view. There are flowers and trees by the bridge, and a stone house too. Inside the house are stone rooms, a stone stove, stone bowls, stone plates, stone beds, and even stone benches. In the middle of it all is a tablet which says ' Happy Land of the Mountain of Flowers and Fruit, Cave Heaven of the Water Curtain'. It's just the place for us to settle down in-there's room there for thousands. Let's all move in, then we won't have to put up with any more nonsense from heaven. In there
We can hide there from the wind,
And shelter from the rain,
With nothing to fear from frost and snow,
And never a rumble of thunder.
The coloured mists glow bright
And the place smells lucky.
The pine and bamboo will always be beautiful,
And rare flowers blossom every day.”
The other monkeys were all so delighted to hear this that they said, “You go first and take us with you.”
The stone monkey shut his eyes, crouched, and leapt in again, shouting, “Follow me in, follow me in.” The braver monkeys all jumped through. The more timid ones peered forward, shrank back, rubbed their ears, scratched their cheeks, shouted, and yelled at the top of their voices, before going in, all clinging to each other. After rushing across the bridge they all grabbed plates and snatched bowls, bagged stoves and fought over beds, and moved everything around. Monkeys are born naughty and they could not keep quiet for a single moment until they had worn themselves out moving things around.
The stone monkey sat himself in the main seat and said, “Gentlemen, A man who breaks his word is worthless. Just now you said that if anyone was clever enough to come in here and get out again in one piece, you'd make him king. Well, then. I've come in and gone out, and gone out and come in. I've found you gentlemen a cave heaven where you can sleep in peace and all settle down to live in bliss. Why haven't you made me king?” On hearing this all the monkeys bowed and prostrated themselves, not daring to disobey.
They lined up in groups in order of age and paid their homage as at court, all acclaiming him as the “Great King of a Thousand Years.” The stone monkey then took the throne, made the word “stone” taboo, and called himself Handsome Monkey King. There is a poem to prove it that goes:
All things are born from the Three positives;
The magic stone was quick with the essence of sun and moon.
An egg was turned into a monkey to complete the Great Way;
He was lent a name so that the elixir would be complete.
Looking inside he perceives nothing because it has no form,
Outside he uses his intelligence to create visible things.
Men have always been like this:
Those who are called kings and sages do just as they wish.
Taking control of his host of monkeys, apes, gibbons and others, the Handsome Monkey King divided them into rulers and subjects, assistants and officers. In the morning they roamed the Mountain of Flowers and Fruit and in the evening they settled down for the night in the Water Curtain Cave. They made a compact that they would not join the ranks of the birds or go with the running beasts. They had their own king, and they thoroughly enjoyed themselves.
In spring they picked flowers for food and drink,
In summer they lived off fruit.
In autumn they gathered tares and chestnuts,
They got through the winter on Solomon's-seal.
The Handsome Monkey King's innocent high spirits could not, of course, last three or four hundred years. One day he suddenly felt depressed during a banquet with his monkey host, and he started to weep. The startled monkeys crowded round, bowed to him and asked, “What's the matter, Your Majesty?”
“Although I'm happy now,” the Monkey King replied, “I'm worried about the future. That's what's getting me down.”
The other monkeys laughed and said, “Your Majesty is being greedy. We have parties every day; we live in a mountain paradise, in an ancient cave in a divine continent. We are spared the rule of unicorns, the domination of phoenixes, and the restraints of human kings. We are free to do just as we like-we are infinitely lucky. Why make yourself miserable worrying about the future?”
To this the Monkey King replied, “Yes, we don't have to submit to the laws and regulations of human kings, and we don't live in terror of the power of birds and beasts. But the time will come when we are old and weak, and the underworld is controlled by the King of Hell. When the time comes for us to die, we won't be able to go on living among the Blessed, and our lives will have been in vain.” All the monkeys covered their faces and wept as everyone of them thought about death.
Suddenly a gibbon jumped out from their ranks and shrieked in a piercing voice, “If Your Majesty is thinking so far ahead, this is the beginning of enlightenment. Now of the Five Creatures, there are only three that do not come under the jurisdiction of the King of Hell.”
“Do you know which they are?” asked the Monkey King.
“Yes,” the ape replied. “They are the Buddhas, the Immortals and the Sages. They are free from the Wheel of Reincarnation. They are not born and they do not die. They are as eternal as Heaven and Earth, as the mountains and the rivers.”
“Where do they live?” the Monkey King asked.
“Only in the human world,” the ape replied, “in ancient caves on magic mountains.” The Monkey King was delighted to hear this.
“I shall leave you all tomorrow,” he said, “and go down the mountain. If I have to, I'll roam the corners of the oceans and go to the edge of the sky to find these three kinds of beings and discover the secret of eternal youth that will keep us out of the clutches of the King of Hell for ever.” Goodness! Because of these words he was to learn how to be free from the Wheel of Reincarnation and become the Great Sage Equaling Heaven.
All the monkeys clapped with approval and said, “Great! Great! Tomorrow we'll climb all over the mountain and get lots of fruit to give Your Majesty a really big banquet to send you off.”
The next day the monkeys set out to pick magic peaches, gather rare fruits, dig out yams, and cut Solomon's-seal. Magic fungus and fragrant orchid were collected, and everything was set on the stone benches and the stone tables, with fairy wine and dishes. You could see
Golden pills and pearl pellets,
Bursting red and plump yellow.
The golden pills and pearl pellets were winter cherries, beautiful and sweet;
The bursting red and plump yellow were ripe plums, tasty and sharp.
Fresh, sweet-fleshed longans with thin skins.
Fiery lichees with tiny stones in a red sack.
Branch after branch of crab-apples,
Yellow-skinned loquats with their leaves on.
Rabbit-head pears and chicken-heart jujubes
To quench your thirst, remove your cares, and sober you up.
Fragrant peaches and tender apricots,
As sweet and luscious as jade wine.
Crisp plums and arbutus,
As sharp as glistening yogurt.
Ripe melons with red coats and black seeds,
Big, four-sectioned persimmons with yellow skins.
Cinnabar pips shining like fire-crystal pearls.
With firm round flesh like golden agate.
Walnuts and gingko fruits to eat with tea;
Coconuts and grapes to make into wine.
Dishes loaded with pine cones, yew-nuts, filberts, and crab-apples;
Tangerines, sugar-cane and oranges covering the table.
Hot roast yams,
Tender boiled Solomon's-seal.
Pounded china-root and Job's tears.
Simmered in soup in a stone-pot.
Although we humans have rare delicacies to eat,
We are no happier than those monkeys in the mountains.
The host of monkeys ushered the Handsome Monkey King to the seat of honour and sat down below him according to age. Each of them took it in turns to bring him wine, flowers, and fruit, and they drank hard for a whole day. The next morning the Handsome Monkey King got up early and ordered, “Children, tear down some old pines and make me a raft. Find a bamboo pole to punt with and load it up with fruit. I'm going.” He went aboard the raft all by himself, pushed off with all his might, and floated off towards the waves of the ocean. He intended to sail with the wind and cross over to the Southern Jambu Continent.
The heaven-born monkey, whose conduct was so noble,
Left his island to drift with heaven's winds.
He sailed oceans and seas to find the Way of Immortality,
Deeply determined to do a great deed.
The predestined one should not have vulgar longings;
He can attain the primal truth without care or worry.
He is bound to find a kindred spirit,
To explain the origins and the laws of nature.
He had chosen just the right time for his journey. After he boarded his raft the Southeasterly wind blew hard for days on end and bore him to the Northwestern shore of the Southern Continent. Testing the depth of the water with his pole he found that it was shallow, so he abandoned the raft and jumped ashore. He saw humans by the coast, fishing, hunting geese, gathering clams, and extracting salt. He went up to them, leaping around and making faces, which so scared them that they dropped their baskets and nets and fled in all directions as fast as they could. The Monkey King grabbed one of them who was a poor runner, stripped him of his clothes, and dressed himself in them like a human. He swaggered through the provinces and prefectures, learning human behavior and human speech in the market places. Whether he was eating his breakfast or going to bed at nigh he was always asking about Buddhas, Immortals and Sages, and seeking the secret of eternal youth. He observed that the people of the world were too concerned with fame and fortune to be interested in their fates.
When will the struggle for fame and fortune end?
Toiling from morning till night, never pleasing yourself.
Those who ride donkeys long for stallions,
The Prime Minister always wants to be a prince.
They only worry about having to stop work to eat or dress;
They never fear that the King of Hell will come to get them.
When trying to ensure their sons and grandsons inherit their wealth and power,
They have no time to stop and think.
Although he asked about the way of the Immortals, the Monkey King was unable to meet one. He spent eight or nine years in the Southern Jambu Continent, going through its great walls and visiting its little counties. When he found that he had reached the Great Western Ocean he thought that there must be Sages and Immortals on the other side of it, so he made himself another raft like the last one, and floated across the Western Ocean until he came to the Western Continent of Cattle-gift. He went ashore and made extensive and lengthy enquiries until one day he came upon a high and beautiful mountain, thickly forested on its lower slopes. Not fearing wolves, and undaunted by tigers or leopards, he climbed to the summit to see the view. It was indeed a fine mountain:
A thousand peaks brandishing halberds,
Screens ten thousand measures tall.
In the sunlight the mountain haze is lightly touched with blue;
After the rain the black rocks look coldly green.
Withered creepers coil round ancient trees,
And the old ford marks the bounds of the mysterious.
Strange flowers and precious plants,
Flourishing in all four seasons, rivaling fairyland.
The nearby cry of a hidden bird,
The clear running of a spring.
Valley upon valley of mushroom and orchid,
Lichen grows all over the cliffs.
The range rises and dips in dragon-like majesty.
Surely there mush be lofty hermits here.
As he was looking at the view the Monkey King heard a human voice coming from the depths of the forest. He rushed into the trees, and when he cocked his ear to listen he heard a song:
“Watching the chess game I cut through the rotten,
Felling trees, ding, ding,
Strolling at the edge of the cloud and the mouth of the valley,
I sell firewood to buy wine,
Cackling with laughter and perfectly happy.
I pillow myself on a pine root, looking up at the moon.
When I wake up it is light.
Recognizing the old forest
I scale cliffs and cross ridges,
Cutting down withered creepers with my axe.
When I've gathered a basketful
I walk down to the market with a song,
And trade it for three pints of rice.
Nobody else competes with me,
So prices are stable.
I don't speculate or try sharp practice,
Couldn't care less what people think of me,
Calmly lengthening my days.
The people I meet
Are Taoists and Immortals,
Sitting quietly and expounding the Yellow Court.”
The Monkey King was overjoyed to hear this, and he said with glee, “So this is where the Immortals have been hiding.” He bounded deeper into the woods for a closer look and saw that the singer was a woodcutter cutting firewood. He was wearing the most unusual clothes:
On his head he wore a hat
Woven from the first skin shed by new bamboo shoots.
The clothes on his body
Were made of yam from the wild cotton-tree.
The belt round his waist
Was of silk from an old silkworm.
The straw sandals under his feet
Had straps torn from rotten sago trees.
In his hand he held a steel axe
On his back he carried a hempen rope
At climbing pines and felling dead trees,
Who was a match for this woodcutter?
The Monkey King went closer and called to him. “Old Immortal, your disciple greets you.”
The woodcutter dropped his axe in astonishment and turned round to say, “No, no. I don't even have enough to eat or drink, so how can I possibly let you call me an Immortal?”
“If you're not an Immortal,” the Monkey King said, “why do you talk like one?”
“I don't talk like an Immortal,” the woodcutter said.
“At the edge of the wood just now,” the Monkey King replied, “I heard you say, 'The people I meet are Taoists and Immortals, sitting quietly and expounding the Mantingfang.' The Mantingfang contains the truth about the Way, so if you're not an Immortal, what are you?” The woodcutter laughed.
“It's quite true that the song is called 'The Fragrance of the Mantingfang,' and an Immortal who lives near my hut taught me it. He said he saw how hard I had to work and how I was always worried, so he made me sing this song when things were getting me down. It lightens my cares and makes me forget my weariness. I was singing it just now because I had some problems on my mind, and I never imagined that you would be listening.”
“If you've got an Immortal for a neighbour, you ought to learn from him how to cultivate your conduct and get him to teach you a recipe for eternal youth.”
“I've had a hard life,” the woodcutter replied. “My mother and father brought me up till I was about eight, and just when I was beginning to know about life my father died. My mother remained a widow, and I had no brothers or sisters. As I was the only child I had to look after my mother morning and night. Now she is old that I can't possibly leave her. Our land is so overgrown that I can't grow enough to feed and clothe both of us, so I have to cut a couple of bundles of firewood to sell in the market for a handful of coppers to buy the few pints of rice that I cook for myself and for my mother. That's why I can't cultivate my conduct.”
“From what you say,” the Monkey King replied, “you're a filial son and a gentleman-you're bound to be rewarded for it one day. But I'd be grateful if you could show me where that Immortal lives, so that I can go and pay him my respects.”
The woodcutter said, “It's not far from here. This mountain is the Spirit Tower Heart Mountain, and in it there is the Cave of the Setting Moon and the Three Stars. In that cave lives an Immortal called the Patriarch Subhuti. I don't know how many disciples he has trained-there are thirty or forty of them cultivating their conduct with him at the moment. If you take that path South for two or three miles you'll reach his home.”
The Monkey King tugged at the woodcutter and said, “Take me there, Elder Brother. If I get anything out of this, I won't forget your kindness.”
“You idiot,” the woodcutter replied, “didn't you understand what I told you just now? If I went with you I wouldn't be able to earn my living, and who would look after my poor old mother then? I've got to get on with my woodcutting. Go by yourself.”
After hearing this the Monkey King had to take his leave. He came out of the forest and found the path, which led up a mountain slope for two or three miles, when he saw the cave. He pulled himself up to his full height to take a look, and it was a really magnificent place:
Misty clouds scattered colours,
Sun and moon shimmered bright.
A thousand ancient cypresses,
Ten thousand lofty bamboos.
A thousand ancient cypresses,
A soft green drawing the rain from the sky.
Ten thousand lofty bamboos,
And a misty valley is azure blue.
Outside the gate rare flowers spread brocade;
Beside the bridge wafts the scent of jade flowers.
Rocky crags jut, glossy with green moss;
On overhanging cliffs blue lichen grows.
Sometimes the call of the crane is heard
And often you see the phoenix soar.
The call of the crane
Echoes beyond the Ninth Heaven and the Milky Way.
When the phoenix soars,
The brilliance of its wings colours the clouds.
Black apes and white deer can be just made out;
Golden lions and jade elephants prefer to keep hidden.
If you look closely at this happy land,
You will see that it rivals paradise.
He saw that the doors of the cave were shut fast, and that everything was still, with no signs of any people. He turned round and noticed that there was a stone tablet about thirty feet high and eight feet wide at the top of the cliff. On it was carved in enormous letters: SPIRIT-TOWER HEART MOUNTAIN, CAVE OF THE SETTING MOON AND THE THREE STARS. The Monkey King exclaimed with delight, “The people here really are honest. The mountain and the cave do exist.” He took a good long look, but did not dare to knock on the door. He climbed to the and of a pine branch and ate some pine seeds to amuse himself.
Before long the doors of the cave opened with a creak, and an immortal boy came out. In the nobility of his bearing and the exceptional purity of his features he was completely different from an ordinary boy.
His hair was bound with a pair of silken bands,
His flowing gown had two capacious sleeves.
His face and body were naturally distinguished;
His mind and appearance were both empty.
For many years a guest beyond the world of things,
An eternal child amid the mountains,
Untouched by any speck of dust,
He let the years go tumbling by.
When this boy had come out he shouted, “Who's making that row out here?”
The Monkey King scampered down the tree, went up to him, and said with a bow, “Immortal child, I am a disciple who has come to ask about the Way and study under the Immortal. The last thing I'd do would be to make a row here?” The boy laughed.
“So you've come to ask about the Way, have you?”
“Yes,” the Monkey King replied.
“Our master has just got up,” the boy said, “and has now mounted the dais to expound the Way. Before he had started to explain about origins he told me to open the door. He said, 'There is someone outside who wants to cultivate his conduct. Go and welcome him.' I suppose he must have meant you.”
“Yes, he meant me,” the Monkey King said with a smile.
“Come with me,” the boy said.
The Monkey King straightened his clothes and followed the boy deep into the depths of the cave. He saw majestic pavilions and towers of red jade, pearl palaces and gateways of cowry, and countless rooms of silence and secluded cells leading all the way to a jasper dais. He saw the Patriarch Subhuti sitting on the dais and thirty-six minor Immortals standing below it.
A golden Immortal of great enlightenment, free from filth,
Subhuti, the marvel of the Western World.
Neither dying nor born, he practices the triple meditation,
His spirit and soul entirely benevolent.
In empty detachment he follows the changes;
Having found his true nature he lets it run free.
As eternal as Heaven, and majestic in body,
The great teacher of the Law is enlightened through aeons.
As soon as the Handsome Monkey King saw him he bowed low and knocked his head on the ground before him many times, saying, “Master, master, your disciple pays his deepest respects.”
“Where are you from?” the Patriarch asked. “You must tell me your name and address before you can become my pupil.”
“I come from the Water Curtain Cave in the Flowers and Fruit Mountain in the land of Aolai in the Eastern Continent of Superior Body,” replied the Monkey King.
“Throw him out,” the Patriarch roared. “He's a liar and a cheat, and even if he tried cultivating his conduct he would get nowhere.”
The Monkey King desperately kept hitting his head on the ground and said, “Your disciple spoke the truth. I promise I wasn't lying.”
The Patriarch asked, “If you were speaking the truth, why did you say that you came from the Eastern Continent of Superior Body? Between here and the Eastern Continent there are two seas and the Southern Jambu Continent, so how could you possibly have come here from there?”
The Monkey King, still kowtowing, replied, “I sailed across seas and oceans, crossed frontiers and wandered through many countries for over ten years before I arrived here.”
“So you came here by stages,” the Patriarch remarked. “What is your surname?”
“I'm not surly,” the Monkey King replied. “If people call me names it doesn't bother me, and if they hit me I don't get angry. I'm just polite to them and that's that. I've never been surly.”
“I didn't ask if you were surly. I wanted to know the surname you inherited from your parents.”
“I didn't have any parents,” the Monkey King replied.
“If you had no parents, did you grow on a tree?”
“I grew not on a tree but in a stone,” the Monkey King replied. “All I remember is that there was a magic stone on the top of the Flower and Fruit Mountain, and that one year the stone split open and I was born.”
Concealing his delight at searing this, the Patriarch remarked, “In other words, you were born of Heaven and Earth. Walk around for a moment and let me have a look at you.” The Monkey King leapt to his feet and shambled round a couple of times.
The Patriarch smiled and said, “Though you have rather a base sort of body, you look like one of the rhesus monkeys that eat pine seeds, and I ought to give you a surname that fits your appearance and call you Hu ('Macaque'). The elements that make up the character Hu are 'animal,' 'old' and 'moon'. What is old is ancient, and the moon embodies the Negative principle, and what is ancient and Negative cannot be transformed. But I think I would do much better to call you Sun ('Monkey'). Apart from the 'animal' element, the character Sun has one part implying male and one part suggesting a baby, which fits in with my basic theories about children. Your surname will be Sun.”
When the Monkey King heard this he kowtowed with delight and said, “Great! Great! Now I have a surname. I am eternally grateful to you for your mercy and compassion, master. I beg you to give me a personal name to go with my new surname, then it will be much easier to address me.”
“There are twelve words within my sect,” said the Patriarch, “which I give as names. You belong to the tenth generation of my disciples.”
“What are these twelve words?” asked the Monkey King.
“Broad, great, wisdom, intelligence, true, likeness, nature, sea, bright, awakened, complete and enlightenment. If we work out the generations of disciples, then you should have a name with Wu ('Awakened') in it. So we can give you the Dharma-name Sun Wukong, which means 'Monkey Awakened to Emptiness'. Will that do?”
“Marvellous, marvellous,” said the smiling Monkey King. “From now on my name will be Sun Wukong.” Indeed:
When the Great Vagueness was separated there were no surnames;
To smash foolish emptiness he had to be awakened to emptiness.
If you want to know what success he had in cultivating his conduct, you must listen to the explanation in the next installment.
He Becomes Aware of the Wonderful Truth of Enlightenment
By Killing the Demon He Realizes His Spirit-Nature
The story goes on to tell how after being given a name the Handsome Monkey King jumped for joy and bowed to Subhuti to express his thanks. The Patriarch then ordered the others to take Sun Wukong out through the double doors and teach him how to sprinkle and sweep the floor, answer orders, and deport himself properly. All the Immortals went out in obedience to this command. When Sun Wukong was outside the doors he bowed to all his spiritual elder brothers and laid out his bed on the verandah. The next morning and every following day he studied language and deportment under his spiritual elder brothers, expounded the scriptures, discussed the Way, practiced calligraphy, and burnt incense. When he had any spare time he would sweep the grounds, dig the vegetable patch, grow flowers, tend trees, look for kindling, light the fire, carry water, and fetch soy. Everything he needed was provided. Thus six or seven years slipped by in the cave without his noticing them. One day the Patriarch took his seat on the dais, called all the Immortals together, and began to explain the Great Way.
Heavenly flowers fell in profusion,
While golden lotuses burst forth from the earth.
Brilliantly he expounded the doctrine of the Three Vehicles,
Setting forth ten thousand Dharmas in all their details.
As he slowly waved his whisk, jewels fell from his mouth,
Echoing like thunder and shaking the Nine Heavens.
Now preaching the Way,
Now teaching meditation,
He showed that the Three Beliefs are basically the same.
In explaining a single word he brought one back to the truth,
And taught the secrets of avoiding birth and understanding one's nature.
As Monkey sat at the side listening to the exposition he was so delighted that he tugged at his ear, scratched his cheek and smiled. He could not help waving his hands and stamping. When the Patriarch noticed this he said to Monkey, “Why are you leaping around like a madman in class instead of listening to the lesson?”
“Your disciple is listening to the exposition with all his attention,” Monkey replied, “but your marvellous words made me so happy that I started jumping around without realizing what I was doing. Please forgive me.”
To this the Patriarch replied, “If you really understand my marvellous words, then answer this question. How long have you been in my cave?”
“You disciple was born stupid,” Monkey replied, “so I've no idea how long I've been here. All I know is that whenever the fire in the stove goes out I go to the other side of the mountain to collect firewood and there I see a hill covered with fine peach trees. I've had seven good feeds of peaches there.”
“That hill is called Tender Peach Hill. If you have eaten there seven times you must have been here seven years. What sort of Way do you want to learn from me?”
“That depends what you teach me, master. As long as there's a whiff of Way to it, your disciple will learn it.”
“There are three hundred and sixty side-entrances to the Way, and they all lead to a True Result,” the Patriarch said. “Which branch would you like to study?”
“I will do whatever you think best, master,” replied Monkey.
“What about teaching you the Way of Magic Arts?”
“What does 'the Way of Magic Arts' mean?”
“Magic arts,” the Patriarch replied, “include summoning Immortals, using the magic sandboard, and divining by milfoil. With them one can learn how to bring on good fortune and avert disaster.”
“Can you become immortal this way?” asked Monkey.
“No, certainly not,” replied the Patriarch.
“No. Shan't learn it.”
“Shall I teach you the Way of Sects?” the Patriarch asked.
“What are the principles of the Sects?” said Monkey.
“Within the branch of Sects, there is Confucianism, Buddhism, Taoism, the study of the Negative and Positive, Mohism, medicine, reading scriptures and chanting the name of a Buddha. You can also summon Immortals and Sages with this branch.”
“Can you attain immortality that way?” asked Monkey.
“To try and attain immortality that way,” the Patriarch replied, “is like 'putting a pillar in the wall.'”
“Master,” Monkey said, “I'm a simple chap and I can't understand your technical jargon. What do you mean by 'putting a pillar in the wall?'”
“When a man builds a house and wants to make it strong he puts a pillar in the wall. But when the day comes for his mansion to collapse the pillar is bound to rot.”
“From what you say,” Monkey observed, “it's not eternal. No. Shan't learn it.”
“Shall I teach you the Way of Silence?” the Patriarch then asked.
“What True Result can be got from Silence?” said Monkey.
“It involves abstaining from grain, preserving one's essence, silence, inaction, meditation, abstaining from speech, eating vegetarian food, performing certain exercises when asleep or standing up, going into trances, and being walled up in total isolation.”
“Is this a way of becoming immortal?” Monkey asked.
“It's like building the top of a kiln with sun-dried bricks,” the patriarch replied.
“You do go on, master,” said Sun Wukong. “I've already told you that I can't understand your technical jargon. What does 'building the top of a kiln with sun-dried bricks' mean?”
“If you build the top of a kiln with sun-dried bricks they may make it look all right, but if they have not been hardened with fire and water, then they will crumble away in the first heavy rainstorm.”
“There's nothing eternal about that either, then,” replied Monkey. “No. Shan't learn that.”
“Shall I teach you the Way of Action then?” the Patriarch asked.
“What's that like?” Monkey asked.
“It involves acting and doing, extracting the Negative and building up the Positive, drawing the bow and loading the crossbow, rubbing the navel to make the subtle humors flow, refining elixirs according to formulae, lighting fires under cauldrons, consuming 'Red lead,' purifying 'Autumn Stone,' and drinking women's milk.”
“Can doing things like that make me live for ever?” Monkey asked.
“To try and attain immortality that way is like 'lifting the moon out of water.'”
“What does 'lifting the moon out of water' mean?”
“The moon is in the sky,” the Patriarch replied, “and only its reflection is in the water. Although you can see it there, you will try in vain to lift it out.”
“No. Shan't learn that,” Monkey exclaimed.
When the Patriarch heard this he gasped and climbed down from his dais. Pointing at Sun Wukong with his cane he said, “You won't study this and you won't study that, so what do you want, you monkey?” He went up to Monkey and hit him three times on the head, then went inside with his hands behind his back and shut the main door, abandoning them all. The class was shocked, and they all blamed Sun Wukong.
“You cheeky ape, you've no idea how to behave. The master was teaching you the Way, so why did you have to argue with him instead of learning from him? Now you've offended him we don't know when he'll come out again.” They were all very angry with him and regarded him with loathing and contempt. But Sun Wukong was not bothered in the least, and his face was covered with smiles.
The Monkey King had understood the riddle, and had the answer hidden away in his mind. So he did not argue with the others but bore it all without a word. When the Patriarch hit him three times he had been telling him to pay attention at the third watch; and when he went inside with his hands behind his back and shut the main door he had told the Monkey King to go in through the back door and be taught the Way in secret.
The delighted Sun Wukong spent the rest of that day with the others in front of the Three Stars Cave, looking at the sky and impatient for night to come. At dusk he went to bed like all the others, pretended to close his eyes, controlled his breathing, and calmed himself down. Nobody beats the watches or calls out the hour in the mountains, so he had no way of knowing the time except by regulating the breath going in and out of his nose. When he reckoned that it was about the third watch he got up very quietly, dressed, and slipped out through the front door away from the others. When he was outside he looked up and saw
The moon was bright and clear and cold,
The vast space of the eight points was free from dust.
Deep in the trees a bird slept hidden,
While the water flowed from the spring.
Fireflies scattered their lights
And a line of geese was stretched across the clouds.
It was exactly the third watch,
The right time to ask about the Way.
Watch the Monkey King as he follows the old path to the back door, which he found to be ajar. “The Patriarch has left the door open, so he really intends to teach me the Way,” he exclaimed in delight. He tiptoed toward, went in sideways through the door, and walked over to the Patriarch's bed, where he saw the Patriarch sleeping curled up, facing the inside of the room. Not daring to disturb him, Sun Wukong knelt in front of the bed. Before long the Patriarch woke up, stretched out both his legs, and mumbled to himself:
“It's hard, hard, hard. The Way is very obscure,
Don't make light of the Gold and the Cinnabar.
To teach miraculous spells to any but the Perfect Man,
Is to tire the voice and dry the tongue in vain.”
Sun Wukong said in reply, “Master, your disciple has been kneeling here for a long time.”
When the Patriarch heard that it was Sun Wukong who was speaking he pulled some clothes on, sat up cross-legged, and shouted, “It's that monkey. Why have you come into my room instead of sleeping out in front?”
“Master, you told me publicly in front of the altar yesterday that your disciple was to come in here through the back gate at the third watch as you were going to teach me the Way. That is why I made so bold as to come to pay my respects beside my master's bed.”
The Patriarch was very pleased to hear this and said to himself, “This wretch was indeed born of Heaven and Earth. Otherwise he wouldn't have been able to understand my cryptic message.”
Sun Wukong said, “There is no third pair of ears in this room; your disciple is the only other person here. I hope, master, that in your great mercy you will teach me the Way of Immortality. If you do, I'll always be grateful to you.”
“You are predestined,” the Patriarch said, “so I shall be happy to tell you. Since you understood my cryptic message, come over here and listen carefully while I teach you the miraculous Way of Immortality.” Sun Wukong kowtowed with gratitude and knelt before the bed, listening with all his attention. The Patriarch said:
“True spells, revealing secrets and all powerful,
Are the only sure way of protecting one's life.
They all come from essence, vapour, and spirit,
Must be stored away securely, and never be divulged.
Must never be divulged, and be stored in the body,
Then the Way I teach you will flourish of itself.
Many are the benefits of learning spells:
They give protection from evil desires and make one pure.
Make one pure with a dazzling radiance
Like a bright moon shining on a cinnabar tower.
The moon contains a Jade Rabbit, the sun a Golden Crow,
The Tortoise and the Snake are always intertwined.
Always intertwined, then life is firm,
And one can plant golden lotuses in fire.
Grasp all the Five Elements and turn them upside down,
And when you are successful you can become a Buddha, or an Immortal.”
The Patriarch's explanation went to the root of things, and Sun Wukong's heart was filled with bliss as he committed the spells to memory. He bowed to the Patriarch to express his deep gratitude and went out of the back door to look. He saw that there was a trace of white in the East, while the golden light of the moon was shining in the West. He went to the front door by the old path, pushed it open gently, and went in.
He sat down where he had been sleeping earlier, shook his bedding and said loudly, “It's dawn, it's dawn. Get up.” The others were all asleep, unaware of Sun Wukong's good fortune. At daybreak he got up and muddled through the day, while secretly keeping to what he had been told. In the afternoon and evening he regulated his breathing.
After three years had passed in this way the Patriarch once more sat on his lecturing throne and expounded the Dharma to the students. He recounted famous sayings and parables, and discussed external phenomena and external appearances.
Without warning he asked, “Where is Sun Wukong?” Sun Wukong went forward, knelt down and replied, “Your disciple is present.”
“What Way have you cultivated since coming here?”
“Your disciple is now fairly well conversant with the Dharma,” Sun Wukong replied, “and my Source is getting gradually stronger.”
“If you are conversant with the Dharma and you know about the Source,” the Patriarch replied, “and if the spirit has already flowed into you, then you must beware of the 'Three Disasters.'”
Sun Wukong thought for a long time, then he said, “Patriarch, you're talking rubbish. I have often heard that the Way is lofty and its power mighty, that it is as eternal as Heaven, that it can overcome fire and water, and prevent all illnesses from arising, so how could there be “Three Disasters?'”
To this the Patriarch replied, “This is not the ordinary Way: it involves seizing the very creation of Heaven and Earth, and encroaching on the hidden workings of the sun and moon. Once the elixir is made, devils and spirits cannot tolerate it. Although it will preserve the youthfulness of your face and prolong your life, in five hundred years' time Heaven will strike you with a thunderbolt. You must be clear-sighted in nature and mind, so that you can hide from it before it comes. If you succeed in avoiding it you will live as long as Heaven; and if you don't, it will kill you. Another five hundred years later Heaven will burn you with fire. This fire will be not heavenly fire or ordinary fire but 'hidden fire'. It will burn you from the soles of your feet to the crown of your head; your five viscera will be reduced to ashes, your four limbs will be destroyed, and a thousand years of asceticism will have been so much wasted time. Yet another five hundred years later a wind will blow at you. It will not be the North, South, East, or West wind, nor will it be a warm, fragrant wind from the Northwest; nor will it be the kind of wind that blows among flowers, willows, pine, and bamboo. It will be what is called a 'monster wind'. It will blow through the crown of your head down into your six entrails. It will go through the Cinnabar Field below your navel and penetrate your nine orifices. Your flesh and your bones will be destroyed and your body will disintegrate. So you must avoid all three of these disasters.”
When he heard this Sun Wukong's hair stood on end, and he kowtowed with the words, “I implore you, my lord, to show pity and teach me how to avoid these three disasters. If you do I will be grateful to you for ever.”
“That would be easy,” the Patriarch replied, “but for the fact that you are different from other people-which means that I can't.”
“I have a head that faces the sky and feet standing on earth,” said Sun Wukong. “I have nine orifices and four limbs, five viscera and six entrails. How am I different from anyone else?”
“Although you are quite like other people, your cheeks are too small.” Now the Monkey had a funny face, with cheeks that caved inwards and a sharp chin.
Sun Wukong felt it with his hand and replied with a laugh, “Master, you didn't take everything into account. Although I'm a bit short of jaw, I've got more dewlap than other people to make up for it.”
“Very well then,” the Patriarch said, “which would you prefer to learn: the thirty-six heavenly transformations or the seventy-two earthly ones?”
“Your disciple wants to get as much out of it as he can, so I would like to learn the seventy-two earthly ones.”
“If that's what you want,” the Patriarch replied, “come here and I'll teach you the spells.” Thereupon he whispered into Sun Wukong's ear, and who knows what miraculous spells he taught him? The Monkey King was the sort of person who understands everything once he is told a tiny part, and he learned the spells on the spot. He practiced and trained until he had mastered all seventy-two transformations. One day the Patriarch and all his disciples were enjoying the sunset outside the Three Stars Cave.
The Patriarch asked Sun Wukong, “Have you succeeded yet?”
Sun Wukong replied, “Thanks to your infinite mercy, master, your disciple's results have been perfect, and I can now rise on the clouds and fly.”
“Let me see you try a flight,” the Patriarch said. Sun Wukong used his skill to perform a series of somersaults that carried him fifty or sixty feet into the air, then walked around on the clouds for about as long as it takes to eat a meal.
He covered about a mile altogether before landing in front of the Patriarch, folding his arms across his chest, and saying, “Master, that's flying and soaring in the clouds.” The Patriarch laughed.
“That's not soaring on the clouds-it's just climbing up them. There is an old saying that 'an Immortal visits the Northern Sea in the morning and Cangwu in the evening'. But to take as long as you did just to go a mile doesn't count as climbing on the clouds.”
“How can it be possible to visit the Northern Sea in the morning and Cangwu in the evening?” Sun Wukong asked.
“All cloud-soarers start off from the Northern Sea early in the morning, visit the Eastern, Western and Southern Seas, and then come back to Cangwu; Cangwu is what the Northern Sea is called in the Lingling language. When you can go beyond all four seas in a single day you can regard yourself as a cloud-soarer.”
“But that must be very difficult,” Sun Wukong observed.
“Where there's a will there's a way,” the Patriarch replied.
“Nothing by halves, master,” replied Sun Wukong with bows and kowtows, “I beg of you in your great mercy to teach me the art of cloud-soaring. I promise that I will always be grateful.”
“Immortals take off with a stamp of their feet,” said the Patriarch, “but you do it differently-just now I saw you pull yourself up. As that is the way you do it, I'll show you how to do it your own way and teach you the 'somersault cloud.'“ Sun Wukong bowed again, imploring him to do so, and the Patriarch taught him the spell.
“For this kind of cloud,” the Patriarch said, “you make the magic by clasping your hands in the special way, recite the words of the spell, clench your fist, shake yourself, and jump. With one somersault you can go sixty thousand miles.” When the others heard this they all exclaimed with a laugh.
“Lucky old Sun Wukong. With magic like this he could be-a messenger delivering official letters and reports, and he'd never go short of a meal.” When it was dark the Patriarch and his pupils returned to the cave. That night Sun Wukong moved his spirit, practiced the technique, and mastered the cloud somersault. From then on he was free from all restraint and he enjoyed the delights of immortality, drifting around as he pleased.
On a day when spring was giving way to summer, and all the students had been sitting under some pine trees listening to lectures for a long time, they said, “Sun Wukong, in what life did you earn your present destiny? The other day our teacher whispered to you how to do the transformations to avoid the Three Disasters. Can you do them all yet?”
“It's true, brothers,” said Sun Wukong with a grin, “I can do them all. In the first place, it's because our master taught me; and in the second place, it's because I practiced them hard day and night.”
“This would be a good time for you to give us a demonstration.” At this suggestion Sun Wukong braced his spirit to show off his skill.
“What's it to be, brothers? Tell me what you'd like me to turn myself into.”
“Turn into a pine tree,” they all said. Sun Wukong clenched his fist, said the magic words, shook himself, and changed into a pine tree. It was truly
Green and misty throughout the four seasons,
Raising its upright beauty to the clouds.
Not in the least like a demon monkey,
Every inch a tree that withstands frost and snow.
When the students saw it they clapped their hands and chuckled aloud, saying, “Good old monkey, good old monkey.” They did not realize that the row they were making had disturbed the Patriarch, who rushed out through the door, dragging his stick behind him.
“Who's making a row out here?” he asked. The students hurriedly pulled themselves together, straightened their clothes and went over to him.
Sun Wukong, who had now resumed his real appearance, said from the forest, “Master, we were holding a discussion here, and there were no outsiders making a din.”
“Yelling and shouting like that,” the Patriarch angrily roared, “is no way for those cultivating their conduct to behave. If you are cultivating your conduct, the subtle vapours escape when you open your mouth, and when you wag your tongue, trouble starts. What was all the laughing and shouting about”
“Just now Sun Wukong did a transformation for fun. We told him to turn himself into a pine tree, and he did. We all praised and applauded him, which was why we disturbed you with the noise, master. We beg you to forgive us.”
The Patriarch sent them all away except for Sun Wukong, to whom he said, “Come here. Is that a way to use your spirit? To change into a pine tree? Is this a skill you should be showing off in front of people? If you saw somebody else doing that, wouldn't you ask him to teach you? If other people see you doing it, they're bound to ask you to teach them, and if you want to keep out of trouble you'll have to do so; otherwise they may do you harm, and then your life will be in danger.”
Sun Wukong kowtowed and said, “Please forgive me, master.”
“I shan't punish you,” the Patriarch replied, “but you'll have to go.” Sun Wukong's eyes filled with tears.
“Master, where am I to go?”
“Go back to where you came from.” Sun Wukong had a sudden awakening, and he said, “I came from the Water Curtain Cave on the Mountain of Flowers and Fruit in the country of Aolai in the Eastern Continent of Superior Body.”
“If you hurry back there,” the Patriarch replied, “you will be able to preserve your life. If you stay here it will be absolutely impossible to do so.” Sun Wukong accepted his punishment.
“Yes, master,” he said. “I've been away from home for twenty years and I do miss the old days and my children and grandchildren. But when I remember that I have not yet repaid your enormous generosity to me, I can't bring myself to go.”
“What sort of kindness would you be doing me if you stayed? I'll be happy enough if you keep me out of any disasters you cause.”
Seeing that there was nothing else for it, Sun Wukong bowed and took leave of him, saying good-bye to all the other students.
“Now that you're going,” the Patriarch said, “I'm sure that your life will not be a good one. Whatever disasters you cause and crimes you commit, I forbid you under any circumstances to call yourself my disciple. If you so much as hint at it I'll know at once, and I'll tear off your monkey skin, chop up your bones, and banish your soul to the Ninth Darkness. I won't let you out for ten thousand aeons.”
“I promise never to give away a single letter of your name,” said Sun Wukong. “I'll just say that I taught myself.”
Sun Wukong took his leave and went away. Making the spell by clasping his fist he jumped head over heels, summoned a somersault cloud, and went back to the Eastern Continent. Within two hours he saw the Water Curtain Cave on the Mountain of Flowers and Fruit. The Handsome Monkey King was so pleased that he said to himself:
“When I left here my mortal flesh and bones were heavy,
But now I have the Way my body's light.
No one in the world has real determination,
To the firm will, the hidden becomes clear.
When I last crossed the seas the waves got in my way,
But now on my return the journey's easy.
The parting words still echo in my ears;
When will I see The Eastern Ocean again?”
Sun Wukong put away his cloud and headed straight to the Mountain of Flowers and Fruit. As he followed the path there he heard the call of the cranes and the cries of the apes. The crane calls echoed beyond the Milky Way, and the ape cries were pathetically sad.
Sun Wukong shouted, “Children, I'm back.”
Big monkeys and little monkeys came bounding in their thousands and tens of thousands from caves in the cliffs, from the grass and flowers, and down from the trees. They all crowded round the Handsome Monkey King, kowtowed and said, “Your Majesty, you're a cool one. How could you stay away for so long, abandoning us all here? We've been desperate for you to come back. A demon has been mistreating us terribly. He's occupied our Water Curtain Cave, and we've been fighting for our lives with him. Recently he's been stealing our things and carrying off many of our youngsters. We've had to stay awake all night to guard our families. Thank goodness you've come back! Another year without you, Your Majesty, and every one of us would be under his control, cave and all.”
Sun Wukong was furious, “Who is this demon? What an outrage! Tell me everything about him, and then I'll go and give him what's coming to him.”
The monkey host kowtowed again and said, “Your Majesty, the wretch calls himself the Demon King of Confusion. He lives North of here.”
“How far away is his lair?” Sun Wukong asked.
“He comes and goes in cloud and mist with wind and rain, or thunder and lightning, so we don't know how far it is.”
“If that's how it is,” Sun Wukong replied, “then don't worry. Just keep yourselves amused while I go and find him.”
The splendid Monkey King jumped up into the air, and as he somersaulted towards the North he saw a high and precipitous mountain. It was a fine sight:
Perpendicular peaks jutting straight up,
Deep-sunk winding streams.
The perpendicular peaks jutting straight up pierced the sky;
The deep-sunk winding streams led to the underworld.
On pairs of cliffs the plants compete in strangeness;
Elsewhere pine vies in greenness with bamboo.
To the left are docile dragons,
To the right are tame tigers.
Iron oxen ploughing are a common sight,
Golden coins are always sown as seeds.
Hidden birds sing beautifully,
Red phoenixes stand in the sun.
Racing over stones, the clear waves
Twist and bend in a vicious torrent.
Many are the famous mountains in the world,
And many the flowers that bloom and wither on them.
But this scenery is eternal,
Unchanging through the four seasons.
It is truly the mountain from which the Three Worlds spring,
The Cave in the Belly of the Water that nourishes the Five Elements.
As the Handsome Monkey King stood gazing in silence at this view, he heard voices. When he went down the mountainside to look he found the Cave in the Belly of the Water facing the cliff. Several minor demons were dancing around in front of the cave doors, and they ran away as soon as they saw Sun Wukong.
“Wait a moment,” Sun Wukong said. “I want you to take a message for me. I am the King of the Water Curtain Cave in the Mountain of Flowers and Fruit that lies due South of here. I've come to find that Demon of Confusion of yours, or whatever he's called, the one who's been mistreating my children and grandchildren, and have it out with him.”
The minor demons scuttled into the cave and reported, “A disaster, Your Majesty.”
“What do you mean, disaster?” the demon king asked.
“There's a monkey outside the cave,” the minor demons reported, “who says that he's the King of the Water Curtain Cave on the Mountain of Flowers and Fruit. He says that you have been bullying his children and grandchildren, and that he's come specially to find you to have it out with you.” The demon king laughed.
“Those monkey devils are always going on about a king of theirs who renounced the world to cultivate his conduct; I suppose it must be him who's here now. Did you see how he was dressed or what weapons he was carrying?”
“He hasn't got any weapons. He's bareheaded, and he's wearing a red gown belted with a yellow silk sash, and a pair of black boots. He isn't dressed like a monk, or a layman, or an Immortal. He's bare-handed and empty-fisted, and he's standing outside the doors yelling.”
“Bring me my armour and weapons,” said the demon king when he heard this. The minor demons produced them at once, and when he had donned his armour he went out of the door with all the demons, his sword in his hand.
“Who is the King of the Water Curtain Cave?” he roared. Sun Wukong took a quick look at him and saw that
On his head he wore a dark golden helmet,
Glistening in the sun.
On his body he wore a black silk gown,
Flapping in the breeze.
Below that he wore black metal armour,
Girt with a leather belt.
On his feet he wore patterned boots,
As splendid as a field-marshal's.
His waist was ten feet round,
And his height was thirty cubits.
In his hand he held a sword,
With gleaming point and edge.
He called himself the Demon King of Confusion
And his appearance was truly dazzling.
“You insolent demon,” shouted the Monkey King. “Your eyes may be big but you can't see who I am.”
The demon king laughed at him. “You don't even stand four feet from the ground, you're still in your twenties, and you've got no weapon in your hand. What sort of mad courage makes you challenge me to a fight?”
“You insolent demon,” retorted Sun Wukong, “how blind you are. You may think I'm small, but I can grow easily enough. You may think I'm unarmed, but I could pull the moon down from the sky with my two hands. Don't worry, old Sun Wukong will sock you one.” Sun Wukong gave a jump and leapt into the air, taking a swing at his face.
