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Myths and Legends of China

Page: 140

The Birth of the Monkey

The Birth of the Monkey

Beyond the seas, in the Eastern continent, in the kingdom of Ao-lai, is the mountain Hua-kuo Shan. Page 327On the steep sides of this mountain there is a rocky point 36 feet 5 inches high and 24 feet in circumference. At the very top an egg formed, and, fructified by the breath of the wind, gave birth to a stone monkey. The newly-born saluted the four points of the horizon; from his eyes shone golden streaks of lightning, which filled the palace of the North Pole Star with light. This light subsided as soon as he was able to take nourishment.

“To-day,” said Yü Huang to himself, “I am going to complete the wonderful diversity of the beings engendered by Heaven and earth. This monkey will skip and gambol to the highest peaks of mountains, jump about in the waters, and, eating the fruit of the trees, will be the companion of the gibbon and the crane. Like the deer he will pass his nights on the mountain slopes, and during the day will be seen leaping on their summits or in their caverns. That will be the finest ornament of all for the mountains!”

The creature’s exploits soon caused him to be proclaimed king of the monkeys. He then began to try to find some means of becoming immortal. After travelling for eighteen years by land and sea he met the Immortal P’u-t’i Tsu-shih on the mountain Ling-t’ai-fang-ts’un. During his travels the monkey had gradually acquired human attributes; his face remained always as it had been originally, but dressed in human apparel he began to be civilized. His new master gave him the family name of Sun, and personal name of Wu-k’ung, ‘Discoverer of Secrets.’ He taught him how to fly through the air, and to change into seventy-two different forms. With one leap he could cover 108,000 li (about 36,000 miles). Page 328

A Rod of Iron

Sun, after his return to Hua-kuo Shan, slew the demon Hun-shih Mo-wang, who had been molesting the monkeys during his long absence. Then he organized his subjects into a regular army, 47,000 all told. Thus the peace of the simian kingdom was assured. As for himself, he could not find a weapon to suit him, and went to consult Ao Kuang, the Lung Wang, or Dragon-king of the Eastern Sea, about it. It was from him that he obtained the formidable rod of iron, formerly planted in the ocean-bed by the Great Yü (Yü Wang) to regulate the level of the waters. He pulled it out, and modified it to suit his tastes. The two extremities he bound round with gold bands, and on it engraved the words: ‘Gold-bound Wand of my Desires.’ This magic weapon could accommodate itself to all his wishes; being able to assume the most incredible proportions or to reduce itself to the form of the finest of needles, which he kept hidden in his ear. He terrorized the Four Kings of the sea, and dressed himself at their expense. The neighbouring kings allied themselves with him. A splendid banquet with copious libations of wine sealed the alliance of friendship with the seven kings; but alas! Sun had partaken so liberally that when he was seeing his guests off, no sooner had he taken a few steps than he fell into a drunken sleep. The undertakers of Yen Wang, the King of the Hells, to whom Lung Wang had accused him as the disturber of his watery kingdom, seized his soul, put chains round its neck, and led it down to the infernal regions. Sun awoke in front of the gate of the kingdom of the dead, broke his fetters, killed his two custodians, and, armed with his magic staff, penetrated into the realm of Yen Wang, where he Page 329threatened to carry out general destruction. He called to the ten infernal gods to bring him the Register of the Living and the Dead, tore out with his own hand the page on which were written his name and those of his monkey subjects, and then told the King of the Hells that he was no longer subject to the laws of death. Yen Wang yielded, though with bad grace, and Sun returned triumphant from his expedition beyond the tomb.

Before long Sun’s escapades came to the knowledge of Yü Huang. Ao Kuang and Yen Wang each sent deputies to the Master of Heaven, who took note of the double accusation, and sent T’ai-po Chin-hsing to summon before him this disturber of the heavenly peace.


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