Myths and Legends of China

Page: 146

Perils by the Way

It is natural to expect that numberless exciting adventures should befall such an interesting quartette, and indeed the Hsi yu chi, which contains a hundred chapters, is full of them. The pilgrims encountered eighty difficulties on the journey out and one on the journey home. The following examples are characteristic of the rest.

The Grove of Cypress-trees

The travellers were making their way westward through shining waters and over green hills, where they found endless luxuriance of vegetation and flowers of all colours in profusion. But the way was long and lonely, and as darkness came on without any sign of habitation the Priest said: “Where shall we find a resting-place for the night?” The Monkey replied: “My Master, he who has left home and become a priest must dine on the wind and lodge on the water, lie down under the moon Page 342and sleep in the forest; everywhere is his home; why then ask where shall we rest?” But Pa-chieh, who was the bearer of the pilgrim’s baggage, was not satisfied with this reply, and tried to get his load transferred to the horse, but was silenced when told that the latter’s sole duty was to carry the Master.

However, the Monkey gave Pai Ma a blow with his rod, causing him to start forward at a great pace, and in a few minutes from the brow of a hill Hsüan Chuang espied in the distance a grove of cypress-trees, beneath the shade of which was a large enclosure. This seemed a suitable place to pass the night, so they made toward it, and as they approached observed in the enclosure a spacious and luxurious establishment. There being no indications that the place was then inhabited, the Monkey made his way inside.

A Proposal of Marriage

He was met by a lady of charming appearance, who came out of an inner room, and said: “Who is this that ventures to intrude upon a widow’s household?” The situation was embarrassing, but the lady proved to be most affable, welcomed them all very heartily, told them how she became a widow and had been left in possession of riches in abundance, and that she had three daughters, Truth, Love, and Pity by name. She then proceeded to make a proposal of marriage, not only on behalf of herself, but of her three daughters as well. They were four men, and here were four women; she had mountain lands for fruit-trees, dry lands for grain, flooded fields for rice—more than five thousand acres of each; horses, oxen, sheep, pigs innumerable; sixty or seventy farmsteads; granaries choked with grain; storehouses full Page 343of silks and satins; gold and silver enough to last several lifetimes however extravagantly they lived. Why should the four travellers not finish their journey there, and be happy ever afterward? The temptation was great, especially as the three daughters were ladies of surpassing beauty as well as adepts at needlework and embroidery, well read, and able to sing sweetly.

But Hsüan Chuang sat as if listening to frogs after rain, unmoved except by anger that she should attempt to divert him from his heavenly purpose, and in the end the lady retired in a rage, slamming the door behind her.