The demon king put out his hand to stop him and said, “Look how big I am, you dwarf. If you use your fists, I'll use my sword. But I'd only make myself look ridiculous if I killed you with a sword. Wait till I've put my sword down and then I'll give you a display of boxing.”
“Well said,” exclaimed Sun Wukong, “spoken like a man. Come on then.” The demon king dropped his guard to throw a punch, and Sun Wukong rushed in towards him, punching and kicking. When he spread out his hand it was enormous, and when he clenched his fist it was very hard. Sun Wukong hit the demon king in the ribs, kicked his backside, and smashed several of his joints. The demon king seized his steel sword that was as big as a plank, and swung it at Sun Wukong's skull. Sun Wukong dodged the blow, and the sword only split air. Seeing how ugly the demon king had turned, Sun Wukong used his magic art of getting extra bodies. He pulled out one of his hairs, popped it in his mouth, chewed it up, and blew it out into the air, shouting, “Change!” It turned into two or three hundred little monkeys, who all crowded round him.
Sun Wukong now had an immortal body, and there was no magic transformation of which he was not capable. Since he had followed the Way he could change each of the eighty-four thousand hairs on his body into anything he wanted. The little monkeys were too quick and nimble for sword or spear.
Look at them, leaping forwards and jumping backwards, rushing up and surrounding the demon king, grabbing him, seizing him, poking him in the backside, pulling at his feet, punching him, kicking him, tearing his hair out, scratching at his eyes, twisting his nose, all picking him up together and throwing him to the ground. They went on until they had beaten him to a pulp. Sun Wukong snatched his sword from him, told the little monkeys to get out of the way, and brought it down on the crown of his head, splitting it into two.
Then he led his forces charging into the cave, where they exterminated all the demons, big and small. He shook his hair and put it back on his body. The monkeys who did not go back on his body were the little monkeys the demon king had carried off from the Water Curtain Cave. Sun Wukong asked them how they had got there.
There were thirty of forty of them, and they replied with tears in their eyes, “It was after Your Majesty went off to become an Immortal. He has been fighting with us for the last two years. He brought us all here by force. All the things here-the stone bowls and plates-were stolen from our cave by that beast.”
“If it's our stuff, take it all out,” said Sun Wukong. He then set fire to the Cave in the Belly of the Water and burnt it to a cinder.
“Come back with me,” he ordered the monkeys.
“Your Majesty,” they replied, “when we came here all we could hear was the wind howling in our ears as it blew us here, so we don't know the way. How are we ever going to get back?”
“There's nothing at all to that spell he used,” said Sun Wukong. “I can do it too, as now I only have to know the smallest bit about something to understand it completely. Shut your eyes and don't worry.”
Splendid Monkey King. He recited a spell, took them riding on a hurricane, then brought the cloud down to the ground.
“Open your eyes and look, children,” he shouted. As soon as the monkeys' feet touched the ground they recognized their home. In their delight they all ran along the familiar path to the cave, and the monkeys who had stayed in the cave all crowded in as well. They divided themselves into age-groups and bowed in homage to the Monkey King. Wine and food was laid out to celebrate, and they asked him how he had defeated the demon king and saved their children. When Sun Wukong had told them the whole story the monkeys were full of admiration.
“Where did you learn such arts, Your Majesty?” they asked insistently.
“When I left you,” Sun Wukong replied, “I followed the waves and the currents, and drifted across the Eastern Ocean to the Southern Jambu Continent. Here I taught myself to take human form and to wear these clothes and boots. I swaggered around for eight or nine years, but I never found the Way, so I sailed across the Western Ocean to the Western Continent of Cattle-gift. After long enquiries I was lucky enough to meet a venerable Immortal, who taught me the True Result, which makes me as immortal as heaven, and the great Dharma Gate to eternal youth.” The monkeys all congratulated him and exclaimed that his like could not be found in a billion years.
Sun Wukong laughed and said, “Children, we should congratulate ourselves on having a surname.”
“What is Your Majesty's surname?” the monkey masses asked.
“My surname is now Sun, and my Buddhist name is Wukong.”
The monkeys all clapped their hands with joy and said, “Your Majesty is Old Sun, and we are Second Sun, Third Sun, Thin Sun, Little Sun-a family of Suns, a nation of Suns, a den of Suns.” They all offered Old Sun their respects, with big plates and small bowls of coconut toddy, grape wine, magic flowers, and magic fruit. The whole household was happy. My word!
By uniting themselves with a single surname
They are waiting to be transferred to the Register of Immortals.
If you don't know how this ended and want to know about the rest of their lives there, then listen to the explanation in the next installment.
The Four Seas and Thousand Mountains All Submit
In the Ninth Hell the Tenth Category Is Struck Off the Register
We have related how the Handsome Monkey King returned home in glory, bringing a large sword he had captured when he killed the Demon King of Confusion. From then on they practiced the military arts every day. He asked the little monkeys to cut down bamboo to make spears, carve swords out of wood, and learn to use banners and whistles. They learned to advance and retreat, and build a camp with a stockade round it. They spent a lot of time playing at this.
Once Sun Wukong was sitting in his seat of meditation when he wondered: “What would happen to us if our games were taken for the real thing? What if it alarmed some human monarch or gave offence to some king of birds or beasts? They might say that we were having military training for a rebellion, and attack us with their armies. You would be no match for them with your bamboo spears and wooden swords. We must have really sharp swords and halberds. What are we to do about it?”
When the monkeys heard this they all said with alarm, “Your Majesty has great foresight, but there's nowhere we can get them.” When it was the turn of four older monkeys to speak-two bare-bottomed apes and two gibbons-they came forward and said, “Your Majesty, if you want sharp weapons they can be very easily obtained.”
“How could it be easy?” asked Sun Wukong.
“To the East of our mountain,” they replied, “there is a lake some seventy miles wide that is the boundary of the country of Aolai. That country has a princely capital, and huge numbers of soldiers and civilians live in the city. It must have workshops for gold, silver, bronze and iron. If you went there, Your Majesty, you could either buy arms or get them made; then you could train us to use them in the defense of our mountain. This would give us long-term security.” Sun Wukong was delighted with the suggestion.
“Wait here while I go there,” he said.
Splendid Monkey King! He leapt on to his somersault cloud, crossed the seventy miles of lake, and saw that on the other side there was indeed a city wall, a moat, streets, markets, ten thousand houses, a thousand gates, and people coming and going in the sunlight.
“There must be ready-made weapons here,” Sun Wukong thought, “and getting a few by magic would be much better than buying them.” So he made a magic with his fist and said the words of the spell, sucked in some air from the Southeast, and blew it hard out again. It turned into a terrifying gale carrying sand and stones with it.
Where the thunderclouds rise the elements are in chaos;
Black fogs thick with dust cloak the earth in darkness.
Boiling rivers and seas terrify the crabs and fish;
As trees are snapped off in mountain forests tigers and wolves flee.
No business is done in any branch of commerce;
And no one is working at any kind of trade.
In the palace the king has gone to his inner quarters;
And the officials in front of the steps have returned to their offices.
The thrones of princes are all blown over;
Towers of five phoenixes are shaken to their foundations.
Where the storm blew, the prince of Aolai fled in terror, and gates and doors were shut in the streets and markets. Nobody dared to move outside. Sun Wukong landed his cloud and rushed straight through the gates of the palace to the arsenal and the military stores, opened the doors, and saw countless weapons: swords, pikes, sabres, halberds, battleaxes, bills, scimitars, maces, tridents, clubs, bows, crossbows, forks, and spears were all there.
At the sight of them he said happily, “How many of these could I carry by myself? I'd better use the magic for dividing up my body.”
Splendid Monkey King. He plucked a hair from his body, chewed it up, spat it out, made the magic with his fist, said the words of the spell, and shouted “Change!” It turned into hundreds and thousands of little monkeys, who rushed wildly about grabbing weapons. The strong ones took six or seven each and the weaker ones two or three, and between them they removed the lot. He climbed back up on the clouds, called up a gale by magic, and took all the little monkeys home with him.
The monkeys big and small of the Mountain of Flowers and Fruit were playing outside the gates of the cave when they heard the wind. At the sight of countless monkey spirits flying through the air they fled and hid. A moment later the Handsome Monkey King landed his cloud, put away his mists, shook himself, replaced his hair, and threw all the weapons into a pile beside the mountain.
“Children,” he shouted, “come and get your weapons.” When the monkey masses looked they saw Sun Wukong standing by himself on some level ground, and they all rushed over to him to kowtow and asked what had happened. Sun Wukong told them the whole story of how he had raised the gale and taken the weapons. After all the monkeys had thanked him they snatched sabres, grabbed swords, seized battleaxes, fought for pikes, drew bows, stretched crossbows, shouted, yelled, and so amused themselves for the rest of the day.
The next day they paraded as usual. Sun Wukong assembled all the monkey host, and they numbered over forty-seven thousand. This had alarmed all the strange beasts of the mountain-wolves, monsters, tigers, leopards, deer, muntjacs, river-deer, foxes, wild cats, badgers, raccoons, lions, elephants, horses, orangutans, bears, stags, wild boar, mountain cattle, antelopes, rhinoceroses, little dogs, huge dogs. The kings of various kinds of monsters, seventy-two in all, all came to pay homage to the Monkey King. They offered tribute every year and attended court in each of the four seasons. They also took part in drill and paid their seasonal grain levies. Everything was so orderly that the Mountain of Flowers and Fruit was as secure as an iron bucket or a wall of bronze. The kings of the monsters sent gongs, drums, coloured flags, helmets, and armour in great abundance, and every day there were military exercises.
One day, amid all this success, the Handsome Monkey King suddenly said to the other monkeys, “You are now expert in the bow and crossbow, and highly skilled in other weapons; but this sword of mine is too clumsy for my liking. What shall I do about it?”
The four veteran monkeys came forward and submitted a suggestion: “Your Majesty is an Immortal, so mortals' weapons are not good enough for you. We wonder if Your Majesty is able to travel underwater.”
“Since hearing the Way,” Sun Wukong replied, “I have mastered the seventy-two earthly transformations. My somersault cloud has outstanding magical powers. I know how to conceal myself and vanish. I can make spells and end them. I can reach the sky and find my way into the earth. I can travel under the sun or moon without leaving a shadow or go through metal or stone freely. I can't be drowned by water or burned by fire. There's nowhere I cannot go.”
“If Your Majesty has these magical powers, the stream under our iron bridge leads to the Dragon palace of the Eastern Sea. If you are willing to go down there, go and find the Dragon King and ask him for whatever weapon it is you want. Wouldn't that suit you?”
“Wait till I get back,” was Sun Wukong's delighted reply.
Splendid Monkey King. He leapt to the end of the bridge and made a spell with his fist to ward off the water. Then he dived into the waves and split the waters to make way for himself till he reached the bed of the Eastern Sea. On his journey he saw a yaksha demon who was patrolling the sea.
The yaksha barred his way and asked, “What sage or divinity are you, pushing the waters aside like that? Please tell me so that I can make a report and have you properly received.”
“I am the Heaven-born Sage Sun Wukong from the Mountain of Flowers and Fruit, and your old Dragon King's close neighbour. How is it you don't know me?”
When the yaksha heard this he hurried back to the crystal palace and reported, “Your Majesty, Sun Wukong, the Heaven-born Sage from the Mountain of Flowers and Fruit who says he is your neighbour, is coming to your palace.” Ao Guang, the Old Dragon King of the Eastern Sea, leapt to his feet and went out to meet Sun Wukong with his dragon sons and grandsons, his prawn soldiers, and his crab generals.
“Come in, exalted Immortal,” he said, taking Sun Wukong into the palace where they introduced themselves, seated him in the place of honour, and offered him tea. Then the Dragon King asked him, “Exalted Immortal, when did you find the Way, and what magic arts did you acquire?”
“After my birth,” said Sun Wukong, “I renounced the world and cultivated my conduct, and thus obtained an immortal and indestructible body. Recently I have trained my sons and grandsons to guard our cave, but unfortunately I have not yet found my self a weapon. I have long heard that my illustrious neighbour enjoys the delights of a jade palace with gate-towers of cowry, and I was sure that you must have some magic weapons to spare, so I have come especially to beg one of you.”
Not wishing to refuse this request, the Dragon King sent Commander Perch to fetch a large sword and offer it to Sun Wukong.
“I don't know how to use a sword,” said Sun Wukong, “so could I ask you to give me something else?” The Old Dragon King then sent Colonel Mackerel and Guard Commander Eel to fetch a nine-pronged spear.
Sun Wukong leapt down from his seat, took it, tried it out, then flung it down, saying, “It's too light, far too light; and it doesn't suit me. I beg you to give me another.”
The Dragon King smiled as he said, “Exalted Immortal, don't you see that this weighs three thousand six hundred pounds?”
“It doesn't suit me, it doesn't suit me at all,” protested Sun Wukong.
The Dragon King, feeling frightened now, ordered Provincial Commander Bream and Garrison Commander Carp to bring out a patterned heavenly halberd for warding off spells that weighed seven thousand two hundred pounds.
As soon as he saw it Sun Wukong bounded forward to take it. He tried a few postures and thrusts with it then stuck it in the ground between them. “Still too light, far too light.”
The Dragon King, now really terrified, said, “Exalted Immortal, that halberd is the heaviest weapon in my palace.”
“As the old saying goes,” said Sun Wukong with a grin, “'Never think the dragon king has no treasures.' Have another look, and if you find anything satisfying I'll give you a good price for it.”
“I really have nothing else,” the Dragon King replied.
As he was speaking, his dragon wife and dragon daughters came in from the back of the palace and said, “Your Majesty, by the look of him this sage must be really somebody. The piece of miraculous iron that anchors the Milkey Way in place has been shining with a lovely rosy glow for the last few days, and creating a most auspicious atmosphere. Perhaps it has started to shine to greet this sage.”
“That piece of miraculous iron is one of the nails that Yu the Great used to fix the depths of rivers and seas when he brought the waters under control,” said the Dragon King. “What use could it be?”
“Never mind whether it's useful or not,” his wife replied. “Just give it to him and let him do with it as he pleases. At least you'll get him out of the palace.”
The Dragon King did as she suggested and described the piece of iron to Sun Wukong, who said, “Bring it out and let me see.”
“It can't be moved. You will have to go and look at it yourself, exalted Immortal.”
“Where is it? Take me there,” said Sun Wukong.
The Dragon King took him into the middle of the sea treasury, where all of a sudden they could see ten thousand rays of golden light. Pointing at it, the Dragon King said, “That's it, where all the light is coming from.”
Sun Wukong hitched up his clothes and went to give it a feel. He found that it was an iron pillar about as thick as a measure for a peck of grain and some twenty feet long. Seizing it with both hands he said, “It's too thick and too long. If it were a bit shorter and thinner it would do.” As soon as these words were out of his mouth this precious piece of iron became several feet shorter and a few inches thinner.
Sun Wukong tossed it in his hands, remarking that it would be even better if it were thinner still. The precious iron thereupon became even thinner. Sun Wukong was taking it out of the sea treasury to have a look at it when he saw that it had two gold bands round it, while the middle part was made of black iron. There was a line of inlaid writing near the bands which said that it was the AS-YOU-WILL COLD-BANDED CUDGEL: WEIGHT 13,500 POUNDS.
Sun Wukong was delighted, though he did not show it. “I think that this little darling will do whatever I want.” As he walked along he weighed it in his hand and said reflectively, “If it were even smaller still it would be perfect.” By the time he had taken it outside it was twenty feet long and as thick as a rice bowl.
Watch him as he uses his magical powers to try a few routines with it, whirling all round the crystal palace. The Old Dragon King was trembling with fright, and the little dragons were scared out of their wits. Terrapins, freshwater turtles, seawater turtles and alligators drew in their heads, while fish, shrimps, lobsters and giant turtles hid their faces.
Holding his treasure in his hands, Sun Wukong sat down in the main hall of the palace of crystal and said with a smile to the Dragon King, “Many thanks, worthy neighbour, for your great generosity.”
The Old Dragon King humbly acknowledged his thanks, and Sun Wukong went on, “This piece of iron will be very useful, but there is one more thing I want to ask.”
“What might that be, exalted Immortal?” asked the Dragon King.
“If I hadn't got this cudgel, that would be the end of the matter, but as I have got it the problem is that I don't have-the clothes to go with it. What are we to do about it? If you have any armour here, I'd be most obliged if you gave me a suit.” The Dragon King said he had not any.
“'A guest should not have to trouble two hosts,'“ said Sun Wukong. “I won't leave without one.”
“Please try some other sea, exalted Immortal-you may find one there.”
“'It's better to stay in one house than to visit three.' I beg and implore you to give me a suit.”
“I really don't have one,” replied the Dragon King. “If I had I would present it to you.”
“If you really haven't, then I'll try this cudgel out on you.”
“Don't hit me, exalted Immortal, don't hit me,” pleaded the Dragon King in terror. “Let me see whether my brothers have one that they could give you.”
“Where do your brothers live?”
“They are Ao Qin, the Dragon King of the Southern Sea, Ao Shun, the Dragon King of the Northern Sea, and Ao Run, the Dragon King of the Southern Sea.”
“I'm damned if I'm going there: as the saying goes, 'Two in the pocket is better than three owing.' So be a good chap and give me one.”
“There is no need for you to go, lofty Immortal,” the Dragon King replied, “I have an iron drum and a bronze bell. In an emergency we strike them to bring my brothers here in an instant.”
“In that case,” said Sun Wukong, “hurry up and sound them.” And indeed an alligator general struck the bell while a terrapin marshal beat the drum. The sound of the bell and the drum startled the other three dragon kings, who had arrived and were waiting together outside within the instant.
One of them, Ao Qin, said, “Elder Brother, what's up? Why the drum and the bell?”
“It hurts me to tell you, brother,” the Old Dragon King replied. “There's this so-called heaven-born sage from the Mountain of Flowers and Fruit who came here this morning saying that I was his neighbour, then demanded a weapon. I offered him a steel-pronged spear but he said it was too small, and a patterned halberd that he said was too light. Then he picked up the miraculous iron that fastens the Milky Way and tried a few movements with it. Now he's sitting in the palace and demanding a suit of armour, but we haven't got one. That's why I used the bell and the drum to call you here. You three must have some armour. Please give him a suit, then we can get rid of him.”
When Ao Qin heard this he said in a fury, “To arms, brothers. Arrest the criminal.”
“No! No! It's out of the question,” said the Old Dragon King. “If that iron cudgel of his gets you you're done for, if it hits you die, if it comes close your skin is broken, and if it so much as brushes against you your sinews are smashed.”
Ao Run, the Dragon King of the Western Sea, said, “Second brother, you must not attack him. Instead we should put a suit of armour together for him, then send him away. We can send a memorial about it to Heaven, then Heaven will of course punish him.”
“You're right,” said Ao Shun, the Dragon King of the Northern Sea. “I have a pair of lotus-root cloud-walking shoes.”
“I've brought a suit of golden chain mail,” said Ao Run, the Dragon King of the Western Sea.
“And I have a phoenix-winged purple gold helmet,” added Ao Qin, the Dragon King of the Southern Sea. The Old Dragon King was very pleased, and he brought them into the palace to meet Sun Wukong and present the equipment to him.
Sun Wukong put on the golden helmet and the armour and the cloud-walking shoes, then charged out, waving his cudgel and saying to the dragons, “My apologies for disturbing you.” The four Dragon Kings were most indignant, but we will not go into their discussions on the protest they sent to Heaven.
Watch the Monkey King as he parts the waters and goes straight back to the iron bridge, where the four senior apes can be seen waiting for him at the head of the monkey host. Sun Wukong suddenly leapt out of the waves without a drop of water on him and gleaming with gold.
As he came across the bridge the monkeys were so astonished that they fell to their knees and said, “How splendid you look, Your Majesty, how splendid.” Sun Wukong, his face lit up with youthful vigor, climbed up to his throne, thrust his cudgel into the ground in their midst. The foolish monkeys all tried to grab this treasure, but it was as futile as a dragonfly trying to shake an iron tree: they were unable to move it in the slightest.
Biting their fingers and sticking out their tongues they said, “Grandpa, it's so heavy, how can you possibly lift it?”
Sun Wukong went over, lifted it with one hand, and laughed as he said to them, “Everything has its rightful owner. This little treasure has been lying in the sea treasury for goodness knows how many thousands of years, but it just happened to start shining this year. The Dragon King thought it was just a piece of ordinary iron, and said it was the miraculous treasure that holds the bed of the Milky Way in place. None of his men could move it, so he had to ask me to go and fetch it myself. It was more than twenty feet long then, and as thick as a peck-measure. When I picked it up I felt that it was too big, and it shrank till it was several times as small. I told it to get even smaller, and it did that too; then I told it to get smaller still, and it got many times smaller again. I hurried out into the light of day to look at it, and I saw that there was an inscription on it that read 'AS-YOU-WILL GOLD-BANDED CUDGEL: WEIGHT 13,500 POUNDS '. Stand aside, and I'll make it change again.”
Holding his treasure in his hand he said, “Shrink, shrink, shrink,” and it became as small as an embroidery needle, tiny enough to be hidden in his ear.
“Your Majesty,” the monkeys cried out in astonishment, “bring it out and play with it again.”
So the Monkey King brought it out of his ear again, laid it on the palm of his hand, and said, “Grow, grow, grow.” It became as thick as a peck again and twenty feet long. Now that he was really enjoying himself he bounded over the bridge and went out of the cave. Clasping his treasure he used some of his heaven and earth magic, bowed, and shouted, “Grow.”
He became a hundred thousand feet tall; his head was as big as a mountain, his waist like a range of hills, his eyes flashed like lightning, his mouth seemed to be a bowl of blood, and his teeth were as swords and halberds; the cudgel in his hands reached up to the Thirty-third Heaven and down to the Eighteenth Hell. The tigers, leopards and wolves, the beasts of the mountain, and the seventy-two monster kings all kowtowed and bowed in terror, trembling so much that they went out of their minds. A moment later he reverted to his proper size, turned his treasure into an embroidery needle, hid it in his ear, and went back to the cave. The panic-stricken kings of the monsters all came to offer their congratulations.
There was a great display of banners and drums, and the air resounded to the sound of gongs and bells. Rare delicacies were set out in great quantities, cups brimmed with coconut toddy and the wine of the grape, and the Monkey King feasted and drank with his people for a long time. Then training went on as before.
The Monkey King named the four senior apes as his four Stalwart Generals: he named the two bare-bottomed apes Marshal Ma and Marshal Liu, and called the two gibbons General Beng and General Ba. He entrusted the stockade, questions of discipline and rewards to these four. Thus freed from cares, he mounted the clouds and rode the mists, wandering round the four seas and enjoying the thousand mountains. He practiced his martial arts, visited many a hero, used his magical powers, and made a wide and distinguished circle of friends. He met with six sworn brothers of his: the Bull Demon King, the Salamander Demon King, the Roc Demon King, the Camel King, the Macaque King, and the Lion King. With him included they made seven. For days on end they talked about politics and war, passed round the goblet, strummed, sang, piped, danced, went off on days out together, and enjoyed themselves in every possible way. A journey of thousands of miles seemed to them to be no more than a walk in the courtyard. It could be said that they traveled a thousand miles in the time it takes to nod one's head, and covered three hundred with a twist of the waist.
One day he instructed his four Stalwart Generals to arrange a feast for the six other kings. Oxen and horses were slaughtered, sacrifices were made to Heaven and Earth, and the assembled monsters danced, sang, and drank themselves blotto. When he had seen the six kings out and tipped his senior and junior officials Sun Wukong lay himself down under the shade of the pines beside the bridge and was asleep in an instant. The four Stalwart Generals made the others stand round and guard him, and they all kept their voices down.
In his sleep the Handsome Monkey King saw two men approach him with a piece of paper in their hands on which was written “Sun Wukong.” Without allowing any explanations they tied up his soul and dragged it staggering along till they reached a city wall. The Monkey King, who was gradually recovering from his drunken stupor, looked up and saw an iron plate on the wall on which was inscribed WORLD OF DARKNESS in large letters.
In a flash of realization he said, “The World of Darkness is where King Yama lives. Why have I come here?”
“Your life in the world above is due to end now,” his escorts said, “and we were ordered to fetch you.”
To this the Monkey King replied, “I have gone beyond the Three Worlds, and I am no longer subject to the Five Elements. I don't come under King Yama's jurisdiction. How dare you grab me, you idiots?” But the fetchers of the dead just went on tugging at him, determined to drag him inside.
The Monkey King lost his temper, pulled his treasure out of his ear, and gave it a shake. It became as thick as a rice bowl. It only took a slight movement of his arm to smash the two fetchers of the dead to pulp. He untied his bonds, loosed his hands, and charged into the city whirling his cudgel, so terrifying the ox-headed and horse-faced devils that they fled in all directions for cover.
All the devil soldiers rushed to the Senluo Palace and reported, “Your Majesty, disaster, disaster! A hairy-faced thunder-god is attacking us out there.”
Stricken by panic, the Ten Kings who sit in the ten palaces, judging the criminal cases of the dead, hurriedly straightened their clothing and went out to look. When they saw his ferocious expression they lined up in order and shouted at the tops of their voices, “Please tell us your name, exalted Immortal.”
“If you don't know who I am,” replied the Monkey King, “then why did you send men to bring me here?”
“We wouldn't dare do such a thing. The messengers must have made a mistake.”
“I am Sun Wukong, the Heaven-born sage of the Water Curtain Cave on the Mountain of Flowers and Fruit. What are your posts?”
“We are the ten kings.”
“Tell me your names at once if you don't want a bashing.”
To this the ten kings replied, “We are the King of Qinguang, the King of Chujiang, King Songdi, King Wuguan, King Yama, King Impartial, the King of Mount Tai, the Metropolitan King, the King of Biancheng, and the King of the Ever-turning Wheel.”
To this Sun Wukong replied, “You are all kings, and have esoteric understanding, so why don't you know any better? I, Sun Wukong, have cultivated the Way of Immortality and will live as long as Heaven. I've soared beyond the Three Worlds and leapt outside the Five Elements, so why did you send your men to get me?”
“Please don't be angry, lofty Immortal,” the ten kings said. “Many people in the world share the same name, so perhaps the fetchers of the dead went to the wrong place.”
“Nonsense, nonsense. As the saying goes, 'The magistrate may be wrong and the sergeant may be wrong, but the man who comes to get you is never wrong.' Go and get the Register of Life and Death for me to see.” The Ten Kings invited him to come into the palace and look through it.
Sun Wukong went into the Senluo Palace with his club in his hand, and sat down in the middle of the hall facing South. The Ten Kings then ordered the presiding judge to fetch the register, and the judge hastened to his office and brought out five or six documents and ten registers. He looked through them all one by one, but could not find Sun Wukong's name in the sections devoted to hairless creatures, hairy creatures, feathered creatures, insects, or scaly creatures. Then he looked through the monkey section. Now although monkeys looked like men, they were not entered under the humans; although they were like the hairless creatures, they did not live within their boundaries; although they were like running animals, they were not under the jurisdiction of the unicorn; and although they were like birds, they were not ruled by the phoenix. There was another register, and Sun Wukong looked through this one himself. Under “Soul No. 1350” was the name of Sun Wukong, the Heaven-born stone monkey, who was destined to live to the age of 342 and die a good death.
“I won't write down any number of years,” said Sun Wukong. “I'll just erase my name and be done with it. Bring me a brush.” The judge hastily handed him a brush and thick, black ink.
Sun Wukong took the register, crossed out all the names in the monkey section, and threw it on the floor with the words, “The account's closed. That's an end of it. We won't come under your control any longer.” Then he cudgeled his way out of the World of Darkness. The Ten Kings dared not go near him, and they all went to the Azure Cloud Palace to bow in homage to the Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha and discuss the report they would send up to Heaven. But we will not go into this.
After charging out through the city wall the Monkey King tripped over a clump of grass, tried to regain his balance, and woke up with a start. It had all been a dream. As he stretched himself he heard his four Stalwart Generals and the other monkeys saying, “Your Majesty, time to wake up. You drank too much and slept all night.”
“Never mind about my sleeping. I dreamt that two men came for me. They dragged me to the city-wall of the World of Darkness, where I came round. I showed them my magic powers and went yelling all the way to the Senluo Palace, where I had an argument with those Ten Kings and looked through the Register of Life and Death of us. Wherever there was mention of your names in the register, I crossed them out. We won't come under the jurisdiction of those idiots any more.”
All the monkeys kowtowed to him in gratitude. The reason why from that time on so many mountain monkeys have never grown old is that their names are not on the books of the officials of the Underworld. When the Handsome Monkey King had finished telling his story, the four Stalwart Generals informed the other monster kings, who all came to offer their felicitations. A few days later his six sworn brothers also came to congratulate him, and all were delighted to hear how he had struck the names off the books. We will not describe the daily feasts that followed.
Instead we will describe how one day the Supreme Heavenly Sage, the Greatly Compassionate Jade Emperor of the Azure Vault of Heaven, was sitting on his throne in the Hall of Miraculous Mist in the Golden-gated Cloud Palace, surrounded by his immortal civil and military officials at morning court, when the Immortal Qiu Hongji reported, “Your Majesty, Ao Guang, the Dragon King of the Eastern Sea, has presented a memorial outside the Hall of Universal Brightness, and is awaiting a summons from your Imperial Majesty.”
The Jade Emperor ordered that he be called in, and the Dragon King came to the Hall of Miraculous Mist. When he had done obeisance an immortal page came from the side to take his memorial. The Jade Emperor read it through. It ran:
Your Subject Ao Guang,
the Humble Dragon of the Eastern Sea of the Eastern Continent of Superior Body in the Nether Watery Regions
Reports to the Jade Emperor of the Azure Vault of Heaven
Recently one Sun Wukong, an immortal fiend born on the Mountain of Flowers and Fruit now living in the Water Curtain Cave, bullied this humble dragon and occupied my watery house by force. He demanded a weapon by displaying magical prowess; he insisted on having armour by showing off his evil powers. He terrified the watery tribe and made the tortoises and alligators flee in terror. The dragon of the Southern Sea trembled, the dragon of the Western Sea was made miserable, the dragon of the Northern Sea had to hang his head and come in submission, and I, your subject Ao Guang, humbled myself before him. We had to present him with a miraculous iron cudgel, a golden phoenix-winged helmet, a suit of chain mail, and a pair of cloud-walking shoes; and we escorted him out politely.
He continued to show off his martial arts and magic powers, and all he had to say for himself was, “My apologies for disturbing you.” There is truly no match for him, and he is uncontrollable. Your subject now presents this memorial, and respectfully awaits your sage decision. I humbly beg that heavenly soldiers be sent to arrest this evil demon, so that the sea and the mountains may be at peace, and the ocean may enjoy tranquillity.
When the Jade Emperor had read this through he ordered, “Let the Dragon God return to the Sea; we shall send generals to arrest the demon.” The Old Dragon King bowed till his head touched the floor and took his leave.
Then the Venerable Immortal Ge, a heavenly teacher, reported, “Your Majesty, the King of Qinguang, one of the ministers of the Underworld, has come with a memorial from the Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha.” A jade girl messenger took the memorial, which the Jade Emperor read through. It ran:
The regions of darkness are the negative part of the Earth. Heaven contains gods while the Earth has devils; Positive and Negative are in a constant cycle. Birds and beasts are born and die; male and female alternate. Life is created and change takes place; male and female are conceived and born; this is the order of nature, and it cannot be changed. Now the evil spirit, the Heaven-born monkey of the Water Curtain Cave on the Mountain of Flowers and Fruit, is presently giving full rein to his wicked nature, committing murders, and refusing to submit to discipline. He killed the devil messengers of the Ninth Hell with his magic, and he terrified the Ten Benevolent Kings of the Underworld with his power. He made an uproar in the Senluo Palace and crossed some names out by force. He has made the race of monkeys completely uncontrollable, and given eternal life to the macaques. He has annulled the law of transmigration and brought them beyond birth and death. I, impoverished monk that I am, importune the might of Heaven by presenting this memorial. I prostrate myself to beg that Heavenly soldiers be despatched to subdue this fiend, bring the positive and Negative back into order, and give lasting security to the Underworld.
When the Jade Emperor had read this through he ordered, “Let the Lord of Darkness return to the Underworld. We shall send generals to arrest the demon.” The King of Qinguang then bowed till his head touched the floor and took his leave.
His Celestial Majesty then asked all his civil and military officials, “When was this monkey demon born? What is his origin, that he should have such powers?”
Before he had finished speaking, Thousand-mile Eye and Wind-accompanying Ear came forward from the ranks of officials and said, “This demon monkey is the stone monkey who was born of heaven three hundred years ago. At the time nobody paid any attention to him, and we do not know where he refined himself and became an Immortal in recent years, so that he has been able to make the tigers and dragons submit to him and to strike his name off the register of the dead.”
“Which divine general shall be sent down to capture him?” asked the Jade Emperor, and before he had finished speaking the Great White Planet stepped forward, bowed down, and submitted, “All beings in the upper worlds that have nine apertures can become Immortals. This monkey has a body that was created by Heaven and Earth and conceived by the sun and moon. His head touches they sky and his feet stand on the earth; he drinks the dew and eats the mist. How does he differ from humans, if he has succeeded in cultivating the way of immortality and can subdue dragons and tigers? I beg Your Majesty to remember your life-giving mercy and hand down a sage edict of amnesty and enlistment, summoning him to this upper world and inscribing his name on the list of officeholders, thus keeping him here under control. If he obeys Your Majesty's heavenly commands, he can later be promoted; and if he disobeys, he can be arrested. This will both avoid military operations and be a way of winning over an Immortal.”
The Jade Emperor, delighted with the suggestion, ordered that it should be put into effect. He told the Wenqu Star Officer to compose the edict, and commanded the Great White planet to persuade the monkey to accept the amnesty.
The Great White Planet left Heaven by the Southern Gate, and brought his propitious cloud down by the Water Curtain Cave, where he said to the little monkeys, “I am an envoy from Heaven, and I am carrying a divine edict inviting your great king to the upper world. Go and tell him at once.”
The little monkeys outside conveyed the message by relays into the depths of the cave: “Your Majesty, there's an old man outside carrying a document on his back. He says he's an envoy from Heaven with an invitation for you.” The Handsome Monkey King was delighted.
He said, “I'd been thinking of going up to Heaven to have a look round for the past couple of days, and now a heavenly envoy has come to invite me.”
“Ask him in at once,” he shouted, hastily straightening his clothes and going out to meet the envoy.
The Planet came straight in, stood facing the South, and said, “I am the Great White Planet of the West, and I have come down to earth with an Edict of Amnesty and enlistment from the Jade Emperor to invite you to Heaven to be given office as an Immortal.”
“I am very grateful to you, venerable Planet, for condescending to come here,” replied Sun Wukong with a smile; then he told his subjects to prepare a feast to entertain the visitor.
“I'm afraid I can't delay,” replied the Planet, “as I am carrying a divine edict, so may I ask Your Majesty to come back with me now? We can talk at leisure after your glorious elevation.”
“Thank you for coming,” said Sun Wukong. “I'm sorry you couldn't take some refreshments before leaving.” Then he called for his four Stalwart Generals and ordered them, “Give my sons and grandsons a thorough training. When I've had a look round in Heaven, I'll take you all to live with me up there.” The four Stalwart Generals accepted their orders, and the Monkey King made his cloud carry him up above the clouds. He was
Raised to a high-ranking heavenly office,
Listed among the courtiers in the clouds.
If you don't know what office he was given, listen to the explanation in the next installment.
Dissatisfied at Being Appointed Protector of the Horses
Not Content with the Title of Equal of Heaven
The Great White Planet left the depths of the cave with the Handsome Monkey King, and they ascended together on their clouds. As Sun Wukong's somersault cloud was exceptionally fast he reached the Southern Gate of Heaven first, leaving the Great White planet far behind. Just as he was putting away his cloud to go in, his way was barred by the Heavenly Guardian Virudhaka and his powerful heavenly soldiers Liu, Gou, Bi, Deng, Xin, Zhang, and Tao, who blocked the gate of Heaven with their spears and swords and refused to let him in.
“This old Great White planet is a trickster,” said Sun Wukong. “He invited me here, so he has no business to have me kept out with spears and swords.” Just as he was kicking up a row the Planet suddenly arrived.
Sun Wukong flung his accusation at him: “Why did you play this trick on me, you old fogy? You told me you came with an Edict of Amnesty from the Jade Emperor to invite me here, so why did you arrange for these people not to let me in through the gate of Heaven?” The Great White Planet laughed.
“Don't be angry, Your Majesty. You've never been here before, your name is not on the books here, and the heavenly soldiers have never met you. Of course they could not let you in just for the asking. But when you've seen His Celestial Majesty and been given office among the Immortals, you will be able to come and go as you wish, and nobody will try to stop you.”
“Be that as it may,” said Sun Wukong, “I'm not going in.” The Great White Planet would not let him go and asked him to go in with him in spite of it all.
As they approached the gate, the Planet shouted, “Heavenly officers of the gates of Heaven, sergeants and soldiers, let us in. This is an Immortal from the lower world, and I am carrying an edict from the Jade Emperor summoning him here.” Only then did the Heavenly King Zengzhang and his soldiers withdraw their arms and stand back. Now the Monkey King began to trust the Great White Planet. He walked slowly in with him and looked at the view. Truly it was his
First ascent to the upper world,
Sudden entry into paradise.
Ten thousand beams of golden light shone with a reddish glow;
A thousand strands of propitious vapour puffed out purple mist.
See the Southern Gate of Heaven,
Studded with jewels.
On either side stood scores of heavenly marshals,
Tall as the roofbeams, next to the pillars,
Holding metal-tipped bows and banners.
All around stood gods in golden armour,
Brandishing their clubs and halberds,
Wielding their cutlasses and swords.
The outside was remarkable enough,
But the inside astonished him.
Here were several mighty pillars,
Round which coiled tawny-bearded dragons, their gold scales gleaming in the sun.
There were long bridges,
Where strutted phoenixes, brilliant of plumage and with bright red crests.
A rosy glow shone with heavenly light;
Thick green mists obscured the Pole Star.
In this heaven there are thirty-three heavenly palaces:
The Palace of Clouds Dispersed, the Vaisravana Palace, the palace of
Five Lores, the Sun Palace, the Palace of Flowery Bliss,
Every palace had golden animals on its roof.
Then there were seventy-two precious halls:
The Hall of Morning Audience, the Hall of Rising into Space, the Precious Light Hall, the Hall of the Heavenly Kings, the Hall of the Master of Miracles,
Jade unicorns on every column.
On the Terrace of the Star of Longevity
Grew flowers that never wither.
Beside the Stove for Decocting Elixir,
Were herbs that stay green for ever.
In front of the Facing the Sage pavilion
Crimson gauze clothes Glittered like stars;
Shone with gold and jade.
Jade hairpins and pearl-sewn shoes,
Golden seals on purple cords.
As the golden bell tolled,
The three classes of divinities approached the steps and submitted memorials.
As the heavenly drum was beaten,
Ten thousand sage kings attended the Jade Emperor.
Then they entered the Hall of Miraculous Mist,
Where jade doors were studded with gold,
And phoenixes danced before the crimson gates.
Everywhere carved in openwork;
Layer on Layer of eaves,
With dragons and phoenixes soaring.
On top was a majestically purple,
Golden gourd-shaped finial;
Below, fans hung from the hands of heavenly consorts,
While jade maidens proffered magic clothes.
The heavenly generals guarding the court;
The immortal officials protecting the throne.
In the middle were set Crystal dishes
Filled to overflowing with Great Monad Pills;
In which stood twisted coral trees.
All the wonderful things in Heaven were there,
None of which are seen on Earth:
Golden gates, silver chariots, and a purple palace;
Precious plants, jade flowers, and jasper petals.
The jade hares of the princes at court ran past the alter;
The golden rooks of the sages present flew down low.
The Monkey King was fated to come to Heaven,
Rather than be sullied by the mortal world.
The Great White Planet led the Handsome Monkey King to the outside of the Hall of Miraculous Mist. He went straight in to the imperial presence without waiting to be summoned, and did obeisance to the throne.
Sun Wukong stood bolt upright beside him, not bothering with any court etiquette, but just concentrating on listening to the Great White Planet make his report to the Jade Emperor: “In obedience to the Divine Edict, your subject has brought the demon Immortal here.”
The Jade Emperor lowered his curtain and asked, “And which of you is the demon Immortal?”
“Me,” replied Sun Wukong, only now making a slight bow.
The faces of the officials went white with horror as they exclaimed, “What a savage monkey! He has the impudence to answer 'Me,' and without even prostrating himself first! He must die!”
In reply to this the Jade Emperor announced, “Sun Wukong is a demon Immortal of the lower world who has only just obtained human form, so he is not acquainted with court procedure. We shall forgive him this time.”
“We thank you for your mercy,” said the immortal ministers. Only then did Sun Wukong express his respect by bowing low and chanting “na-a-aw" at the top of his voice. The Jade Emperor ordered his immortal civil and military officials to find a vacancy in some department for Sun Wukong.
The Star Lord Wuqu stepped forward form the side and reported, “There are no vacancies in any of the palaces, halls, and departments of Heaven except for a superintendent in the Imperial Stables.”
“Then make him Protector of the Horses,” ordered the Jade Emperor. All the ministers thanked him for his mercy, apart from Sun Wukong, who just expressed his respect with a loud “na-a-aw.” The Jade Emperor then told the Wood Planet to take him to the Imperial Stables.
The Wood Planet accompanied the delighted Monkey King to his post and then went back to the palace. The Monkey King then called together the deputy and the assistant superintendent, the book-keeper, the grooms, and all the other officials, high and low, to find out about the duties of his department. He found that he had to look after a thousand heavenly horses:
Chestnuts and stallions,
Courser and chargers:
Dragon and Purple Swallow,
Pegasus and Sushun,
Jueti and Silver,
Yaoniao and Flying Yellow,
Taotu and Feathers,
Red Hare and Faster Than Light,
Dazzler and Horizon,
Mist-soarer and Victory;
Wind-chaser and Matchless,
Flying Wing and Galloping Mist,
Lazy Whirlwind and Red Lightning,
Bronze Cup and Drifting Cloud,
Skewbald and Tiger-Stripe,
Dustfree and Purple Scales,
The Four Ferghana Steeds,
The Eight Chargers and Nine Gallopers,
Coursers that can cover three hundred miles-
All these fine horses were
Neighing in the wind, chasing the lightning, mighty in spirit;
Pawing the mist, climbing the clouds, great in their strength.
The Monkey King looked through the register and counted the horses. In the stables the book-keeper was responsible for ordering the fodder, the head groom was in charge of currying the horses, chopping up and cooking the fodder, and giving them water; the deputy superintendent and his assistant helped to oversee the work. The Protector of the Horses looked after his charges, sleeping neither by day nor by night. It is true that he fooled around by day, but at night he looked after the animals with great diligence, waking them up and making them eat whenever they fell asleep, and leading those still on their feet to the trough. At the sight of him the heavenly horses would prick up their ears and paw the ground, and they became fat and plump. Thus more than half a month slipped by.
On one morning that was a holiday all the officials of the stables held a feast both to welcome and congratulate the Protector of the Horses.
In the middle of the party the Monkey King suddenly put down his cup and asked, “What sort of office is this 'Protector of the Horses?'”
“What the name suggests, that's all.”
“Which official grading does it carry?”
“What does 'unclassified' mean?”
“Bottom grade,” the others replied, going on to explain, “It is a very low and unimportant office, and all you can do in it is look after the horses. Even someone who works as conscientiously as Your Honour and gets the horses so fat will get no more reward than someone saying 'good'; and if anything goes at all wrong you will be held responsible, and if the losses are serious you will be fined and punished.”
The Monkey King flared up on hearing this, gnashed his teeth, and said in a great rage, “How dare they treat me with such contempt? On the Mountain of Flowers and Fruit I am a king and a patriarch. How dare he trick me into coming here to feed his horses for him? It's a low job for youngsters, not for me. I won't do it, I won't. I'm going back.” He pushed the table over with a crash, took his treasure out of his ear, and shook it. It became as thick as a rice bowl, and he brandished it as he charged out of the Imperial Stables to the Southern Gate of Heaven. As the celestial guards knew that his name was on the register of immortal officials they did not dare to block his path, but let him out through the gate.
He descended by cloud and was back on the Mountain of Flowers and Fruit in an instant. Seeing the four Stalwart Generals and all the kings of the monsters drilling their troops there he shouted in a shrill voice, “Children, I'm back.” The monkeys all bowed to him, took him into the heart of the cave, and asked him to sit on his throne, while they prepared a banquet to welcome him back.
“Congratulations, Your Majesty,” they all said. “After over a dozen years up there you must be coming back in glory and triumph.”
“What do you mean, over a dozen years?” asked the Monkey King. “I've only been away for a fortnight or so.”
“Your Majesty can't have noticed the time passing in heaven. A day in heaven lasts as long as a year on earth. May we ask what office you held?”
“It hurts me to tell you,” replied the Monkey King with a wave of his hand. “I feel thoroughly humiliated. That Jade Emperor doesn't know how to use a good man. A man like me-'Protector of the Horses'. That meant I had to feed his animals for him and wasn't even given an official grading. I didn't know this at first, so I fooled around in the Imperial Stables until today, when I found out from my colleagues how low the job was. I was so angry that I pushed the table over and quit the job. That's why I've come back.”
