Myths and Legends of China
Sun Hou-tzŭ Captured
These numerous misdeeds aroused the indignation of all the gods and goddesses. Accusations poured in upon Page 331Yü Huang, and he ordered the Four Gods of the Heavens and their chief generals to bring Sun to him. The armies laid siege to Hua-kuo Shan, a net was spread in the heavens, fantastic battles took place, but the resistance of the enemy was as strenuous and obstinate as before.
Lao Chün and Êrh-lang, nephew of Yü Huang, then appeared on the scene. Sun’s warriors resisted gallantly, but the forces of Heaven were too much for them, and at length they were overcome. At this juncture Sun changed his form, and in spite of the net in the sky managed to find a way out. In vain search was made everywhere, until Li T’ien-wang, by the help of his devil-finding mirror, detected the quarry and informed Êrh-lang, who rushed off in pursuit. Lao Chün hurled his magic ring on to the head of the fugitive, who stumbled and fell. Quick as lightning, the celestial dog, T’ien Kou, who was in Êrh-lang’s service, threw himself on him, bit him in the calf, and caused him to stumble afresh. This was the end of the fight. Sun, surrounded on all sides, was seized and chained. The battle was won.
Sun escapes from Lao Chün’s Furnace
The celestial armies now raised the siege, and returned to their quarters. But a new and unexpected difficulty arose. Yü Huang condemned the criminal to death, but when they went to carry out the sentence the executioners learned that he was invulnerable; swords, iron, fire, even lightning, could make no impression on his skin. Yü Huang, alarmed, asked Lao Chün the reason of this. The latter replied that there was nothing surprising about it, seeing that the knave had eaten the peaches of life in the garden of Heaven and the pills of immortality Page 332which he had composed. “Hand him over to me,” he added. “I will distil him in my furnace of the Eight Trigrams, and extract from his composition the elements which render him immortal.”
Yü Huang ordered that the prisoner be handed over, and in the sight of all he was shut up in Lao Chün’s alchemical furnace, which for forty-nine days was heated white-hot. But at an unguarded moment Sun lifted the lid, emerged in a rage, seized his magic staff, and threatened to destroy Heaven and exterminate its inhabitants. Yü Huang, at the end of his resources, summoned Buddha, who came and addressed Sun as follows: “Why do you wish to possess yourself of the Kingdom of the Heavens?”
“Have I not power enough to be the God of Heaven?” was the arrogant reply.
“What qualifications have you?” asked Buddha. “Enumerate them.”
“My qualifications are innumerable,” replied Sun. “I am invulnerable, I am immortal, I can change myself into seventy-two different forms, I can ride on the clouds of Heaven and pass through the air at will, with one leap I can traverse a hundred and eight thousand li.”
“Well,” replied Buddha, “have a match with me; I wager that in one leap you cannot even jump out of the palm of my hand. If you succeed I will bestow upon you the sovereignty of Heaven.”
Sun rose into space, flew like lightning in the great vastness, and reached the confines of Heaven, opposite the five great red pillars which are the boundaries of Page 333the created universe. On one of them he wrote his name, as irrefutable evidence that he could reach this extreme limit; this done, he returned triumphant to demand of Buddha the coveted inheritance.
“But, wretch,” said Buddha, “you never went out of my hand!”
“How is that?” rejoined Sun. “I went as far as the pillars of Heaven, and even took the precaution of writing my name on one of them as proof in case of need.”
“Look then at the words you have written,” said Buddha, lifting a finger on which Sun read with stupefaction his name as he had inscribed it.
Buddha then seized Sun, transported him out of Heaven, and changed his five fingers into the five elements, metal, wood, water, fire, and earth, which instantly formed five high mountains contiguous to each other. The mountains were called Wu Hsing Shan, and Buddha shut Sun up in them.