JOURNEY TO THE WEST THE ADVENTURES OF THE MONKEY KING

Foreword

Journey to the West: The Total Novel

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This new edition of Journey to the West fills a gap as enormous as the novel itself, since we are talking about a classic of universal literature that, until very recent times, has remained unknown to Spanish readers.

The matter is even more serious if we take into account that the Monkey King, one of the protagonists of the narrative, is in China a character as popular as Don Quixote and Sancho Panza can be among us: neither less nor more. And when literary characters reach that absolute form of fame it is because they are capable, by themselves, of representing an entire culture and even of including in their logical and mythological mechanics fundamental keys to interpret that same culture.

For the rest, Journey to the West is the profusely detailed recreation of the myth of Xuanzang (Hsüan-Tsang): the monk who set out for India in search of the true Buddhist texts. It is an evidently initiatory journey (for the characters who star in it and for the reader who follows them), marked by all kinds of interior and exterior catastrophes, and in which three disciples accompany them. The Monkey King is one of them. He possesses magical powers that allow him to carry out seventy-two transformations of his appearance and is able to «identify demons in the blink of an eye», as the Chinese often say, from the first emperor to the times of Mao They have specialized in identifying demons of all kinds and classifying them, following mental operations not so different from those used by the fortunate Emanuel Swedenborg to classify angelic populations. In China the demons formed a veritable multitude. In specific terms, this is a belief very far removed from our culture, but not in general terms, since in the gospels Jesus Christ himself makes several references to the «multitude» of demons that can assault careless souls. These are, clearly, different demons but they have in common their disturbing and possessive nature.

Like other great narratives of the Middle Kingdom, Journey to the West is a creation of the Ming period, the most glorious of Chinese novels, and it is at the same time the work of an entire people, like the Chinese wall and like the empire itself, in which many creators intervened, until it crystallized as a narrative full of meaning and perfectly structured in the 16th century, thanks to the probable intervention of the writer Wu Chengen, who gave it a powerful structure. In that and other aspects it is a creation similar to that carried out by archaic Greece with the Iliad and the Odyssey until its definitive fixation in Homer.

But its relationship with the two Greek epics is only partial since, as a narration in

Yes, Journey to the West is more closely related to two fundamental Western novels: Don Quixote and Tristram Shandy. I am neither talking about a relationship that is only formal nor a relationship that is only substantive; I am talking about a structural relationship that implies a conception of time with which we are no longer very familiar.

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It seems that in Europe everything changed, in the structuring of novels, with the appearance of El Lazarillo de Tormes, which imposes a fundamentally rational narrative configuration, giving the impression that the story is taking place in «time.» real» and precisely for that reason creating an enormous «reality effect».

That this novel is the daughter of the Renaissance should not surprise us, since basically it was the first «age of enlightenment» of Western civilization. But since then the European novel has not been able to detach itself from the «reality effect» that El Lazarillo creates and from the effort to provide the narrative with great coherence, beyond or beyond the story itself, as happens even with Kafka, who It is reason taken to its most absurd extreme.

Far from this structuring of life time and narrative time, Don Quixote achieves, in addition to a reality effect periodically renewed throughout the novel, a relativization of time, not as excessive as in Tristram, but sufficiently broad and elastic enough for the reader to enter a «duration» that is sometimes vaporous and vast, and sometimes lightning-fast and concentrated, which the Western novel only fully recovers in Joyce’s Ulysses .

Well, the narrative time we enter when we start reading Journey to the West is also very relative and at the same time reaches absolute dimensions.

Like all Chinese novels of the same period, such as At the Margins of Water or The Romance of the Three Kingdoms, the narrative progresses slowly and branches out into hundreds of characters from all social classes and all forms of astral and real existence. Borges defined The Dream of the Red Pavilion (another of the great Chinese novels) as a «practically infinite» narrative: in the same way it could be defined Journey to the West. In that sense, they are novels that, rather than entering the time of «reality» and its succession of events (of pragmas) , enter the time of existence and its succession of delays, confusion and repetitions: what Kierkegaard called » the seriousness of existence», which always reveals itself to be tragicomic in nature, as occurs in Journey to the West and as also occurs in the great Western novels already mentioned.