“Quite right too,” the other monkeys said. “Your Majesty can be king in our cave paradise and enjoy as much honour and pleasure as you like, so why go and be his groom?” Then they gave orders for wine to be brought at once to cheer their king up.
As they were drinking someone came in to report, “Your Majesty, there are two Single-horned Devil Kings outside who want to see you.”
“Ask them in,” said the Monkey King, and the two formally-dressed devil kings hurried into the cave and prostrated themselves.
“Why have you come to see me?” asked the Handsome Monkey King; and they replied, “We have long heard that Your Majesty is looking for men of talent, but we were unable to see you before. Now that Your Majesty has been given heavenly office and come back in triumph, we would like to offer you this yellow robe as a token of our congratulations. We also hope that you will not reject us although we are low and worthless, but will accept our humble services.” An exultant Monkey King put on the yellow robe and his happy subjects bowed to him in order of precedence. The two devil kings were appointed Commanders of the Van, and when they had thanked the Monkey King for this they asked, “What office did Your Majesty hold while you were all that time in Heaven?”
“The Jade Emperor has no respect for talent,” replied the Monkey King. “He made me something called 'Protector of the Horses.'”
“Your Majesty has such miraculous powers: you should never have been feeding his horses for him. You should have been made a 'Great Sage Equaling Heaven,' shouldn't you?” The Monkey King was beside himself with delight at this suggestion, and he kept saying how splendid it was.
“Get me a banner made at once with the words 'Great Sage Equaling Heaven' in big letters on it, and put up a pole to hang it from,” he ordered his four Stalwart Generals. “From now on I am to be called 'Great Sage Equaling Heaven,' not 'Your Majesty' or 'King'. Pass this order on to all the other kings of the monsters.” We will leave him at this point.
When the Jade Emperor held his morning court the next day the Heavenly Teacher Zhang led the deputy and assistant superintendents of the Imperial Stables to the vermilion steps, bowed low, and reported, “Your Majesty, Sun Wukong, the new Protector of the Horses, left Heaven yesterday because he thought his office was too humble.”
Just as he was speaking the Heavenly Guardian Virudhaka came from the Southern Gate of Heaven with his heavenly soldiers and reported, “The Protector of the Horses has gone out through the gate. We do not know why.”
On hearing this the Jade Emperor commanded, “Let the two divine officials return to their posts; we shall send heavenly soldiers to capture this devil.”
The pagoda-bearing Heavenly King Li Jing and Prince Nezha stepped forward from the ranks of those attending the audience, and they memorialized, “Your Imperial Majesty, we beg you to command us, your incompetent servants, to subdue this fiend.” The Emperor was delighted with this suggestion, and he appointed the Pagoda-bearing Heavenly King as Demon quelling High Marshal, and Prince Nezha as Great God of the Seas. He told them to take their forces down to the lower world at once.
Heavenly King Li and Nezha kowtowed, took their leave, went straight back to their own palace, and assembled their troops, commanders and officers. They put the Mighty Miracle God in charge of the vanguard, and General Fishbelly in command of the rear, while General Yaksa was made adjutant. Within an instant they were outside the Southern Gate of Heaven, and they went straight to the Mountain of Flowers and Fruit. They chose a piece of level and open ground on which to construct a fortified camp, and ordered the Mighty Miracle God to issue the challenge to battle. On receiving this order the Mighty Miracle God tied on his armour firmly and went to the Water Curtain Cave, holding his flower-spreading battle-axe. When he got there he saw huge numbers of devils-wolves, tigers and leopards-wielding spears, brandishing swords, leaping around, fighting each other, and making a great noise outside the little entrance to the cave.
“Accursed beasts,” shouted the Mighty Miracle God, “tell the Protector of the Horses at once that I am a heavenly general come on the orders of the Jade Emperor to subdue him. If you make him come out and surrender immediately it will save the lot of you from being wiped out.”
The devils went rushing into the cave and reported, “Disaster, disaster.”
“What disaster?” the Monkey King asked.
“There's a heavenly general outside who says he's come on the orders of the Jade Emperor to subdue you. If you go out and surrender immediately, he says he'll spare our lives.”
“Fetch me my armour,” said the Monkey King. He then donned his golden helmet, tied on his golden armour, put on his cloud-walking shoes, and took his As-You-Will gold-banded cudgel in his hand. He led his troops out of the cave and drew them up in battle array. The Mighty Miracle God gazed wide-eyed at the excellent Monkey King:
On his body was gleaming golden armour,
On his head a dazzling golden helmet,
In his hand a gold-banded club,
On his feet a pair of cloud-walking shoes to match.
His devil eyes shone like stars,
His ears were long and hard.
His sturdy frame could be transformed at will,
His voice rang clearly as a bell.
The sharp-mouthed Horse Protector with protruding teeth
Wanted to become a Sage Equaling Heaven.
The Mighty Miracle God shouted in a harsh voice, “Insolent ape! Don't you recognize me?”
The Great Sage Sun Wukong replied at once, “I've never met you before. How should I know which wretched little deity you are? Tell me your name at once.”
“I'll get you, you conceited baboon. So you don't know who I am? I am the Heavenly General Mighty Miracle, the commander of the vanguard for Heavenly King Li, the Pagoda-bearer. I have come here on the orders of the Jade Emperor to accept your surrender. Take off your armour at once and submit to the mercy of Heaven, or I'll wipe out every animal on the mountain. And if you so much as hint at a refusal, I'll smash you to powder.”
“Stop talking so big, you lousy god,” retorted the furious Monkey King, “and give that long tongue of yours a rest. I'd just love to kill you with this cudgel of mine, but if I did there'd be no one to deliver my message for me, so I'll spare your life. Hurry back to Heaven and tell that Jade Emperor that he doesn't know how to use a good man. Why did he make me waste my infinite powers on feeding his horses for him? Take a look at what's written on my standard. If he's willing to give me this title officially, I'll call off my troops and let Heaven and Earth continue in peace; but if he refuses I'm coming up to the Hall of Miraculous Mist to knock him off his dragon throne.” When the Mighty Miracle God heard this he looked hard and saw that a tall pole had been planted outside the entrance to the cave, on which hung a banner reading GREAT SAGE EQUALING HEAVEN.
“Heh, heh, heh,” he mocked, “you ignorant ape. What shameless effrontery, to want to be a 'Great Sage Equaling Heaven!' Take that!” He swung with his battle-axe at the Monkey King who, quite unflustered, parried with his gold banded cudgel. It was a fine battle:
The cudgel was called As-You-Will,
The axe was named Flower Spreader.
As soon as the two met,
You could not tell which was better:
Axe and club
One was concealing his magic powers,
One was a big-mouthed boaster.
They used their magic
To breathe out cloud and mist;
When they opened their hands
They scattered sand and dust.
The heavenly general was a master of magic;
Endless were the changes the Monkey King could make.
When the cudgel was raised it was like a dragon playing in the water;
As the axe came down it was a phoenix among the flowers.
Although the fame of Miracle was known throughout the world,
His skill was no match for his enemy.
If the Great Sage lightly twirled his club,
A mere touch would paralyze.
The Mighty Miracle God was no match for his opponent. He hastened to block the Monkey King's first blow with his axe, which broke in two with a crunch. He fled for his life as fast as he could, and the Monkey King said mockingly, “You bag of pus, I'll spare you this time. Hurry back with my message, and look sharp about it.”
The Mighty Miracle God returned to his camp, went straight to the Pagoda-bearing Heavenly King Li Jing, knelt before him, and said with an awkward laugh, “The Protector of the Horses has really tremendous magic powers. I was no match for him. He beat me, and now I have come to take my punishment.”
“This fool has ruined our morale,” exploded the Heavenly King Li in a fury. “Take him away, and off with his head.”
Prince Nezha, who was standing to one side, stepped forward, bowed, and said, “Do not be angry, Your Majesty. Forgive the Mighty Miracle God, and let me go and do battle; then we'll see who's boss.” The heavenly king accepted his advice, and told Mighty Miracle God to go back and look after the camp while he awaited his punishment.
When he had put on his armour and helmet, Prince Nezha charged straight out of the camp to the Water Curtain Cave. Sun Wukong, who was just going to pull back his troops, saw the ferocity of his onslaught. What a fine prince he was:
His hair in tufts barely covers his scalp,
His cloak not over his shoulders.
How striking his intelligence,
How elegant his air.
Indeed he is the scion of a unicorn in Heaven;
In truth he is a phoenix Immortal from the clouds.
The seed of dragons is different from the common herd;
This fine youth is not at all like mortals.
With him he carries six divine weapons;
Endless his transformations as he soars through the air.
Now he has received an edict from the Jade Emperor's mouth,
Making him Commander of the Three Temples of the Masses.
Sun Wukong went up to him and asked, “Whose little boy are you then? What do you mean, charging up to my door?”
“Stinking monkey fiend,” shouted Prince Nezha, “don't you know who I am? I am Nezha, the third son of the pagoda-bearing Heavenly King, and I have been commanded by the Jade Emperor to come here and arrest you.”
“You do talk big, don't you, little prince,” said Sun Wukong, laughing at him. “But as you've still got all your milk teeth and are still wet behind the ears I'll spare your life and I won't hit you. Do you see what it says on my standard? Go and tell the Jade Emperor that if he gives me that title I'll call off my armies and submit to him once more. But if he doesn't do what I want him to, I'll surely attack the Hall of Miraculous Mist.” Nezha looked up and saw the words “Great Sage Equaling Heaven.”
“You wicked monkey! How dare you give yourself a title like that, whatever your magic powers may be! Don't worry, all you're getting is my sword.”
“Give me a few swipes, then,” replied Sun Wukong, “I won't move.”
“Change,” yelled Nezha in a passion, and at once he had three heads and six arms, which made him look most ferocious. In his hands he held six weapons, a demon-beheading sword, a demon-hacking cutlass, a demon-binding rope, a demon-quelling pestle, an embroidered ball, and a fire-wheel-and wielding all these he rushed straight at Sun Wukong.
At the sight of him Sun Wukong exclaimed with astonishment, “Well, my boy, you certainly know a trick or two. But just behave yourself and watch what I can do.” Our dear Great Sage shouted “Change,” and he too had three heads and six arms. He shook his gold-banded cudgel, and it turned into three cudgels, which he gripped with his six hands to ward off Nezha's blows. It was a great fight, and it made the earth shake and the mountains tremble:
Six-armed Prince Nezha
Heaven-born Monkey King:
Both in the same class.
One sent down to the lower world on a mission,
The other priding himself as a fighting bull.
Fast moves the point of the demon-beheading sword,
And evil spirits fear the demon-hacking cutlass,
The demon-binding rope flies like a dragon,
While the demon-quelling pestle has the head of a wolf,
The fire-wheel flashes with lightning,
And the embroidered ball shoots everywhere.
The Great Sage's three As-You-Will cudgels
Block and parry with consummate skill.
Though many hard-fought rounds prove inconclusive,
The prince refuses to call the battle off;
Making his six weapons multiply in number,
He throws them in their millions at the Monkey King's head,
But the Monkey King, fearless, roars with laughter
As his iron clubs whirl and think for themselves.
One becomes a thousand; one thousand, ten;
Their wild dance fills the sky as if with dragons.
All the demon kings shut their gates in terror;
Every goblin on the mountain finds some place to hide.
Cloud-black, the anger of the heavenly troops;
Whistling like the wind, the gold-banded cudgels.
On the one side,
The blood-curdling war-cries of the heavenly host.
On the other,
The spine-chilling banners of the monkey fiends.
Both parties are equal in fighting courage;
Neither could be said to be the winner.
Prince Nezha and Sun Wukong both used their divine powers to the full as they fought thirty rounds. When the six weapons of the prince turned into thousands and tens of thousands, so did Sun Wukong's gold-banded cudgel. The air was filled as if with drops of rain or shooting stars, and there was no way of telling who was winning. As Sun Wukong was deft of hand and quick of eye, he plucked one of the hairs from his body in the midst of the fray and shouted “Change!” It changed into his own double to mislead Nezha while his real self leapt round till he was behind Nezha and struck at his left shoulder. Nezha was in the middle of performing a spell when he heard the whistle of the cudgel through the air and twisted away as fast as he could. But he was unable to avoid the blow and had to flee wounded. He brought his magic to an end, put his six weapons away, reverted to his true appearance, and abandoned the field of battle in defeat.
This had all been observed by Heavenly King Li, who was on the point of sending reinforcements when his son appeared before him and reported in fear and trembling, “Father, the Protector of the Horses is very powerful. My magic was outclassed and he has wounded me in the shoulder.”
The color drained from the face of the horror-struck Heavenly King as he said, “If the creature has magic powers like that, how are we going to defeat him?”
“Outside the gates of the cave,” the prince went on to report, “there is a banner on a pole that reads 'Great Sage Equaling Heaven'. He bragged that if the Jade Emperor gave him this title he would call everything off; otherwise he said he would attack the Hall of Miraculous Mist.”
“In that case,” said the Heavenly King, “we'll disengage now, go back to Heaven, and request that more heavenly troops be sent to capture this wretch. There is plenty of time.” The prince, in pain and unable to go on fighting, went back to Heaven with the Heavenly King and put in this request, but of that no more for the moment.
Watch as the Monkey King returns to the mountain in triumph to receive the congratulations of the seventy-two kings of the monsters and his six sworn brothers. There was great drinking and singing in the cave paradise. Sun Wukong said to his six sworn brothers, “As I've called myself Great Sage Equaling Heaven, you can all call yourselves great sages too.”
“Honorable brother, you're right,” roared the Bull Demon King. “I shall call myself the Great Sage Matching Heaven.”
“I'll be the Great Sage Overturning the Sea,” said the Salamander Demon King.
“I'll be the Great Sage Throwing Heaven into Confusion,” said the Roc Demon King.
“I'll be the Great Sage Who Moves Mountains,” said the Camel Demon King.
“I'll be the Great Sage Who Travels with the Wind,” said the Macaque King.
“And I'll be the Great Sage Who Drives Away Gods,” said the Lion King. The seven great sages then did just as they pleased and gave themselves the titles they chose, and after enjoying themselves all day they went home.
Heavenly King Li and Prince Nezha led their forces straight to the Palace of Miraculous Mist and made this request: “We, your subjects, took our forces down to the lower world, under your Divine Edict, to subdue the immortal fiend Sun Wukong. But to our surprise we found that his magical powers were too far-reaching for us to be able to defeat him. We therefore hope that Your Imperial Majesty will send more troops to exterminate him.”
“How could a mere monkey goblin have such great powers that you actually need more troops?” asked the Jade Emperor.
Prince Nezha then came forward and memorialized, “We beg Your Majesty to spare us the deaths we deserve. That monkey fiend has an iron cudgel that he used to defeat the Mighty Miracle God and wounded me on the shoulder. He has set a banner up outside the entrance to his cave that reads 'Great Sage Equaling Heaven,' and he says that if you give him this office he will stop fighting and submit; otherwise he will attack the Hall of Miraculous Mist.”
When the Jade Emperor heard this he asked in horror, “How dare that monkey fiend talk so wildly? Send all the generals to execute him at once.”
As he spoke the Great White Planet stepped forward from the ranks of officials. “That monkey fiend knows how to talk,” he suggested, “but he has no idea about real power. If more soldiers were sent to fight him, they might not be able to overcome him at once and their energies would be wasted. But if Your Imperial Majesty were to show your great mercy, you could send down a pacificatory amnesty and let him be a Great Sage Equaling Heaven. It would only be an empty title that he was given, just an honorary appointment.”
“What do you mean by an honorary appointment?” asked the Jade Emperor.
“He would be called a Great Sage Equaling Heaven, but he would not be given any responsibility or paid any salary. He would be kept between Heaven and Earth, where his evil nature would be under control and he would be kept from wickedness. Thus Heaven and Earth can be at peace, while sea and sky enjoy tranquillity.” The Jade Emperor approved this suggestion and ordered that a new edict should be issued for the Great White Planet to deliver.
The Great White Planet left once more through the Southern Gate of Heaven and went straight to have a look at the Water Curtain Cave on the Mountain of Flowers and Fruit. It was quite different from before. There was an awe-inspiring and spine-chilling atmosphere, and every kind of fiend was present. They were roaring and leaping around with their swords, spears, cutlasses and staves. As soon as they saw the Great White Planet they all went for him.
“Will your commander please come forward,” said the Planet. “I would trouble you to inform your Great Sage that I am a heavenly envoy sent by the Jade Emperor, and I am carrying a divine edict with an invitation for him.”
The fiends rushed in to report, “There's an old man outside who says he's come from Heaven with an edict of invitation for you.”
When Sun Wukong heard this he said, “I'm glad he's come. I expect he's that Great White Planet who came before. Although I wasn't given a decent job last time I went to Heaven, I did get up there and learn my way around. If it's him again, his intentions must be good.” He told his commanders to put on a big display of banners and drums and to turn out a guard of honour to welcome him.
Then the Great Sage, wearing his helmet, his yellow robe over his armour, and his cloud-walking shoes, hurried out of the cave at the head of his monkey host, bowed in greeting, and shouted in a loud voice, “Please come in, venerable Planet. Forgive me for not being here to welcome you.”
The Planet walked straight into the cave, stood facing the South and said, “Great Sage, when you left the Imperial Stables because you found the post too humble, the officials of that department naturally reported the matter to the Jade Emperor. The Jade Emperor decreed that all officials have to work their way up from the bottom, and asked why you objected to its being humble. After this Heavenly King Li took Nezha down to the lower world to do battle with you. Your divine powers, Great Sage, were more than they expected, and they suffered defeat. On their return to Heaven they reported that you had set up a banner and wanted to be a 'Great Sage Equaling Heaven'. All the generals wanted to punish you; but I, Great Sage, ran the risk of punishment by suggesting that the armies should not be called out, and that Your Majesty should be given a post instead. The Jade Emperor approved my memorial, and that is why I have come here to invite you.”
“I am most grateful for this honour after the trouble I caused you earlier,” replied Sun Wukong, “but I am not sure whether there is such a title as 'Great Sage Equaling Heaven' in the upper world.”
“After obtaining imperial approval for this title,” said the Planet, “I came down bearing a decree. If anything goes wrong, I'll bear the responsibility.”
A highly delighted Sun Wukong tried his hardest to persuade the Planet to stay to a banquet, but without success, so he went with him by propitious cloud to the Southern Gate of Heaven. The heavenly generals and soldiers all greeted them with respectfully folded arms, and they went straight to the Hall of Miraculous Mist. The Great White Planet did obeisance and said, “In obedience to the imperial edict your subject has summoned Sun Wukong, the Protector of the Horses, and he is present.”
“Let Sun Wukong come forward,” said the Jade Emperor. “We do now proclaim you Great Sage Equaling Heaven. Your rank is now very high. Let there be no more mischief from you.” The monkey simply chanted “na-a-aw” to express his thanks to the Emperor. The Jade Emperor then ordered the two officials in charge of public works, Zhang and Lu, to build a residence for the Great Sage Equaling Heaven to the left of the Peach Orchard. In the residence there were to be two offices: a Tranquillity Office and a Calm Divinity Office. Both these offices were to have immortal clerks and senior and junior assistants. He then told the Star Lords of the Constellation Five to escort Sun Wukong to his post, and in addition gave him two bottles of imperial wine and ten golden flowers, and admonished him to settle down and keep out of mischief. The Monkey King accepted the order and went that same day with the Star Lords of the Constellation Five to his residence, where he opened the bottles of wine and drained them dry with the help of all present. He then saw the star officials off and returned to his own palace. From then on he lived in happiness and content, and enjoyed untrammelled pleasure in the Palace. Truly,
His immortal name was for ever inscribed in the register of eternal life,
To be transmitted for ten thousand ages, free of the wheel of rebirth.
If you don't know what happened next, listen to the explanation in the next installment.
After Chaos Among the Peaches the Great Sage Steals the Pills
In the Revolt Against Heaven the Gods Capture the Demons
The story goes on to relate that the Great Sage Equaling Heaven, a mere monkey devil after all, was quite satisfied that his name was on the register of office without caring about the grading of his job and his own rank, or the size of his salary. The immortal clerks in the two offices in his residence were in constant attendance on him, he had three meals a day and a bed to sleep on at night, and he lived a free and easy life without worries. In his spare time he would visit the other palaces, get together with his old friends, and make new ones. When he saw the Three Pure Ones, he would address them as “venerable,” and when he met the Four Emperors he called them “Your Majesty.” He was on fraternal terms with the Nine Bright Shiners, the Generals of the Five Regions, the Twenty-Eight Constellations, the Four Great Heavenly Kings, the Gods of the Twelve Branches, the Five Ancients of the Five Regions, the star ministers of the whole sky, and the countless gods of the Milky Way. Today he would wander East, and tomorrow he would go West, coming and going by cloud, and never staying anywhere for long.
When the Jade Emperor was holding his morning court one day the Immortal Xu of Jingyang came forward from the body of officials, kowtowed, and suggested, “The Great Sage Equaling Heaven is spending his time in idle travel, and is making the acquaintance of all the stars in the sky, calling them all his friends irrespective of their rank. It would be as well to give him some responsibility, and prevent his idleness leading to trouble later on.”
The Jade Emperor's response to this suggestion was to send for the Monkey King at once. He came in a cheerful mood and asked, “What promotion and reward have you summoned me here to receive, Your Majesty?”
“Seeing that you are idle and have nothing to do,” replied the Jade Emperor, “we are giving you a job. You are to administer the Peach Orchard, and you will give it your attention day and night.” The Great Sage was overjoyed, and after expressing his thanks and chanting “na-a-aw” he withdrew.
In his eagerness to be at work he went straight to the Peach Orchard to have a look round. When he got there he was stopped by a local tutelary god who asked him, “Where are you going, Great Sage?”
“I've been put in charge of the Peach Orchard by the Jade Emperor, and I've come to inspect it.” The local god hastened to greet him formally, and he called the men who weeded, brought water, looked after the trees, and swept the grounds to come and kowtow to the Great Sage. When Sun Wukong was taken inside this is what he saw:
Charming and luxuriant the full blossom;
Every tree weighed down with fruit.
The fruit-laden branches bend like carding-bows;
The blossoming trees are covered with powder and rouge.
Always blossoming, always in fruit, they are ripe for a thousand years;
They know no summer or winter, but linger for ever.
The early ripeners
Look red-faced and tipsy;
The ones still growing
Are green in stalk and skin.
When the dew forms, their flesh has a touch of blue,
While the sun picks out their vermilion beauty.
Below the trees exotic flowers grow,
Bright and unfading throughout the year.
On either side stand towers and pavilions,
And a rainbow always arches the sky.
These are not the common breeds of the Dark Earth Capital,
But are tended by the Queen Mother of the Jade Pool.
After taking a good look at this the Great Sage asked the local god, “How many of these trees are there?”
“Three thousand six hundred all together,” the local god replied. “The ones growing at the front have tiny blossoms and small fruits, and they ripen every three thousand years. Anyone who eats them becomes an Immortal and understands the Way, and his body becomes both light and strong. The twelve hundred in the middle have multiple blossoms and sweet fruits, and ripen every six thousand years; whoever eats them can fly and enjoy eternal youth. The back twelve hundred are streaked with purple and have pale yellow stones. They ripen once every nine thousand years, and anyone who eats them becomes as eternal as Heaven and Earth, as long-lived as the Sun and Moon.” The Great Sage was beside himself with joy on learning this, and that day he checked the number of the trees and looked over the buildings in the orchard before going back to his residence. From then on he went to admire them every three or four days. He dropped his friends, and made no more pleasure jaunts.
One day he noticed that the peaches near the end of the branches of one old tree were all but ripe, and he felt like trying one; but as the local god, the workmen, and the immortal clerks from his residence were close on his heels it was impossible. Suddenly he had an idea, and he said, “Go and wait for me outside the gates while I take a nap in this summer-house.”
All the Immortals thereupon withdrew, and the Monkey King took off his official hat and clothes, climbed one of the bigger trees, and chose some large, ripe peaches. When he had picked a good number he sat at his ease in the branches and ate his fill of them, then jumped down from the tree, pinned on his hat, put on his clothes, and shouted for all his attendants to go back to his residence with him. Two or three days later he thought of another trick to steal some more peaches, and he ate his fill of them.
One day the Queen Mother arranged a banquet, opening many precious pavilions for a feast of peaches by the Jade Pool. She sent the Red Fairy, the Blue Fairy, the White Fairy, the Black Fairy, the Purple Fairy, the Yellow Fairy, and the Green Fairy to the Peach Orchard with their baskets to pick peaches for the feast. The seven fairies went straight to the orchard gates, the workmen of the orchard and the immortal superintendents of the two offices of the Equaling Heaven Residence were guarding the gate.
The fairies went up to them and said, “We have come on the orders of the Queen Mother to pick peaches for a feast.”
“Wait a moment please, Immortal Beauties,” said the local god. “Things are different this year. The Jade Emperor has appointed the Great Sage Equaling Heaven to be the guardian of this orchard, and we must ask him before we can open the orchard to you.”
“Where is the Great Sage?” the fairies asked, and the local god replied, “Inside the orchard. As he was feeling tired he is having a nap by himself in a summerhouse.”
“In that case, please find him without delay,” requested the fairies, and the local god took them into the orchard. But all they could find of him in the summerhouse were his hat and clothes. They had no idea where he could have gone, and looked everywhere without success. The Great Sage had in fact made himself only two inches long after eating some of the peaches for fun, and he was sleeping under a large leaf at the top of one of the big trees.
“We have come by decree, and we can't go back empty-handed, although the Great Sage is nowhere to be found,” said the fairies.
One of the immortal superintendents who was standing nearby replied, “As you Immortal Beauties have come by order of the Queen Mother, we must not delay you. Our Great Sage is always wandering off, so I expect that he has gone away to visit some of his friends. You had better pick the peaches; it will be all right if we inform him.”
The fairies did as he suggested and went into the orchard to pick peaches. First they filled two baskets from the trees in front, and then they picked three basketfuls from the trees in the middle; but when they came to the trees at the back, they saw that peaches and blossoms were few and far between. Only a few unripe fruits with furry stalks and green skins were left. All the ripe ones had been eaten up by the Monkey King. The seven fairies looked everywhere, but all they could see was a single red and white peach on a Southern branch. The Blue Fairy pulled the branch down, the Red Fairy picked the peach, and then they let the branch go again. This woke up the Great Sage, who had changed himself into this peach to take a nap on this branch.
He resumed his own form, took his gold-banded cudgel from his ear, shook it till it was as thick as a ricebowl, and shouted at them, “Where are you from, you thieving fiends?” The seven fairies fell on their knees in confusion.
“Please don't be angry with us, Great Sage. We're not fiends but seven fairies sent by Her Majesty the Queen Mother of the West to pick peaches of immortality and open the precious halls here for a Feast of Peaches. When we arrived here we saw the local god and other deities of the place, but we could not find you, Great Sage. We could not delay carrying out the Queen Mother's orders, so we went ahead and picked the peaches without waiting for you, Great Sage. We very much hope that you will forgive us.”
These words turned the Great Sage's bad mood into a good one, and he said, “Please rise, Fairy Beauties. Who is the Queen Mother inviting to this feast?”
“There are old rules about who attends: The Buddha of the Western Heaven, Bodhisattvas, holy monks, Arhats, the Guanyin of the South Pole, the Merciful and Sage Emperor of the East, the Venerable Immortals of the Ten Continents and the Three Islands, the Mystic Divinity of the North Pole, and the Great Yellow-horned Immortal of the Yellow Pole at the Centre. These make up the Five Venerable Ones of the Five Regions. There will also be the Star Lords of the Five Constellation; the Three Pure Ones, the Four Emperors and the Heavenly Immortal of the Great Monad from the Eight High Caves; the Jade Emperor, the immortals of the Nine Mounds, and the gods of the Seas and Mountains and the Ruler of the Nether World from the Eight Lower Caves; and the terrestrial deities. All the major and minor gods of all the halls and palaces will come to the Feast of Peaches.”
“Will I be invited?” asked the Great Sage with an ingratiating smile.
“Not as far as we've heard,” the fairies replied.
“I'm the Great Sage Equaling Heaven, so why shouldn't I be asked?” said the Great Sage.
“That was what happened before: we don't know about this time,” the fairies replied.
“You're right,” he said. “Just wait here while I go and find out whether I'm invited.”
Splendid Great Sage. Making a magic with his hands as he spoke the words of the spell, he said to the fairies, “Stay where you are! Stay where you are!” As this was an immobilizing spell, the seven fairies were left standing in a daze under the peach tree with their eyes wide open as the Great Sage leapt out of the orchard on a somersault cloud and headed for the Jade Pool. As he traveled he saw that
The sky shimmered with auspicious light
As clouds of many colours streamed across it.
The white stork's cry made the heavens shake;
A thousand leaves grew on the purple asphodel.
Amid it all an Immortal appeared,
Carrying himself with heaven-sent elegance,
As he danced on the rainbow, cloaked by the Milky Way,
With a talisman at his waist to ward off birth and death.
His name was Bare-Foot Immortal,
And he was going to the feast of longevity-giving peaches.
As the Bare-foot Immortal saw him, the Great Sage lowered his head and thought of a plan by which to trick the Immortal and get to the banquet himself.
“Where are you going, reverend sir?” he asked; and the Immortal replied, “I'm going to the Peach Banquet by the invitation of the Queen Mother.”
“There is something you do not know, venerable sir,” said the Great Sage. “As my somersault cloud is so fast, the Jade Emperor has sent me everywhere to tell all you gentlemen to go to the Hall of Universal Brightness for a ceremony before going on to the banquet.”
As the Immortal was an open and upright man, he took this lie for the truth, but wondered, “The thanksgiving ceremony is usually held by the Jade Pool, so why are we having the ceremony in the Hall of Universal Brightness before going to the Jade Pool for the banquet?” Nevertheless, he turned his propitious cloud around and went to the Hall of Universal Brightness.
As the Great Sage rode his cloud he said a spell, shook himself, took the form of the Bare-foot Immortal, and hurried to the Jade Pool. He reached the pavilion there a moment later, stopped his cloud, and went quietly inside. He saw
Fabulous perfumes coiling,
A confusion of auspicious clouds;
The jade tower set with color,
The precious pavilions scattering mists;
The phoenix soars till almost lost to view,
And jeweled flowers seem to rise and fall.
Above a nine-phoenix screen
A rainbow stool of the eight precious things,
A coloured golden table,
Green jade bowls with a thousand flowers.
On the table were dragon livers and marrow of phoenix bone,
Bears' paws and apes' lips-
A hundred different dishes, and all of them good;
Rare fruits and fine delicacies, every one unique.
Everything was neatly set out, but no Immortals had yet arrived. The Great Sage had not finished looking when he smelt wine; and as he whirled round he saw under a portico to the right several immortal officials in charge of brewing liquor with some workmen who stirred the lees, a number of novices who carried water and some boys who looked after the fires. They were washing the vats and scrubbing the pots, having made jade liquor and a fragrant fermentation of the lees. The Great Sage could not stop himself from drooling, and he longed to drink some, but unfortunately all those people were there. So he performed a spell by pulling several hairs from his body, chewing them up, spitting them up, saying the magic words, and shouting “Change”; whereupon the hairs turned into sleep insects, which flew into the faces of all the liquor-makers. Watch them as their hands go limp, their heads droop, their eyes close, and they drop their symbols of office and all fall asleep. Whereupon the Great Sage grabbed the rare delicacies and exotic foods, then went under the portico and drank from the vats and pots until he was completely drunk.
Only then did he think, “This won't do at all. When the guests come for the banquet they'll be furious with me, and I'll be for it if I'm caught. I'd better get back to the Residence as soon as I can and sleep it off.”
Our dear Great Sage staggered and swayed, charging about all over the place under the influence of the liquor, and going the wrong way. He arrived not at the Equaling Heaven Residence but at the Tushita Heavenly Palace. As soon as he saw this he sobered up and said to himself, “The Tushita Palace is the highest of the thirty-three heavens, where Lord Lao Zi of the Great Monad reigns. However did I get here? Never mind, I've always wanted to see that old chap, and I've never managed to come here before. I might as well go and have a look at him now that I'm passing this way.”
He straightened his clothes and rushed in, but did not see Lord Lao Zi. There was no sign of anyone. This was because Lao Zi and the Ancient Buddha Dipamkara were expounding the Way from a red dais in a triple-storied pavilion, and all the immortal boys, generals, officials and petty functionaries were standing to right and left listening to the lecture. The Great Sage went straight to the room in which the elixir was kept, and although he could not find Lao Zi there he saw that there was a small fire in the stove beside the range over which pills were made. On either side of the stove were five gourds, full of golden pills of refined elixir.
“This is the Immortals' greatest treasure,” he exclaimed in delight. “I've wanted to refine some of these golden pills to save people with ever since I understood the Way and mastered the principle of the correspondence of the Esoteric and Exoteric, but I've never had time to come here. Today I'm in luck-I've found them. As Lao Zi isn't here I'll try a few.” He emptied the gourds of their contents and ate up all the pills as if he were eating fried beans.
Before long he was full of pills and quite sober. “This is terrible,” he thought, “this is a colossal disaster. If the Jade Emperor is shocked by this, I'm done for. I must get out of here. I'd be much better off as a king in the lower world.”
He rushed out of the Tushita Palace, avoiding his usual route. Using a spell to make himself invisible, he left by the West Gate of Heaven, and went straight down to the Mountain of Flowers and Fruit by cloud. When he got there he saw flags, banners, spears and halberds gleaming in the sun: the four Stalwart Generals and the seventy-two kings of the monsters were holding military exercises.
“Children, I'm back,” shouted the Great Sage in a loud voice, and all the fiends dropped their weapons and fell to their knees.
“You don't care, do you, Great Sage?” they said. “It's been so long since you left us, and you never came back to see us.”
“I haven't been long, I haven't been long,” protested the Great Sage, and as they talked they walked into the innermost part of the cave. When the four Stalwart General's had tidied the place up and made him sit down, they kowtowed to him and asked, “What office did you hold, Great Sage, during your century and more in Heaven?”
The Great Sage laughed and said, “As far as I can remember it was only six months, so why do you say it was over a century?”
“A day in Heaven is the same as a year on earth,” the Stalwart Generals replied.
“I was lucky this time,” said the Great Sage. “The Jade Emperor took a liking to me and ennobled me as the Great Sage Equaling Heaven. He had an Equaling Heaven Residence built for me, complete with a Tranquillity Office and a Calm Divinity Office with Immortal functionaries, attendants and guards. Later on, when he saw that I had nothing to do, he put me in charge of the Peach Orchard. Recently the Queen Mother Goddess gave a Peach Banquet, but she didn't invite me. Instead of waiting for an invitation, I went to the Jade Pool and stole all the immortal food and drink. I staggered away from the Jade Pool and blundered into Lord Lao Zi's palace, and there I ate up his five gourds of pills of immortality. Then I got out through the heavenly gates and came here because I was scared that the Jade Emperor was going to punish me.”
All the fiends were delighted with what they heard, and they laid on liquor and fruit with which to welcome him back.
They filled a stone bowl with coconut toddy and handed it to him, but when he tasted it the Great Sage grimaced and said, “It's awful, it's awful.”
Two of his Stalwart Generals, Beng and Ba, explained, “You don't find coconut toddy very tasty because you have drunk immortal liquor and eaten immortal food in the heavenly palace, Great Sage. But as the saying goes, 'Sweet or not, it's water from home.'”
To this the Great Sage replied, “And all of you, whether related to me or not, are from my home. When I was enjoying myself beside the Jade Pool today I saw jars and jars of jade liquor under a portico there. As none of you have ever tasted it I'll go and pinch you a few jars; then you can each have a little drink, and live for ever.” All the monkeys were beside themselves with glee. The Great Sage then went out of the cave, turned a somersault, made himself invisible, and went straight to the Peach Banquet. As he went through the gates of the Jade Pool he saw that the men who made the wine, stirred the lees, carried the water, and looked after the fire were still snoring away. He tucked two big jars of wine under his arms, took two more in his hands, then turned his cloud round and went back to have a feast of immortal wine with the monkey masses in the cave. They all drank several cups and were very happy, but we will not go into this.
The story returns to the seven fairies, who were only able to free themselves a whole day after Sun Wukong had immobilized them with his magic. They picked up their baskets and went back to report to the Queen Mother that they were late because the Great Sage Equaling Heaven had held them there by magic.
“How many peaches did you pick?” the Queen Mother asked.
“Two baskets of little ones and three baskets of medium ones. But when we got to the back we could not find a single big one; we think that they were all eaten by the Great Sage. While we were looking for some the Great Sage suddenly appeared, and he beat and tortured us to make us tell him who had been invited to the banquet. After we had told him he immobilized us there, and we don't know where he went. We only came round and freed ourselves a moment ago.”
On hearing this the Queen Mother went to see the Jade Emperor and gave him a full account of what had happened. Before she had finished, the liquor-makers arrived with their immortal officials to report that an unknown person had thrown the Grand Peach Banquet into confusion and stolen the jade liquor as well as the precious delicacies of a hundred flavors. Then came Four Heavenly Teachers to announce that the Supreme Patriarch of the Way, Lao Zi, had arrived.
The Jade Emperor went out with the Queen Mother to meet him, and after doing obeisance Lao Zi said, “I had refined some Golden Pills of the Nine Transformations in my palace for a Feast of Elixir Pills with Your Majesty, but a thief has stolen them. This is what I have come to report to Your Majesty.” This news made the Jade Emperor tremble with fear.
Not long afterwards the immortal administrators from the Equaling Heaven Residence came to kowtow and report: “The Great Sage Sun Wukong abandoned his post and went wandering off yesterday. He has not come back yet and we do not know where he has gone.” The Jade Emperor, now more suspicious than ever, then saw the Bare-Foot Immortal bow his head to the ground.
“Your subject was going to the banquet on a summons from the Queen Mother,” he reported, “when I happened to meet the Great Sage Equaling Heaven. He told me, O Lord of Ten Thousand Years, that you had issued a decree ordering him to tell all the rest of us to go to the Hall of Universal Brightness for a ceremony before going to the banquet. Your subject went back to the Hall of Universal Brightness as he had told me to, but as I did not see the Imperial Dragon and Phoenix Chariot outside I hurried here to await orders.”
“This wretch has the impudence to invent fraudulent decrees and deceive eminent ministers,” exclaimed the Jade Emperor with anger and astonishment. “The Miraculous Investigator is to find out at once what he has been up to.”
The Miraculous Investigator left the palace in obedience to the edict, and by making thorough enquiries he found out all the details of what had happened.
“The wrecker of the Heavenly Palace was Sun Wukong,” he reported, and he went on to give a full account. The Jade Emperor was furiously angry, and he ordered the Four Great Heavenly Kings along with Heavenly King Li and Prince Nezha to mobilize the Twenty-eight Constellations, the Nine Bright Shiners, the Twelve Gods of the Twelve Branches, the Revealers of the Truth of the Five Regions, the Four Duty Gods, the Constellations of the East and West, the Gods of the North and South, the Deities of the Five Mountains and the Four Rivers, the star ministers of all Heaven, and a total of a hundred thousand heavenly soldiers. They were to descend to the lower world with eighteen heaven-and-earth nets, surround the Mountain of Flowers and Fruit, and capture that wretch for punishment. The gods called out their troops at once, and left the heavenly palace.
A gusty sandstorm blotted out the heavens,
Purple fog threw the earth into darkness.
Just because the monkey fiend offended the Supreme Emperor
Heavenly hosts were sent down to the mortal dust.
The Four Great Heavenly Kings,
The Revealers of the Truth of the Five Regions.
The Four Great Heavenly Kings held the supreme command,
And the Revealers controlled the soldiers' movements.
Li the Pagoda Carrier commanded the central corps,
Nezha the deadly led the van.
The star Rahu ordered the leading rands,
And the star Ketu towered behind.
The Sun revealed his divinity,
And radiance shone from the Moon.
The stars of the Five Elements were mighty in valour,
And the Nine Bright Shiners were fond of battle.
The stars of the Branches Zi, Wu, Mao and You,
Were all great heavenly warriors.
The Five Plagues and the Five Mountains were drawn up on the East and West,
While the Six Ding and Six Jia marched to right and left.
The Dragon Gods of the Four Rivers stood above and below,
And the Twenty-eight Constellations were drawn up in serried ranks:
Horn, Gullet, Base, and Chamber were the officers commanding,
Strider, Harvester, Stomach, and Mane wheeled and soared;
Dipper, Ox, Woman, Barrens, Roof, House, and Wall, Heart, Tail, and
Winnower-all able stars-
Well, Ghost, Willow, Spread, Whig and Axletree
Wielded their swords and spears, showed forth their power,
Halted their clouds and descended in mists to the mortal world,
Pitching camp before the Mountain of Flowers and Fruit.
There is a poem that runs:
Many the transformations of the heaven-born Monkey King
Happy in his lair after stealing the pills and wine.
Just because he wrecked the banquet of peaches,
A hundred thousand heavenly troops now spread their nets.
Heavenly King Li gave the order for the heavenly soldiers to pitch camp and throw a watertight cordon round the Mountain of Flowers and Fruit. Above and below they spread eighteen heaven-and-earth nets, and the Nine Bright Shiners were sent out to start the battle. They took their soldiers to the outside of the cave, where they saw the monkeys, big and small, leaping and fooling around.
The star officers shouted in harsh voices, “Little goblins, where's that Great Sage of yours? We are gods, sent from the upper world to subdue your mutinous Great Sage. Tell him to surrender at once-and if there's so much as a hint of a 'no' from him, we will exterminate every last one of you.”
The little monkeys went rushing in to report, “Great Sage, a disaster, a disaster. There are nine evil gods outside who say they've been sent from the upper world to subdue you.”
The Great Sage, who was just then sharing the immortal liquor with the seventy-two kings of the monsters and his four Stalwart Generals, paid no attention to the report, saying:
“Today we have wine so today we celebrate:
To hell with what's happening outside the gate.”
But before the words were out of his mouth another group of little devils came in. “Those nine evil gods are using foul and provocative language to challenge us to fight,” they announced.
“Never mind them,” said the Great Sage with a laugh.
“With verse and wine we're happy today;
Who cares when fame will come our way?”
But before these words were out of his mouth yet another group of devils came rushing in. “Sir, those nine evil gods have smashed the gates and are charging in.”
“The stinking gods!” exploded the Great Sage, “What nerve! I never wanted a fight with them, so why should they come here to push us around?” He thereupon ordered the One-horned Monster King to lead the seventy-two monster kings into battle while he followed them with the four Stalwart Generals. The monster king hastily assembled the devil soldiers and sallied forth to meet the enemy. They were all stopped by a charge by the Nine Bright Shiners, who held the head of the iron bridge so that no one could enter or leave.
During the tumult the Great Sage came on the scene, and shouting “Make way!” he raised his iron cudgel, shook it till it was as thick as a bowl and twelve feet long, and struck and parried as he came charging out. The Nine Bright Shiners, who were no match for him, fell back.
“You reckless Protector of the Horses,” they shouted when they were back in the safety of their own position. “You have committed the most terrible crimes. You stole the peaches and the wine, wrecked the Peach Banquet, and pilfered the immortality pills of Lord Lao Zi. On top of all this you brought some of the immortal liquor you stole back here. Don't you realize that you have piled crime upon crime?” The Great Sage laughed.
“It's true, it's true,” he said, “but what are you going to do about it?”
“In obedience to a golden edict of the Jade Emperor,” the Nine Bright Shiners replied, “we have led out troops here to subdue you. Submit at once, or else all these creatures of yours will have to pay with their lives. If you refuse, we shall trample this mountain flat and turn your cave upside-down.”
“You hairy gods,” roared the Great Sage in a fury, “what magic powers have you got to let you talk so big? Clear off, or I'll give you a taste of my cudgel.” The Nine Bright Shiners did a war-dance together, which did not frighten the Handsome Monkey King in the least. He whirled his gold-banded cudgel, parrying to right and left, and fought the Nine Bright Shiners till their muscles were weak and their strength was gone; then each of them broke ranks and fled, dragging their weapons behind them. They rushed to the command post of the central corps and reported to the Pagoda-Bearing Heavenly King Li that the Monkey King was so ferocious that they had fled from the battlefield, unable to defeat him. Heavenly King Li then sent the Four Heavenly Kings and the Twenty-eight Constellations into battle. The Great Sage, not at all frightened at this, ordered the One-horned Demon King, the seventy-two kings of the monsters, and the four Stalwart Generals to draw up their line of battle outside the gates of the cave. The ensuing melee was really terrifying.
Dark, sinister clouds.
On one side flags and standards colorfully flying,
On the other side the gleam of spears and halberds.
Round helmets shine,
Layered armour gleams.
The shining round helmets reflect the sun,
Like silver boulders reaching to the sky;
Gleaming layers of armour are built into a wall
Like a mountain of ice weighing down the earth.
Flash through the clouds like lightning;
Pierce mists and fogs;
Bristling like a field of hemp;
And four-brightness spears
Drawn up like a dense forest.
Bows and crossbows, eagle-feathered arrows,
Short clubs and snaky spears to terrify the soul.
Wielding his single As-You-Will cudgel,
The Great Sage fights against the heavenly gods.
Such is the slaughter that no bird flies over it;
And tigers and wolves flee in terror.
The swirling stones and clouds of sand make everything dark,
The dirt and the dust blot out the heavens.
The clash of arms startles the universe
As the battle strikes awe into gods and demons.
The battle started in the morning and went on till the sun set behind the mountains in the West. By then the One-horned Demon King and the seventy-two kings of the monsters had all been captured by the heavenly hosts. Only the four Stalwart Generals and the monkeys had got away, and they were now hiding in the innermost recesses of the Water Curtain Cave. The Great Sage's solitary cudgel had fought off the Four Heavenly Kings, Li the Pagoda-bearer and Prince Nezha, who were all in the sky. After the battle had gone on for a long time the Great Sage saw that night was drawing on, so he plucked out one of his hairs, munched it up, spat out the pieces and shouted, “Change!” They changed into thousands of Great Sages, all with gold-banded cudgels, who forced Prince Nezha and the five Heavenly Kings to withdraw.
After winning this victory the Great Sage put back his hair and hurried back to the cave, where the four Stalwart Generals at once led the monkeys out to kowtow at the head of the iron bridge to welcome him back. They sobbed three times and then laughed three times.
“Why are you laughing and crying at the sight of me?” the Great Sage asked.
“When we led all the commanders into battle against the heavenly kings this morning,” replied the Stalwart Generals, “the seventy-two kings of the monsters and the One-horned Demon King were all captured by the gods, and we had to flee for our lives. That is why we cried. We laughed because you, Great Sage, have come back victorious and unharmed.”
To this the Great Sage replied, “Victory and defeat are all the soldier's lot. As the ancients said, 'To kill ten thousand of the enemy you must lose three thousand of your own.' Anyhow, the officers of ours who were captured were all tigers, leopards, wolves, badgers, river-deer, foxes, and raccoon-dogs. Not one of our own kind was even wounded, so there's no need for us to be bothered about it. But although I forced the enemy to withdraw by dividing up my body through magic, they're still encamped at the foot of our mountain, so we'll have to remain on our guard. Meanwhile we must eat a good meal and get a good night's sleep to build up our energy. Tomorrow morning I'll use powerful magic to capture those heavenly generals and avenge our people.” After the four Stalwart Generals and the other monkey commanders had drunk several cups of coconut toddy, they went to bed with their worries calmed.
When the four Heavenly Kings had withdrawn their troops and ended the battle, those who had distinguished themselves reported what they had done. Some had captured tigers and leopards, some lions and elephants, and others wolves and raccoon-dogs, but not one single monkey goblin had been taken. Then they built a mighty stockade around their camp. Commanders who had distinguished themselves wee rewarded, and the soldiers who made up the heaven-and-earth nets were ordered to surround the Mountain of Flowers and Fruit, holding bells and shouting, ready for a great battle the next day. Every man heard the orders, and they were strictly obeyed. Indeed:
A wicked monkey made chaos, shocking heaven and earth,
So they spread their nets and watched by night and day.
Listen to the next installment to hear how he was dealt with the following morning.
Guanyin Comes to the Feast and Asks the Reason Why
The Little Sage Uses His Might to Subdue the Great Sage
We shall leave for the moment the Heavenly Generals making their encirclement and the soundly sleeping Great Sage. The story goes on to tell how the Compassionate and Merciful Miraculous Savior from Suffering, the Bodhisattva Guanyin of Mount Potaraka in the Southern Sea, having been invited by the Queen Mother to the Peach Banquet, went to the precious pavilions at the Jade Pool with her great disciple Huian the Novice. She found the place deserted and the banquet ruined. The few Immortals present were not sitting at their places but holding confused discussions. When greetings were over the Immortals gave the Bodhisattva an account of what had happened.
“If there is to be no banquet and no drinking,” said the Bodhisattva, “you had better all come with me to the Jade Emperor.” The Immortals were delighted to follow her, and when they arrived before the Hall of Universal Brightness the Four Heavenly Teachers, the Bare-Foot Immortal and many others were all there to greet the Bodhisattva. They told her that the Jade Emperor had sent heavenly armies to capture the demon, but they had not yet returned.
“I wish to see the Jade Emperor,” said the Bodhisattva, “so may I trouble you to inform him on my behalf?” The heavenly teacher Qui Hongji then went to the Hall of Miraculous Mist, and the Bodhisattva was invited in. She found that Lord Lao Zi was there in the place of honour, and that the Queen Mother was behind him.
The Bodhisattva went in at the head of the others, and when she had done obeisance to the Jade Emperor she greeted Lao Zi and the Queen Mother. After they had all sat down she asked what had happened at the Peach Banquet.
“The banquet is held every year, and it is normally a very happy occasion,” the Jade Emperor replied, “but this year that monkey fiend wrecked it, so that your invitation was worth nothing.”
“Where does this monkey fiend come from?” asked the Bodhisattva.
“He was born from a stone egg on the Mountain of Flowers and Fruit in the land of Aolai in the Eastern Continent of Superior Body,” the Jade Emperor answered. “When he was born golden beams flashed from his eyes that reached to the star palace. At first we paid no attention to him, but later on he became a spirit, subduing dragons and tigers, and erasing his own name from the registers of death. The Dragon Kings and King Yama of the underworld informed us of this in memorials, and we wanted to capture him, but the Star of Longevity memorialized that in the Three Worlds all beings with nine orifices can become Immortals. We therefore extended education to the worthy by summoning him to the upper world and appointing him Protector of the Horses in the Imperial Stable. But this was not good enough for the scoundrel, who rebelled against Heaven. We sent Heavenly King Li and Prince Nezha to accept his surrender, extended him an amnesty, and summoned him back to the upper world. We made him a 'Great Sage Equaling Heaven,' though this carried no salary. As he had nothing to do he would go wandering all over the place, and for fear that this might lead to trouble we had him look after the Peach Orchard. Once again he flouted the law by stealing and eating every single one of the big peaches from the old trees. When the banquet was to be held he was not invited as his position was purely an honorary one; so he played a trick on the Bare-foot Immortal, went to the banquet looking like him, ate all the immortal delicacies, and drank all the immortal liquor. On top of this he stole Lord Lao Zi's pills of immortality and some imperial liquor, which he took to his mountain for the monkeys to enjoy. This made us very angry so we sent a hundred thousand heavenly troops to spread heaven-and-earth nets and subdue him. But we have received no reports today, so we do not know whether we have been victorious.”
When the Bodhisattva heard this she said to Huian the Novice, “Hurry down from Heaven to the Mountain of Flowers and Fruit and find out about the military situation. If you meet with any opposition you may do your bit to help, but the important thing is to bring an accurate report back.” Huian the Novice straightened his robes, took his iron staff, left the palace by cloud, and went straight to the mountain. He saw that with the layer upon layer of heaven-and-earth nets, and the men holding bells and shouting passwords at the gates of the camp, the cordon round the mountain was watertight.
Huian stopped and called, “Heavenly soldiers at the gates of the camp, I would trouble you to report that I, Moksa, the second son of Heavenly King Li, also known as Huian, the senior disciple of Guanyin of the Southern Sea, have come to ask about the military situation.” Then the divine soldiers of the Five Mountains inside the camp went in through the gates of the headquarters, where the Rat, the Cock, the Horse and the Hare stars reported the news to the commander of the central corps. Heavenly King Li sent a flag of command with the order that the heaven-and-earth nets were to be opened to let Huian in. The East was just beginning to grow light as Huian followed the flag in and bowed to Heavenly King Li and the four other heavenly kings.
“Where have you come from, my son?” asked Heavenly King Li.
“Your stupid son accompanied the Bodhisattva to the Peach Banquet, and when she found the banquet deserted and nobody at the Jade Pool, she took me and the other Immortals to see the Jade Emperor. The Jade Emperor told her that you, father, and the other kings had gone down to the lower world to capture this monkey fiend. As the Jade Emperor has received no news all day on the outcome of the battle, the Bodhisattva sent me here to find out what has happened.”
“We arrived here and encamped yesterday,” Heavenly King Li replied, “then sent the Nine Bright Shiners to challenge the enemy to battle, but that wretch used such tremendous magic powers that the Nine Bright Shiners all came back defeated. Then we led out own soldiers into action, and the wretch also drew up his line of battle. Our hundred thousand heavenly soldiers fought an indecisive engagements with him till dusk when he used a spell to divide up his body and force us back. When we withdrew our forces and held an investigation, we found that we had only captured wolves, tigers, leopards, and so on, and had not even taken half a monkey fiend. We have not yet given battle today.”
Before he had finished speaking someone appeared outside the gates of the headquarters to report that the Great Sage was outside at the head of a crowd of monkey spirits, clamoring for battle. The four other Heavenly Kings, Heavenly King Li, and Prince Nezha were all for committing their forces, but Moksa said, “Father, when your stupid son was instructed by the Bodhisattva to come here and find out the news, I was also told that if there was a battle I could do my bit to help. May I please go and see what sort of a 'Great Sage' he is, untalented though I am?”
“My boy,” said Heavenly King Li, “you have been cultivating your conduct with the Bodhisattva for some years now so I suppose that you must have acquired some magic powers, but do be very careful.”
The splendid Prince Moksa hitched up his embroidered robes and charged out through the gates of the headquarters waving his iron staff with both hands. “Which of you is the Great Sage Equaling Heaven?” he shouted.
“I am,” answered the Great Sage, brandishing his As-You-Will cudgel. “But who do you think you are, asking a question like that?”
“I am Prince Moksa, the second son of Heavenly King Li, and I am now a disciple and a guard before the throne of the Bodhisattva Guanyin. My Buddhist name is Huian.”
“Why have you come here to see me instead of staying in the Southern Sea and cultivating your conduct?” asked the Great Sage, and Moksa replied, “My teacher sent me here to find out about the military situation, but now that I've seen your savagery I've come to capture you.”
“You talk big, don't you,” said the Great Sage.
“Well then, don't go away, try a taste of my cudgel.” Moksa, not in the least frightened, struck at him with his iron staff. It was a fine fight they fought, half-way up the mountainside outside the gates of the headquarters.
The staves were matched, but made of different iron;
The weapons clashed, but their masters were not the same.
One was a wayward Immortal known as the Great Sage,
The other a true dragon disciple of Guanyin.
The cast-iron staff, beaten with a thousand hammers,
Had been forged by the art of the Ding and the Jia.
The As-You-Will cudgel once anchored the Milky Way:
As the Treasure Stilling the Sea its magic power was great.
When the two met they were well matched indeed.
And they parried and lunged at each other without end.
The sinister cudgel, Infinitely murderous,
Could whirl round your waist as quick as the wind,
The spear-catching staff,
Never yielding an opening,
Was irresistible, parrying to right and left.
On the one side the flags and banners fly,
On the other the camel drums roll.
Ten thousand heavenly generals in multiple encirclement;
A cave of monkey devils densely packed together.
Monstrous fogs and evil clouds cover the earth,
While the smoke of deadly battle rises to the sky.
Yesterday's fighting was bad enough;
Today's struggle is even worse.
The admirable skills of the Monkey King
Put Moksa to flight, utterly defeated.
After they had fought some fifty or sixty rounds, Huian's arm and shoulders were numbed and aching, and he could resist the Great Sage no longer. Waving his staff in a feint, he turned away and ran. The Great Sage then withdrew his monkey soldiers and encamped outside the gates of the cave.
The big and little heavenly soldiers at the gates of the other camp received Huian and let him go straight to the headquarters, where he gasped and panted for breath as he said to the Four Heavenly Kings, Li the Pagoda-bearer, and his brother Prince Nezha, “What a Great Sage! What a Great Sage! His magic powers are too much for me. He beat me.” Startled by this news, Heavenly King Li had a request for reinforcements written and sent the Strong-arm Devil King and Prince Moksa up to Heaven to submit.
Not daring to waste a moment, the two messengers rushed out through the heaven-and-earth nets and mounted their propitious clouds. A moment later they arrived outside the Hall of Universal Brightness, where they greeted the Four Heavenly Teachers, who led them to the Hall of Miraculous Mist and handed up their memorial. Prince Moksa, or Huian, did homage to the Bodhisattva, who asked him what he had found out.
“As you instructed me, I went to the Mountain of Flowers and Fruit,” reported Huian, “asked them to open the gates of the heaven-and-earth net, saw my father, and told him of the orders you had given me. His Majesty my father said that they fought against the Monkey King yesterday but did not capture a single monkey spirit-only tigers, leopards, lions, elephants and so on. While he was telling me this the Monkey King demanded battle again, so your disciple fought some fifty or sixty rounds against him with my iron staff, but I was no match for him. He beat me, and drove me back to the camp. This is why my father has sent me and the Strong-arm Devil King up to Heaven to ask for reinforcements.” The Bodhisattva lowered her head in deep thought.
The Jade Emperor opened the memorial and saw that it contained a request for help. “This intolerable monkey spirit has enough tricks to fight off a hundred thousand heavenly soldiers,” he observed with a smile. “Heavenly King Li has asked for reinforcements. Which heavenly soldiers should I send him?”
Before the words were out of his mouth, Guanyin put her hands together and said, “Do not worry, You Majesty. I can recommend a god to capture this monkey.”
“Which god?” the Jade Emperor asked, and the Bodhisattva replied, “Your Majesty's nephew, the Illustrious Sage and True Lord Erlang, who is now living at Guanjiangkou in Guanzhou, enjoying the incense that the lower beings burn to him. In the past he exterminated the Six Bogies. He has the Brothers of Plum Hill and the twelve hundred straw-headed gods, and his magical powers are enormous. He will agree to be sent though he would not obey a summons to come here, so Your Majesty might like to issue a decree ordering him to take his troops to the rescue.” The Jade Emperor then issued such a decree and sent the Strong-arm Devil King to deliver it.
The devil king took the decree, mounted his cloud, and went straight to Guanjiangkou. He reached the temple of the True Lord within an hour. When the demon judges guarding the gates went in to report that there was an envoy from heaven standing outside with an imperial decree, Erlang went with the brothers to receive the decree outside the gates, and incense was burned as he read.
The Great Sage Equaling Heaven, the monkey fiend of the Mountain of Flowers and Fruit, has rebelled. Because he stole peaches, wine and pills while in Heaven and wrecked the Peach Banquet, we have despatched a hundred thousand heavenly soldiers and eighteen heaven-and-earth nets to surround the mountain and force him to submit, but we have not yet succeeded. We do now therefore especially appoint our worthy nephew and his sworn brothers to go to the Mountain of Flowers and Fruit and give their help in eliminating him. When you succeed, large rewards and high office shall be yours.
Erlang was delighted. He told the envoy from Heaven to go back and report that the would be putting his sword to the Emperor's service. We need not describe how the devil king reported back to Heaven.
The True Lord Erlang called the six sworn brothers of Plum Hill-Marshals Kang, Zhang, Yao, and Li, and Generals Quo Shen and Zhi Jian-together before the hall. “The Jade Emperor has just ordered us to the Mountain of Flowers and Fruit to subdue a monkey fiend,” he said. “You are all coming with me.”
The brothers were all eager to go, and mustering their divine troops they unleashed a gale wind. In an instant they had crossed the Eastern Ocean, riding eagles and leading dogs, pulling their bows and drawing their crossbows, and had reached the Mountain of Flowers and Fruit.
Finding that the many layers of heaven-earth nets were impenetrable, Erlang shouted, “Listen, all you generals in charge of the heaven-and-earth nets. I am the True Lord and the Illustrious Sage Erlang, and I have been sent here by the Jade Emperor to capture the monkey fiend. Open the gates of the camp and let me in at once.” Each line of gods forming the nets let them through, and the four other Heavenly Kings and Heavenly King Li all came to welcome him outside the headquarters. When the introductions were over he asked how the fighting had gone, and the Heavenly Kings gave him a full account of what had happened.
“Now that I, the Little Sage, have come here I shall have to match a few transformations with him,” said Erlang with a smile. “I hope that all you gentlemen will maintain a close cordon with your heaven-and-earth nets, but don't screen off the top of the mountain; then I'll be able to fight him. If he beats me I shan't need the help of you gentlemen, as I have my brothers to support me; and if I beat him I won't have to trouble you to tie him up as my brothers can do it. I would just like to ask Heavenly King Li to stand in the sky and operate this fiend-detecting mirror. I'm worried that if he's beaten he may go and hide somewhere, so you will have to give me a clear view of him and not let him get away.” The Heavenly Kings stayed in the four quarters, and all the heavenly soldiers were drawn up in their battle positions.
The True Lord Erlang went out at the head of the four marshals and the two generals-making seven sworn brothers with himself included-to challenge the enemy to battle; and he ordered his other officers to defend the camp firmly and keep the eagles and dogs under control. All the straw-headed gods acknowledged the order. Erlang then went to the outside of the Water Curtain Cave, where he saw the monkey hordes neatly drawn up in a coiled-dragon battle line; in the middle of the central corps stood a pole with a banner on it reading “Great Sage Equaling Heaven.”
“What business has that loathsome fiend to call himself the equal of Heaven?” Erlang asked; and the six sworn brothers of Plum Hill replied, “Stop admiring him and challenge him to battle.” When the junior monkeys at the gate of their camp saw the True Lord Erlang they rushed back to report, whereupon the Monkey King took his gold-banded cudgel, adjusted his golden armour, put on his cloud-walking shoes, felt his golden helmet, and leapt out through the gates of the camp. He saw at first sight how cool and remarkable Erlang looked, and how elegantly he was dressed. Indeed:
His bearing was refined, his visage noble,
His ears hung down to his shoulders, and his eyes shone.
The hat on his head had three peaks and phoenixes flying,
And his robe was of a pale goose-yellow.
His boots were lined with cloth of gold; dragons coiled round his socks;
His jade belt was decorated with the eight jewels,
At his waist was a bow, curved like the moon,
In his hand a double-edged trident.
His axe had split open Peach Mountain when he rescued his mother,
His bow had killed the twin phoenixes of Zongluo.
Widespread was his fame for killing the Eight Bogies,
And he had become one of Plum Hill's seven sages.
His heart was too lofty to acknowledge his relatives in Heaven;
In his pride he went back to be a god at Guanjiang.
He was the Merciful and Miraculous Sage of the red city,
Erlang, whose transformations were numberless.
When the Great Sage saw him he laughed with delight, raised his gold-banded cudgel, and shouted, “Where are you from, little general, that you have the audacity to challenge me?”
“You must be blind, you wretch, if you can't recognize me. I am the nephew of the Jade Emperor, and my title is Merciful and Miraculous King Erlang. I am here on imperial orders to arrest you, Protector of the Horses, you rebel against Heaven, you reckless baboon.”
“Now I remember who you are,” replied the Great Sage. “Some years ago the Jade Emperor's younger sister wanted to be mortal and came down to the lower world, where she married a Mr. Yang and gave birth to a son, who split the Peach Mountain open with his axe. Is that who you are? I should really fling you a few curses, but I've got no quarrel with you; and it would be a pity to kill you by hitting you with my cudgel. So why don't you hurry back, young sir, and tell those four Heavenly Kings of yours to come out?”
When the True Lord Erlang heard this he burst out angrily, “Damned monkey! Where are your manners? Try this blade of mine!” The Great Sage dodged the blow and instantly raised his gold-banded club to hit back. There was a fine battle between the two of them:
The Merciful God Erlang,
The Great Sage Equaling Heaven:
One is the Handsome Monkey King, the proud deceiver of his enemies;
The other a true pillar, the unknown subduer.
When the two met
They were both in a fighting mood.
He who had no respect before
Today learned a sense of proportion.
The iron staff raced with the flying dragons,
The divine cudgel seemed like a dancing phoenix.
Parrying to the left, thrusting to the right,
Advancing to meet a blow, flashing behind.
The brothers of Plum Hill add to one side's might,
While the other has the four Stalwart Generals to transmit orders.
As the flags wave and the drums roll each side is as one;
Battle-cries and gongs raise everyone's morale.
The two steel blades each watch for their chance,
But neither leaves an opening as they come and go.
The gold-banded cudgel, the treasure from the sea,
Can fly and transform itself to win the victory.
A moment's delay and life is lost;
A single mistake will be the last.
After Erlang and the Great Sage had fought over three hundred rounds the outcome of the fight was still undecided. Erlang braced, himself, and with a shake became ten thousand fathoms tall; in his hands his two-bladed trident looked like the peaks of Mount Hua. His face was black, his fangs were long, and his hair was bright red: he looked ferociously evil. He hacked at the Great Sage's head. The Great Sage, also resorting to magic, gave himself a body as big as Erlang's and a face as frightening; and he raised his As-You-Will gold-banded cudgel, which was now like the pillar of Heaven on the summit of the Kunlun Mountain, to ward off Erlang's blow. This reduced the two ape field marshals Ma and Liu to such trembling terror that they could no longer wave their banners, while the gibbon generals Seng and Ba were too scared to use their swords. On the other side Kang, Zhang, Yao, Li, Guo Shen and Zhi Jian threw the straw-headed gods into an assault on the Water Curtain Cave, with the dogs and eagles unleashed and their bows and crossbows drawn. This attack put the four monkey generals to flight, and two or three thousand devils were captured. The monkeys threw away their spears, tore off their armour, abandoned their swords and halberds, and fled screaming. Some went up the mountain and some returned to the cave, like roosting birds frightened by an owl, or stars scattered across the sky. That is all we have to say about the sworn brothers' victory.
The story goes on to tell how the True Lord Erlang and the Great Sage, having turned themselves into figures on the scale of Heaven and Earth, were locked in battle when the Great Sage was suddenly appalled to notice that the monkey fiends in his camp had scattered in terror. Putting off his magic appearance he broke away and fled, his cudgel in his hand. Seeing him go, the True Lord Erlang hurried after him with long strides.
“Where are you going?” he asked. “If you surrender at once, your life will be spared.” The Great Sage, who had no heart left for the fight, was running as fast as he could. As he approached the mouth of the cave he came up against Marshals Kang, Zhang, Yao and Li, as well as Generals Guo Shen and Zhi Jian, blocking his way at the head of their armies.
“Where are you going, damned monkey?” they asked, and the Great Sage hastily squeezed his gold-banded cudgel till it was the size of an embroidery needle and hid it in his ear. Then he shook himself, turned into a sparrow, flew up into a tree, and perched on one of its branches.
The six sworn brothers looked for him very hard but could find him nowhere, so they all shouted in unison, “The monkey fiend has escaped, the monkey fiend has escaped.”
As they were shouting the True Lord Erlang arrived and asked them, “Brothers, where had you chased him to when he disappeared?”
“We had him surrounded here just now, but he vanished.” Erlang opened his phoenix eyes till they were quite round and looked about him. He saw that the Great Sage had changed himself into a sparrow and was perching on a branch; so he put off his magical appearance, threw down his divine trident, and took the pellet bow from his waist. Then he shook himself, changed into a kite, spread his wings, and swooped in to attack. As soon as the Great Sage saw this he took off and turned himself into a big cormorant, soaring up into the sky. Erlang saw him, and with a quick shake of his feathers and a twist of his body he transformed himself into a crane and pierced the clouds as he tried to catch him. The Great Sage landed on a mountain stream and, changing into a fish, plunged into the water. Erlang, who had pursued him to the bank of the stream, could see no trace of him.
“That macaque must have gone into the water and changed himself into some kind of fish or shrimp,” he thought. “I'll transform myself again, then I'll get him.” He turned into a fish-hawk and soared above the lower reaches of the stream and the first waves of the sea. He waited there for a time. Meanwhile the Great Sage, who was in the form of a fish, swam with the stream until he noticed a bird flying above him. It was quite like a blue kite, except that its feathers were not blue; it was quite like an egret, but it had no crest on its head; and it was quite like a stork, but its legs were not red.
“That must be what Erlang turned himself into while waiting for me,” he thought, turned round quickly, and went away.
“The fish who turned round,” thought Erlang when he saw this, “is like a carp but its tail isn't red; it's like a mandarin fish, but I can't see the pattern on its scales; it's like a snakehead, but without a star on its head; and like a bream, but it has no needles on its gills. Why did it turn round the moment it saw me? It must be that monkey transformed.” He swooped down and snapped at the Great Sage with his beak. The Great Sage leapt out of the water, turned into a water-snake, swam to the bank, and slid into the grass. Failing to catch the fish in his beak, Erlang saw a snake jump out of the water and realized it was the Great Sage. He changed himself at once into a red-crested grey crane, and stretched out his long beak that was like a pair of pointed pincers to eat up the water-snake. The snake gave a jump and became a bustard standing stiffly on a smartweed-covered bank. When Erlang saw that he had turned himself into so low a creature-for the bustard is the lowest and lewdest of birds, not caring whether it mates with phoenix, eagle or crow-he kept his distance, reverted to his own body, went away to fetch and load his pellet bow, and knocked him flying with a single shot.
The Great Sage seized the chance as he rolled down the precipice to crouch there and turn himself into a temple to a local god. He opened his mouth wide to look like the entrance to the temple and turned his teeth into the doors; he made his tongue into a statue of a god and his eyes into windows and lattice. He could not tuck his tail away, so he stuck it up behind him as a flagpole. When Erlang came to the foot of the precipice he could not see the bustard he had shot over, and anxiously opening his phoenix eyes he looked carefully around and saw a temple with its flagpole at the back.
“It must be that monkey over there,” he observed with a smile. “He's trying to fool me again. I've seen temples before, but never one with the flagpole at the back. I'm sure it is that beast up to his tricks again. If he'd managed to lure me in, he'd have been able to get me with a single bite. Of course I won't go in. I'll smash his windows in with my fist, then I'll kick his door down.”
“Vicious, really vicious,” thought the Great Sage with horror when he heard him say this. “Those doors are my teeth, and the windows are my eyes; and if he smashes my teeth and bashes in my eyes, what sort of a state will that leave me in?” With a tiger leap he disappeared into the sky.
The True Lord Erlang rushed around wildly, but he could only see his six sworn brothers, who crowded round him and asked, “Elder brother, did you catch the Great Sage?”
“That monkey turned himself into a temple to fool me,” he replied with a laugh. “Just when I was going to smash his windows and kick in his door he gave a jump and vanished without a trace. Strange, very strange.” They were all astonished, and though they looked all around they could see no sign of him.
“Brothers, you patrol this area while I go to look for him above,” said Erlang, and with a quick jump he was riding a cloud in mid-air.
When he saw Heavenly King Li holding high the fiend-detecting mirror and standing with Nezha at the edge of a cloud, the True Lord asked, “Your Heavenly Majesty, have you seen that Monkey King?”
“He hasn't come up here-I've been keeping a lookout for him with this mirror,” the Heavenly King replied. The True Lord Erlang then told him how he had used transformations and magic to capture the monkey hordes.
“He changed into a temple,” Erlang went on, “but got away just when I was going to hit him.” On hearing this, Heavenly King Li turned the fiend-detecting mirror in all four directions, then said with a laugh, “Hurry away, True Lord, hurry away. The monkey made himself invisible to get through the encirclement, and he's gone to your place, Guanjiangkou.” Erlang took his divine trident and returned to Guanjiangkou in pursuit.
The Great Sage had already arrived there, changed himself into the likeness of the god Erlang with a shake of his body, put away his cloud, and gone into the temple. The demon judges did not realize who he really was, so they all kowtowed to welcome him. He took his seat in the middle of the temple, and inspected the offerings: the beef, mutton and pork presented by one Li Hu, the ex-voto promised by a Zhang Long, the letter from a Zhao Jia asking for a son, and one Qian Bing's prayer for recovery from illness. As he was looking round it was announced that another Lord Erlang had arrived. All the demon judges hurried to look, and they were all astonished.
The True Lord Erlang asked, “Has a so-called Great Sage Equaling Heaven been here?”
“We haven't seen any Great Sages,” they replied, “only another god who's looking around inside.”
The True Lord rushed in through the gates, and as soon as the Great Sage saw him he reverted to his own appearance and said, “There's no point in shouting, sir. This temple's mine now.”
The True Lord raised his double-bladed trident and swung at the Monkey King's head, but the Monkey King dodged the blow by magic, took his embroidery needle, shook it till it was as thick as a bowl, and rushed forward to meet the attack. Shouting and yelling, they fought their way out through the gates, and went on fighting through the mists and clouds all the way back to the Mountain of Flowers and Fruit. The Four Heavenly Kings and all their soldiers were so alarmed that they kept an even tighter guard. Marshals Kang and Zhang and the others came to meet the True Lord, and combined their efforts to surround the Handsome Monkey King. But of this no more for now.
After the Strong-arm Demon King had sent the True Lord Erlang and his six sworn brothers with their troops to capture the fiend, he had gone back to Heaven to report. He found the Jade Emperor, the Bodhisattva Guanyin, the Queen Mother and all his immortal ministers in conference.
“Although Erlang has joined the fight, we have had no reports on it all day,” the Jade Emperor said.
Guanyin put her hands together and replied, “May I suggest that Your Majesty go out through the Southern Gate of Heaven with Lord Lao Zi to see for yourself what is happening.”
“A good idea,” said the Emperor, and he went by chariot with Lao Zi, the Queen Mother, and all the immortal ministers to the Southern Gate of Heaven. Here they were met by a number of heavenly soldiers and strongmen. When the gates were opened and they looked into the distance they saw that the heavenly hosts were spread all around in a net; Heavenly King Li and Nezha were standing in mid-air with the fiend-detecting mirror, and Erlang was struggling with the Great Sage within the encircling ring.
The Bodhisattva addressed Lao Zi and asked, “What do you think of the god Erlang I recommended? He really does have divine powers. He's just got that Great Sage cornered, and all he has to do now is to catch him. If I give him a little help now he will certainly be able to do it.”
“What weapon would you use, Bodhisattva? How could you help him?” Lao Zi asked.
“I'll drop that pure vase of willow twigs on the monkey's head. Even if it doesn't kill him it will knock him off balance and enable the Little Sage to catch him.”
“That vase of yours is made of porcelain,” Lao Zi replied, “and if you hit the target that will be fine. But if it were to miss his head and smash into his iron club, it would be shattered. Just hold your hand while I give him a little help.”
“What sort of weapon do you have?” the Bodhisattva asked, and Lord Lao Zi replied, “I've got one all right.” He pulled up his sleeve and took a bracelet off his right arm.
“This weapon,” he said, “is made of tempered steel to which I have added the magic elixir. It preserves my miraculous essence, can transform itself, is proof against fire and water, and can snare anything. One of its names is Diamond Jade and the other is Diamond Noose. When I went out through the Han Pass some years ago to turn into a foreigner and become a Buddha, I have a great deal to thank it for. It's the best protection at any time. Just watch while I throw it down and hit him.”
As soon as he had finished speaking he threw it down from outside the heavenly gate, and it fell into the camp on the Mountain of Flowers and Fruit, hitting the Monkey King neatly on the head. The Monkey King was too preoccupied with fighting the seven sages to notice this weapon falling on him from heaven, and when it struck him on the forehead he lost his balance and stumbled, then picked himself up and started to run. The slim dog of the god Erlang caught him up and bit him in the calf, bringing him down again. As he lay on the ground he cursed at the dog.
“You don't bother your own master, damn you; why pick on me to bite?” He rolled over and tried unsuccessfully to get up, but the seven sages all held him down, roped him up, and put a sickle-shaped blade round his collar-bone to prevent him from making any more transformations.
Lord Lao Zi then recovered his Diamond Jade and invited the Jade Emperor, Guanyin, the Queen Mother, and all the immortal ministers to return to the Hall of Miraculous Mist. Down below, Heavenly King Li and the four other Heavenly Kings assembled their troops and pulled up the stockade. They went over to congratulate the Little Sage and said, “It was all thanks to you, Little Sage.”
“No, it was thanks to the great blessings of His Celestial Majesty and the might of all the gods-it was nothing I did,” replied the Little Sage.
“No time to talk now, elder brother,” said the four marshals Kang, Zhang, Yao, and Li. “Let's take this wretch up to Heaven to see the Jade Emperor and ask what is to be done with him.”
“Worthy brothers,” Erlang replied, “you never received any heavenly commission, so it would not be right for you to see the Jade Emperor. The heavenly soldiers can escort him while I go up there with the Heavenly Kings to report back. You should comb this mountain with your troops, and when you've finished go back to Guanjiangkou. When I've asked for our rewards, I'll come back and we can celebrate together.” The four marshals and the two generals accepted their orders, and the rest mounted their clouds and went to Heaven triumphantly singing victory songs. Before long they were outside the Hall of Universal Brightness. The heavenly teachers reported to the throne that the Four Great Heavenly Kings and the rest of them had captured the monkey devil, the Great Sage Equaling Heaven, and were now waiting to be summoned. The Jade Emperor then issued an edict ordering the Strong-arm Demon King and the heavenly soldiers to march him to the Demon-beheading Tower, where the wretch was to have his body chopped to mincemeat. Goodness!
The bully and cheat now meets with a bitter punishment,
The heroic spirit must now come to an end.
If you don't know what happened to the Monkey King's life, then listen to the explanation in the next installment.
The Great Sage Escapes from the Eight Trigrams Furnace
The Mind-Ape Is Fixed Beneath Five Elements Mountain
Wealth and honour, glory and fame,
Are predetermined by fate:
No one should act against conscience to covet any of them.
Far-going and deep
Are the good results of true enlightenment and loyalty.
Heaven punishes all wild and wicked deeds
If not at once then later on.
Ask the Lord of the East the reason why
Disasters now strike him.
It is because his ambition was high, his plans far-reaching,
He did not respect authority, and he smashed convention.
The story goes on to tell how the Great Sage Equaling Heaven was escorted by the hosts of heavenly soldiers to the Demon-beheading Tower and tied to the Demon-subduing Pillar. They hacked at him with sabres, sliced at him with axes, lunged at him with spears and cut at him with swords, but they were unable to inflict a single wound on him. The Southern Dipper angrily ordered all the gods of the Department of Fire to set him alight and burn him up, but he would not ignite. He told the gods of the Department of Thunder to nail splinters of thunder into him, but however hard they tried they could not harm a hair of his body. The Strong-arm Demon King and the rest of them then reported this to the throne.
“Your Majesty,” they said, “this Great Sage has learned somewhere or other how to protect himself by magic. Although your subjects have hacked at him with sabres, sliced at him with axes, struck at him with thunder and tried to burn him with fire, we have not been able to harm a hair of his body. What are we to do?”
“How can we deal with a wretch like this?” the Jade Emperor asked, and the Lord Lao Zi replied to this in a memorial: “That monkey has eaten the peaches of immortality, drunk the imperial liquor, and stolen the pills of elixir. He swallowed those five gourds of pills of mine, fresh ones and mature ones alike. Now we have used the fire of samadhi on him, which has tempered his body and made it a diamond one that cannot be harmed. The best course would be to let me take him and put him in my Eight Trigrams Furnace, where I can refine out my elixir with the civil and martial fire and reduce him to ashes at the same time. The Jade Emperor then ordered the Six Dings and the Six Jias to untie him and hand him over to the Lord Lao Zi, who took him away in obedience to the imperial decree. At the same time the Jade Emperor summoned the Illustrious Sage Erlang to his presence and rewarded him with a hundred golden flowers, a hundred jars of imperial liquor, a hundred pills of elixir, rare jewels, lustrous pearls, brocade, embroidery, and other gifts to share with his sworn brothers. The True Lord Erlang thanked him for his bounty and returned to Guanjiangkou.
When he reached the Tushita Palace, Lord Lao Zi had the Great Sage untied, took the hook from his collar-bone, pushed him into the Eight Trigrams Furnace, and ordered the priests in charge of it and the fire-boys to fan the fire up to refine him. Now this furnace was made up of the Eight Trigrams-Qian, Kan, Gen, Zhen, Sun, Li, Kun, and Dui-so he squeezed himself into the “Palace of Sun,” as Sun was the wind, and where there was wind there could be no fire. All that happened was that the wind stirred up the smoke, which made both his eyes red and left him somewhat blind with the illness called “fire eyes with golden pupils.”
Time soon passed, and without him realizing it the seven times seven, or forty-nine, days had passed, and Lord Lao Zi's fire had reached the required temperature and burned for long enough. One day the furnace was opened for the elixir to be taken out. The Great Sage, who was shielding his eyes with both hands and wiping away his tears, heard a noise at the top of the furnace. He looked hard and saw daylight; and, unable to stand being in there a moment longer, leapt out of the furnace, kicked it over with a crash, and was off. In the ensuing chaos the fire-boys, the keepers of the furnace, the Dings and the Jias all tried to grab him, but he knocked them all down. He was like a white-browed tiger gone berserk, a single-horned dragon raving mad. Lord Lao Zi rushed up to seize him, but was thrown head over heels as the Great Sage freed himself. He took the As-You-Will cudgel from his ear, and shook it in the wind till it was thick as a bowl, and once more created total chaos in the Palace of Heaven, not caring in the least what he did. He laid about him to such effect that the Nine Bright Shiners shut their windows and doors, and not a sign was to be seen of the Four Heavenly Kings.
Marvellous monkey spirit! As the poem has it,
His primordial body matches an earlier heaven,
Completely natural throughout ten thousand ages;
Vast and passive, blended with the Great Monad;
Always immobile, known as the Prime Mystery.
After so much refining in the furnace he is not lead or mercury;
Having lived long outside the ordinary he is a natural Immortal.
His changes are inexhaustible, and still he has more,
So say nothing about the Three Refuges or Five Abstentions.
Another poem says:
A single point of magic light can fill the whole of space;
Likewise that staff of his:
Longer or shorter, depending on his needs,
Upright or horizontal, it can shrink or grow.
Yet another poem runs:
To the ape's immortal body is matched a human mind:
That the mind is an ape is deeply meaningful.
It was quite true that the Great Sage equaled Heaven:
The appointment as Protector of the Horse showed no discernment.
Horse and ape together make mind and thought;
Bind them tightly together, and do not seek elsewhere.
When all phenomena are reduced to truth they follow a single pattern;
Like the Tathagatha reaching nirvana under the two trees.
This time the Monkey King made no distinctions between high and humble as he laid about him to East and West with his iron club. Not a single god opposed him. He fought his way into the Hall of Universal Brightness outside the Hall of Miraculous Mist, where the Kingly Spirit Officer, the lieutenant of the Helpful Sage and True Lord, fortunately was on duty. When he saw the Great Sage charging around he took up his golden mace and went forward to resist him.
“Where are you going, damned monkey?” he asked. “If you go wild you'll have me to deal with.” The Great Sage was not in a position to argue with him, so he raised his cudgel to strike him. The Spirit Officer lifted his mace and advanced to meet him. It was a fine fight:
Great was the fame of the brave and loyal officer,
Evil the name of the rebel who bullied Heaven.
The low one and the good one were well matched;
Valiant heroes fighting each other.
Vicious the iron cudgel,
Quick the golden mace.
Both were straight, merciless, and terrible.
One of them is a deity formed from the Great Monad's thunder;
The other is the monkey spirit, the Great Sage Equaling Heaven.
With golden mace or iron cudgel each is a master;
Both are weapons from the palaces of the gods.
Today they show their might in the Hall of Miraculous Mist,
A wonderful display of courage and skill.
One in his folly wanting to capture the Palace of the Dipper and the Bull,
The other exerting all his strength to support the world of the gods.
The fight is too hard to allow the use of magic,
As mace and cudgel struggle without result.
As they fought together without either of them emerging as victor, the True Lord sent an officer with a message to the Thunder Palace ordering the thirty-six thunder generals to surround the Great Sage. Although they all fought with the utmost ferocity, the Great Sage was not in the least frightened, and parried and blocked to left and right with his As-You-Will cudgel, resisting his opponents in front and behind. Before long he found that the pressure was too great from the sabres, spears, swords, halberds, clubs, maces, claws-and-ropes, hammer, pole-axes, battle-axes, grabs, pennoned hooks, and moon-shaped bills of the thunder generals; so he shook himself and grew three heads and six arms. Then he shook his As-You-Will cudgel and changed it into three cudgels, and wielding the three cudgels in his six hands he flew round and round inside the encirclement like a spinning wheel. None of the thunder generals could get anywhere near him. Indeed,
How can men learn to live for ever?
He can enter fire without being burned,
And go in the water but not be drowned.
He is as bright as a Mani pearl,
Swords and spears cannot harm him.
He is capable of good,
And capable of evil:
When faced with the choice between good and evil he might do either.
If he is good he becomes a Buddha or an Immortal,
If bad, he grows fur and horns.
With his boundless transformations he wrecked the Heavenly palace,
Nor can thunder generals and divine troops take him.
Although the gods had the Great Sage cornered, they were unable to get near him. The noise of the shouting and the fighting had already alarmed the Jade Emperor, who ordered the Miracle Official Youyi to go to the West with the Helpful Sage and True Lord and ask the Buddha to subdue him.
When these two sages received the order they went to the wonderful land of the Miraculous Mountain, where they offered their greetings to the Four Vajrapanis and Eight Bodhisattvas before the Thunder Monastery and asked them to pass on their massage. The gods went to the foot of the lotus seat to inform the Tathagata, who invited the two sages to his presence. When the sages had performed the threefold obeisance to the Buddha they stood in attendance below the throne.
“Why has the Jade Emperor troubled you two sages to come here?” asked the Buddha.
“A monkey,” they reported, “who was born on the Mountain of Flowers and Fruit, has used his magic powers to unite all the monkeys and throw the world into confusion. The Jade Emperor sent down an edict of amnesty and appointed him Protector of the Horses, but this was not good enough for him, so he left Heaven again. When heavenly King Li and Prince Nezha were unsuccessful in their attempt to capture him the Jade Emperor sent down another amnesty with his appointment as a 'Great Sage Equaling Heaven'. At first this appointment was purely nominal, but later he was told to look after the Peach Orchard. But he stole the peaches and then went to the Jade Pool where he stole the delicacies and the liquor and wrecked the banquet. In his drunkenness he staggered into the Tushita Palace, stole Lord Lao Zi's pills of immortality, and left Heaven again. The Jade Emperor sent a hundred thousand heavenly troops, but they were still unable to subdue him. Then Guanyin recommended the True Lord Erlang and his sworn brothers to go after the monkey, and he used many a transformation until he was finally able to capture the monkey after the Lord Lao Zi hit him with his Diamond Jade. The monkey was then taken to the imperial presence, and the order for his execution was given. But although he was hacked at with sabres, chopped at with axes, burned with fire, and struck with thunder, none of this did him any damage; so Lord Lao Zi requested permission to take him away and refine him with fire. But when the cauldron was opened after forty-nine days he jumped out of the Eight Trigrams Furnace, routed the heavenly troops, and went straight to the Hall of Universal Brightness in front of the Hall of Miraculous Mist. Here he has been stopped and engaged in fierce combat by the Kingly Spirit Officer, the lieutenant of the Helpful Sage and True Lord Erlang, thunder generals have been sent there to encircle him; but no one has been able to get close to him. In this crisis the Jade Emperor makes a special appeal to you, the Tathagata, to save his throne.”
On hearing this the Tathagata said to the assembled Bodhisattvas, “You stay here quietly in this dharma hall and behave yourselves in your seats of meditation while I go to deal with the demon and save the throne.”
Telling the Venerable Ananda and the Venerable Kasyapa to accompany him, the Tathagata left the Thunder Monastery and went straight to the gate of the Hall of Miraculous Mist, where his ears were shaken by the sound of shouting as the thirty-six thunder generals surrounded the Great Sage. The Buddha issued a decree that ran: “Tell the thunder generals to stop fighting, open up their camp, and call on that Great Sage to come out, so that I may ask him what divine powers he has.”
The generals then withdrew, whereupon the Great Sage put away his magic appearance and came forward in his own body. He was in a raging temper as he asked, “Where are you from? You are a good man. You've got nerve, stopping the fighting and questioning me!”
“I am the Venerable Sakyamuni from the Western Land of Perfect Bliss,” replied the Buddha with a smile. “I have heard of your wild and boorish behavior, and of your repeated rebellions against Heaven, and I would like to know where you were born, when you found the Way, and why you have been so ferocious.”
“I am,” the Great Sage said,
“A miracle-working Immortal born of Heaven and Earth,
An old ape from the Mountain of Flowers and Fruit.
My home is in the Water Curtain Cave,
I sought friends and teachers, and became aware of the Great Mystery.
“I have practiced many a method for obtaining eternal life,
Infinite are the transformations I have learned.
That is why I found the mortal world too cramped,
And decided to live in the Jade Heaven.
“None can reign forever in the Hall of Miraculous Mist;
Kings throughout history have had to pass on their power.
The strong should be honoured-he should give way to me:
This is the only reason I wage my heroic fight.”
The Buddha laughed mockingly.
“You wretch! You are only a monkey spirit and you have the effrontery to want to grab the throne of the Jade Emperor. He has trained himself since childhood, and suffered hardship for one thousand, seven hundred and fifty kalpas. Each kalpa is 129,600 years, so you can work out for yourself how long it has taken him to be able to enjoy this great and infinite Way. But you are a beast who has only just become a man for the first time. How dare you talk so big? You're not human, not even human! I'll shorten your life-span. Accept my teaching at once and stop talking such nonsense! Otherwise you'll be in for trouble and your life will very shortly be over; and that will be so much the worse for your original form too.”
“Although he has trained himself for a long time, ever since he was a child, he still has no right to occupy this place for ever,” the Great Sage said. “As the saying goes, 'Emperors are made by turn; next year it may be me.' If he can be persuaded to move out and make Heaven over to me, that'll be fine. But if he doesn't abdicate in my favour I'll most certainly make things hot for him, and he'll never know peace and quiet again.”
“What have you got, besides immortality and the ability to transform yourself, that gives you the nerve to try to seize the Heavenly Palace?” the Buddha asked.
“I can do many tricks indeed,” the Great Sage replied. “I can perform seventy-two transformations, and I can preserve my youth for ten thousand kalpas. I can ride a somersault cloud that takes me thirty-six thousand miles at a single jump. So why shouldn't I sit on the throne of Heaven?”
“I'll have a wager with you then,” said the Buddha. “If you're clever enough to get out of my right hand with a single somersault, you will be the winner, and there will be no more need for weapons or fighting: I shall invite the Jade Emperor to come and live in the West and abdicate the Heavenly Palace to you. But if you can't get out of the palm of my hand you will have to go down to the world below as a devil and train yourself for several more kalpas before coming to argue about it again.”
When he heard this offer the Great Sage smiled to himself and thought, “This Buddha is a complete idiot. I can cover thirty-six thousand miles with a somersault, so how could I fail to jump out of the palm of his hand, which is less than a foot across?”
With this in his mind he asked eagerly, “Do you guarantee that yourself?”
“Yes, yes,” the Buddha replied, and he stretched out his right hand, which seemed to be about the size of a lotus leaf. Putting away his As-You-Will cudgel, the Great Sage summoned up all his divine powers, jumped into the palm of the Buddha's hand, and said, “I'm off.” Watch him as he goes like a streak of light and disappears completely. The Buddha, who was watching him with his wise eyes, saw the Monkey King whirling forward like a windmill and not stopping until he saw five flesh-pink pillars topped by dark vapours.
“This is the end of the road,” he said, “so now I'll go back. The Buddha will be witness, and the Hall of Miraculous Mist will be mine.” Then he thought again, “Wait a moment. I'll leave my mark here to prove my case when I talk to the Buddha.” He pulled out a hair, breathed on it with his magic breath, and shouted “Change.” It turned into a writing brush dipped in ink, and with it he wrote THE GREAT SAGE EQUALING HEAVEN WAS HERE in big letters on the middle pillar. When that was done he put the hair back on, and, not standing on his dignity, made a pool of monkey piss at the foot of the pillar. Then he turned his somersault round and went back to where he had started from.
“I went, and now I'm back. Tell the Jade Emperor to hand the Heavenly Palace over to me,” he said, standing in the Buddha's palm.
“I've got you, you piss-spirit of a monkey,” roared the Buddha at him. “You never left the palm of my hand.”
“You're wrong there,” the Great Sage replied. “I went to the farthest point of Heaven, where I saw five flesh-pink pillars topped by dark vapours. I left my mark there: do you dare come and see it with me?”
“There's no need to go. Just look down.” The Great Sage looked down with his fire eyes with golden pupils to see the words “The Great Sage Equaling Heaven Was Here” written on the middle finger of the Buddha's right hand. The stink of monkey-piss rose from the fold at the bottom of the finger.
“What a thing to happen,” exclaimed the Great Sage in astonishment. “I wrote this on one of the pillars supporting the sky, so how can it be on his finger now? He must have used divination to know what I was going to do. I don't believe it. I refuse to believe it! I'll go there and come back again.”
The dear Great Sage hurriedly braced himself to jump, but the Buddha turned his hand over and pushed the Monkey King out through the Western Gate of Heaven. He turned his five fingers into a mountain chain belonging to the elements Metal, Wood, Water, Fire, and Earth, renamed them the Five Elements Mountain, and gently held him down.
All the thunder gods and the disciples Ananda and Kasyapa put their hands together to praise the Buddha: “Wonderful, wonderful,
An egg learned to be a man,
Cultivated his conduct, and achieved the Way.
Heaven had been undisturbed for the thousand kalpas,
Until one day the spirits and gods were scattered.
“The rebel against Heaven, wanting high position,
Insulted Immortals, stole the pills, and destroyed morality.
Today his terrible sins are being punished,
Who knows when he will be able to rise again?”
When he had eliminated the monkey fiend the Buddha told Ananda and Kasyapa to return with him to the Western paradise. At that moment Tian Peng and Tian You hurried out of the Hall of Miraculous Mist to say, “We beg the Tathagata to wait a moment as the Jade Emperor's chariot is coming.”
The Buddha turned round and looked up, and an instant later he saw an eight-splendour imperial chariot and a nine-shining jeweled canopy appear to the sound of strange and exquisite music, and the chanting of countless sacred verses. Precious flowers were scattered and incense was burned.
The Jade Emperor went straight up to the Buddha and said, “We are deeply indebted to the great Buddha's powers for wiping out the demon, and we hope that the Tathagata will spend a day here so that we may invite all the Immortals to a feast of thanksgiving.”
The Buddha did not dare refuse, so putting his hands together he replied, “This old monk only came here in obedience to Your Celestial Majesty's command. What magic powers can I pretend to? This was all due to the wonderful good fortune of Your Celestial Majesty and the other gods. How could I possibly allow you to thank me?”
The Jade Emperor then ordered all the gods of the Department of Thunder to split up and invite the Three Pure Ones, the Four Emperors, the Five Ancients, the Six Superintendents, the Seven Main Stars, the Eight Points of the Compass, the Nine Bright Shiners, the Ten Chiefs, the Thousand Immortals, and the Ten Thousand Sages to a banquet to thank the Buddha for his mercy. Then he ordered the Four Great Heavenly Teachers and the Nine Heavenly Maidens to open the golden gates of the jade capital, and Palace of the Great Mystery, and the Tong Yang Jade Palace, invite the Tathagata to take his seat on the Throne of the Seven Precious Things, arrange the places for all the different groups of guests, and set out the dragon liver, phoenix bone-marrow, jade liquor, and magic peaches.
Before long the Original Celestial Jade Pure One, the High Celestial Precious Pure One, the Heavenly Celestial Pure One of the Way, the True Lords of the Five Humors, the Star Lords of the Five Constellations, the Three Officers, the Four Sages, the Left Assistant, the Right Support, the Heavenly Kings, Nezha, and the whole of space responded to the invitations that had been sent out magically. Their standards and canopies came two by two as they brought shining pearls, rare jewels, fruit of longevity, and exotic flowers, and presented them to the Buddha with bows.
“We thank the Tathagata for subduing the monkey fiend with his infinite powers. His Celestial Majesty has asked us all to come to his banquet to express our thanks. We beg the Tathagata to give this banquet a title.”
The Buddha accepted this commission and said, “Since you want a name for it, we could call it the 'Banquet to Celebrate Peace in Heaven.'”
“Splendid, 'Banquet to Celebrate Peace in Heaven,' splendid,” exclaimed all the Immortals with one voice, and then they all sat down in their places, put flowers in their hair, and played the lyre. It was indeed a splendid banquet, and here are some verses to prove it:
The Banquet to Celebrate Peace in Heaven far surpasses
The Banquet of Peaches that the monkey wrecked.
Radiance shines from dragon flags and imperial chariots;
Auspicious vapours float above streamers and symbols of office.
Melodious the fairy music and mysterious songs;
Loud sound the tones of phoenix flute and pipe of jade
The rarest of perfumes waft around the Immortals, assembled calm in the sky.
To congratulate the court on Pacifying the Universe.
When the Immortals were all enjoying the feast the Queen Mother and a group of fairies, immortal beauties, and houris, floated through the air as they danced towards the Buddha, and after paying her respects the Queen Mother said, “My Peach Banquet was ruined by that monkey fiend, and this Banquet to Celebrate Peace in Heaven is being given because the Tathagata has used his great powers to chain down the evil monkey. Having nothing else with which to express my gratitude, I have picked a number of peaches of immortality with my own pure hands as an offering.” They were
Half red, half green, sweet-smelling beauties
Growing every ten thousand years from immortal roots.
The peaches of Wulingyuan seem laughable:
How can they compare with those of Heaven?
Purple-veined and tender, rare even in the sky,
Yellow-stoned, and matchless on earth for their sweetness.
They are able to adapt the body and make it live for ever;
Those lucky enough to eat them are no ordinary beings.
The Buddha put his hands together to thank the Queen Mother, who instructed the fairies and houris to sing and dance again, and their performance met with the praises of the whole assembly. Indeed:
Misty heavenly incense filled the room;
A chaos of heavenly petals and flowers.
Great is the splendour of the jade city and golden gates,
Priceless the strange treasures and rare jewels.
Two by two, coeval with Heaven,
Pair by pair, outliving ten thousand kalpas:
Even if land and sea changed places
They would not be astonished or alarmed.
Soon after the Queen Mother had ordered the fairies and houris to sing and dance, and when wine cups and chopsticks were weaving to and fro, suddenly
A strange scent reached their noses,
Startling the stars and constellations in the hall.
Immortals and the Buddha put down their cups,
Each of them raising their heads to look.
An old man appeared in the middle of the Milky Way
Holding a sacred mushroom.
His gourd contains ten-thousand-year elixir.
On the sacred rolls his name is written Eternal Life.
In his cave Heaven and Earth are free.
In his bottle Sun and Moon were created.
As he wanders around the Four Seas in pure idleness
Taking his ease in the Ten Continents, enjoying the bustle.
When he went to Peach Banquets he often got drunk
But when he came round, the moon was as bright as ever.
A long head, big ears and a short body,
Known as Longevity from the Southern Pole.
The Star of Longevity had arrived. When he had made his greetings to the Jade Emperor and the Buddha he made a speech of thanks.
“When I heard that the monkey fiend had been taken by the Lord Lao Zi to his Tushita palace to be refined I thought that this was bound to restore peace,” he said, “and I never expected he would rebel again. Happily the demon was quelled by the Tathagata, and so when I heard that this feast was being given to thank him I came at once. As I have nothing else to offer I have brought with me purple magic mushrooms, jasper herbs, greenish jade lotus-root, and golden pills of immortality: these I humbly present.” The poem says
Offering the jade louts-root and golden pills to Sakyamuni,
To give him as many years as the grains of sand of the Ganges.
Peace and eternal joy decorate the Three Vehicles;
Prosperity and eternal life make the nine grades of immortals glorious.
Within the gate of No-Phenomena the true Law rules;
Above the Heaven of Nothingness is his immortal home.
Heaven and Earth both call him their ancestor,
His golden body provides blessings and long life.
The Buddha happily accepted his thanks, and after the Star of Longevity had taken his place the wine-cups started to circulate once more. Then the Bare-foot Immortal appeared, kowtowed to the Jade Emperor, and thanked the Buddha.
“I am deeply grateful to you for subduing the monkey fiend with your divine powers. As I have nothing else with which to express my respect, I offer you two magic pears and a number of fire-dates.”
Sweet are the Bare-foot Immortal's pears and dates,
And long will be the life of the Buddha to whom they are offered.
The lotus seat of the seven treasures is as firm as a mountain,
His thousand-golden-flower throne is as gorgeous as brocade.
Coeval with Heaven and Earth-this is no lie;
It is true that his blessings are greater than a flood.
His Western Paradise of leisure and bliss
Truly provides all the long life and blessings one could hope.
The Buddha thanked him too, and telling Ananda and Kasyapa to collect together all the offerings he went over to the Jade Emperor to thank him for the banquet. When all the guests were thoroughly drunk the Miraculous Patrolling Officer reported that the Great Sage had poked his head out.
“It doesn't matter,” the Buddha said, producing from his sleeve a strip of paper on which were written the golden words Om mani padme hum. He gave this piece of paper to Ananda and told him to stick it on the summit of the mountains. The Venerable Ananda took it through the gates of Heaven and pasted it firmly to a square boulder on the top of the Five Elements Mountain. When this was done the mountain sank roots and joined up all its seams. The Monkey King was still able to breathe and he could still stick his hands out and move them. Ananda went back to Heaven and reported that he had pasted the paper in place.
The Buddha then took his leave of the Jade Emperor and all the other deities. When he and his two disciples had gone out through the gates of Heaven his merciful heart moved him to chant a spell ordering a local tutelary god and the Revealers of the Truth of the Five Regions to live on the mountain and keep guard over him. When he was hungry they were to feed him iron pellets, and when he was thirsty they were to give him molten copper to drink. When the time of his punishment was over, someone would come and rescue him. Indeed:
The monkey fiend was bold enough to rebel against Heaven,
But was subdued by the Tathagata's hand.
He endures the months and years, drinking molten copper for his thirst,
And blunts his hunger on iron pellets, serving his time.
Suffering the blows of Heaven, he undergoes torment,
Yet even in the bleakest time a happy fate awaits.
If some hero is ready to struggle for him,
One year he will go to the West in the service of the Buddha.
Another poem goes:
His great power grew as he humbled the mighty,
He used his wicked talents to subdue tigers and dragons.
He stole the peaches and wine as he wandered round Heaven,
Was graciously given office in the Jade Capital.
When his wickedness went too far his body suffered,
But his roots of goodness were not severed, and his breath still rose.
He will escape from the hand of the Buddha,
And wait till the Tang produces a saintly monk.
It you don't know in what month of what year his sufferings ended, listen to the explanation in the next installment.
Our Buddha Creates the Scriptures and Passes on Perfect Bliss
Guanyin Obeys a Decree and Goes to Chang'an
If you try to ask about the dhyana
Or investigate the innumerable
You will waste your life and achieve nothing.
Polishing bricks to make mirrors,
Or piling up snow to turn it into grain-
However many years have you wasted like that?
A hair can contain an ocean,
A mustard-seed can hold a mountain,
And the golden Kasyapa only smiles.
When you are awakened you will surpass the Ten Stages and the Three Vehicles,
And stop the four kinds of birth and the six types of reincarnation.
Who has ever heard, before the cliff of thoughts extinguished,
Under the tree that has no shadow,
The sound of the cuckoo in a spring dawn?
The path by the Cao Stream is dangerous,
The Vulture Peak is high in the clouds:
Here the voice of the ancients was a mystery.
On a cliff ten thousand feet high
Five-leaved lotuses bloom
As scent coils round the shutters of the old palace.
At that time
Your knowledge smashes all the currents of thought;
The Dragon King and the Three Treasures can be seen.
This lyric poem is set to the tune Su Wu Man. Our story goes on to how our Buddha, the Tathagata, left the Jade Emperor and went back to the Thunder Monastery, where he saw the three thousand Buddhas, five hundred Arhats, eight great Vajrapanis and countless Bodhisattvas standing under the pairs of sala trees at the foot of the Vulture Peak, all holding banners, canopies, jewels and magical flowers. The Tathagata brought his propitious cloud to a halt and addressed them thus:
“With my deep insight
I surveyed the Three Worlds.
The origin of nature
Is ultimately emptiness,
Like the great void,
Containing nothing at all.
The subjection of this evil monkey
Was a mystery beyond understanding.
It is called the beginning of life and death:
Such is the appearance of things.
When he had spoken a sacred light filled the sky with forty-two rainbows that linked North and South together. All who saw them bowed, and a moment later the Buddha gathered together some felicitous cloud and climbed to the supreme Lotus Throne, where he seated himself in majesty.
Then the three thousand Buddhas, the five hundred Arhats, the eight Vajrapanis and the four Bodhisattvas came forward to bow to him with their hands together and ask, “Who was it who wrecked the Heavenly Palace and ruined the Peach Banquet?”
“The wretch was a monkey fiend born on the Mountain of Flowers and Fruit,” the Buddha replied, “whose towering crimes would beggar description. None of the heavenly generals were able to subdue him, and when Lord Lao Zi refined him with fire after Erlang had captured him, he was unharmed. When I went there he was in the middle of the thunder generals, giving a great display of his martial prowess and his spirit. I stopped the fighting and asked him what it was all about. He said that he had divine powers, was able to do transformations, and could ride a somersault cloud for thirty-six thousand miles at a single jump. I made a wager with him that he could not jump out of my hand, then grabbed him, turned my fingers into the Five Elements Mountain, and sealed him under it. The Jade Emperor opened wide the golden gates of the Jade Palace, and invited me to be the guest of honour at a Banquet to Celebrate Peace in Heaven he gave to thank me. After that I took my leave of him and came back here.” They were all delighted by the news and they congratulated him effusively, after which they withdrew group by group, each to go about his duties as all rejoiced in the divine truth. Indeed:
Propitious vapours filled Paradise,
Rainbows surround the Venerable One.
The Western Paradise, known as the best,
Is ruled by the dharma King of non-phenomenon.
Black apes are always offering fruit,
Deer hold flowers in their mouths;
Blue phoenixes dance,
Coloured birds call;
Sacred turtles offer long life,
Immortal cranes present magic mushrooms.
Here they peacefully enjoy the Pure Land of the Jetavana Park,
The infinite realms of the Dragon Palace.
Every day flowers bloom,
Fruit is always ripe.
Through practicing silence they return to the truth,
Achieving reality by contemplation.
There is no birth nor death;
They neither wax nor wane.
Mists follow them as they come and go;
Untouched by heat or cold, they do not notice the years.
One day, as the Buddha dwelt in the Thunder Monastery on the Vulture Peak, he called together all the other Buddhas, Arhats, guardian deities, Bodhisattvas, Vajrapanis, monks and nuns and said, “As we are beyond time, I don't know how long it has been since the crafty ape was subdued and Heaven pacified, but by earthly reckoning it must be about five hundred years. As today is a fine early autumn day and I have a precious bowl filled with a hundred kinds of rare flowers and a thousand varieties of exotic fruit, what would you say to our having an Ullambana Feast?” They all put their hands together and performed the reverence of going round him three times in acceptance. The Buddha then ordered Ananda to hold the bowl of flowers and fruit while Kasyapa laid them out. The hosts were moved to gratitude, which they expressed in verse.
The poem on happiness went:
The Star of Happiness shines bright before the Venerable One;
Gifts of happiness spread wide and deep, ever richer.
Fortune is boundless and lasts as long as the Earth;
A happy fate has the luck to be linked with Heaven.
Fields of happiness are widely sown and flourish every year;
The sea of happiness is mighty and deep, never changing.
Happiness fills Heaven and Earth, leaving legacies of happiness
Happiness grows beyond measure, eternally complete.
The poem on official rank went:
With rank as high as a mountain, coloured phoenixes call;
With rank ever increasing, we praise the evening star.
Salary raised to ten thousand bushels, and a healthy body;
Salary raised to a thousand tons, and the world at peace.
Rank and salary equaling Heaven, and eternal too;
Rank and fame as great as the sea, and even clearer.
Rank and favour continuing for ever, greatly to be admired;
Rank and nobility without bounds, like ten thousand kingdoms.
The poem on longevity went:
The Star of Longevity shines towards the Buddha;
The glories of the land of longevity start from here.
Fruits of longevity fill the bowls, glowing with good omen;
Longevity's flowers are newly plucked and placed on the lotus throne.
Poems of longevity, pure and elegant, full of rare conceits,
Songs of longevity sung with exquisite talent.
Life as long as sun and moon,
Life that will outlast both mountains and seas.
When the Bodhisattvas had presented all the poems they asked the Buddha to expound the fundamentals to them. Then the Tathagata opened his excellent mouth and expounded the great Law and retribution. He spoke about the wonderful scriptures of the Three Vehicles and the theory of the Five Aggregates as contained in the Surangama-sutra; the deities and nagas gathered round, and flowers came raining down in profusion. Indeed:
The meditating heart shines like the moon in a thousand rivers;
The true nature embraces ten thousand miles of sky.
When the Buddha had finished his sermon he said to the host, “I have observed that the morality of the living creatures of the four continents varies. In the Eastern Continent of Superior Body they worship Heaven and Earth, their minds are livery and they are even-tempered. In the Northern Kuru Continent they are given to killing living things, but they only do it to feed themselves; they are stupid and lazy by nature, but they do not trample much on others. Our Western Continent of Cattle-gift has people who neither covet nor kill. They nourish the vital essence and submerge the spirit; and although they produce no saints of the highest order, they all live to a ripe old age. But in the Southern Jambu Continent they are greedy and lecherous and delight in the sufferings of others; they go in for a great deal of killing and quarrelling. That continent can with truth be called a vicious field of tongues and mouths, an evil sea of disputation. I now have Three Stores of True Scriptures with which they can be persuaded to be good.”
On hearing this, all the Bodhisattvas put their hands together in submission, then went forward to ask, “What Three Stores of True Scriptures does the Tathagata have?”
“I have one store of the Vinaya, the law, which is about Heaven; one of Sastras, expositions which are concerned with Earth; and one of Sutras, or scriptures, which save ghosts. The Three Stores consist of fifteen thousand one hundred and forty-four scrolls in thirty-five classes. They are the scriptures for cultivating the truth, and the gate to real goodness. I want to send them to the Eastern lands because it is intolerable that the beings of that quarter should all be such stupid wretches who slander and defame the true word, do not understand the gist of my Law, and have lapsed from the orthodox Yogacara Sect. How am I to find one with the magic powers to go to the East, choose a worthy believer and bid him make the arduous crossing of a thousand mountain and ten thousand rivers in search of the scriptures until he finally comes to this abode of mine to receive them? When he does come they will be sent to the East for ever to convert all living beings, which will be a blessing as big as a mountain, a cause for congratulation as deep as the sea. Is anyone willing to go and find him?”
The Bodhisattva Guanyin went up to the lotus throne, and after going round the Buddha three times by way of salutation she said, “Your untalented disciple wishes to go to the East to find a man to come and fetch the scriptures.” All present raised their heads to look at the Bodhisattva:
Her understanding filling out the four virtues,
Wisdom filling her golden body.
From her necklace hang pearls and jade,
Her bracelet is made of jewels.
Her hair is black clouds skillfully piled like coiling dragons;
Her embroidered girdle lightly sways, a phoenix wing.
Seagreen jade buttons,
A gown of white silk gauze,
Bathed with sacred light;
A girdle of gold,
Shielded by propitious vapours.
Eyebrows like crescent moons,
Eyes like a pair of stars.
A jade face full of heavenly happiness,
Scarlet lips making a touch of red.
Her pure bottle of sweet dew is ever full,
The willow twigs in it are always green.
She delivers from the eight disasters,
Saves all living beings,
Great is her compassion.
She stays on Mount Tai,
Lives in the Southern Sea,
Rescues the suffering when she bears their cries,
Never failing to answer every call,
Infinitely divine and miraculous.
Her orchid heart admires the purple bamboo;
Her orchid nature loves the fragrant creeper.
She is the merciful ruler of Potaraka Island,
The living Guanyin of the Tide Cave.
The Buddha was very pleased to see her.
“No one but the venerable Guanyin, whose divine powers are so great, will do for this mission,” he said.
“What instructions have you for your disciple as she goes to the East?” Guanyin asked.
“You must watch the route all the way,” said the Buddha. “You may not go via the Milky Way, but if necessary you may have a little cloud or mist. As you cross mountains and rivers you must note the distances carefully to enable you to give full instructions to the man who will come to fetch the scriptures. But that true believer will, I'm afraid, have a difficult journey, so I shall give you five treasures for him.” The Buddha ordered Ananda and Kasyapa to bring out a brocade cassock and a nine-ringed monk's staff.
“Give this cassock and staff to him who will come to fetch the scriptures: they are for him to use. If he is determined to come here, he can avoid the Wheel of Reincarnation by wearing this cassock, and he will be free from evil if he carries this staff.” The Bodhisattva bowed and took them. The Buddha then produced three bands.
“These precious things are called 'tight bands,'“ he told the Bodhisattva as he handed them to her. “Although all three of them look the same, they have different uses. I also have three Band-Tightening Spells. If you meet any devils with great magic powers on your journey you should persuade them to reform and become the disciples of the pilgrim who will come to fetch the scriptures. If they do not do is they are told these bands should be put on their heads, where they will of themselves take root in the flesh. If the appropriate spell for each one is recited the victim's eyes will bulge, his head will ache, and his forehead will split open. He will thus be certainly induced to adopt our religion.”
When he finished speaking the Bodhisattva bowed eagerly and withdrew. She told Huian the Novice to accompany her, and he took his iron staff weighing a thousand pounds with him so that he could as a demon-quelling strongman for the Bodhisattva. The Bodhisattva wrapped the cassock up in a bundle and gave it to him to carry. She then put the golden bands away safely and went down the Vulture Peak with the staff in her hand. This journey was to have consequences:
The Buddha's disciple comes back to his original vow;
The Venerable Golden Cicada is dressed in sandalwood.
When the Bodhisattva reached the foot of the mountain the Gold-headed Immortal of the Jade Truth Temple stopped her at the temple gate and invited her to take some tea. But she dared not stop for long, and so she said, “I have been given a sacred command by the Tathagata to go to the East and find a man who will come to fetch the scriptures.”
“When will he arrive?” the Immortal asked.
“It is not definite,” the Bodhisattva replied, “but he will probably reach here in two or three years' time.” She took her leave of the Immortal and as she traveled amid cloud and mist she estimated the distances. There are some verses to prove it:
She cared nothing of the journey of ten thousand miles to find him,
But worried about finding the right man.
Looking for the man seemed to be very chancy,
But how can it be a mere coincidence?
One who teaches the Way for the wrong motives will distort it;
He who explains it without faith will preach in vain.
Whoever will try and know it with his whole being,
Is bound to have a future ahead of him.
As the teacher and her disciple were on their journey they suddenly noticed a thousand miles of weak water, which was the River of Flowing Sands.
“Disciple,” said the Bodhisattva, “this will be hard to cross for the man who will come to fetch the scriptures, as he will be of impure bone and mortal flesh. How will he do it?”
“Teacher, how wide does the river look to you?” asked Huian. The Bodhisattva stopped her cloud to investigate. She saw:
Joining up with the deserts to the East,
Reaching the foreign kingdoms in the West,
Wuge in the South
The Tatars in the North.
It was about three hundred miles across,
And three million miles long.
As the waters flowed it was like the earth turning over,
The waves were like rearing mountains.
Broad and boundless,
Vast and mighty:
From three miles' distance the mighty flood is heard.
Immortals' rafts do not reach here,
Lotus leaves cannot float on it.
The sun slants through withered plants and bathes the crooked shore;
Brown clouds block its light and darken the long bank.
How could merchants pass this way?
Has a fisherman ever moored here?
No geese alight on the sandbanks,
But apes cry on the distant shore.
Its color comes from bountiful red smartweed,
While delicate white duckweed drifts together.
As the Bodhisattva was surveying the scene she heard a splash and saw a hideous ogre leap out of the waves. He was
Not really blue,
Not really black,
With an evil face;
Bare legs and a muscular body.
His eyes flashed
Like a pair of tortoise-shell lanterns;
The comers of his mouth were as sinister
As a butcher's cauldron.
Protruding fangs like swords,
Red hair, matted and unkempt.
He roared like a clap of thunder,
And ran across the waves with the speed of wind.
This ogre climbed up the bank with a pole in his hands to catch the Bodhisattva, but was stopped by Huian's staff.
“Don't run away,” Huian shouted as the ogre advanced towards him. The battle that ensued between them was quite terrifying:
Moksa with his iron club,
Using his divine powers to protect the Bodhisattva;
The ogre with his demon-quelling pole
Displaying his valour for all be was worth.
A pair of silver dragons dancing by the river;
Two holy monks in battle on the bank.
The one used his skill to control the River of Flowing Sands
The other had distinguished himself in protecting Guanyin.
The one could make the waves leap and roll,
The other could breathe out fogs and gales.
When the waves leapt and rolled, Heaven and Earth were darkened;
In the fogs and gales, sun and moon were dimmed.
The demon-quelling pole
Was like a white tiger coming down from the mountain;
The iron club
Was like a crouching yellow dragon.
When one goes into action
It beats the undergrowth to start the snakes;
When the other lashes out,
It parts the pines to flush the sparrowhawks.
They fight till the sky goes dark
And the stars twinkle.
Then the mist rises,
And earth and sky are dim.
The one has long been unrivalled in the Weak Waters;
The other has always been the hero of Vulture Peak.
When the pair of them had fought several dozen rounds inconclusively the ogre blocked his opponent's iron staff and asked, “Where are you from, monk, that you dare to take me on?”
“I am Prince Moksa, the second son of the Pagoda-bearing Heavenly King Li,” the other replied. “I am also Huian the Novice. I am now protecting my teacher on her journey to the East to find the man who will fetch the scriptures. Which monster are you? How dare you stand in our way?” The ogre then realized who he was.
“I remember,” he said, “you used to cultivate your conduct with Guanyin of the Southern Sea in the Purple Bamboo Grove. Why have you come here?”
“Can't you see my teacher standing there on the bank?”
When the ogre heard this he chanted “na-a-aw” several times to show his respect, withdrew his pole and let Moksa seize it. Then he bowed to Guanyin and said, “Forgive me, Bodhisattva, and listen to what I have to tell you. I am not a demon, but the Curtain Raising General who used to stand in attendance by the imperial chariot in the Hall of Miraculous Mist. Just because I accidentally smashed a crystal dish at a Peach Banquet the Jade Emperor had me given eight hundred strokes of the rod, exiled me to the lower world, and made me look like this. And on top of it all every seven days he sends a flying sword here to stab my chest over a hundred times before it goes back again. It's agony. I get so unbearably cold and hungry that I have to emerge from the waves every two or three days to devour a traveler. I never thought that in my ignorance I would insult the merciful Bodhisattva today.”
“You were exiled here for a crime against Heaven, but now you are deepening your guilt by harming living beings. I am now going to the East on the Buddha's orders to find the man who will fetch the scriptures. Why don't you become one of us and ensure yourself good retribution in future by accompanying the pilgrim as a disciple and ascending to the Western Heaven to pay homage to the Buddha and seek the scriptures? I will see to it that the flying sword stops coming to pierce you, and when you are successful you will be forgiven your crimes and your old job will be given back to you. What do you think of that?”
“I am willing to return to the truth,” the ogre replied, then went closer as he continued, “Bodhisattva, I have lost count of the number of people I have eaten here, and I have even devoured some pilgrims who were trying to fetch scriptures. I throw the heads of all my victims into the river, and they all sink to the bottom as not even goose-down will float on this water. But the skeletons of those nine pilgrims floated and would not sink. I was so impressed by this that I threaded them together with rope and play with them in my spare time. But I am afraid that the man who is to fetch the scriptures may not get this far, which would wreck my future.”
“Of course he'll get here,” the Bodhisattva replied. “You should hang those skeletons from your head and wait for him. They will come in useful.”
“In that case,” the ogre said, “I shall await your instructions.” The Bodhisattva then laid her hands on his head and administered the monastic rules to him, chose for him the surname Sha (“Sand") and gave him the Buddhist name of Wujing (“Awakened to Purity"). Then he entered monkish life and took the Bodhisattva across the river. He washed his heart, cleansed his thoughts, and stopped killing living creatures. All he did now was to wait for the pilgrim who would come to fetch the scriptures.
After leaving him the Bodhisattva and Huian hurried on towards the East. When they had been travelling for a long time they saw a high mountain veiled with an evil mist, and they were unable to climb it on foot. Just when they were intending to cross the mountain by cloud, a gale wind blew up and a monster suddenly appeared. He too was very menacing to behold:
His entrails hung from his mouth, rolled up and knotted;
His ears were like rush fans, his eyes shone gold.
His teeth were sharp as steel files,
And when he opened his mouth it was like a brazier.
His golden helmet was tied firmly round his cheeks;
His armour, bound with a silken sash, was a python's sloughed-off skin.
In his hands he held a nailed rake like a dragon's claw,
At his waist hung a curved bow the shape of a half-moon.
His martial might overawed the Year Planet;
His overweening spirit threatened the heavenly gods.
He rushed upon them, and without a second thought smote at the Bodhisattva with his rake. Moksa the Novice parried his blow, and shouted at the top of his voice, “Remember your manners, damned monster, and watch out for my staff.”
“Monk,” the other replied, “you don't know how to keep yourself in one piece. Mind my rake!” At the foot of the mountain the pair of them rushed upon each other as they struggled for supremacy. It was a fine battle:
The fierce and murderous ogre;
Huian, imposing and able.
The iron staff could pulverize the heart;
The rake struck at the face.
The dust thrown up darkened Heaven and Earth;
The flying sand and stones startled gods and ghouls.
The nine-toothed rake
Gleamed and flashed
As its pair of rings resounded;
The lone staff
Was ominously black
As it whirled in its owner's hands.
One was the heir of a Heavenly King,
One defended the Law on Potaraka Island.
The other was an evil fiend in a mountain cave.
In their battle for mastery,
None knew who the winner would be.
Just when the fight was getting really good, Guanyin threw down a lotus flower from mid-air to separate the two weapons. The monster, shocked at the sight of it, asked, “Where are you from, monk? How dare you try to fool me with a 'flower in front of the eyes?'”
“I'll get you, you stinking, flesh-eyed mortal,” replied Moksa. “I am a disciple of the Bodhisattva of the Southern Sea, and this lotus was thrown down by her. Don't you know that?”
“By the Bodhisattva of the Southern Sea do you mean Guanyin Who Eliminates the Three Calamities and Saves from the Eight Disasters?” the monster asked.
“Who else could I mean?” retorted Moksa. The monster threw down his rake, bowed to him, and asked, “Where is the Bodhisattva, elder brother? May I trouble you to introduce me?” Moksa looked up and pointed.
“There she is,” he said. The monster kowtowed to her and shouted in a shrill voice, “Forgive me, Bodhisattva, forgive me.” Guanyin brought her cloud down to earth, went over to him and asked, “Are you a wild boar become a devil or a pig turned monster? How dare you block my way?”
“I'm neither a wild boar nor a pig,” the monster replied. “I used to be Marshal Tian Peng in the Milky Way. Because I took some wine to seduce the moon maiden, the Jade Emperor sentenced me to two thousand hammer blows and exile in the mortal world. My spirit had to find a womb to occupy, but I lost my way and entered the womb of a sow. That's why I look like this. I ate up my sow mother, drove all the other pigs away, and seized this mountain, where I keep myself by eating people. I never meant to offend you, Bodhisattva. Save me, save me, I beg you.”
“What is this mountain called?” the Bodhisattva asked.
“It's called the Mount of Blessing, and the cave in it is called the Cloud Pathway Cave. Second Sister Luan, who used to live there, saw that I knew how to fight and asked me to be the head of her household as her husband, but she died within a year and all her property became mine. As the days lengthened into years I found that I had no way of supporting myself, so I had to eat people to keep myself going as I had done before. Forgive me my sins, I beg of you, Bodhisattva.”
“There is an old saying,” the Bodhisattva replied, “that goes, 'If you want to have a future, don't do anything with no future in it?' You broke the law in the upper world, and since then your vicious nature has not been reformed. You have further sinned by taking life, so this surely means that you will be doubly punished.”
“Future!” said the monster angrily. “According to you I should have lived on air! As the saying goes, 'By the government's law you're beaten to death, and by the Buddha's law you starve to death.' Clear off! Clear off! If you don't I'll capture this pilgrim and eat this plump and tender old woman. I don't give a hoot if it's double sinning, triple sinning, or sinning a thousand or ten thousand times over.”
“'If a man wishes to be good, Heaven will certainly allow him to be,'“ said the Bodhisattva. “If you are prepared to submit to the truth, there are of course, ways to feed yourself. There are the five kinds of food-grains, and they are sufficient to assuage hunger, so why eat people to keep alive?”
When the monster heard these words it was as if he awoke from a dream, and he said to the Bodhisattva, “I would love to reform, but isn't it true that 'a sinner against Heaven has nowhere to pray to?'”
“I'm going to the East on the orders of the Buddha to find the man who will fetch the scriptures,” she replied. “You can be a disciple of his and make this journey to the Western Heaven; thus you will gain merit and atone for your crimes, and I will see to it that you are freed from disaster.”
“I'll go with him, I'll go with him,” the monster said over and over again. The Bodhisattva then laid her hands on his head and he accepted the monastic rules. She gave him the surname Zhu (“Pig") because of his appearance, and gave him the Buddhist name Zhu Wuneng (“Pig Awakened to Power"). She ordered him to adhere to the truth and eat only vegetarian food, cutting out the five pungent vegetables as well as the three forbidden things; wild goose, dog and fish. He was now to wait single-mindedly for the pilgrim who would come to fetch the scriptures.
The Bodhisattva and Moksa then took their leave of the Pig Awakened to Power and continued on their way by low-altitude cloud. As they were travelling along they heard a jade dragon call to them in mid-air.
“Which dragon are you?” the Bodhisattva asked as she went up to him. “And why are you undergoing punishment here?”
“I am the son of Ao Run, the Dragon King of the Western Sea. Because I burnt up the bright pearls in the palace, my father reported me to the court of Heaven as a rebel. The Jade Emperor had me hung up in mid-air and given three hundred strokes, and I am to be executed any day now. I beg you to save me, Bodhisattva.”
When she heard his plea the Bodhisattva went in through the Southern Gates of Heaven with Moksa. Here they were met by the Heavenly Teachers Qiu and Zhang, who asked them, “Where are you going?”
“I would like an audience with the Jade Emperor.” The two Heavenly Teachers hurried in to announce her, and the Jade Emperor came out of his palace to receive her. The Bodhisattva went forward to greet him and said, “On my way to the East on the orders of the Buddha to find the man to fetch the scriptures, I met a wicked dragon suspended in mid-air… I have come here especially to ask you to spare his life and give him to me so that I can teach him to serve the pilgrim with his legs.” On hearing this the Jade Emperor issued a decree pardoning him, and he sent a heavenly general to release him and give him to the Bodhisattva. The Bodhisattva thanked him for his generosity and left. The young dragon kowtowed to show how grateful he was for having his life spared, and he obediently did what the Bodhisattva told him to. She took him to a deep ravine, where he was to wait until the pilgrim came. When that happened he was to turn into a white horse and achieve merit by going to the Western Heaven. On receiving his orders the young dragon hid himself.
The Bodhisattva led Moksa the Novice across this mountain, and they hurried on towards the East. Before they had gone much further they suddenly saw ten thousand beams of golden light and a thousand wisps of propitious vapour.
“Teacher,” said Moksa, “the place where all the light is coming from is the Five Elements Mountain, where the Tathagata's restriction order is posted.”
“This must be cause that Great Sage Equaling Heaven who wrecked the Peach Banquet and threw the Heavenly Palace into chaos is imprisoned there.”
“That's right,” Moksa replied, and teacher and pupil climbed the mountain together to look at the paper. On it were written the true words Om mani padme bum, and when the Bodhisattva saw them she sighed deeply and composed a poem that went:
“Pity the evil monkey who did not obey the lord
In his arrogance he showed off his valour in the old days,
In his folly he wrecked the Peach Banquet,
And he had the effrontery to sin in the Tushita Palace.
In the army of a hundred thousand there was none to match him;
His might was felt above the ninefold heavens.
But now he has been caught by our Tathagata, the Buddha:
Will he ever be able to unleash his talents and win more glory?”
The conversation between teacher and disciple had disturbed the Great Sage, who shouted from under the roots of the mountain, “Who's that up there?” When she heard this the Bodhisattva hurried down the mountain to visit him. At the foot of the mountainside the local gods, the mountain gods and the heavenly generals who were guarding the Great Sage all bowed to the Bodhisattva in greeting and took her to the Great Sage. She saw that he was pressed down inside a stone box, so that he could speak but could not move his body.
“Monkey,” the Bodhisattva said, “do you know who I am?” The Great Sage opened wide his fiery eyes with their golden pupils, nodded his head and shouted at the top of his voice, “Of course I recognize you. You, thank goodness, are the All-Compassionate. All-Merciful Deliverer from Suffering, the Bodhisattva Guanyin from Potaraka Island in the Southern Sea. You're a very welcome visitor. Every day here seems like a year, and nobody I know has ever come to see me. Where have you come from?”
“I have received a mandate from the Buddha to go to the East and find the man who will fetch the scriptures,” she replied, “and as I was passing this way I decided to come over and see you.”
“The Buddha fooled me and crushed me under this mountain-I haven't been able to stretch myself for five hundred years. I desperately hope that you will be obliging enough to rescue me, Bodhisattva.”
“You wretch,” she replied, “you have such an appalling criminal record that I'm afraid you'd only make more trouble if I got you out.”
“I have already repented,” he said, “and hope that you will show me the road I should follow. I want to cultivate my conduct.” Indeed:
When an idea is born in a man's mind
It is known throughout Heaven and Earth.
If good and evil are not rewarded and punished
The world is bound to go to the bad.
The Bodhisattva was delighted to hear what he had to say.
“The sacred scriptures say,” she replied, '“If one's words are good, they will meet with a response from even a thousand miles away; if they are bad, they will be opposed from the same distance.' If this is your state of mind, then wait while I go to the East to find the man who will fetch the scriptures; I'll tell him to rescue you. You can be his disciple, observe and uphold the faith, enter our Buddha's religion, and cultivate good retribution for yourself in the future. What do you say to that?”
“I'll go, I'll go,” the Great Sage repeated over and over again.
“As you have reformed,” she said, “I'll give you a Buddhist name.”
“I've already got a name. It's Sun Wukong.” The Bodhisattva, very pleased, said, “I made two converts earlier, and their names both contained Wu ('Awakened'). There's no need to give you any further instructions, so I'll be off.” The Great Sage, now aware of his own Buddha-nature, was converted to the Buddha's religion; and the Bodhisattva devotedly continued her search for a saintly monk.
After leaving that place she and Huian carried straight on to the East, and before long they reached Chang'an, the capital of the Great Tang. Putting away their mists and clouds, teacher and pupil turned themselves into a pair of scabby itinerant monks and went inside the city of Chang'an. It was already dark, and beside the great market street they saw a shrine to a local tutelary god and went in. The local god was thrown into confusion at the sight of them, and the devil soldiers quaked with terror; they knew that she was a Bodhisattva, and kowtowed to her in greeting. The local god then scurried off to tell the City God, the Lord of the Alter, and the gods of all the other shrines in Chang'an. When they knew that the Bodhisattva had come they all went to report to her and said, “Bodhisattva, please forgive us for our crime in being late to welcome you.”
“You mustn't let a whisper of this get out,” she said. “I have come here on a decree from the Buddha to find someone to fetch the scriptures. I shall be borrowing your temple for a few days while I find this true monk, and then I shall go back.” All the gods returned to their own shrines, and they took the local god to stay in the temple of the City God. Teacher and disciple disguised their true appearances. If you don't know whom they found to fetch the scriptures, listen to the explanation in the next installment.
Chen Guangrui Comes to Grief on His Way to His Post
The Monk of the River Current Avenges His Parents
The story goes on to tell that Chang'an city in the great land of Shaanxi had been a place where emperors and kings had made their capitals for generation after generation. Ever since the Zhou, Qin and Han dynasties, the Three Prefectures had been as rich as brocade, and the eight rivers had flowed round its walls. It was indeed a famous country. At that time Emperor Taizong of the Great Tang was on the throne. He had changed the name of the reign-period to Zhenguan, and had been reigning for thirteen years. The year was ji si and the world was at peace; tribute was being sent in from the eight directions, and all within the four seas acknowledged themselves as subjects.
One day Taizong took his seat on the throne and assembled all his military and civilian officials. When they had finished making their greetings, the minister Wei Zheng came forward from the ranks of officials and memorialized, “As the world is now at peace and the eight directions are calm, an examination should be held in accordance with the practice of the ancients. Thus we could recruit wise scholars and select men of talent to help with our civilizing mission.”
“The suggestion of our wise minister is right,” said the Emperor, and notices inviting worthy men to compete in the examinations were posted throughout the empire. All the Confucian scholars on the civil or military rolls in every prefecture, district and county who had distinguished themselves in the three-stage examinations for their understanding of literature were to go to Chang'an for a final test.
When this notice reached the district of Haizhou it was seen by a man called Chen E, whose courtesy name was Guangrui. He returned home and said to Madame Zhang, his mother, “The court has issued a yellow notice saying that the Chancellery will be opened for an examination to select men of wisdom and talent. Your child wants to go and take part. If I am given an official post it will bring me fame and make our family illustrious; my wife will be given a title, my sons will be given preferential treatment; and it will bring glory to our house. Such is my ambition; and I have come to tell you, mother, that I am going.”
“You are a scholar, my son,” his mother replied, “and it is right that 'one who studies when young should travel when grown up'. But do take care on the journey to the examinations, and if you are given office, come back home as soon as you can.” Chen Guangrui then ordered his servants to get his luggage together, took his leave of his mother, and started off on his journey. When he reached Chang'an the examination grounds were open and he went in. Having been successful in this examination, he went to the palace for the three questions test. The Tang Emperor personally awarded him the first place, and he was paraded round the streets on horseback for three days.
It happened that just when the procession was passing the gateway of the minister Yin Kaishan, the minister's unmarried daughter Wenqiao, whose other name was Man-tang-qiao (Beauty Throughout the Hall), was making decorations for the house and throwing an embroidered ball to see who her future husband would be. When Chen Guangrui passed below she saw at once that he was exceptionally handsome, and she knew that he had come first in the recent examinations. She was thoroughly taken with him, and when she dropped her embroidered ball it landed squarely on his black hat. To the sound of pipes and flutes a dozen or so maidservants and serving women hurried downstairs to take hold of the head of Chen Guangrui's horse and invite him into the minister's mansion to marry his daughter. The minister and his wife came into the main hall, and when they had called for a master of ceremonies they married their daughter to Guangrui. When bride and groom had bowed to Heaven, Earth and each other they both bowed to the bride's father and mother. The minister ordered a banquet, and there was a night of drinking and celebration. The bride and groom went hand in hand into the bridal chamber.
At the third quarter of the fifth watch the next morning Emperor Taizong took his throne in the Golden Chariot Hall, and the civil and military officials came to court.
“What office should Chen Guangrui who came top in the examinations be given?” the Emperor asked, and the minister Wei Zheng replied, “Your subject has gone through the list of the prefectures and commanderies, and found that the district of Jiangzhou needs a prefect. I beg Your Majesty to give him this office.” The Emperor therefore appointed him prefect of Jiangzhou and ordered him to pack his belongings and set off as he had to be there by a set date. Chen Guangrui thanked the Emperor for his grace and withdrew. He went back to the minister's mansion and consulted his wife, then he took his leave of his parents-in-law and set off together with her for his post in Jiangzhou.
It was late spring as they left Chang'an at the start of their journey. Warm breezes were coaxing the willows into green, and light rain was touching the blossoms with red. Chen Guangrui was able to call at his own home on the way, so he and his bride could pay their respects to his mother, Madame Zhang.
“Congratulations, my son,” she said. “And you have brought a bride back with you too.”
“Thanks to my mother's blessings, your son was placed first in the examinations,” he replied, “and given a parade through the streets on His Majesty's orders. As I was passing the gateway of minister Yin's residence, I happened to be hit by an embroidered ball, and the minister was kind enough to give me his daughter's hand. The court has appointed me prefect of Jiangzhou, so I have come to fetch you, mother, and take you with me to my post.” Madame Zhang was overjoyed, and she packed her luggage and traveled with them.
One night, after they had been on the road for several days, they put up at the Liu the Second's Ten Thousand Flowers Inn, where Madame Zhang was suddenly taken ill.
“As I'm not feeling well,” she said to her son, “I'd better stay in this inn for a couple of days to get over it before going on.” Chen Guangrui accepted her suggestion. The next morning he saw a man selling a golden-coloured carp in front of the inn and brought it from him for a string of copper coins, intending to have it lightly fried for his mother. Then he noticed it blinking.
“It's said that if a fish or a snake blinks it is no ordinary creature,” he thought. He asked the fisherman where he had caught it.
“In the Hongjiang River, five miles from the prefectural capital,” the fisherman replied. Chen Guangrui had the fish taken back to the Hongjiang River to be released there, then went back to the inn to tell his mother about what had happened.
“It is good to release living things,” his mother said, “and I am very pleased.” Then Chen Guangrui said, “We have been at this inn for three days, and the time limit set for me is a tight one, so I must be on my way tomorrow morning. Are you well enough yet, mother?”
“I'm still poorly,” his mother replied, “and it's so hot to travel now that I'm afraid it might make me seriously ill. You had better take a couple of rooms for me and leave me some money; I'll stay here for the time being. You two can go on ahead to your post. Come back to fetch me in the autumn when it's cooler.” Having discussed it with his wife he rented a wing for her and gave her some money, then they took their leave of her and set off.
It was a hard journey, setting off every day at dawn and not stopping till nightfall, and before they realized it they reached the ford over the Hongjiang Estuary. They saw two boatmen, Liu Hong and Li Biao, punt their ferry to the bank for them. This was the disaster, these were the enemies, that Chen Guangrui had been fated to meet ever since before he was born. He told his servant to put the luggage on board, while he and his wife climbed sedately into the boat. Liu Hong stared at Miss Yin, and saw that her face was like a full moon, her eyes like autumn waves, her tiny mouth like a cherry, and her waist as supple as a willow; her charms would have made fishes sink and wild geese fall from the sky, and her beauty put moon and flowers to shame. Evil thoughts surged up in him, and he conspired with Li Biao to punt the boat to a misty and deserted place and wait till the middle of the night, when they killed first the servant and then Chen Guangrui. They pushed both the corpses into the river and went away.
When the young lady saw her husband killed she tried to fling herself into the water, but Liu Hong put his arms round her and said, “If you come with me, you'll be all right; but if you don't, I'll cut you in half.” Unable to think of any other way out, the young lady had to agree to stay with Liu Hong for the time being at least. The murderer took the boat across to the Southern bank and gave it to Li Biao. Then he dressed up in Chen Guangrui's clothes and, armed with the dead man's credentials, went with the young lady to take up his post in Jiangzhou.
The corpse of the murdered servant floated with the current, but Chen Guangrui's body sank straight to the bottom and did not move. A patrolling yaksha demon stationed at the Hongjiang Estuary saw him and rushed straight back to the dragon palace to report. He arrived just as the dragon king was entering the throne-hall.
“Someone has murdered a learned gentleman at the Hongjiang Estuary, and thrown the body into the bed of the river,” he reported. The dragon king had the body brought in and laid in front of him. After examining it carefully he said, “This is the benefactor who saved my life: why has he been murdered? As the saying goes, 'Always repay a kindness'. I must save his life today to repay him for the favour he did me in the past.” He wrote a memorandum and sent a yaksha with it to the city god and local god of Hongzhou asking for the scholar's soul so that he could save his life. The city god and the local god told a junior devil to give Chen Guangrui's soul to the yaksha, who took it back to the palace of crystal and reported to the dragon king.
“What is your name, scholar?” asked the dragon king. “Where are you from? What brought you here, and why were you killed?”
Chen Guangrui bowed to him and replied, “My name is Chen E and my courtesy name is Guangrui. I come from Hongnong County in Haizhou Prefecture. I was given first place in the recent examinations, and was on my way with my wife to take up my post as prefect of Jiangzhou when we boarded a ferry at the bank of this river. The boatman Liu Hong lusted after my wife, so he killed me and threw me overboard. I beg you to save me, Your Majesty.”
“So that's how things stand,” said the dragon king. “I am the golden carp you released. You saved me then, so I must help you now that you are in trouble.” He had Guangrui's body placed beside a wall and put a “Face Preserving Pearl” in its mouth to stop it from decomposing so that the soul could be returned to it in future for him to obtain his revenge. “As you are now a true soul, you shall stay in my palace for the time being as a commander,” the dragon king added. Chen Guangrui kowtowed in thanks, and the dragon king gave a banquet to welcome him.
Miss Yin's hatred for the villainous Liu Hong was such that she wished she could eat his flesh and spread his flayed hide on her bed, but as she was pregnant and the child had not yet been born she had to force herself to go with him. In the twinkling of an eye they reached Jiangzhou. The clerks and constables all turned out to welcome him, and the subordinate officials in the prefecture gave a banquet for him in the main hall of his office.
“Now that I, your student, have come here, I shall be entirely dependent on the support of all you gentlemen,” said Liu Hong.
“Your honour is a great genius,” the officials replied, “and you will naturally treat the people as your own children, thus cutting down litigation and making punishment unnecessary. We will all be able to rely on you-your excessive modesty is uncalled for.” When the banquet was over they all went away.
Time flew by. One day, when Liu Hong was far away on official business, the young lady was in a summerhouse in the official residence sighing sadly as she thought of her mother-in-law and her husband. Suddenly she felt weak and her belly started to ache. She fell to the ground unconscious, and before she knew it she gave birth to a son. She heard a voice in her ear saying, “Man-tang-qiao, you must do as I tell you. I am the Lord of the Southern Pole Star, and I have come to give you this son on the orders of the Bodhisattva Guanyin. One day he will be extraordinarily famous. When the villainous Liu comes back he will certainly want to kill this boy, so you must look after him with great care. Your husband has been rescued by the dragon king; one day you will be reunited with him and your son, and your sufferings will be at an end. Remember my words. Wake up, wake up!”
When the young lady came to she remembered every word he had spoken, but as she wrapped the baby tight in swaddling clothes, she could not think what to do. When Liu Hong came back he wanted to drown the child the moment he saw him, but the young lady said, “It's already dark: we can throw him in the river tomorrow.”
Fortunately Liu Hong had to go a long way away on urgent business the next day.
“If I wait till that villain returns my son will be killed,” thought the young lady, “so the best thing would be to abandon him in the river as soon as possible and let fate determine whether he is to live or do die. If Heaven is merciful someone will rescue the boy and bring him up, and we shall be reunited one day.” Then, worrying that she might not be able to recognize him, she bit open her finger and wrote a letter in blood giving a full account of his parentage and background. Then she bit off the little toe of the child's left foot to be an identifying mark, wrapped him up in one of her own shifts, and carried him out of the official residence when nobody was looking. Luckily the residence was not far from the river bank. When she reached it she wept for a while and was just going to throw him in when she noticed a board floating beside the bank. The young lady bowed to Heaven in her gratitude and tied the child to the board with her sash, placing the blood letter next to his chest. Then she pushed him out into the stream to go where he would and returned to the yamen in tears.
The boy floated downstream on the plank until he came to a stop under the Jinshan Temple. The abbot of this temple was a monk called Faming who by cultivating the Truth and being awakened to the Way had found the secret of avoiding rebirth. As he was sitting at his meditation he heard a baby crying, and he hurried anxiously down to the riverside to look. He saw a baby lying on a board beside the bank, and got him out of the water as quickly as he could. When he read the letter written in blood that was on the baby's chest he knew why he was there. He gave the child the milk-name Jiangliu, “River Current,” and arranged for him to be fostered. The letter in blood he put away in a very safe place. Time passed like an arrow, and the days and months moved as fast as a shuttle. When Jiangliu reached the age of seventeen the abbot told him to have his head tonsured and enter the religious life. Giving him the Buddhist name Xuanzang he laid his hands upon his head and instructed him to observe the monastic discipline. Xuanzang was determined to cultivate the Way.
One day in late spring the whole community gathered under the shade of some pine trees to expound the scriptures, meditate and discuss the inner mysteries. A bibulous, meat-eating monk who had been confounded in a disputation by Xuanzang lost his temper and started to abuse him: “You animal, you don't know your own surname or who your parents were. Don't try any of your clever tricks here.” Stung by this abuse, Xuanzang went into the temple and knelt before his teacher with tears streaming from his eyes.
“All men who are born between Heaven and Earth, and who are endowed with the Positive, the Negative, and the Five Elements-all are begotten by a father and reared by a mother,” he said. “How can there be any man alive who never had father and mother?” He begged over and over again to know his parents' names.
“If you really wish to find out about your father and mother, come with me into my cell,” said the abbot, and they went there together. The abbot lifted down a little box from on top of a massive beam, opened it, took out a letter written in blood and a shift, and gave them to Xuanzang, who unfolded the letter and read it. At last he learned about his parents and the wrongs they had suffered.
When he had read it he collapsed, weeping and crying out, “How can I be a man if I don't avenge my father and mother? For seventeen years I haven't known my own parents, but now I know that I have a mother. I would not be alive today, teacher, had you not rescued me and brought me up. Please allow me to go and see my mother, then I will put an incense-burner on my head and rebuild the temple to repay the great kindness you have shown me.”
“If you want to go and look for your mother you had better take the letter written in blood and the shift with you. If you go to the private residence of the prefect of Jiangzhou you will be able to see your mother.”
Xuanzang did as his teacher had said and went to Jiangzhou as a mendicant monk. It happened that Liu Hong was away on business, and as Heaven had arranged for mother and son to meet, Xuanzang went straight to the gateway of the residence to beg for alms. Miss Yin had dreamt the previous night of the moon being eclipsed and then coming back to its full roundness.
“I have never heard from my mother-in-law,” she thought, “and my husband was murdered by that evil man. My son was abandoned on the river, and if he was rescued and brought up, he would be seventeen now. Who knows, perhaps Heaven is going to make us meet today.” As she was deep in her reflections she heard someone chanting scriptures and calling for alms in front of her home, so she thought she would go out and ask him where he had come from, and he replied, “I am a disciple of Abbot Faming of the Jinshan Temple.”
“A disciple of Abbot Faming of the Jinshan Temple, are you?” she said. She asked him in and gave him a vegetarian meal while observing closely the way he moved and talked.
He seemed very much like her husband, so she sent the servants away and asked, “Tell me, young teacher, have you been a monk since childhood or did you become one later in life? What is your name? Do you have a mother and father?”
“I did not become a monk when I was a child nor when I was older,” he replied. “I must tell you that I bear a hatred as deep as the sea because of a terrible wrong. My father was murdered and my mother carried off by an evil man. The Abbot Faming, my teacher, told me to come and find my mother in the residence of the prefect of Jiangzhou.”
“What is your mother's name?” she asked.
“My mother's name is Yin Wenqiao,” he replied. “My father was called Chen Guangrui. My milk-name was Jiangliu, and my Buddhist name is Xuanzang.”
“I am Yin Wenqiao,” she said, then added, “Have you any proof?” When he learned that she was his mother, Xuanzang fell to his knees and wept aloud.
“Mother,” he said, “if you don't believe me, then look at this evidence-the blood letter and the shift.” As soon as she saw that they were the real ones, she and her son embraced each other and wept.
Then she said, “Go away at once.”
“I can't possibly leave you, mother, on the very day I've seen you after seventeen years of not even knowing who my parents were,” he said.
“My child, you must go away as fast as you can,” she replied. “The evil Liu will certainly kill you if he comes back. Tomorrow I'll pretend to be ill and say that I once made a vow to donate a hundred pairs of monks' shoes. I'll come to your temple to fulfil the vow, and I'll talk to you then.” Xuanzang obediently bowed to her and left.
Now that she had seen her son Miss Yin was both anxious and happy. One day she said that she was ill, and she lay in her bed refusing food and tea. When Liu Hong came back and asked what was the matter she said, “When I was young I once vowed that I would donate a hundred pairs of monks' shoes. Five days ago I dreamt that a monk came with a sharp sword in his hand to demand the shoes, and since then I haven't been feeling well.”
“That's easily done,” said Liu Hong. “Why didn't you mention it before?” He took his place in the official hall and gave instructions to yamen assistants Wang and Li that every household living in the city of Jiangzhou was to make a pair of monk's shoes and hand them in within five days.
When the common people had handed all the shoes in, Miss Yin said to Liu Hong, “Now that the shoes have been made, what temples are there here to which I can take them to fulfil my vow?”
“In Jiangzhou we have the Jinshan Temple and the Jiaoshan Temple; you can go to whichever of them you prefer,” replied Liu Hong.
“I've long heard that the Jinshan Temple is a good one, so I'll go there,” she said. Liu Hong told the yamen assistants Wang and Li to arrange a boat. Miss Yin went aboard with a trusted servant, the boatman pushed off, and they headed for the Jinshan Temple.
On his return to the temple Xuanzang gave Abbot Faming a full account of what had happened. The abbot was delighted. The next day a maid arrived at the temple to say that her mistress was coining to repay a vow, and all the monks came out to welcome her. When Miss Yin came into the temple she prayed to the Bodhisattva, offered a rich meal to the monks with a donation of money to each of them, and told her maid to put the shoes and the summer socks into the offertory tray. She then went into the Buddha-hall and worshipped with great devotion. When she told him to, Abbot Faming went away to distribute the gifts to the monks. Xuanzang saw that all the other monks had gone and that there was nobody else in the Buddha-hall, so he went up to his mother and knelt down. She told him to take off his shoes and socks and saw that one toe was indeed missing from his left foot. The pair of them hugged each other and cried again, then they bowed to the abbot to thank him for his kindness in bringing the boy up.
“I'm worried that the villain may get to know of your reunion,” said the abbot, “so you had better go back as quickly as you can to avoid trouble.”
“My son,” said Miss Yin, “I shall give you a sandalwood bracelet. You must go to a place called the Ten Thousand Flowers Inn to the Northwest of Hongzhou, which is about five hundred miles from here, where we left Madame Zhang, your paternal grandmother. I shall also write you a letter that you must take to the house of the minister Yin Kaishan which lies to the left of the palace inside the capital city of the Tang Emperor. He is my father. Give him this letter and ask him to submit a memorial to the Tang Emperor asking him to send horse and foot to capture or kill that bandit. Then your father will be avenged and your mother will be rescued. I must stay no longer as I am afraid that evil man may be suspicious if I am late back.” She left the temple and went back in her boat.
Xuanzang returned to the temple in tears and told the abbot that he was leaving at once for Hongzhou. When he reached the Ten Thousand Flowers Inn he said to the innkeeper Liu the Second, “How is the mother of Prefect Chen of Jiangzhou who is staying in your inn?”
“She used to stay here,” replied the innkeeper. “She went blind, and as she didn't pay any rent for three or four years, she now lives in a ruined tile-kiln near the Southern gate and begs in the streets every day to keep herself alive. That official went away a very long time ago and she hasn't heard from him to this day, though I don't know why.” On learning this he asked the way to the ruined tile-kiln at the Southern gate and found his grandmother.
“You sound like my son Chen Guangrui,” said his grandmother.
“I'm not Chen Guangrui, I'm his son. My mother is Miss Yin Wenqiao.”
“Why have your father and mother not come?” she asked; and he replied, “My father was murdered by a brigand and my mother was forced to become his wife. I have a letter here and a sandalwood bracelet from my mother.” His grandmother took the letter and the bracelet, and sobbed aloud. “My son came here for the sake of fame and glory. I thought that he had forgotten all feelings of decency and gratitude; it never occurred to me that he might have been murdered. What a blessing that Heaven in its mercy did not cut short my son's line, so that I now have a grandson to come and find me.”
“How did you go blind, granny?” asked Xuanzang.
“I was always thinking of your father and longing for him to come back every day,” she said, “but as he never did I wept so much that! lost the sight of both my eyes.” Xuanzang fell to his knees and prayed to Heaven.
“Although I am seventeen,” he said, “I have been unable to avenge my parents. Today I have come on my mother's orders and found my grandmother; if Heaven is at all moved by my sincerity, may my granny's eyes see again.” When he had prayed, he licked her eyes with the tip of his tongue. The licking soon opened them, and they could see once more.
His grandmother looked at the little monk with a mixture of joy and sadness and said, “You really are my grandson-you're the very image of my son Guangrui.” Xuanzang took her out of the kiln and reinstalled her in Liu the Second's inn, where he rented a room for her, gave her some money to live on, and told her that he would be back within a month.
Taking his leave of his grandmother, he went straight on to the capital, where he found Minister Yin's house in the Eastern Avenue of the imperial city. “I am a relation of the minister's,” he said to the gate-keeper, “and I would like to see him.”
When the gate-keeper reported this to the minister, he said, “I am no relation of any monk.” But his wife said, “I had a dream last night that our daughter Man-tang-qiao came home; perhaps he has a letter from our son-in-law.”
The minister had the young monk brought into the main hall, and when the monk saw the minister and his wife he wept and bowed to the floor before them, then took an envelope out of his bosom and handed it to the minister. The minister opened the letter and read it through, then wailed aloud.
“What's the matter, my lord?” asked his wife, and the minister replied, “This monk is our grandson. Our son-in-law Chen Guangrui was murdered by a brigand, who forced Man-tang-qiao to become his wife.” His wife too began to weep bitterly when she heard this news.
“Try not to upset yourself, wife,” said the minister. “I shall ask our sovereign at court tomorrow morning to be allowed to lead an army myself. I shall certainly avenge our son-in-law.”
The minister went to court the next day and wrote in a memorial to the Tang Emperor: “Your subject's son-in-law, the top graduate Chen Guangrui, was murdered by the boatman Liu Hong while going with his family to take up his office in Jiangzhou, and my daughter was forced to become his wife. This Liu Hong has usurped office for many years by masquerading as my son-in-law. This constitutes treason. I beg Your Majesty to dispatch horse and foot at once to destroy this rebellious brigand.”
The Tang Emperor was so angry when he read this that he ordered Minister Yin to set off at the head of sixty thousand men of the Imperial Guard. The minister left the court with the decree and went to the parade ground to muster the soldiers before setting out for Jiangzhou. By setting out at dawn every day and not stopping till night, they traveled as fast as a shooting star or a flying bird, and before they realized it they had reached Jiangzhou, where Minister Yin's army camped on the Northern bank. That night he sent a messenger with a gold-inscribed tablet to summon the deputy prefect and district judge of Jiangzhou. Minister Tin explained the situation to them and told them to call out their troops to help him. They crossed the river together, and surrounded Liu Hong's yamen before dawn. Liu Hong, who was still in his dreams, heard the sound of cannon and the beating of drums and gongs; when the soldiers rushed his residence he was helpless and soon captured. The minister ordered that Liu Hong and his gang should be tied up and taken to the execution ground, while the army was to encamp outside the city walls.
The minister went into the main hall of the yamen and asked his daughter to come out and see him. His daughter, who had been longing to go out, felt too ashamed to face her father and so was on the point of hanging herself.
When Xuanzang learned of this he went as fast as he could to save her, fell on his knees, and said, “Your son and my grandfather have come here with an army to avenge my father. That brigand has been arrested, so there is no need at all for you to kill yourself. If you die mother, I won't be able to stay alive.” The minister too came into the residence to talk her out of it.
“They say that a woman should only have one husband in her life,” she said to them. “I was bitterly grieved at the death of my husband at that brigand's hands, and could not bear the disgrace of marrying his murderer; but as I was carrying my husband's child I had to swallow the shame of staying alive. Now, thank goodness, my son has grown up and my father has brought an army to avenge my husband but how could I have the face to see you. The only way I can make up for it to my husband is to kill myself.”
“My child,” said the minister, “this was not a case of abandoning morality for the sake of material gain. You acted under duress, and did nothing to be ashamed of.” Father and daughter then embraced each other and wept, while Xuanzang sobbed too. “There is no need for the two of you to be so distressed,” said the minister, wiping away his tears. “Today I have captured our enemy, that rebel, and now I must deal with him.” He got up and went to the execution ground.
As it happened, the assistant prefect of Jiangzhou had sent constables to arrest the other pirate, Li Biao, and they brought him in. The minister was very pleased, and he ordered that Liu Hong and Li Biao were to be put under a close guard. They were each given a hundred strokes of the heavy pole, and statements were taken from them about how and why they had committed the wicked murder of Chen Guangrui. Then Li Biao was nailed on a wooden donkey and pushed to the market-place, where he was sliced into a thousand pieces, after which his head was hung up on public display. Liu Hong was taken to the Hongjiang Estuary where he had murdered Chen Guangrui. The minister, his daughter and Xuanzang went to the riverside, where they made offerings and libations to the emptiness and cut out Liu Hong's heart and liver while he was still alive to sacrifice to Chen Guangrui. They also burnt a funerary address.
The bitter lamentations of the three of them startled the underwater palace. A patrolling yaksha demon handed the funerary address to the dragon king. When he had read it, the dragon king sent Marshal Turtle to ask Chen Guangrui to come and see him.
“Congratulations, sir, congratulations,” said the dragon king. “Your lady, your son and your father-in-law are all sacrificing to you on the bank. I shall now return your soul to you and give you an As-You-Will pearl, two rolling pearls, ten pieces of mermaid silk, and a belt of jade studded with pearls. Today you will be reunited with you wife, your son and your mother.” Chen Guangrui bowed to him over and over again to express his gratitude. The dragon king then told a yaksha to take Chen Guangrui's body out to the estuary, where he was to return the soul to it; and the yaksha obediently went off.
When she had wailed for her husband and sacrificed to him, Miss Tin tried to jump into the water to drown herself, but with a desperate effort Xuanzang managed to keep hold of her. Just at this tense moment they saw a corpse floating towards the bank. Miss Yin, rushing forward to see who it was, recognized it as that of her husband and started a great wailing. Everyone else had now come up to look, and they saw Chen Guangrui open his fist and stretch his foot as his body gradually began to move. Suddenly he sat up, to their great astonishment. He opened his eyes, and the first thing he saw was his wife, his father-in-law and the young monk all weeping beside him.
“What are you all doing here?” he asked.
“After you were killed I gave birth to this son,” replied his wife, “and by a piece of good fortune he was brought up by the abbot of the Jinshan Temple. When he came to find me I sent him to see my father; and when my father knew what had happened he submitted a memorial at court and brought an army here to arrest your murderer, whose heart and liver we have just plucked from his living body to sacrifice to you. But how is it that your soul has been returned to you, husband?”
“It is all because we bought and released that golden carp when we were staying at the Ten Thousand Flowers Inn: the carp, it turned out, was the local dragon king. When that treasonous murderer pushed me into the water I was rescued by the dragon king, who has given me back my soul and presented me with all the treasures I have on me. I never had any idea that you had borne this son, or that my father-in-law had avenged me. Our sorrows are now at an end. This is a very happy moment indeed.”
When the other officials heard what had happened they all came to offer their congratulations, and the minister gave a banquet to thank all his subordinates. The army set off on its return journey that same day. When they reached the Ten Thousand Flowers Inn the minister ordered them to encamp while Guangrui and Xuanzang went to the inn to find the old lady. The night before she had dreamt of a withered tree blossoming again while magpies made a clamorous din behind the building.
“Perhaps my grandson has come,” she thought, and while the words were still in her mind she saw Guangrui and his son at the gate of the inn.
“Isn't this my grandmother?” said the little monk; and the moment Guangrui saw his aged mother he kowtowed to her. Mother and son embraced in tears; then he told her all about what had happened. The innkeeper's account was presented and settled, and then they set off for the capital. When they reached the minister's residence, Guangrui, his wife, his mother and Xuanzang all went in to see the minister's wife, who was overcome with joy and told the servants to lay on a large banquet to celebrate.
“We can call today's banquet a 'reunion banquet,'“ said the minister, and the whole household was indeed happy.
When the Tang Emperor entered the throne hall early the next morning, Minister Yin stepped forward and submitted a memorial giving a detailed account of what had happened, and recommending Chen Guangrui as a man whose talents could be put to great use. The Tang Emperor approved the memorial and ordered that Chen Guangrui should be appointed a Scholar in order to take part in administration at court. As Xuanzang had decided to follow the contemplative life he was sent to cultivate his conduct in the Hongfu Temple. Later on Miss Yin finally ended her life in a quiet and honorable way, and Xuanzang went back to the Jinshan Temple to report to Abbot Faming. If you don't know what happened afterwards, listen to the explanation in the next installment.
With a Stupid Plan the Dragon King Breaks the Laws of Heaven
Minister Wei Sends a Letter to an Officer of Hell
We shall not discuss how Chen Guangrui performed his duties or Xuanzang cultivated his conduct; instead we shall talk about two wise men who lived beside the banks of the River Jing outside the city of Chang'an. One was an old fisherman called Zhang Shao and the other was a woodcutter called Li Ding. They were both advanced scholars who had never taken the official examination, lettered men of the mountains. One day, when Li Ding had sold his load of firewood and Zhang Shao had sold his basketful of carp in Chang'an city, they went into a tavern, drank till they were half tipsy, and strolled slowly home along the banks of the Jing, each holding a bottle in his hand.
“Brother Li,” said Zhang Shao, “it seems to me that people who struggle for fame kill themselves for it; those who compete for profit die for it; those who accept honors sleep with a tiger in their arms; and those who receive imperial favours walk around with snakes in their sleeves. Taking all in all, we are much better off living free among our clear waters and blue hills: we delight in our poverty and follow our destinies.”
“You are right, Brother Zhang,” said Li Ding, “but your clear waters have nothing on my blue hills.”
“Your blue hills are not a patch on my clear waters,” retorted Zhang Shao, “and here is a lyric to the tune of The Butterfly Loves the Flowers to prove it:
The skiff is tiny amid the misty expanse of waves;
Calmly I lean against the single sail,
Listening to the voice of Xishi the beauty.
My thoughts and mind are cleared; I have no wealth or fame
As I toy with the waterweed and the rushes.
“To count a few gulls makes the journey happy.
In the reedy bend, under the willow bank,
My wife and children smile with me.
The moment I fall asleep, wind and waves are quiet;
No glory, no disgrace, and not a single worry.”
“Your clear waters are no match for my blue hills,” said Li Ding, “and there is another lyric to the same tune to prove it. It goes:
The cloudy woods are covered with pine blossom.
Hush! Hear the oriole sing,
As if it played a pipe with its cunning tongue.
With touches of red and ample green the spring is warm;
Suddenly the summer's here as the seasons turn.
“When autumn comes the look of things is changed;
The scented chrysanthemum
Is enough for my pleasure.
Soon the cruel winter plucks all off.
I am free through four seasons, at nobody's beck and call.”
“You don't enjoy the good things in your blue hills that I do on my clear waters,” replied the fisherman, “and I can prove it with another lyric to the tune of The Partridge Heaven:
In this magic land we live off the cloudy waters;
With a sweep of the oar the boat becomes a home.
We cut open the live fish and fry the green turtle
As steam coils from the purple crab and the red shrimps bubble.
Green reed shoots,
Sprouts of water-lilies,
Better still, water chestnuts and the gorgon fruit,
Delicate louts roots and seeds, tender celery,
Arrowhead, reed-hearts and bird-glory blossom.”
“Your clear waters cannot compare with my blue hills when it comes to the good things they provide,” said the woodcutter, and I can cite another lyric to the tune The Partridge Heaven as evidence:
Mighty crags and towering peaks reach to the sky;
A grass hut or a thatched cottage is my home.
Pickled chicken and duck are better than turtles or crabs,
Roebuck, boar, venison, and hare beat fish and shrimps.
The leaves of the tree of heaven,
Yellow chinaberry sprouts,
And, even better, bamboo shoots and wild tea,
Purple plums and red peaches, ripe gages, and apricots,
Sweet pears, sharp jujubes, and osmanthus blossom.”
“Your blue hills are really nothing on my clear waters,” replied the fisherman, “and there is another lyric to the tune Heavenly Immortal:
In my little boat I can stay where I like,
Having no fear of the many misty waves.
Drop the hook, cast wide the net, to catch fresh fish:
Even without fat or sauce,
They taste delicious
As the whole family eats its meal together.
“When there are fish to spare I sell them in Chang'an market
To buy good liquor and get a little drunk.
Covered with my grass cloak I sleep on the autumn river,
Without a care,
Not giving a damn for honour and glory.”
“Your clear waters still aren't as good as my blue mountains,” came back the woodcutter, “and I too have a Heavenly Immortal lyric to prove it:
Where I build a little thatched hut under the hill
The bamboo, orchid, plum, and pine are wonderful.
As I cross forests and mountains to look for dry firewood
Nobody asks awkward questions,
And I can sell
As much or as little as the world wants.
I spend the money on wine and I'm happy,
Content with my earthenware bowl and china jug.
When I've drunk myself blotto I lie in the shade of the pine.
No books to balance;
What do I care about success or failure?”
“Brother Li,” said the fisherman, “you don't make as easy a living in the hills as I do on the water, and I can prove it with a lyric to the tune The Moon on the West River:
The smartweed's flowers are picked out by the moon
While the tangled leaves of rushes sway in the wind.
Clear and distant the azure sky, empty the Chu river:
Stir up the water, and the stars dance.
Big fish swim into the net in shoals;
Little ones swallow the hooks in swarms;
Boiled or fried they taste wonderful-
I laugh at the roaring river and lake.”
“Brother Zhang,” replied the woodcutter, “the living I make in the hills is much easier than yours on the water, and I can prove it with another Moon on the West River lyric:
Withered and leafless rattan fills the paths,
Old bamboo with broken tips covers the hillside.
Where vines and creepers tangle and climb
I pull some off to tie my bundles.
Elms and willows hollow with decay,
Pines and cedars cracked by the wind-
I stack them up against the winter cold,
And whether they're sold for wine or money is up to me.”
“Although you don't do too badly in your hills, your life is not as elegant as mine on the water,” said the fisherman, “as I can show with some lines to the tune The Immortal by the River.
As the tide turns my solitary boat departs;
I sing in the night, resting from the oars.
From under a straw cape the waning moon is peaceful.
The sleeping gulls are not disturbed
As the clouds part at the end of the sky.
Tired, I lie on the isle of rushes with nothing to do,
And when the sun is high I'm lying there still.
I arrange everything to suit myself:
How can the court official compare with my ease
As he waits in the cold for an audience at dawn?”
“Your life on the water may be elegant, but it's nothing compared with mine,” replied the woodcutter, “and I have some lines to the same tune to demonstrate the point:
On an autumn day I carry my axe along the greeny path
Bringing the load back in the cool of evening,
Putting wild flowers in my hair, just to be different,
I push aside the clouds to find my way home,
And the moon is up when I tell them to open the door.
Rustic wife and innocent son greet me with smiles,
And I recline on my bed of grass and wooden pillow.
Steamed millet and pear are spread before me,
While the new wine is warm in the pot: This is really civilized.”
“All this is about our living and the ways we provide for ourselves,” said the fisherman. “I can prove to you that your leisure is nowhere near as good as mine with a poem that goes:
Idly I watch the white cranes as they cross the sky;
As I Moor the boat at the river's bank, a blue door gives me shade.
Leaning on the sail I teach my son to twist a fishing line,
When rowing's done I dry the nets out with my wife.
A settled nature can really know the calm of the waves;
A still body feels the lightness of the breeze.
Always to wear a green straw cape and a blue straw hat
Is better than the purple robes of the court.”
“Your leisure doesn't come up to mine,” replied the woodcutter, “as this poem I shall now recite demonstrates:
With a lazy eye on the white clouds in the distance,
I sit alone in a thatched but, then close the bamboo door.
When there's nothing to do I teach my son to read;
Sometimes a visitor comes and we play a game of chess.
When I'm happy I take my stick and walk singing along the paths,
Or carry my lute up the emerald hills.
Grass shoes with hempen thongs, a cloak of coarsest cloth,
A mind relaxed: better than wearing silk.”
“Li Ding,” said the other, “how truly it can be said of us that 'by reciting some verses we become close friends: What need for golden winecups and a sandalwood table?' But there is nothing remarkable in just reciting verses; what would you say if we made couplets in which we each contributed a line about our lives as fisherman and woodcutter?”
“Brother Zhang,” said Li Ding, “that is an excellent suggestion. Please be the one to start.” Here are their couplets:
My boat is moored in the green waters amid the misty waves;
My home is in the wilds, deep in the mountains.
How well I like the swollen stream under the bridge in spring;
My delight is a mountain peak swathed in clouds at dawn.
Dragon-sized fresh carp cooked at any time;
Dry, rotten, firewood always keeps one warm.
A full array of hooks and nets to support my old age;
Carrying wood and making twine will keep me till I die.
Lying back in a tiny boat watching the flying geese;
Reclining beside the grassy path and hearing the wild swans call.
I have no stall in the marketplace of tongues;
I've left no trace in the sea of disputation.
The nets hung to dry beside the brook are like brocade;
An axe well honed on rock is sharper than a spear.
Under the shining autumn moon I often fish alone;
I meet nobody on the solitary mountain in spring.
I trade my surplus fish for wine and drink it with my wife;
When I've wood to spare I buy a bottle and share it with my sons.
Singing and musing to myself I'm as wild as I care to be;
Long songs, long sighs, I can let myself be crazy.
I invite my brothers and cousins and fellow boatmen;
Leading my friends by the hand I meet the old man of the wilds.
As we play guess-fingers the cups fly fast;
When we make riddles the goblets slowly circulate.
Saute or boiled crab is a delight every morning;
Plenty of fried duck and chicken cooked in ashes every day.
As my simple wife brews tea, my spirits are untrammelled;
While my mountain spouse cooks supper, my mind is at ease.
At the coming of dawn I wash my stick in the ripples;
When the sun rises I carry firewood across the road.
After the rain I put on my cloak to catch live carp;
I wield my axe before the wind to fell a withered pine.
I cover my tracks and hide from the world, acting the imbecile;
I change my name and pretend to be deaf and dumb.
“Brother Li,” said Zhang Shao. “I unfairly took the first lines just now, so now it's your turn to compose the first lines while I follow you.” Thus they continued:
The man of the mountains acting mad under wind and moon;
The haughty and unwanted dotard of the river.
With his share of idleness, and able to be quite free;
No sound from his voice as he revels in his peace.
On moonlit nights he sleeps secure in a cottage of thatch;
He lightly covers himself at dusk with clothes of reed.
His passion spent, he befriends the pine and the plum;
He is happy to be the companion of cormorant and gull.
Fame and profit count for nothing in his mind;
His ears have never heard the clash of arms.
One is always pouring out fresh rice-wine,
The other has wild vegetable soup with every meal.
One makes a living with two bundles of firewood;
The other supports himself with rod and line.
One idly tells his innocent son to sharpen the axe of steel;
The other quietly bids his slow-witted child to mend the nets.
In spring one likes to see the willows turning green;
When the seasons change the other enjoys the rushes' blue.
Avoiding the summer heat, one trims the new bamboo;
The other gathers water-chestnuts on cool July evenings.
When frost begins, plump chickens are killed each day;
In mid-autumn the crabs are at their best and always in the pot.
When the sun rises in winter, the one is still asleep;
The other keeps cool in the dog days of summer.
Throughout the year one does as he pleases in the hills;
In all four seasons the other is happy on the lake.
By gathering firewood you can become an Immortal;
There is nothing worldly about fishing.
Sweet smell the wild flowers growing outside my door;
Smooth are the green waves lapping at my boat.
A contented man never speaks of high honors;
A settled nature is stronger than a city wall.
Higher than a city wall for resisting enemy armies;
More illustrious than holding high office and listening to imperial decrees.
Those who are happy with mountains and rivers are few indeed;
Thank Heaven, thank Earth, and thank the spirits.
When the two of them had recited their verses and matched couplets they came to the place where their ways parted and bowed to each other to take their leave. “Brother Li,” said Zhang Shao, “look after yourself on your way home and keep a sharp look-out for tigers up in the hills. If you met with an accident then 'an old friend would be missing on the road tomorrow.'“ This made Li Ding angry.
“You scoundrel,” he said, “I'm your friend; I'd die for you. How could you put such a curse on me? If I'm killed by a tiger, you'll be capsized by a wave.”
“I'll never be capsized!” retorted Zhang Shao.
“'In nature there are unexpected storms and in life unpredictable vicissitudes,'“ quoted Li Ding, “so how can you be sure you'll never have an accident?”
“Brother Zhang,” replied the fisherman, “despite what you just said, it's your life that's insecure, whereas my life is certain: I'm sure that I shan't have an accident.”
“Your life on the water is very dangerous and insecure,” said the woodcutter, “so how can you be so certain?”
“There's something you don't know,” said Zhang Shao. “Every day I give a golden carp to a fortune-teller on the West Gate Street in Chang'an, and he passes a slip into my sleeve telling me I'll catch something every time provided I go to the right place. I went to buy a forecast from him today, and he told me that if I cast my nets to the East of the bend in the Jing River and lowered my lines on the Western bank, I would be bound to get a full load of fish and shrimps to take home. Tomorrow I shall go into town to sell them to buy wine, and we can continue our talk then, brother.” With this they parted.
How true it is that if you talk on the road there will be someone listening in the grass. A patrolling yaksha from the Jing River Palace overheard Zhang Shao's remark about always catching fish and rushed straight back to the palace of crystal to make an urgent report of disaster to the dragon king.
“What disaster?” asked the dragon king, and the yaksha replied, “Your subject was patrolling in the water by the river's edge when I heard a fisherman and a woodcutter talking. Just when they were parting they sounded very dangerous. The fisherman said that there is a soothsayer on West Gate Street in Chang'an city whose predictions are very accurate. The fisherman gives him a golden carp every day, and he hands the fisherman a slip saying that he'll catch fish at every attempt. If his calculations are so accurate, won't all we water folk be wiped out? Shall we fortify the water palace, or shall we make some leaping waves to strengthen Your Majesty's prestige?”
The dragon king seized his sword in a great rage, intending to go straight to Chang'an city and destroy this fortune-teller, but then his dragon sons and grandsons, shrimp officials, crab soldiers, shad generals, mandarin-fish ministers, and carp premier submitted a joint memorial that read: “We beg Your Majesty not to act in anger. As the saying goes, 'words overheard are not to be trusted.' If Your Majesty were to go now you would have to be accompanied by clouds and helped by rain; and if this frightens the common people of Chang'an, Heaven may take offence. Your Majesty is capable of making all sorts of transformations, and of appearing and vanishing unexpectedly; so you should change into a scholar for this visit to Chang'an. If you find that it is true, you will be able to punish him at your leisure; and if it turns out to be false, you will avoid killing an innocent man.” Taking their advice, the dragon king put aside his sword, and without raising clouds or rain he climbed out on the back, shook himself, and turned into a scholar dressed in white. He was
Handsome and noble,
Towering into the clouds.
His step was stately
And he observed the rules of conduct.
In his speech he showed his respect for Confucius and Mencius,
His manners were those of the Duke of Zhou and King Wen.
He wore a gown of jade-green silk,
A cloth wrapped casually round his head.
Once on the road he strode straight to West Gate Street in Chang'an city, where he saw a crowd of people pushing and shouting. One of them was proclaiming grandiloquently, “He who was born under the Dragon will clash with the one who belongs to the Tiger. Although the cyclical characters are supposed to be in concordance, I'm afraid that the Year Planet may be offended by the Sun.” As soon as he heard this the dragon king knew that this was the place where fortunes were told, so he pushed through the crowds to look inside. He saw:
Four walls covered with pearls,
A room full of silken embroideries,
Incense ever rising from a burner,
Clear water in a porcelain pot.
On either side were paintings by Wang Wei;
High above the seat hung a picture of the Devil Valley Hermit.
An inkstone from Duanxi County,
“Golden smoke” ink,
On which leant a large brush of finest hairs;
A forest of fiery pearls,
The prediction of Guo Pu,
As he diligently compared them to the Tai Zheng Xin Jing.
He was deeply versed in the six lines of the diagrams,
A great expert on the Eight Trigrams.
He understood the principles of Heaven and Earth,
And saw into the feelings of gods and devils.
He knew all about the cyclical numbers,
And had a clear picture of the constellations.
He saw the events of the future,
The events of the past,
As if in a mirror.
Which house would rise,
Which house would fall,
He could tell with divine perception.
He knew when good and bad was coming,
Could predict death and survival.
His words hastened wind and rain;
When he wielded his writing-brush, gods and devils trembled.
His name was written on a signboard:
Master of Divination Yuan Shoucheng.
Who was he? He was Yuan Shoucheng, the uncle of Yuan Tiangang the Imperial Astrologer. He was famous throughout the country, and the leading member of his profession in Chang'an. The dragon king went in to see him, and when they had greeted each other he asked the dragon king to sit down, while a servant brought tea.
“What have you come to ask about, sir?” asked the soothsayer, and the dragon king replied, “I beg you to uncover the secrets of the sky for me.” The soothsayer passed him a slip of paper from his sleeve and said, “Clouds obscure the mountain peak, mist covers the tree tops. If there is to be rain, it will certainly come tomorrow.”
“When will it rain tomorrow,” asked the dragon king, “and how many inches of rain will fall?”
“Tomorrow the clouds will gather at mid-morning; late in the morning there will be thunder; at noon it will start to rain; and in the early afternoon the rain will finish, after 3 feet 3.48 inches have fallen,” replied the soothsayer.
“I trust that you are not fooling,” said the dragon king. “If it rains tomorrow at the time and to the depth you have predicted I shall pay you a fee of fifty pieces of gold. If it does not rain, or if it does not rain at the time and to the depth you say it will, then I'm telling you straight that I'll smash up your shopfront, tear down your sign and run you out of Chang'an so that you won't be able to deceive the people a moment longer.”
“That is entirely up to you,” replied the other cheerfully. “We shall meet again tomorrow after the rain.”
The dragon king took his leave and went back to his watery palace from Chang'an. The greater and lesser water spirits greeted him with the question, “How did Your Majesty's visit to the soothsayer go?”
“It was all right,” he replied, “but he was a smooth-tongued fortune-teller. When I asked him when it would rain, he said tomorrow. When I asked what time of day it would be and how much would fall, he said that at mid-morning the clouds would gather, late in the morning it would thunder, at noon it would start to rain, and early in the afternoon it would stop raining. He also said that 3 feet 3.48 inches of rain would fall. I made a wager with him that if his prediction turned out to be true, I'd give him fifty ounces of gold; but if he got it at all wrong, I'd smash up his shopfront id drive him out, so that he wouldn't be able to deceive the public any longer. The watery tribe laughed and said, “Your Majesty is the General Superintendent of the Eight Rivers and the Great Dragon God of the Rain, so only you can know whether there will be rain. How dare he talk such nonsense? That fortune-teller is bound to lose, absolutely bound to.”
Just as all the dragon sons and grandsons were laughing and talking about this with the fish ministers and crab soldiers a shout was heard from the sky: “Dragon King of the Jing River, prepare to receive an Imperial Decree.” They all looked up and saw a warrior in golden clothes coming towards the watery palace with a decree from the Jade Emperor in his hands. This alarmed the dragon king, who straightened his clothes, stood up solemnly, burnt incense and received the decree. The gold-clad warrior returned to the sky. Giving thanks for the imperial grace the dragon king opened the letter and read:
“We order the Superintendent of the Eight Rivers to travel with thunder and lightning and succor the city of Chang'an with rain.”
The time and the amount on the decree were exactly the same as those foretold by the soothsayer, which so startled the dragon king that he passed out. When he came round a moment later he said to the watery tribe, “How can there be a man of such powers in the mortal world? He is really someone who knows everything about Heaven and Earth-I'm bound to be beaten by him.”
“Your Majesty should not worry,” submitted General Shad in a memorial. “There will be no difficulty about beating him. Your subject has a humble plan that I can guarantee will shut that scoundrel's mouth.” When the dragon king asked what the plan was, the general replied, “Make it rain at the wrong time and not quite enough, so that his predictions are wrong, and then you will surely beat him. There will be nothing to stop you smashing his sign to smithereens and running him out of town.” The dragon king accepted his advice and stopped worrying.
The next day he ordered Viscount Wind, Duke Thunder, the Cloud Youth and Mother Lightning to go to the sky above the city of Chang'an. He waited till late in the morning before spreading the clouds, unleashed the thunder at noon, started the rain in the early afternoon, and stopped it in the late afternoon, when only three feet and 0.4 inches had fallen. He had thus changed the times by two hours and reduced the amount of rain by.08 inches. After the rain he dismissed his generals and his hosts and put away his clouds; then he changed back into a white-clad scholar and charged into Yuan Shoucheng's fortune-telling stall on West Gate Street. Without even asking for an explanation he smashed up Yuan's sign, his brush, his inkstone, and everything else, while the fortune-teller remained calmly in his chair without moving.
The dragon king brandished the door in the air, ready to hit him with it, and began to pour abuse on him: “You evil man, with all your reckless talk about blessings and disasters; you stinking deceiver of the masses. Your predictions are false, and you talk nonsense. You got the time and the amount of today's rain quite wrong, but you still sit there so high and mighty. Get out at once if you want me to spare your life.” Yuan Shoucheng, who was as calm and unfrightened as ever, looked up to the sky with a mocking smile.
“I'm not afraid,” he said, “I'm not afraid. I've committed no capital offence, but I fear that you have. You may be able to fool other people, but you can't fool me. I know who you are. You're no scholar; you're the Dragon King of the River Jing. You flouted a decree of the Jade Emperor by changing the time of the rain and cutting down the amount, which is a crime against the laws of Heaven. I'm afraid that you're for the executioner's blade on the Dragon-slicing Scaffold. Are you going to keep up that abuse of me?”
On hearing this the dragon king trembled from fear and his hair stood on end. Dropping the door at once he straightened his clothes and made gestures of submission, kneeling to the soothsayer and saying, “Please do not be angry with me, sir; I was only joking. I never thought that it would be taken seriously. Whatever am I to do if I have broken the laws of Heaven? I beg you to save me, sir. If you don't I shall haunt you after my death.”
“I can't save you,” replied Yuan Shoucheng, “but I can suggest one way by which you may be able to save your skin.”
“I beg you to tell me,” implored the dragon king.
“Tomorrow afternoon at half past one you will have to go to the office of the official in charge of personnel, Wei Zheng, to be beheaded. If you want to stay alive you must report at once to the present Tang Emperor, Taizong, as Wei Zheng is a minister of his; and if you can get him to speak for you, you will be all right.” The dragon king took his leave of the soothsayer with tears in his eyes and went away. The sun was setting in the West, and the moon and stars were coming out.
As clouds settle round the mountains the crows fly back to roost,
The travelers on long journeys find inns for the night.
The returning geese sleep on a sandbank by the ford,
As the Milky Way appears.
While the hours push on
A lamp in the lonely village burns with barely a flame.
Pure is the monastery as the reed smoke curls in the breeze;
Men disappear in the butterfly dream.
As the moon sinks, flower shadows climb the rails,
The stars are a jumble of light.
The hours are called,
The night is already half way through.
The Dragon King of the River Jing did not return to his watery palace but stayed in the sky until the small hours of the morning, when he put away his cloud and his mist horn, and went straight to the gate of the Imperial Palace. At this very moment the Tang Emperor dreamt that he went out of the palace gate to stroll among the flowers in the moonlight. The dragon king at once took human form, went up to him and knelt and bowed before him, crying, “Save me, Your Majesty, save me.”
“Who are you, that we should save you?” asked Taizong.
“Your Majesty is a true dragon,” replied the dragon king, “and I am a wicked dragon. As I have offended against the laws of Heaven, I am due to be beheaded by Your Majesty's illustrious minister Wei Zheng, the official in charge of personnel, so I have come to beg you to save me.”
“If you are supposed to be beheaded by Wei Zheng, we can save you, so set your mind at rest and go along now,” said the Tang Emperor. The dragon king, who was extremely happy, kowtowed in thanks and went away.
Taizong remembered his dream when he woke up. It was now half past four in the morning, so Taizong held court before the assembled civil and military officials.
Mist wreathed the palace gates,
Incense rose to the dragon towers.
In the shimmering light the silken screen moves,
As the clouds shake the imperial glory spreads.
Monarch and subject as faithful as Yao and Shun,
Imposing music and ritual rivaling Zhou and Han.
Pages hold lanterns,
Palace women hold fans,
In brilliant pairs.
As the call “Long Live the Emperor” goes up,
The Empress is wished a thousand autumns.
When the Rod of Silence descends three times,
The uniformed officials bow to the emperor.
The brightly coloured palace flowers have a heavenly scent;
The delicate willows on the bank sing royal songs.
Are hung high from golden hooks;
Dragon and phoenix fans,
Rest by the royal chariot.
Elegant are the civil officials,
Vigorous the generals.
By the Imperial Way high and low are divided;
They stand by rank beneath the palace steps.
The ministers with their purple corded seals ride three elephants.
May the Emperor live as long as Heaven and Earth!
When the officials had all done homage they divided into their groups. The Tang Emperor looked at them one by one with his dragon and phoenix eyes. Among the civil officials he observed Fang Xuanling, Du Ruhui, Xu Shiji, Xu Jingzong, Wang Gui and others; and among the military officers he saw Ma Sanbao, Duan Zhixian, Yin Kaishan, Cheng Yaojin, Liu Hongji, Hu Jingde, and Qin Shubao among others. Every one of them was standing there solemnly and with dignity, but he could not see Minister Wei Zheng among them.
He summoned Xu Shiji into the palace hall and said to him, “We had a strange dream last night in which a man came and bowed to us, claiming that he was the Dragon King of the River Jing. He had broken the laws of Heaven, and was due to be beheaded by the official in the personnel department, Wei Zheng. He begged us to save him, and we agreed. Why is it that the only official missing at court today is Wei Zheng?”
“If this dream is true,” replied Xu Shiji, “Wei Zheng must be summoned to the palace, and Your Majesty must not let him out of doors. Once today is over the Dragon King will be saved.” The Tang Emperor was overjoyed and he sent a personal aide with a decree summoning Wei Zheng to court.
That night the minister Wei Zheng had been reading the stars in his residence and was just burning some precious incense when he heard a crane calling in the sky. It was a messenger from Heaven with a decree from the Jade Emperor ordering him to behead the Dragon King of the River Jing in a dream at half past one the following afternoon. The minister thanked Heaven for its grace, fasted and bathed himself, tried out the sword of his wisdom, and exercised his soul. This was why he did not go to court. When the imperial aide came with a summons he was frightened and nonplussed; but he did not dare to delay in obeying an order from his monarch, so he hurriedly tidied his clothes, tightened his belt, and went to the palace with the summons in his hands. He kowtowed to the Emperor and admitted his fault.
“We forgive you,” said the Emperor. The officials had not yet withdrawn, so the Emperor now ordered the curtains to be lowered and dismissed them. The only one of them he kept behind was Wei Zheng, whom he ordered to mount the golden chariot and come to his private quarters with him, where they discussed the policies to bring peace and stability to the country.
At about noon he ordered the palace ladies to bring a large weiqi chess set and said, “We shall now have a game of chess.” The Imperial concubines brought in a chess board and set it on the Emperor's table. Thanking the Tang Emperor for his grace, Wei Zheng started to play with him. As each moved in turn they built up their lines of battle. It was just as the Chess Classic says:
The Way of chess:
The best place is the middle of the board,
The worst is the side,
And the comers are neither good nor bad.
This is the eternal law of chess.
The law says:
“It is better to lose a piece
Than to lose the initiative.
When you are struck on the left, look to the right,
When attacked in the rear, keep an eye on your front.
Sometimes the leader is really behind,
Sometimes the laggard is really ahead.
If you have two 'live' areas do not let them be severed;
If you can survive as you are, do not link up.
Do not spread yourself out too thinly,
Do not crowd your pieces too closely.
Rather than being niggardly with your pieces,
Lose them and win the game.
Rather than moving for no reason,
It is better to strengthen your position.
When he has many and you have few,
Concentrate on survival;
When you have many and he has few,
Extend your positions.
The one who is good at winning does not have to struggle;
The one who draws up a good position does not have to fight;
The one who fights well does not lose;
The one who loses well is not thrown into confusion.
Open your game with conventional gambits,
And end by winning with surprise attacks.
When the enemy strengthens himself for no apparent reason,
He is planning to attack and cut you off.
When he abandons small areas and does not rescue them
His ambitions are great.
The man who places his pieces at random
Has no plans;
The man who responds without thinking
Is heading for defeat.
The Book of Songs says:
“Be cautious and careful
As if you were walking on the edge of a precipice.'
This is what it means.”
There is a poem that goes:
The board is the Earth, the chessmen Heaven,
The colours, Positive and Negative,
When you reach that subtle state when all the changes become clear,
You can laugh and brag about the chess-playing Immortals.
As sovereign and minister played their game of chess it was half past one. Although the game was not over, Wei Zheng slumped down beside the table and started to snore, fast asleep.
“Worthy Minister,” said Taizong with a smile, “you have exhausted your mind in strengthening the country and tired yourself out building the empire; that is why you have fallen asleep without realizing it.” The Emperor said no more and let him sleep. Not long afterwards Wei Zheng woke up, prostrated himself on the floor, and said, “Your subject deserves ten thousand deaths. I fell asleep without knowing what I was doing, and I beg Your Majesty to forgive your subject's criminal discourtesy to his sovereign.”
“What criminal discourtesy have you committed?” the Emperor asked. “Rise, and take the Pieces off the board so that we may start again.” Wei Zheng thanked him for his grace, and was just taking the pieces in his hand when he heard shouting outside the palace gates. Qin Shubao, Xu Maogong and some others brought in a dragon's head dripping with blood, threw it to the floor in front of the Emperor, and reported, “Your Majesty,
Seas have gone shallow and rivers have run dry,
But such a sight as this was never seen by human eye.”
The Emperor and Wei Zheng rose to their feet and asked where it had come from.
“This dragon's head fell from a cloud at the crossroads at the end of the Thousand Yard Portico, and your humble subjects dared not fail to report it,” said Qin Shubao and Xu Maogong.
“What does this mean?” the Tang Emperor asked Wei Zheng in astonishment.
“Your subject beheaded it in a dream just now,” replied Wei Zheng, kowtowing.
“But I never saw you move your hand or body when you were dozing,” said the shocked Emperor, “and you had no sword, so how could you have beheaded it?”
“My lord,” replied Wei Zheng, “your subject
Was bodily in your presence,
But far away in my dream.
I was bodily in your presence reaching the end of a game.
When I shut my eyes and felt drowsy;
I went far away in my dream, riding a magic cloud,
Bursting with energy.
Was on the Dragon-slicing Scaffold
Where he had been tied by the officers and soldiers of Heaven.
Then your minister said,
'You have broken the laws of Heaven,
And deserve the death penalty.
I bear a heavenly mandate
To behead you.'
When the dragon heard he was bitterly grieved;
Your subject marshalled his spirits.
When the dragon heard he was bitterly grieved,
Pulled in his claws, laid down his scales and gladly prepared to die.
Your subject marshalled his spirits,
Hitched up his clothes, stepped forward and raised the blade.
With a snick the sword came down,
And the dragon's head fell into the void.”
Emperor Taizong's feelings on hearing this were mixed. On the one hand he was happy, because he was proud of having so good a minister as Wei Zheng; for with a hero like that in his court he needed to have no worries about the safety of the empire. On the other hand he was distressed, because although he had promised in his dream to save the dragon, it had been executed. He had no choice but to pull himself together and order Qin Shubao to hang the dragon's head up in the market place as a warning to the common people of Chang'an. He also rewarded Wei Zheng, and then all the officials dispersed.
When he returned to the palace that evening, the Emperor was depressed as he remembered how the dragon had wept so bitterly in his dream, begging to be saved. Yet the dragon had been unable to avoid its doom. After brooding over this for a long time he felt more and more exhausted and uneasy. In the second watch of the night he heard sobbing outside the palace gates, which made him more frightened than ever. As he lay in a fitful sleep, the dragon king of the River Jing reappeared, this time holding a head dripping with blood in his hands.
“Emperor Taizong of the Tang,” he shouted, “give me back my life, give me back my life. Last night you were full of promises to save me, so why did you double-cross me yesterday and order Wei Zheng, the official in charge of personnel, to behead me? Come out, come out, and we shall go to the King of Hell's place to have this out.” He pulled at the Emperor's clothes and would not stop shouting. Taizong could find nothing to say, and struggled so hard to get away that he was pouring with sweat. Just at this most awkward moment he saw fragrant clouds and coloured mists to the South. A female Immortal came forward and waved a willow twig, at which the headless dragon went off to the Northwest, weeping pitifully. This Immortal was the Bodhisattva Guanyin, who had come to the East in obedience to the Buddha's decree to find the man to fetch the scriptures. She was now staying in the temple of the tutelary god of Chang'an, and when she heard the devilish howling she came to chase away the wicked dragon. The dragon then went down to Hell to submit a full report.
When Taizong woke up he shouted, “A ghost, a ghost!” The empresses of the three palaces, the imperial consorts and concubines of the six compounds, the attendants and the eunuchs were all so terrified by this that they lay awake trembling for the rest of the night. Before long it was half past four, and all the military and civil officials were waiting for the morning court outside the palace gates. When dawn came and the Emperor had still not come to court they were so frightened that they did not know what to do.
It was not till the sun was high in the sky that a decree was brought out that read, “As our mind is not at ease all the officials are excused court.” Six or seven days quickly passed, and all the officials were so anxious that they wished they could rush to the palace gates to see the Emperor and ask after his health, but all that happened was that the Empress issued a decree summoning the royal doctors to the palace to administer medicine. Crowds of officials gathered at the palace gates waiting for news, and when the doctors came out a little later they asked what the matter was.
“His Majesty's pulse in not as it should be: it is both faint and fast. He murmurs deliriously about having seen a ghost. His pulse stops every ten beats. His five viscera lack all spirit, and I am afraid that the worst must be expected within seven days.” The officials went pale from shock.
Amid all the panic it was learned that Taizong had sent for Xu Maogong, the Duke Protector Qin Shubao, and Lord Yuchi Jingde. When the three lords received the decree they hurried to the lower story of the side palace. When they had bowed to him, a serious-faced Taizong spoke forcefully to them.
“Illustrious ministers,” he said, “we started to command troops at the age of nineteen, and had many hard years of fighting from then on, conquering the North and the South, defending in the East, and wiping out our enemies in the West; but never once did we see anything sinister or evil. Yet now we are seeing ghosts.”
“Your Majesty has founded an empire and slaughtered men beyond number, so why should you be scared of ghosts?” asked Lord Yuchi.
“You don't believe us,” the Emperor replied, “but outside our bedroom door at night bricks and tiles fly about and the ghosts and demons howl. It is really terrible. Daytime is passable, but the nights are unbearable.”
“Don't worry, Your Majesty,” said Qin Shubao. “Tonight I and Yuchi Jingde shall guard the palace doors to see whether there are any ghosts or not.” Taizong agreed to his suggestion, and after thanking him for his kindness Xu Maogong and the other two generals withdrew. That evening the two of them put on their equipment and took up their positions outside the palace gates in full armour and helmet, with golden maces and battle-axes in their hands. Look how these splendid generals were dressed:
On their heads were golden helmets bright,
On their bodies was armour like dragon scales.
Magic clouds glisten in front of their Heart-protecting Mirrors;
Their lion coats are tightly buckled.
Fresh are the colours of their embroidered belts.
One looks up to the sky with his phoenix eyes, and the stars tremble;
The other's eyes flash lightning and dim the moonlight.
These true heroes and distinguished ministers
Will be called gate-protectors for a thousand years
And serve as door-gods for ten thousand ages.
The two generals stood beside the doors till deep into the night, and not a single demon did they see. That night Taizong slept peacefully in the palace and nothing happened. When morning came he called the two generals in and gave them rich rewards.
“We had not been able to sleep for several days since we fell ill,” he said, “but last night was very peaceful, thanks to the awesome might of you two generals. Please go and rest now so that you can guard us again tonight.” The two generals thanked him and left. For the next two or three nights they stood guard and all was quiet; but the Emperor ate less and less as his illness took a turn for the worse. Not wishing to put the two generals to any more trouble, he summoned them to the palace with Du Ruhui and Fang Xuanling.
These were the instructions he gave them: “Although we have enjoyed peace for the last two days, we are unhappy about the night-long ordeals we have imposed on Generals Qin and Yuchi. We therefore wish to commission two skilled painters to make faithful portraits of the two generals to paste on the doors so that they may be saved trouble. What do you think?” In obedience to the imperial decree the officials chose two men who could draw a good likeness, and the two generals wore their armour as before while they were painted. Then the pictures were stuck on the doors, and there was no trouble that night.
The next two or three days were peaceful too but then the Emperor heard bricks and tiles banging and crashing once again at the Hou Zai Gate. He summoned his officials at dawn and said, “There has, thank goodness, been no trouble at the front gates for several days now, but there were noises at the back gates last night that practically scared me to death.” Xu Maogong went forward and submitted this suggestion: “When there was trouble at the front gates Yuchi Jingde and Qin Shubao protected Your Majesty. Now there is trouble at the back gates Wei Zheng should be ordered to stand guard.”
Taizong approved his suggestion, and ordered Wei Zheng to stand guard at the back gates that night. Wei Zheng received the edict, and that night he put on his best clothes, belted himself tightly, and took up his vigil outside the Hou Zai Gate. He was a true hero. He wore
A black band of silk around his forehead,
A brocade gown loosely belted with jade.
His hood and billowing sleeves caught the frost and dew,
And he looked more ferocious than the ghost-quellers Shenshu and Yul ti.
On his feet he wore black boots for motionless movement;
In his hand he wielded a keen-edged blade with great ferocity.
He looked around with glaring eyes:
What evil spirit would have dared approach?
No devils were seen all night, but although nothing happened at the front or back gates the Emperor's condition still deteriorated. One day the Empress Dowager issued an edict summoning the officials to discuss funeral arrangements. Taizong sent for Xu Maogong and gave him orders about affairs of state, instructing him to look after the heir to the throne in the way that Liu Bei, the ruler of Shu, had instructed Zhuge Liang. When he had finished speaking he was bathed and put into clean clothes. All he had to do now was to wait for the end. Then in rushed Wei Zheng, who grabbed hold of his dragon robes and said, “Do not worry, Your Majesty. I can ensure Your Majesty long life.”
“The disease has reached my heart,” replied the Emperor, “and my life will end at any moment now, so how can you save it?”
“Your subject has a letter here,” said Wei Zheng, “that I am offering to Your Majesty to take with you to the underworld and give to Cui Jue, the judge of Fengdu.”
“Who is this Cui Jue?” asked the Emperor.
“He was one of the officers of Your Majesty's exalted predecessor. From being magistrate of Cizhou he was promoted to be vice-president of the Ministry of Rites. When he was alive he and I were close friends. Now that he is dead he is in charge of the Registers of Birth and Death in the underworld as judge of Fengdu, and he often comes to see me in my dreams. If you take this letter with you on your journey and give it to him, he is bound to allow Your Majesty to come back out of consideration for your humble subject. I can guarantee that Your Majesty's soul will return to the sunlight, and the dragon countenance will certainly return to the imperial capital.” Taizong took the letter and put it in his sleeve, then he shut his eyes in death. The empresses, consorts and imperial concubines of the three palaces and the six compounds, the palace servants, the heir to the throne, and the civil and military officials all grieved and dressed in mourning. The imperial coffin lay in state in the White Tiger Hall.
If you don't know how Taizong came back to life, listen to the explanation in the next chapter.
After Touring the Underworld, Taizong Returns to Life.
By Presenting a Pumpkin Liu Quan Continues His Marriage
A hundred years flow by like water;
A lifetime's career is no more than a bubble,
The face that yesterday was the color of peach-blossom
Today is edged with snow.
When the white ants' line of battle collapses, all is illusion;
“Repent, repent,” is the cuckoo's urgent call.
He who does good in secret can always prolong his life;
Heaven looks after the one who asks no pity.
Taizong was in a daze as his soul went straight to the Tower of Five Phoenixes, in front of which he saw the horsemen of the Imperial Guard who invited him out hunting with them. Taizong was glad to go and they went off into the distance; but after they had been going for some time he found himself walking alone in a wasteland: the horsemen had all disappeared. Just as he was discovering to his alarm that he could not find his way a man appeared not far away, shouting.
“Great Tang Emperor, come here, come here.” On hearing this Taizong looked up and saw him:
A black silk turban,
A rhinoceros-horn belt.
The black silk turban has tabs blowing in the breeze;
The rhinoceros-horn belt has golden mountings.
In his hands an ivory tablet, glowing auspiciously;
His thin silk gown conceals his divine light.
He wears a pair of boots with whitened soles
As he climbs the clouds and grasps the mist,
Holding to his chest the Registers of Life and Death,
Noting down the quick and the dead.
His tangled hair blows about his ears;
His whiskers dance and fly beside his cheeks.
Once he used to be a Tang minister
But now he judges cases for the King of Hell.
When Taizong went up to him, he fell on his knees beside the path and said, “Your Majesty, please forgive your subject for his crime of failing to come far enough to meet you.”
“Who are you?” asked the Emperor, “and why have you come to meet me?”
“A fortnight ago your humble servant heard the Dragon King of the River Jing bringing a case against Your Majesty in the Senluo Palace because he was executed despite your promise to save him,” replied the other.
“The King of Qinguang of the First Palace sent devil messengers with an urgent summons to Your Majesty to be present when the case is heard between the Three Orders: the Human Order, the Underworld Order and the Water Order. When I heard this I came here to meet Your Majesty. I arrived late, so I beg for forgiveness.”
“What is your name and position?” asked Taizong.
“When your humble servant was alive I used to serve His Late Majesty. I was magistrate of Cizhou, and later made vice-president of the Ministry of Rites. My name is Cui Jue. I have now been given office in the underworld as the judge in charge of cases at Fengdu.” Taizong, greatly delighted to learn this, went up to him and supported him with his imperial hands as he said, “Sir, you have made a long and exhausting journey. Wei Zheng, our minister, gave us a letter for you; how lucky that we have met.” The judge thanked him and asked where the letter was. Taizong produced it from his sleeve and handed it over to Cui Jue, who received it with a bow. When he opened it he saw that it read as follows:
Your Excellency, Metropolitan Judge, and Venerable Elder Brother Cui,
Remembering our former friendship; I still see and hear you as if you were alive; but many years have now flown by since I last received your pure instruction. On feast days I set out some vegetarian dishes as a sacrifice to you, but I have been unable to divine whether they are enjoyed by you. As I have the good fortune not to have been abandoned by you and you have appeared to me in dreams, I now know that my great elder brother has risen high. But, alas, there is a great gap between the worlds of darkness and of light, and we are unable to meet each other as we are each at different ends of the universe.
As the Cultured Emperor Taizong has recently passed away of a sudden illness it seems likely that his case will be discussed by the Three Orders, so that he is bound to meet you, elder brother. I beseech you to remember the friendship of the days when you were alive and give His Majesty such assistance as will enable him to return to the sunlight. This would be a great favour, and I shall write again to thank you. I cannot go into all the details of the case here.
Your younger brother kowtows to you.
The judge was very pleased when he had read the letter. “I know about how the official Wei of the personnel department beheaded the dragon in a dream the other day,” he said, “and this news filled me with great admiration. He has always looked after my sons and grandsons, and now that I have a letter from him, Your Majesty need have no worries. Your humble servant can undertake to escort Your Majesty back to the light, where you will once more ascend the throne.” Taizong thanked him.
As they were talking a pair of servant boys in black appeared, carrying banners and a precious canopy. “An invitation from King Yama,” they shouted. Taizong and Judge Cui went along with them. A city wall appeared in front of them, and above its gates hung a large tablet on which was written DEVIL GATE OF THE WORLD OF DARKNESS in huge letters of gold. The two lictors waved their banners and led Taizong into the city and along its streets. Beside the road he saw his father and predecessor Li Yuan, as well as his dead brothers Jaincheng and Yuanji, who went up to him and said, “Shimin's here, Shimin's here,” using his personal name. They grabbed and hit him, demanding their lives back; and as Taizong could not avoid them they held him fast until Judge Cui ordered a blue-faced devil with terrible fangs to drive them away. Only then was Taizong able to escape from their clutches. After another mile or so he saw a green-tiled tower rising majestically before him.
A myriad coloured veils of haze drifting about it,
A thousand wisps of red mist dimly appearing.
The flying eaves had monsters at their ends,
The matching tiles of the five roofs were gleaming bright.
Rows of golden studs were driven into the doors,
A length of whitest jade was placed across each threshold.
When the windows faced the light they glowed like the dawn;
Red lightning flashed from the lattice and the blinds.
The tower soared into the azure sky
While porticos led to sumptuous courtyards.
Incense from braziers shaped like beasts perfumed the royal robes;
The light from lanterns of purple gauze was thrown on palace fans.
To the left a row of ferocious bull-headed demons;
To the right were terrible horse-faced devils.
Those who escorted the spirits of the dead had golden tablets;
Those who summoned souls wore white sackcloth.
This place was called the assembly of the underworld,
The Palace of Yama, King of Hell.
As Taizong gazed at it from the outside, jade ornaments could be heard tinkling as they swung from the belts of officials, and rare perfumes could be smelt. In front were two pairs of attendants holding lanterns, and behind them the ten generations of kings of the underworld came down the steps. The ten kings were the King of Qinguang, the King of Chujiang, King Songdi, King Wuguan, King Yama, King Impartial, King of Mount Tai, the Metropolitan King, the King of Biancheng, and the King of the Ever-turning Wheel. They came out of the Senluo Palace and bowed to Taizong in greeting. Taizong felt too humble to go forward.
“Your Majesty is a monarch in the world of light, but we are only kings in the world of darkness. It is therefore only right that we should do this, so why this excessive modesty?”
“We have offended against Your Majesties,” replied Taizong, “so how can we venture to talk in terms of light and darkness, or men and ghosts?” After much yielding Taizong went into the Senluo Palace, and when they had finished bowing to each other they sat down as hosts and guest.
A moment later the King of Qinguang clasped his hands together and said, “Why is it that the ghost dragon of the River Jing has brought a case against Your Majesty, saying that he was executed despite your promise to save him?”
“I had a dream that an old dragon came to ask me to save him,” replied Taizong, “and I did in fact promise that he would come to no harm; but as it turned out his crime was a capital one, for which he was due to be beheaded by the minister in the personnel department, Wei Zheng. We summoned Wei Zheng to come and play chess in the palace, and I never knew that he had beheaded the dragon in a dream. This happened because that officer can come and go miraculously, and also because the dragon king had committed a crime for which he deserved to die. We were in no way to blame for his death.”
When the Ten Kings heard his statement they bowed and replied, “Even before that dragon was born it was written in the registers of the Southern Pole Star that he was destined to die at the hands of a personnel minister, as we have long been aware. But because he has been arguing about the matter we had to send for Your Majesty. When the case has been argued between the three orders we shall send him to the Revolving Prayer-wheel for reincarnation. We hope that Your Majesty will forgive us for forcing you to attend.” Then they ordered the judge in charge of the Registers of Birth and Death to fetch them at once to see how long His Majesty was due to live. Judge Cui hurried to his office and took down the general register of the lengths of the reigns Heaven had allowed to the kings of all the countries of the earth. As he was looking through it he saw to his horror that Emperor Taizong of the Great Tang in the Southern Jambu Continent was due to die in year 13 of his reign. He hurriedly seized a large brush soaked in ink, changed 13 into 33, then he handed the register up. The Ten Kings started at the beginning and read it through until they saw that Taizong was due to reign for thirty-three years.
“How long has Your Majesty been on the throne?” asked the shocked kings of hell.
“It is now thirteen years since my accession,” Taizong replied.
“Then there is no need for Your Majesty to worry,” said King Yama. “You have twenty years of life ahead of you. Now that you have answered these charges satisfactorily, will you please return to the World of Light.” On hearing this Taizong bowed and thanked the Ten Kings, who then ordered judge Cui and marshal Zhu to return Taizong his soul. As he was leaving the Senluo Palace Taizong raised his hand in salutation and asked the Ten Kings about the prospects for all the members of his family in his palace.
“Good,” they replied, “except that Your Majesty's younger sister does not seem to be going to live much longer.” Taizong bowed once more to express his thanks.
“When we return to the daylight we shall have nothing with which to show our gratitude except for fruit and melons.”
“We have gourds, Eastern melons and Western melons, or water-melons, here, but no pumpkins, no Southern melons,” said the Ten Kings.
“When we return to the world of the living we shall send some,” replied Taizong, and with that they raised their clasped hands to each other, bowed, and parted.
The marshal, with a soul-guiding flag in his hand, led the way, and Judge Cui followed with Taizong as they left the office of darkness. Taizong looked up and saw that they were not going the same way as they had come.
“Have we taken the wrong road?” he asked the judge, who replied, “No. In the underworld you can only go; you can never come back. We are now taking Your Majesty out through the Revolving Prayer-wheel; thus you will be able to tour the underworld on your way back to life.” Taizong had no choice but to follow them as they led the way.
After a mile or two he saw a high mountain wrapped in dark clouds down to its foot, while a black mist blotted out the sky.
“What's that mountain over there, Mr. Cui?” he asked; and the judge replied, “That is the Dark Mountain of the underworld.”
“However shall we cross it?” Taizong asked in terror.
“Have no fears, Your Majesty; your subjects will lead the way,” answered the judge. Taizong followed them shivering and trembling, and when they had climbed the mountain he looked around him. He saw that it was
High as the Sichuan ranges,
Lofty as Lushan.
It is not a famous peak of the world of light,
But a crag of the underworld.
Ogres hidden in the clumps of thorns,
Evil monsters lurk behind the cliffs.
Your ears hear no calls of animals or birds,
The eyes can only see fiends.
A dark wind howls,
As black fog spreads.
The dark wind that howls
Is the smoke breathed from the mouths of magic soldiers;
The spreading black fog
Is the vapour belched out by hidden trolls.
Wherever you look the prospect is appalling;
All you can see to left or right is unbridled evil.
To be sure, there are hills,
But no grass grows on the hills,
There is no sky for the peaks to touch.
No travelers cross the ranges,
The caves hold no clouds,
No water runs in the gullies.
Before the cliffs there are only goblins,
Below the ranges are trolls.
Savage ghosts shelter in the caves,
Evil spirits hide in the gullies.
All around the mountain
Ox-headed and horse-faced demons howl and roar;
Half hidden from view,
Hungry ghosts and desperate spirits sob to each other.
The judge who claims men's lives
Cannot wait to deliver the letter;
The marshal who chases souls,
Shouts and roars as he hastens along with his documents.
The swift-footed ones
Swirl along like a tornado;
The catchers of souls
Stand as thick as clouds.
Thanks entirely to the protection of the judge, Taizong crossed the Dark Mountain.
As they continued on their way they went past very many courts, and from each of them piteous sounds assailed his ear, while the evil ghouls there struck terror into his heart.
“What place is this?” asked Taizong.
“It is the eighteen layers of hell that lie behind the Dark Mountain,” the judge replied.
“What are the eighteen layers?” asked Taizong.
“Listen and I will tell you,” the judge replied.
“The Hanging-by-the-Sinews Hell, the Hell of Injustice, and the Hell of the Pit of Fire.
Loneliness and desolation,
Misery and suffering.
All those here committed the thousand lower sins,
And were sent here for punishment after death.
The Fengdu Hell, the Tongue-extraction Hell, the Flaying Hell:
Howling and wailing,
They offended against Heaven by not being loyal or filial;
They have Buddha-mouths but snake hearts, so fell down here.
The Grinding Hell, the Pounding Hell, the Hell of Drawing and Quartering.
Skin and flesh ripped and torn,
Lips rubbed away till the teeth show.
In the blindness of their hearts they did evil things;
For all their fine words they harmed others in secret.
The Ice Hell, the Skin-shedding Hell, the Disemboweling Hell.
Filthy faces and matted hair,
Frowning foreheads and sad eyes.
They all used false measures to cheat the foolish,
Thus piling up disasters for themselves.
The Oil-cauldron Hell, the Hell of Blackness, the Hell of the Mountain of Knives.
Shivering and trembling,
In terrible agony;
Because they used violence against the good
They cower and hunch their shoulders in their suffering.
The Hell of the Pool of Blood, the Avichi Hell, the Hell of the Steelyard Beam,
Where skin is pulled away from the bone,
Arms are broken and tendons cut.
Because they killed for gain,
Butchering living creatures,
They fell into these torments that will not end in a thousand years;
They will always lie here, never to escape.
Every one of them is tightly bound,
Knotted and roped.
And black-faced demons,
Are sent with their long halberds and short swords.
And horse-faced fiends,
With iron clubs and brazen hammers,
Beat them till their wincing faces flow with blood,
As they call on Heaven and Earth and get no answer.
Let no man alive have any illusions:
The devils carry out their orders and release nobody.
Good and evil will always be rewarded:
It is only a question of time.”
Before they had gone much further a group of devil soldiers holding banners knelt down beside the road and said, “The Commissioners of the Bridges welcome you.” The Judge shouted to them that they were to rise and led Taizong across a golden bridge. Taizong saw that there was a silver bridge beside it over which some loyal, filial, worthy, just, and upright people were passing, led by banners. There was a third bridge on the other side with an icy wind roaring across it and waves of blood boiling below amid unbroken howls and wails.
“What is that bridge called?” Taizong asked, and the Judge replied, “Your Majesty, that is called the Bridge of Punishment, and you must tell people about it when you return to the world of the living. Below the bridge there are
A narrow, precipitous path
Over a mighty, rushing river.
It is like a strip of cloth across the Yangtse,
Or a fiery pit rising up to Heaven.
The icy vapours freeze one to the bone;
Nauseating stenches assail the nostrils.
There is no boat to ferry you
Across the crashing waves.
All who appear are sinful ghosts
With bare feet and matted hair.
The bridge is many miles long
And only three fingers wide;
The drop is a hundred feet,
The waters are infinitely deeper.
Above there are no railings for support,
While trolls snatch their victims from below.
In cangues and bonds
They are driven along the dangerous path by the River of Punishment.
See the ferocity of the divine generals by the bridge;
Watch how the ghosts of the wicked suffer in the river.
On the branching trees
Hang silken clothes in blue, red, yellow and purple;
In front of the precipice
Squat lewd and shameless women who swore at their parents-in-law.
Copper snakes and iron dogs feast on them at will,
As they constantly fall in the river, never to escape.
There is a poem that goes:
As ghosts wail and spirits howl
The waves of blood tower high.
Countless ghouls with heads of bulls and horses
Guard the bridge with great ferocity.
The commissioners of the bridges had gone away while he was speaking. Taizong's heart was once more filled with horror, and he nodded his head and sighed silently in his distress, then followed the judge and the Marshal. Before long they crossed the evil River of Punishment and passed the terrors of the Bowl of Blood. Then they came to the City of the Unjustly Slain. Amid the hubbub, shouts of “Li Shimin's here, Li Shimin's here,” could be made out, to the terror of Taizong. He saw that his way was blocked by a crowd of maimed and headless spectres.
“Give us back our lives,” they were all shouting, “give us back our lives.” The panic-stricken Taizong tried to hide, yelling, “Help, Judge Cui, help, help.”
“Your Majesty,” the judge replied, “these are the ghosts of the kings and chieftains of the sixty-four groups of rebels and the seventy-two troops of bandits. They were all killed unjustly, and nobody has given them a home or looked after them. They cannot get themselves reborn as they have no money for the journey, so they are all uncared-for cold and hungry ghosts. If Your Majesty is able to give them some money I can save you.”
“I came here empty-handed,” Taizong replied, “so where could I possibly get any money?”
“Your Majesty,” the judge replied, “there is a man in the world of light who deposited a certain amount of money in the underworld. If Your Majesty is prepared to sign an I.O.U., I will endorse it, and we can borrow his store of money to distribute among these hungry ghosts; then we will be able to continue on our way,”
“Who is this man?” asked Taizong.
“He is a man of Kaifeng in Henan,” the judge replied, “and his name is Xiang Liang. He has thirteen hoards of gold and silver down here, and if Your Majesty borrows them, all you have to do is repay them when you return to the world of light.” Taizong was very pleased, and only too eager to borrow one. He signed an I.O.U. at once and gave it to the judge, then borrowed a store, which he gave to the marshal to hand out.
“You are to share out this gold and silver and let your Lord of the Great Tang past,” said the judge. “As it is too early in his life, I am under orders from the ten kings to return his soul and tell him to hold a Great Mass when he is back in the world of light to enable all of you to be reborn, so don't be making any more trouble.” When the ghosts heard what he had to say and were given the gold and silver they all withdrew, murmuring their obedient assent. The judge then told the marshal to wave his soul-leading flag, and Taizong was taken out of the City of the Unjustly Slain and floated along the highway to the daylight.
After they had been going for a long time they reached the Wheel of the Six Paths of Being. Some people were soaring in the clouds, wearing cloaks of rosy mist. Others were being given office with golden insignia to hang from their waists. Monks and nuns, clergy and lay people, beasts of the field and birds of the air, ghosts and devils-all were pouring under the wheel and each was going along his allotted path.
“What's all this about?” asked the Tang Emperor.
“Your Majesty is a man of deep understanding,” the judge replied. “You must be sure to remember all this and tell the living about it. It is called the Wheel of the Six Paths of Being. Those who have done good deeds rise on the Path of the Immortals; those who have been loyal are reborn on the Path of Honour; those who have done their duty to their parents lead their next life on the Path of Happiness; those who have been just return to life on the Path of Man; those who have accumulated merit are reborn on the Path of Wealth; and the evildoers fall down into the Path of Devils.” On hearing this the Tang Emperor nodded and said with a sigh:
“Excellent, truly excellent,
The virtuous come to no harm.
The good heart is always mindful,
The way of goodness always lies open.
“Do not allow evil thoughts to arise;
Thus you will avoid all trouble.
Say not that there is no retribution;
Whether you become a god or a ghost is all determined.
The judge took Taizong straight to the Gate of Rebirth on the Path of Honour, bowed to him and said, “Your Majesty, this is the way out, where I shall have to take my leave and go back. Marshal Zhu will escort you for the next stage of your journey.”
“I have made you come an awfully long way, sir,” said the Tang Emperor as he thanked him.
“When Your Majesty returns to the world of the living you absolutely must hold a Great Mass to enable those forlorn ghosts to be reborn,” replied the judge. “Don't on any account forget, as there can only be peace on Earth if there are no vengeance-seeking ghosts in the underworld. Every single wrong will have to be corrected. Teach all people to be good, and then you will be able to assure the continuity of your line and the eternal security of your empire.”
The Tang Emperor agreed to each of his proposals and took leave of him, then went through the gates with Marshal Zhu. Seeing a fine horse standing ready and saddled inside the gates, the marshal asked Taizong to mount it with the help of his assistants. The horse was as swift as an arrow, and it was soon at the banks of the River Wei, where a pair of golden carp could be seen sporting in the water. Taizong, captivated at the sight, pulled in his horse's reins and gazed at them.
“Your Majesty,” the marshal said, “please keep moving. We have to enter the city early.” But all the Tang Emperor wanted to do was to look. As he would not move on the marshal grabbed him by the feet and shouted, “Get moving. What are you waiting for?” as he pushed him off his horse and into the River Wei with a splash. Taizong was now free of the underworld and back in the world of the living.
The civil and military officials of the Tang court, Xu Maogong, Qin Shubao, Yuchi Jingde, Duan Zhixian, Ma Sanbao, Cheng Yaojin, Gao Shilian, Li Shiji, Fang Xuanling, Du Ruhui, Xiao Yu, Fu Yi, Zhang Daoyuan, Zhang Shiheng, Wang Gui and the others, as well as the empresses, imperial consorts and concubines, and pages were all in the White Tiger Hall. They were discussing whether to issue an edict of mourning to inform the world so that the heir could be put on the throne.
Wei Zheng was saying, “Gentlemen, stop this discussion. We must not do that. If the country is alarmed, anything might happen. If we wait for another day our master is bound to come back to life.” Xu Jingzong stepped forward from the lower ranks and protested, “Minister Wei is talking nonsense. As the old saying goes, 'split water can't be picked up and the dead can't come back to life.' What business have you to be spreading confusion with these groundless claims?”
“Mr. Xu,” Wei Zheng replied, “I can say truthfully that I have been given instruction in the magic arts since childhood and my predictions are extremely accurate. I can assure you that I have saved His Majesty from death.”
As they were arguing they heard loud shouts of “You're drowning me, you're drowning me,” coming from the coffin. The civil officials and the generals were struck with terror; the empresses and consorts shivered. Every one of them had
A face as yellow as a mulberry-leaf after autumn,
A waist as weak as a willow sapling before spring.
The heir went weak at the knees,
As he stood in full mourning, unable to hold up his staff;
The attendants' souls flew away:
How would it do for them to be wearing mourning hats and clothes?
The consorts and concubines collapsed,
The palace beauties had to lie down.
When the consorts and concubines collapsed,
It was like a gale blowing down withered lotuses.
When the palace beauties lay down
It was like a rainstorm beating young lotuses down.
All the ministers were terrified
And their limbs went numb;
They shivered and shook,
Struck dumb and stupid.
The White Tiger Hall was like a bridge collapsing,
And the confusion round the coffin
Was like a temple falling down.
All the palace women fled, as not one of them dared to approach the imperial coffin. Luckily the upright Xu Maogong, the trusty Wei Zheng, the brave Qin Shubao, and the ferocious Yuchi Jingde went forward to put their hands on the coffin and shouted, “What is it that worries Your Majesty and makes you speak to us? Tell us, and do not haunt us and scare the royal family.”
“His Majesty is not haunting us,” Wei Zheng said. “His Majesty has come back to life. Bring tools at once.” They opened the coffin and found Taizong sitting up inside and still shouting, “You're drowning me. Save me, someone.” Xu Maogong and the others helped him to his feet and said, “There is nothing to fear as you come round, Your Majesty. We are all here to protect you.” The Tang Emperor then opened his eyes and said, “We have been having an awful time: after escaping from the evil demons of the underworld, we were drowned.”
“Relax, Your Majesty, there is nothing to fear. How could you have drowned?” the ministers said. “We were riding along the banks of the River Wei and watching to fishes playing when that deceitful Marshal Zhu pushed us off the horse and made us fall into the river, where we all but drowned.”
“Your Majesty still has something of the ghost about you,” said Wei Zheng, and he ordered the Imperial Medical Academy to send medicinal potions to settle the spirit and calm the soul at once; he also sent for some thin gruel. After one or two doses of the medicine the Emperor returned to normal and regained full consciousness. The Tang Emperor had been dead for three days and nights before returning to rule the world of the living once more. There is a poem to prove it:
Since ancient times there have been changes of power;
Dynasties have always waxed and waned.
What deed of the kings of old could compare
With the Emperor of Tang returning to life?
As it was evening by then the ministers asked the Emperor to go to bed, and they all dispersed.
The next day they all took off their mourning garments and put colorful clothes back on. Wearing red robes and black hats, and with their golden seals of office hanging from purple ribbons at their waists, they stood outside the gates of the court awaiting the summons. As for Taizong, after taking the medicine to settle his spirit and calm his soul and drinking some thin gruel he was helped to his bedroom by his ministers. He slept soundly all night, building up his energies, and at dawn he rose. See how he was arrayed as he summoned up his authority:
On his head a hat that thrust into the sky;
On his body a dark yellow robe
Girt with a belt of Lantian jade;
On his feet a pair of Shoes of Success.
The dignity of his bearing
Surpasses all others at court.
His awesome majesty
Is today restored.
What a peaceful and wise Great Tang Emperor,
The king named Li who can die and rise again.
The Tang Emperor entered the throne hall, and when the two groups of civil and military officials had finished acclaiming him they divided into sections according to their ranks. When they heard the decree, “Let all those with business step forward from their sections and submit memorials, and let those with no business retire,” Xu Maogong, Wei Zheng, Wang Gui, Du Ruhui, Fang Xuanling, Yuan Tiangang, Li Chunfeng, Xu Jingzong and others stepped forward on the Eastern side; and on the Western side Yin Kaishan, Liu Hongji, Ma Sanbao, Duan Zhixian, Cheng Yaojin, Qin Shubao, Yuchi Jingde, Xue Rengui and others stepped forward also.
They advanced together, bowed low before the white jade steps, and asked in a memorial, “Why did it take Your Majesty so long to awake from your dream the other day?”
To this Taizong replied, “The other day we took Wei Zheng's letter and felt our soul leaving the palace. The horsemen of the Imperial Guard asked us to go hunting with them, and as we were going along the men and their horses all vanished. His Late Majesty and our dead brothers appeared and started to shout at us in a quarrelsome way. Things were getting very awkward when we saw a man in a black hat and gown who turned out to be the judge Cui Jue. When he had shouted at my dead brothers and driven them away we gave him Wei Zheng's letter. As he was reading it some servants in black holding banners led us in and took us to the Senluo Palace, where the Ten Kings of Hell were all sitting. They said that the dragon of the River Jing had falsely accused us of deliberately killing him after we had promised to save him, so we gave them a full account of what we told you about before. They said that the case had now been settled between the three orders, and ordered that the Registers of Birth and Death be brought at once so that they could see how long we were due to live. Judge Cui handed up the register, and they saw in it that we were due to reign for thirty-three years, which meant that we had another twenty years of life in front of us. They told Marshal Zhu and Judge Cui to escort us back. We took our leave of the Ten Kings and promised to send them some pumpkins and fruit as a mark of our thanks. After leaving the Senluo Palace we saw in the underworld how the disloyal, the unfilial, those who do not observe the rules of propriety, wasters of foodgrains, bullies, cheats, those who use false measures, adulterers, robbers, hypocrites, deceivers, debauchees, swindlers and the like undergo the agonies of being ground, burnt, pounded and sliced, and suffer the torments of being fried, boiled, hung in mid-air, and skinned. There were tens of thousands of them, far more than our eyes could take in. Then we went through the City of the Unjustly Slain where there were countless ghosts of the wrongly killed, and all of them, the chieftains of the sixty-four groups of rebels and the spirits of the seventy-two bands of rebels, blocking our way. Luckily Judge Cui acted as our guarantor and lent us one of the hoards of gold and silver of a Mr. Xiang of Henan, with which we were able to buy them off and continue on our way. Judge Cui told us that when we returned to the world of the living we had an inescapable obligation to hold a Great Mass to enable all those forlorn ghosts to be reborn, and with these instructions he took his leave. When I came out under the Wheel of the Six Paths of Being Marshal Zhu invited us to mount a horse. This horse seemed to fly to the banks of the River Wei, where I saw a pair of fish sporting in the water. Just as we were enjoying this sight the marshal grabbed our legs and tipped us into the water, and with that we returned to life.”
When the ministers had heard this they all congratulated him and they compiled a record of it; and all the prefectures and counties of the empire sent in memorials of felicitation.
Taizong issued a decree of amnesty for all the convicted criminals in the empire and ordered inquiries into the cases of all those held in jail on serious charges. The inspectors submitted to the throne the names of more than four hundred criminals who had been sentenced by the Ministry of Punishments to beheading or strangulation, and Taizong gave them a stay of execution, allowing them to go home to see their families and give their property to their relations; on the same day the following year they were to report to the authorities for their sentences to be carried out. The criminals thanked him for his mercy and withdrew. He also issued a notice about charity for orphans and released three thousand women of all ages from the palace to be married to members of the army. From then on all was well within and without the palace. There is a poem to prove it:
Vast is the mercy of the great Tang Emperor;
He surpasses Yao and Shun in making the people prosper.
Four hundred condemned men all left their prisons,
Three thousand mistreated women were released from the palace.
All the officials of the empire proclaim the monarch's long life;
The ministers at court congratulate the Great Dragon.
Heaven responds to the thoughts of the good heart,
Its blessing will protect his seventeen successors.
When he had released the women from the palace and let the condemned men out of prison he issued a notice that was posted throughout the empire. It read:
“Great are Heaven and Earth;
Sun and Moon shine clearly.
Although the universe is vast,
Earth and sky have no room for evil plots.
If you use your wits and skill to cheat people,
You will get retribution in this life;
If you are good at giving and ask for little,
You are sure to find a reward before your future life.
A thousand cunning plans
Cannot compare with living according to one's lot;
Ten thousand kinds of robbers
Are no match for those who live frugally and accept their fate.
If you are good and merciful in thought and deed,
What need is there to bother to read the scriptures?
If your mind is full of malice towards others,
To read the whole of the Buddha's canon would be a waste of time.”
From then on everyone in the country did good deeds. Another notice was issued calling for a worthy man to take pumpkins to the underworld, and at the same time Yuchi Jingde, the Duke of E, was sent to Kaifeng in Henan to visit Xiang Liang and pay him back a hoard of jewels and a hoard of gold and silver. Some days after the notice had been issued a worthy man called Liu Quan from Junzhou came forward to deliver the pumpkins. He came from a family worth ten thousand strings of cash. When his wife Li Cuilian had taken a gold pin from her hair to give as an offering to a monk at the gate, Liu Quan had cursed her for being a loose wife who would not stay in the women's quarters. Li Cuilian, bitterly resenting this, had hanged herself, leaving a little boy and girl who had been crying night and day ever since. Liu Quan, unable to bear it any longer, wanted only to end his own life and abandon his family and his children. For this reason he had volunteered to deliver the pumpkins in death and came to the Tang Emperor with the imperial notice in his hand. The Emperor ordered him to go to the Golden Pavilion, where he was to put a pair of pumpkins on his head and some gold in his sleeve and drink poison.
Liu Quan drank the poison and died. In an instant his soul appeared at the Devil Gate with the pumpkins on his head. The demon officer at the gate asked, “Who are you, and how did you come here?”
“I have come on the orders of Emperor Taizong of the Great Tang to present some pumpkins to the Ten Kings of Hell.” The officer was only too pleased to let him in, and he went straight to the Senluo Palace, and when he was given audience with the Kings of Hell he presented the pumpkins to them and said, “I have brought these pumpkins a great distance in obedience to the decree of the Tang Emperor, who wishes to thank Your Majesties for their great mercy to him.”
“How splendid of the Tang Emperor to be as good as his word,” exclaimed the ten delighted kings as they accepted the pumpkins. Then they asked him what he was called and where he was from.
“I am a commoner of the city of Junzhou,” he replied, “and my name is Liu Quan. As my wife Miss Li hanged herself and left a boy and a girl with nobody to look after them I wanted to abandon my family and children by giving my life for my country, so I brought this offering of pumpkins on behalf of my sovereign, who wanted to thank Your Majesties for your great mercy.” On hearing this the Ten Kings ordered a search for Liu Quan's wife, Miss Li. The devil messengers soon brought her to the Senluo Palace, outside which Liu Quan was reunited with her. They thanked the Ten Kings for their kindness and told them about the harsh words that had been spoken. On consulting the Registers of Birth and Death, the kings found that they were fated to become Immortals, so they ordered demon officers to take them back at once. The demon officers, however, asked in a report, “As Li Cuilian has been dead for some time her body has perished, so what is her soul to be attached to?”
“Li Yuying, the sister of the Tang Emperor, is due to die a sudden death today,” said the Kings of Hell, “so we can borrow her body to put Li Cuilian's soul back into.” On receiving this order the demon officers took Liu Quan and his wife out of the underworld to be brought back to life. If you don't know how they returned to life, listen to the explanation in the next installment.
The Tang Emperor Keeps Faith and Holds a Great Mass
Guanyin Appears to the Reincarnated Golden Cicada
When the devil officers left the underworld with Liu Quan and his wife, a dark and whirling wind blew them straight to the great capital Chang'an, where Liu Quan's soul was sent to the Golden Pavilion and Li Cuilian's to an inner courtyard of the palace, where Princess Yuying could be seen walking slowing beside some moss under the shade of some blossoming trees. Suddenly the devil officers struck her full in the chest and knocked her over; they snatched the soul from her living body and put Li Cuilian's soul into the body in its place. With that they returned to the underworld.
When the palace serving-women saw her drop dead they rushed to the throne hall to report to the three empresses that Her Royal Highness the Princess had dropped dead. The shocked empresses passed the news on to Taizong who sighed and said, “We can well believe it. When we asked the Ten Lords of Hell if young and old in our palace would all be well, they replied that they would all be well except that our younger sister was going to die suddenly. How true that was.”
He and everyone else in the palace went with great sorrow to look at her lying under the trees, only to see that she was breathing very lightly.
“Don't wail,” the Tang Emperor said, “don't wail; it might alarm her.” Then he raised her head with his own hand and said, “Wake up, sister, wake up.”
All of a sudden the princess sat up and called out, “Don't go so fast, husband. Wait for me.”
“Sister, we're waiting for you here,” said the Emperor.
The princess lifted her head, opened her eyes, and looked at him. “Who are you?” she asked. “How dare you put your hands on us?”
“It's your august brother, royal sister,” replied Taizong.
“I've got nothing to do with august brothers and royal sisters,” said the princess. “My maiden name is Li, and my full name is Li Cuilian. My husband is Liu Quan, and we both come from Junzhou. When I gave a gold hairpin to a monk at the gate three months ago my husband said harsh words to me about leaving the women's quarters and not behaving as a good wife should. It made me so angry and upset that I hanged myself from a beam with a white silk sash, leaving a boy and a girl who cried all night and all day. As my husband was commissioned by the Tang Emperor to go to he underworld to deliver some pumpkins, the Kings of Hell took pity on us and let the two of us come back to life. He went ahead, but I lagged behind. When I tried to catch him up I tripped. You are all quite shameless to be mauling me like this. I don't even know your names.”
“We think that Her Royal Highness is delirious after passing out when she fell,” said Taizong to the palace women. He sent an order to the Medical Academy for some medicinal potions, and helped Yuying into the palace.
When the Tang Emperor was back in his throne-hall, one of his aides came rushing in to report, “Your Majesty, Liu Quan, the man who delivered the pumpkins, is awaiting your summons outside the palace gates.” The startled Taizong immediately sent for Liu Quan, who prostrated himself before the vermilion steps of the throne.
“What happened when you presented the pumpkins?” asked the Tang Emperor.
“Your subject went straight to the Devil Gate with the pumpkins on my head. I was taken to the Senluo Palace where I saw the Ten Kings of Hell, to whom I presented the pumpkins, explaining how very grateful my emperor was. The Kings of Hell were very pleased. They bowed in Your Majesty's honour and said, 'How splendid of the Tang Emperor to be as good as his word.'”
“What did you see in the underworld?” asked the Emperor.
“I did not go very far there so I did not see much. But when the kings asked me where I was from and what I was called, I told them all about how I had volunteered to leave my family and my children to deliver the pumpkins because my wife had hanged herself. They immediately ordered demon officers to bring my wife, and we were reunited outside the Senluo Palace. Meanwhile they inspected the Registers of Births and Deaths and saw that my wife and I were both due to become Immortals, so they sent devil officers to bring us back. I went ahead with my wife following behind, and although I was fortunate enough to come back to life, I don't know where her soul has been put.”
“What did the Kings of Hell say to you about your wife?” asked the astonished Emperor.
“They didn't say anything,” replied Liu Quan, “but I heard a demon officer say, 'As Li Cuilian has been dead for some time her body has decomposed.' To this the Kings of Hell said, 'Li Yuying of the Tang house is due to die today, so we can borrow her body to put Li Cuilian's soul back into.' As I don't know where this Tang house is or where she lives, I haven't been able to go and look for her yet.”
The Tang Emperor, who was now very pleased, said to his officials, “When we were leaving the Kings of Hell, we asked them about our family. They said all its members would be well except for my sister. She collapsed and died under the shade of some blossoming trees, and when we hurried over to support her she came to, shouting 'Don't go so fast, husband. Wait for me.' We thought at the time that she was just talking deliriously after passing out, but when we asked her to tell us more her story tallied precisely with Liu Quan's.”
“If Her Royal Highness died suddenly and came to shortly afterwards talking like this, then it means that Liu Quan's wife must have borrowed her body to come back to life,” said Wei Zheng. “Things like this do happen. The princess should be asked to come out so that we can hear what she says.”
“We have just ordered the Imperial Medical Academy to send some medicine, so we don't know whether it will be possible,” said the Tang Emperor, who then sent a consort into the palace to ask her to come out. The princess, meanwhile, was shouting wildly inside the palace, “I'm taking none of your medicine. This isn't my home. My home is a simple tiled house, not like this jaundiced, yellow place with its flashy doors. Let me out, let me out.”
Four of five women officials and two or three eunuchs appeared while she was shouting and helped her go straight to the throne hall, where the Tang Emperor asked, “Would you recognize your husband if you saw him?”
“What a thing to ask! We've been married since we were children, and I've given him a son and a daughter, so of course I'd recognize him.” The Emperor told his attendants to help her down and she went down from the throne hall. As soon as she saw Liu Quan in front of the white jade steps she seized hold of him.
“Husband!” she exclaimed, “where did you go? Why didn't you wait for me? I tripped over, and all these shameless people surrounded me and shouted at me. Wasn't that shocking?” Although Liu Quan could hear that it was his wife talking, she looked like somebody else, so he did not dare to recognize her as his wife.
“Indeed,” said the Emperor,
“Sometimes mountains collapse and the earth yawns open,
But few men will shorten their lives to die for another.”
As he was a good and wise monarch he gave all of the princess' dressing-cases, clothes and jewelry to Liu Quan as if they were a dowry, presented him with an edict freeing him from labor service for life, and told him to take the princess home with him. Husband and wife thanked him before the steps and returned home very happily. There is a poem to prove it:
Life and death are pre-ordained;
Some have many years, others few.
When Liu Quan came back to the light after taking the pumpkins,
Li Cuilian returned to life in a borrowed body.
After leaving the Emperor the pair went straight back to the city of Junzhou, where they found that their household and their children were all well. There is no need to go into how the two of them publicized their virtue rewarded.
The story turns to Lord Yuchi, who went to Kaifeng in Henan with a hoard of gold and silver for Xiang Liang, who made a living by selling water and dealing in black pots and earthenware vessels with his wife, whose maiden name was Zhang, at the gate of their house. When they made some money they were content to keep enough for their daily expenses, giving the rest as alms to monks or using it to buy paper ingots of gold and silver, which they assigned to various hoards in the underworld and burnt. That was why they were now to be so well rewarded. Although he was only a pious pauper in this world, he owned mountains of jade and gold in the other one. When Lord Yuchi brought them the gold and silver, Mr. and Mrs. Xiang were terrified out of their wits. Apart from his lordship there were also officials from the local government office, and horses and carriages were packed tight outside their humble cottage. The two of them fell to their knees dumbfounded and began to kowtow.
“Please rise,” said Lord Yuchi. “Although I am merely an imperial commissioner, I bring gold and silver from His Majesty to return to you.” Shivering and shaking Xiang Liang replied, “I've lent out no silver or gold, so how could I dare to accept this mysterious wealth?”
“I know that your are a poor man,” said Lord Yuchi, “but you have given monks everything they need and bought paper ingots of gold and silver which you have assigned to the underworld and burnt, thus accumulating large sums of money down there. When His Majesty the Emperor Taizong was dead for three days before returning to life he borrowed one of your hoards of gold and silver down there, which he is now repaying to you in full. Please check it through so that I can go back and report that I have carried out my instructions.” Xiang Liang and his wife just went on bowing to Heaven and refused to take the gold and silver.
“If humble folk like ourselves took all this gold and silver it'd soon be the death of us. Although we have burned some paper and assigned it to various stores, it was a secret. Anyhow, what proof is there that His Majesty-may he live for ten thousand years-borrowed gold and silver down there? We refuse to accept it.”
“The Emperor said that Judge Cui was his guarantor when he borrowed your money, and this can be verified, so please accept it,” replied Lord Yuchi.
“I would sooner die than do so,” said Xiang Liang.
Seeing how earnestly he refused Lord Yuchi had to send a man back with a detailed report to the throne. On reading this report that Xiang Liang had refused to accept the gold and silver, Taizong said, “He really is a pious old fellow.” He sent orders to Yuchi Jingde that he was to build a temple in his name, erect a shrine to him, and invite monks to do good deeds on his behalf: this would be as good as paying him back the gold and silver. On the day this decree reached him Yuchi Jingde turned towards the palace to thank the Emperor, and read it aloud for all to hear. Then he bought fifty mu of land at a place inside the city that would not be in the way from either the civil or the military point of view, and here work was begun on a monastery to be called The Imperially Founded Xiang Quo Monastery. To its left was erected a shrine to Mr. and Mrs. Xiang with an inscribed tablet that read “Built under the supervision of Lord Yuchi.” This is the present Great Xiang Guo Monastery.
When he was informed that work had been completed Taizong was very pleased, and assembling the multitude of officials he issued a notice summoning monks to come and hold a Great Mass for the rebirth of those lonely souls in the underworld. As the notice traveled throughout the empire the local officials everywhere recommended holy and venerable monks to go to Chang'an for the service. By the end of the month many monks had arrived in Chang'an from all over the empire. The Emperor issued a decree ordering Fu Yi, the Deputy Annalist, to select some venerable monks to perform Buddhist ceremonies. On hearing this command Fu Yi sent up a memorial requesting a ban on the building of pagodas and saying that there was no Buddha. It read:
By the Law of the West there are no distinctions between ruler and subject or between father and son; the Three Paths and the Six Roads are used to deceive the foolish; past sins are chased away to filch future blessings; and Sanskrit prayers are recited in attempts to avoid retribution. Now birth, death and the length of life are in fact decided by nature; and punishments, virtue, power and blessings come from the lord of men. But these days vulgar believers distort the truth and say that they all come from Buddha. In the time of the Five Emperors and Three Kings of antiquity this Buddha did not exist, yet rulers were enlightened, subjects were loyal, and prosperity lasted for many a long year. When foreign gods were first established in the time of Emperor Ming of the Han Dynasty, sramanas from the West began to propagate their religion. This is in reality a foreign encroachment on China, and it does not merit belief.
When he had heard this read to him Taizong tossed it to his other officials for debate. The minister Xiao Yu stepped forward from the ranks, kowtowed and said, “The Buddha's law has flourished for several dynasties, and by spreading good and preventing evil it gives unseen help to the state; there is no reason why it would be abolished. Buddha was a sage. Those who deny sages are lawless. I request that he be severely punished.” Fu Yi argued with Xiao Yu, pointing out that correct behavior was derived from serving one's parents and one's sovereign, whereas the Buddha turned his back on his parents, resisting the Son of Heaven although he was but a commoner, and rebelling against his mother and father with the body that they gave him. Xiao Yu had not been born in an empty mulberry tree, but he honoured a religion that denied fathers; this indeed proved that he who had no sense of filial piety denied his father.
All Xiao Yu did was to put his hands together and say, “Hell must have been made for men such as him.” Taizong sent for the High Chamberlain Zhang Daoyuan and the Head of the Secretariat Zhang Shiheng to ask them how effectively Buddhist ritual obtained blessings.
“The Buddha dwells in purity, benevolence and mercy,” the two officers replied, “and the True Result is Buddha-emptiness. Emperor Wu of the Northern Zhou Dynasty placed the Three Teachings in an order. The Chan Master Dahui wrote a poem in praise of the distant and mysterious. If the masses support monks, anything can happen. The Five Patriarchs came down to their mothers' wombs, and Bodhidharma appeared. From remotest antiquity everyone has said that the Three Teachings are highly venerable and cannot be destroyed or abolished. We humbly beg Your Majesty to give us his perceptive ruling.”
“Your submission makes sense,” said the delighted Taizong. “If anyone else makes further comments, he will be punished.” He then ordered Wei Zheng, Xiao Yu and Zhang Daoyuan to invite all the monks and select one of great virtue to be Master of Ceremonies. They all bowed to thank him and withdrew. From then on there was a new law: anyone who injured a monk or slandered the Buddha would lose his arm.
The next day the three court officials assembled all the monks at the altar among rivers and hills, and they went through them all one by one. From among them they chose a venerable and virtuous monk. Do you know who he was?
Fully versed in the basic mystery, his title was Golden Cicada;
But because he did not want to hear the Buddha preach
He transferred to the mortal world to suffer torment,
Was born among the common mortals to fall into the net.
From the moment he entered the womb he met with evil,
Before he left it he encountered a gang of villains.
His father was Top Graduate Chen from Haizhou,
His grandfather a senior imperial commander.
His birth offended the meteor that dropped into the water,
He drifted with the current and followed the waves.
Jinshan Island had a great destiny:
The abbot Qian'an brought him up.
Only at seventeen did he meet his mother,
And go to the capital to find his grandfather.
Commander Yin Kaishan, raising a great army,
Wiped out and punished the bandits at Hongzhou.
Graduate Chen Guangrui escaped from the heavenly net,
And father and son were happily reunited.
Accepting the invitation he receives once more the monarch's grace,
And his fame is spread as he climbs the lofty tower.
Refusing to take office he wants to be a monk,
So as sramana of the Hongfu Temple he learns about the Way,
The child of an ancient Buddha who used to be called Jiangliu,
And took the dharma-name of Chen Xuanzang.
That day the Reverend Xuanzang was chosen from among all the monks. He had been a monk from infancy, and ever since birth he had eaten vegetarian food and observed the prohibitions. His maternal grandfather was an imperial commander, Yin Kaishan. His father Chen Guangrui had come top in the Palace Examination and had been appointed a grand secretary in the Imperial Library. Xuanzang, however, had no interest in honour and glory, and his only joy was to cultivate Nirvana. Investigation revealed that his origins were good and his virtue great; of the thousand sutras and ten thousand holy books there was not a single one that he did not know; he could sing every Buddhist chant and knew all the religious music. The three officials took him to the imperial presence, where they danced and stirred up the dust. When they had bowed they reported, “Your subject Xiao Yu and the rest of us have chosen a venerable monk called Chen Xuanzang in obedience to the imperial decree.”
On hearing his name Taizong thought deeply for a long time and then asked, “Is that the Xuanzang who is the son of Grand Secretary Chen Guangrui?”
“Your subject is he,” replied Xuanzang with a kowtow.
“Then you were indeed well chosen,” said the Emperor with satisfaction. “You are indeed a monk of virtuous conduct of a mind devoted to meditation. I give you the offices of Left Controller of the Clergy, Right Controller of the Clergy, and Hierarch of the Empire.” Xuanzang kowtowed to express his thanks and accepted the appointments. The Emperor then gave him a multicolored golden cassock and a Vairocana miter, telling him to be sure he conscientiously continued to visit enlightened monks, and giving him the position at the top of the hierarchy. He gave him a decree in writing ordering him to go to the Huasheng Temple to pick a propitious day and hour on which to begin the recitations of the scriptures.
Xuanzang bowed, took the decree, and went to the Huasheng Temple where he assembled many monks, had meditation benches made, prepared for the mass, and chose the music. He selected a total of twelve hundred high and humble monks of enlightenment, who he divided into an upper, a middle and a lower hall. All the holy objects were neatly arranged before all the Buddhas. The third day of the ninth month of that year was chosen an auspicious day on which to start the seven times seven days of the Great Land and Water Mass. This was all reported to the throne, and at the appointed time Taizong, the high civil and military officials, and the royal family went to the service to burn incense and listen to the preaching. There is a poem to prove it that goes:
At the dragon assembly in the thirteenth year of Zhen Guan
The Emperor called a great meeting to talk about the scriptures.
At the assembly they began to expound the unfathomable law,
While clouds glowed above the great shrine.
The Emperor in his grace orders the building of a temple;
The Golden Cicada sheds his skin to edify the West.
He spreads the news that rewards for goodness save from ill,
Preaching the doctrine of the three Buddhas of past and future.
In the year jisi, the thirteenth of Zhen Guan, on the day jiaxu, the third of the ninth month, the Hierarch Chen Xuanzang assembled twelve hundred venerable monks at the Huasheng Temple in the city of Chang'an for a chanting of all the holy scriptures. After morning court was over the Emperor left the throne hall in his dragon and phoenix chariot at the head of a host of civil and military officials and went to the temple to burn incense. What did the imperial chariot look like? Indeed
Propitious vapours filled the sky
That shone with ten thousand beams of sacred light.
A mellow breeze blew softly,
The sunlight was strangely beautiful.
A thousand officials with jade at their belts walked in due order.
The banners of the five guards are drawn up on either side.
Holding golden gourds,
They stand in pairs;
Lamps of purple gauze,
Make majestic clouds.
Dragons fly and phoenixes dance,
Ospreys and eagles soar.
True is the enlightened Son of Heaven,
Good are his just and loyal ministers.
This age of prosperity surpasses the time of Shun and Yu;
The eternal peace he has given outdoes that of Yao and Tang.
Under a parasol with curved handle
The dragon robe sweeps in,
Interlocking jade rings,
Coloured phoenix fans,
Shimmer with a magic glow.
Pearl crowns and belts of jade,
Gold seals on purple cords.
A thousand regiments of soldiers protect the imperial chariot,
Two lines of generals carry the royal chair.
Bathed and reverent, the Emperor comes to worship the Buddha,
Submitting to the True Achievement as he joyfully burns incense.
When the carriage of the Tang Emperor reached the temple, orders were given to stop the music as he descended from the vehicle and went at the head of his officials to bow to the Buddha and burn incense. When he had done this three times he looked up and saw what a magnificent assembly it was:
When the banners danced
The sky shook with the clouds of silk;
When the canopies flew
The sun gleamed as the red lightning flashed.
Perfect the image of the statue of the Honoured One,
Mighty the grandeur of the Arhats' countenances.
Magic flowers in a vase,
Censers burning sandalwood and laka.
As the fairy flowers stand in vases
Trees like brocade fill the temple with their brightness.
As the censers burn sandalwood and laka
Clouds of incense rise to the azure heaven.
Fresh fruit of the season is piled in vermilion dishes,
Exotic sweets are heaped on the silk-covered tables.
Serried ranks of holy monks intone the surras
To save abandoned souls from suffering.
Taizong and his civil and military officials all burned incense, bowed to the golden body of the Lord Buddha, and paid their respects to the Arhats. The Hierarch Chen Xuanzang then led all the monks to bow to the Emperor, and when this was over they divided into their groups and went to their meditation places while the Hierarch showed the Emperor the notice about the delivery of the lonely ghosts. It read:
“Mysterious is the ultimate virtue, and the Sect of Meditation leads to Nirvana. The purity of the truth is all-knowing; it pervades the Three Regions of the universe. Through its countless changes it controls the Negative and Positive; unbounded are the embodiments of the eternal reality. In considering those forlorn ghosts one should be deeply distressed. At the sacred command of Taizong we have assembled some chosen monks for meditation and preaching. He has opened wide the gates of enlightenment and rowed far the boat of mercy, saving all the beings in the sea of suffering, and delivering those who had long been afflicted by the six ways of existence. They will be led back to the right road and revel in the great chaos; in action and in passivity they will be at one with primal simplicity. For this wonderful cause they are invited to see the purple gates of the pure capital, and through our assembly they will escape from the confines of Hell to climb to the World of Bliss and be free, wandering as they please in the Paradise of the West. As the poem goes:
A burner of incense of longevity,
A few spells to achieve rebirth.
The infinite Law is proclaimed,
The boundless mercy of Heaven is shown.
When sins are all washed away,
The neglected souls leave Hell.
We pray to protect our country;
May it stay at peace and be blessed.”
When he had read this the Tang Emperor's heart was filled with happiness and he said to the monks, “Hold firm to your sincerity and never allow yourselves a moment's slackness in the service of the Buddha. Later on, when the Assembly is over, you will be blessed and we shall richly reward you. You shall certainly not have labored in vain.” The twelve hundred monks all kowtowed to thank him. When the three vegetarian meals for the day were over the Tang Emperor went back to the palace. He was invited to come back to the Grand Assembly to burn incense once more on the seventh day. As evening was now drawing in all the officials went away. It was a fine evening:
A light glow suffused the boundless sky;
A few crows were late in finding their roosts.
Lamps were lit throughout the city as all fell still;
It was just the hour for the monks to enter the trance.
We will omit a description of the night or of how the monks intoned the scriptures when their master took his seat again the next morning.
The Bodhisattva Guanyin from Potaraka Island in the Southern Sea had been long in Chang'an, looking on the Buddha's orders for the man to fetch the scriptures, but she had not yet found anyone really virtuous. Then she heard that Taizong was propagating the True Achievement and selecting venerable monks for a Grand Assembly, and when she saw that the Master of Ceremonies was the monk Jiangliu who was really a Buddha's son came down from the realms of supreme bliss, an elder whom she herself had led into his earthly mother's womb, she was very pleased. She took her disciple Moksa and the treasures that the Buddha had given her out on the street to offer them for sale.
Do you know what these treasures were? There was a precious brocade cassock and-a monastic staff with nine rings. She also had those three golden bands, but she put them away safely for future use; she was only selling the cassock and the staff.
There was a monk in Chang'an city too stupid to be chosen for the service but who nonetheless had some ill-gotten banknotes. When he saw the bald, scabby, barefoot figure wearing a tattered robe-the form the Bodhisattva had taken-offering the cassock of dazzling beauty for sale he went up and asked, “How much d'you want for that cassock, Scabby?”
“The price of the cassock is five thousand ounces of silver and the staff two thousand,” replied the Bodhisattva. The stupid monk roared with laughter.
“You must be a nutcase, Scabby, or else a dope. Those two lousy things wouldn't be worth that much unless they gave you immortality and turned you into a Buddha. No deal. Take'em away.”
Not bothering to argue, the Bodhisattva walked on with Moksa. After they had been going for quite a long time they found themselves in front of the Donghua Gate of the palace, where the minister Xiao Yu happened to be returning home from morning court. Ignoring the crowd of lictors who were shouting to everyone to get out of the way, the Bodhisattva calmly went into the middle of the road with the cassock in her hands and headed straight for the minister. When the minister reined in his horse to look he saw the cassock gleaming richly and sent an attendant to ask its price.
“I want five thousand ounces of silver for the cassock and two thousand for the staff,” said the Bodhisattva.
“What's so good about the cassock to make it worth that much?” asked Xiao Yu.
“On the one hand it is good and on the other it isn't,” replied the Bodhisattva. “On the one hand it has a price and on the other it hasn't.”
“What's good about it and what isn't?” asked the minister.
“Whoever wears this cassock of mine will not sink into the mire, will not fall into Hell, will not be ensnared by evil and will not meet disaster from tiger or wolf: these are its good points. But as for a stupid monk who is greedy and debauched, who takes delight in the sufferings of others, does not eat vegetarian food, and breaks the monastic bans; or a common layman who harms the scriptures and slanders the Buddha-such people have great difficulty even in seeing this cassock of mine: that is its disadvantage.”
“What did you mean by saying that it both has a price and hasn't got one?” asked the minister, continuing his questions.
“Anyone who doesn't obey the Buddha's Law or honour the Three Treasures but still insists on buying the cassock and the staff will have to pay seven thousand ounces for them: in that case they have a price. But if anyone who honors the Three Treasures, takes pleasure in goodness, and believes in our Buddha, wants to have them, then I'll give him the cassock and staff as a gift. In that case they have no price.” Xiao Yu's cheeks coloured, showing that he was a good man, and he dismounted to greet the Bodhisattva.
“Elder of the Great Law,” he said, “forgive me. Our Great Tang Emperor is a true lover of goodness, and every one of the civil and military officials in his court acts piously. This cassock would be just right for the Hierarch, Master Chen Xuanzang, to wear in the Great Land and Water Mass that is now being conducted. You and I shall go into the palace to see His Majesty.”
The Bodhisattva gladly followed him as he turned around and went straight in through the Donghua Gate. The eunuchs reported their arrival, and they were summoned to the throne hall. Xiao Yu led the two scabby monks in, and they stood beneath the steps of the throne.
“What have you come to report, Xiao Yu?” the Emperor asked. Xiao Yu prostrated himself in front of the steps and replied, “When your subject went out through the Donghua Gate I met two monks who were selling a cassock and a staff. It occurred to me that this cassock would be suitable for Master Xuanzang to wear. So I have brought the monks for an audience with Your Majesty.” The delighted Taizong asked how much the cassock cost. Still standing beneath the steps, and not making any gestures of courtesy, the Bodhisattva and Moksa replied, “The cassock costs five thousand ounces of silver, and the staff two thousand.”
“What advantages does the cassock have to make it worth so much?” the Emperor asked. To this the Bodhisattva replied:
Has a strand of dragon cape,
To save from being eaten by the Roc,
And a thread of a stork jacket,
To deliver from mortality and lead to sainthood.
When one sits
Ten thousand spirits come to pay homage;
In all your actions
The Seven Buddhas will be with you.
“This cassock is made of silk reeled from giant ice-worms,
Twisted into yarn by skilful craftsmen,
Woven by fairy beauties,
Finished by goddesses.
The strips of cloth are joined with embroidered seams,
Each piece thick with brocade.
The openwork decoration has a flower pattern
Shimmering with color, shining with jeweled beauty.
The wearer of the cassock is wreathed in red mist,
And when it is taken off, coloured clouds fly.
Its primal light slipped out through the Three Gates of Heaven,
The magic vapour arose before the Five Sacred Peaks.
It is embroidered with layer upon layer of passion-flowers,
And gleams with pearls that shine like stars.
At the four corners are night-shining pearls,
Set at the top is an emerald.
Although it does not completely illuminate the Original Body
It shines with the light of the Eight Treasures.
Is normally kept folded,
And will only be worn by a sage.
When kept folded,
A rainbow shines through its thousand layers of wrapping;
When it is worn by a sage,
It will astonish the heavenly spirits and scare all demons.
On top is an as-you-wish pearl,
A Mani Pearl,
A dust-repelling pearl,
And a wind-calming pearl;
There is also red agate,
And relics of the Buddha.
They steal the white of the moon,
Rival the sun in redness.
Their magic essence fills the sky,
Their auspicious light honors the sage.
Their magic essence fills the sky,
Shining through the gates of Heaven;
Their auspicious light honors the sage,
Illuminating the whole world.
Shining on mountains and rivers,
The essence frightens tigers and leopards;
Illuminating oceans and islands,
The light startles fishes and dragons.
At the side are two rows of gold-plated hooks,
At the neck are loops of whitest jade.”
There is a poem that goes:
“Great are the Three Jewels, and honoured be the Way;
The Four Kinds of Life and Six Paths are all explained.
Whoever knows and teaches the law of Man and Heaven,
Can pass on the lamp of wisdom when he sees his original nature.
It protects the body and makes it a world of gold,
Leaves body and mind pure as an ice-filled jar of jade.
Ever since Buddha made his cassock
No one will ever dare to end the priesthood.”
When the Tang Emperor heard these words spoken in his throne hall he was filled with joy, and he asked another question: “Monk, what is so wonderful about your nine-ringed staff?”
“This staff of mine,” the Bodhisattva replied, “is:
A nine-ringed iron staff inlaid with copper,
A nine-sectioned Immortal's cane to preserve eternal youth.
Held in your hand it's as light as a bone,
As you go down the mountain it brings white clouds.
The Fifth Patriarch took it through the gates of Heaven;
When Lo Bu searched for his mother he used it to smash the gates of Earth.
Untouched by the filth of mortal dust,
It gladly accompanies the godly monk as he climbs the jade mountain.”
The Tang Emperor then ordered that the cassock be unfolded. On examining it from top to bottom he saw that it was indeed a fine article.
“Elder of the Great Law,” he said, “I tell you truthfully that I am now propagating the good word and widely sowing seeds of blessing. At this moment many monks are assembled at the Huasheng Monastery for recitation of the surras. Among them is one monk of outstanding virtue whose Buddha-name is Xuanzang, and we wish to buy those two treasures of yours to give him. So what is your price?”
The Bodhisattva and Moksa put their hands together, intoned the name of the Buddha, and bowed down. “If he really is a virtuous monk,” she said, “I shall give them to him, and I refuse to accept any money for them.” With that she turned and left.
The Emperor immediately told Xiao Yu to stop her as he rose to his feet and called out, “You told us that you wanted five thousand ounces for the cassock and two thousand for the staff, but now that we have said we shall buy them, you refuse to take any money. Are you going to say that I abused my power to seize your things? We would never dream of it. We shall pay the price you asked, and will take no refusal.”
Raising her hand the Bodhisattva said, “I made a vow that I would give them free to anyone who honoured the Three Treasures, delighted in goodness, and believed in our Buddha. Now I have seen that Your Majesty is a good and virtuous respecter of our Buddhist faith, and have heard that there is a monk of virtuous conduct who preaches the Great Law, it is only right that I should offer them to him; I don't want any money for them. I am leaving the things here. Good-bye.” The Tang Emperor was very pleased with the monk's sincerity, and ordered that a large vegetarian banquet be given to thank him in the Imperial Kitchen. This the Bodhisattva refused to accept and went airily off. There is no need to describe how she returned to her hide-out in the local god's temple.
Taizong arranged for a court to be held at midday and sent Wei Zheng with a decree summoning Xuanzang to attend. He found the monastic official assembling the monks as he climbed the rostrum for the chanting of surras and gathas. The moment he heard the decree he came down from the rostrum, tidied his clothes, and went with Wei Zheng to the imperial presence.
“Up till now we have had nothing suitable with which to thank you, Your Grace, for your efforts in acquiring merit. This morning Xiao Yu met two monks who have vowed to give you a precious brocade cassock and a nine-ringed monk's staff. We have therefore sent for you, Master, to come and receive them,” said the Emperor. Xuanzang kowtowed in thanks.
“If you do not reject it, Your Grace, let us see what it looks like on you.” Xuanzang shook it open, draped it across his shoulders, took the staff in his hand, and stood respectfully before the steps of the throne. The monarch and all his ministers were overjoyed. He truly was a son of the Tathagata. Look at him:
How elegant his imposing features;
His Buddha-vestments fit as if they had been made for him.
The glow radiating from them fills Heaven and Earth,
While the colours crystallize in the sky.
Rows of gleaming pearls above and below,
Layers of golden threads joining front and back.
A hood edged with brocade,
Embroidered with ten thousand strange designs.
Patterns of the Eight Treasures hold the threads of the buttons,
While the golden collar is fastened with catches of velvet.
The Buddha-Heavens are set out in order of eminence,
While to left and right are the high and humble stars.
Great is the destiny of Xuanzang Master of the Law,
Who is worthy to accept this gift at present.
He is just like a living Arhat,
Excelling the Enlightened One of the West.
On the monkish staff the nine rings clink,
And richly glows the Vairocana miter.
How true that be is a Buddha's son;
It is no lie that he has surpassed enlightenment.
All the civil and military officials cried out with admiration, and the Emperor was delighted. Telling the Master of the Law to put the cassock on properly and take the staff, he granted him two bands of ceremonial attendants and had a host of officials see him out of the palace and walk with him to his monastery. It was just like the procession for a top graduate in the palace examination. Xuanzang bowed once more to thank the Emperor and then set out, striding majestically along the highway. All the travelling merchants, the shop-keepers, the fashionable young men, the professional scribes, the men and women, young and old, in the city of Chang'an fought to get a look at him and praise him.
“What a splendid Master of the Law,” they said. “He's an Arhat come down to earth, a living Bodhisattva come to see us mortals.” Xuanzang went straight to his monastery, where all the monks left their places of meditation to welcome him. When they saw the cassock he was wearing and the staff in his hand they all said that King Ksitigarbha had come, did homage to him, and stood in attendance to right and left. Ascending the main hall, Xuanzang burned incense and worshipped Buddha, and when he had given an account of the Emperor's grade they all returned to their seats for meditation. Nobody noticed that the red wheel of the sun was now sinking in the West.
As the sun sinks, plants and trees are veiled in mist
While the capital echoes to the bell and drum.
After three chimes of the bell nobody moves:
The streets throughout the city are still.
The monastery gleams with the light of its lamps;
The village is lonely and silent.
The Chan monks enter the trance and repair damaged sutras.
A good way to purify oneself of evil and nourish the true nature.
Time passed in the snap of a finger, and it was time for the special assembly on the seventh day, so Xuanzang wrote a memorial inviting the Tang Emperor to come and burn incense. His reputation for piety had now spread throughout the empire. Taizong therefore led a large number of civil and military officials and his empresses, consorts and their families to the monastery in a procession of carriages to the temple early that morning. Everyone in the city, whether young or old, humble or mighty, went to the temple to hear the preaching.
The Bodhisattva said to Moksa, “Today is a special day of the Great Mass of Land and Water, which will go on from this first seventh day to the seventh seventh day, as is proper. You and I are going to mingle with the crowds for three reasons: to see the service, to see the Golden Cicada enjoying the blessing of wearing our treasure, and to hear what branch of the scriptures he preaches on.” The pair of them went to the temple. They were fated to meet their old acquaintance, just as the Wisdom returned to its own preaching place. When they went inside the monastery they saw that this great and heavenly dynasty surpassed any other in the world; while the Jetavana Monastery and Sravana were no match for this temple. Sacred music sounded clear above the shouting of Buddha names. When the Bodhisattva approached the preaching dais she saw in Xuanzang the likeness of the wise Golden Cicada. As the poem goes:
Pure in every image, free of every speck of dirt,
The great Xuanzang sat on his lofty dais.
The lonely souls who have been delivered come in secret,
While the well-born arrive to hear the law.
Great is his wisdom in choosing suitable methods;
All his life he has opened the doors of the scriptures.
As they watch him preach the infinite Law,
The ears of young and old alike are filled with joy.
As Guanyin went to the temple preaching hall
She met an old acquaintance who was no common mortal.
He spoke about every current matter,
And mentioned the achievements of many a mortal era.
The clouds of the Dharma settle over every mountain,
The net of the teaching spreads right across the sky.
If one counts the number of pious thoughts among humans
They are as plentiful as raindrops on red blossom.
On his dais the Master of the Law read through the Sutra to Give Life and Deliver the Dead, discussed the Heavenly Charm to Protect the Country and preached on the Exhortation to Cultivate Merit. The Bodhisattva went up to the dais, hit it, and shouted out at the top of her voice, “Why are you only talking about the doctrine of the Little Vehicle, monk? Can you preach about the Great Vehicle?”
On hearing these questions a delighted Xuanzang leapt down from the preaching dais, bowed to the Bodhisattva, and said, “Venerable teacher, your disciple has sinned grievously in failing to recognize you. We monks who stand before you only preach the law of the Little Vehicle, and we know nothing of the doctrine of the Great Vehicle.”
“That doctrine of the Little Vehicle of yours will never bring the dead to rebirth; it's only good enough for a vulgar sort of enlightenment. Now I have the Three Stores of the Buddha's Law of the Great Vehicle that will raise the dead up to Heaven, deliver sufferers from their torments, and free souls from the eternal coming and going.”
As the Bodhisattva was talking, the Master of Incense, an official who patrolled the temple, made an urgent report to the Tang Emperor that just when the Master of the Law was in the middle of preaching the wonderful Law a pair of scabby itinerant monks had dragged him down and were engaging him in wild argument. The Emperor ordered them to be arrested and brought before him, and a crowd of men hustled the two of them into the rear hall of the monastery.
When they saw Taizong they neither raised their hands in greeting nor bowed, but looked him in the eye and said, “What does Your Majesty want to ask us about.”
Recognizing them, the Emperor asked, “Are you not the monk who gave us the cassock?”
“That's right,” replied the Bodhisattva.
“If you came here to listen to the preaching you should be satisfied with getting something to eat,” said Taizong. “Why did you start ranting at the Master of the Law, disturbing the scripture hall and interfering with our service to the Buddha?”
“That master of yours was only teaching the doctrine of the Little Vehicle, which will never send the dead up to Heaven,” replied the Bodhisattva. “I have the Three Stores of the Buddha's Law of the Great Vehicle, which can save the dead, deliver from suffering, and ensure that the body will live for ever without coming to harm.” Showing no signs of anger, Taizong earnestly asked where the Buddha's Law of the Great Vehicle was.
“It is in the Thunder Monastery in the land of India in the West, where our Buddha lives,” the Bodhisattva replied, “and it can untie the knots of all injustice and save the innocent from disaster.”
“Can you remember it?” the Emperor asked, and the Bodhisattva answered “Yes.” Taizong then gave orders that this Master of the Law was to be taken to the dais and invited to preach.
The Bodhisattva and Moksa flew up to the dais, then soared into the sky on magic clouds. She appeared in her own form as the deliverer from suffering, holding a twig of willow in a vase, and Moksa stood beside her as Huian, holding a stick and bristling with energy. The Tang Emperor was so happy that he bowed to Heaven, while his civil and military officials all fell to their knees and burned incense. Everyone in the temple-monks, nuns, clerics, lay people, scholars, workmen and merchants-all bowed down and prayed, “Good Bodhisattva, good Bodhisattva.” There is a description of her appearance:
The sacred radiance shines around her,
The holy light protects her Dharma body.
In the glory of the highest Heaven
Appears a female Immortal.
Wore on her head
Marvellous pearl tassels
With golden clasps,
Set with turquoise,
And gleaming golden.
She wore on her body
A plain blue robe with flying phoenixes,
Patterned with running water,
On which curled golden dragons.
Before her breast hung
Jade-set circlet full of fragrance.
Around her waist was
A skirt of embroidery and brocade from the Jade Pool
Made from the silk of ice-silkworms,
With golden seams,
That rode on coloured clouds.
Before her went
A white and yellow red-beaked parrot,