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Trying to impose a broadly narrative and «practically infinite» time on the fragmented and neurotic time of «reality» is an endeavor that among us only the engineer Benet has attempted with Rusty Spears and that is becoming increasingly difficult, also in China, since since the appearance of Lu Xin’s first stories, the Chinese reader discovered the Western-style narrative «rationality» that real and metal very similar to ours. From this perspective, Lu Xin carried out for the Chinese an operation very similar to the one that Mishima perpetrated in Japanese culture: he rationalized and systematized the narrative, introducing Western «time» into it.

But in Journey to the West we are far from that conception of narrative time, because it is not a time that can be seen from the place of the events. It is rather a time conceived from the place of knowledge and its irregular and often erratic breath. And knowing, unlike living, evolves in a time full of

wrinkles, almost in a fractal time, of excessive elasticity, or beyond all measure, following a path that, because it is that of enlightenment, is full of shadows that exceed it, as if following those terrible verses from the first poem of the Tao which comes to say:

Being and non-being arise from the same background,

and that unique background is called darkness.

Darken that darkness,

there is the door of clairvoyance.

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Having said that, let the reader prepare to leave our pragmatic time as soon as he accesses the first chapter of this enormous novel that, partly because it wants to be an image of the World and partly because it is, begins by referring to the origin of the cosmos with almost biblical phrases: «In the beginning there was only Chaos. «Heaven and Earth formed a confused mass, in which everything and nothing intermingled like dirt in water.»

A way of telling the origin that has a lot to do with the verses of the Tao that we have just mentioned. In fact, they seem to be the same reflection, although from different angles, and which in turn are very closely related to Vedic hymns from about a thousand years before Jesus Christ.

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And that the reader also prepares to delve into the mystery of death and life from a depth that is far beyond our systematization of the world, inextricably linked to the Greek spirit that founds us philosophically and that creates the marks that will determine our entire culture. Because the time you are going to enter is neither linear nor circular, it is rather a spiral time, but instead of beginning at the heart of the spiral itself, it begins at its most open circle, the one that refers to the creation of the entire universe, and then it narrows its communicating rings until it stops at the beings, or some beings, that populate that vast universe that they would like to decipher, and whose revelations and manifestations they witness in the vast course of the novel, as vast as the great Chinese rivers.

Although if we are to honor the structured excess of Journey to the West, more than a river it tends to seem like an ocean of meanings in which it is not important to get lost a hundred times because what is relevant, as in the poem Itaka by Cavafis, is the journey itself, a journey that has its destination and its direction, but that we often forget due to the fascination that each moment of the journey exerts on us, in its very pure demarcation of its own meaning, which must be absorbed in its absolute dimension of instant in the bosom of time like water in the bosom of waters.

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And after this brief walk through the «unlimited» course of the novel, let us return to its characters and its sources. Inspired by remote Buddhist legends about the travels of Xuanzang and the Yuan and Ming plays based on him, the novel is not alien to the epic tone, although it is an epic so demystifying that it would have to do more with the Greeks than with the Greeks. theory of ironic distancing that writers like Döblin put in vogue in the first half of the last century.

And like that epic by Döblin (which Brecht later imitated), Journey to the West draws a dialectic of light in its fight against all the powers of shadows.

Dialectic implicit in all the protagonists and especially in the Monkey King, in which the Chinese of Mao’s time wanted to see, with the simplicity that characterized them, «the struggle of the people against difficulties as well as their persistent challenge to authority.» feudal». It is difficult to conceive such a brutal and biased appreciation of Journey to the West, although the novel does not at any time hide the antagonisms and antagonisms of Chinese society, the corruption and the darkest and most fundamental cruelty that sustains the objective and objectual world and that in Journey to the West tends to form a mirror relationship with the ghostly world, as well as with the before and after of life, in that abysmal extension of existence that Hinduism and then Buddhism and Taoism developed first, and that It is concretized in the idea of ​​reincarnation.

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To finish, I will talk about the therapeutic virtues of this novel, capable of taking us out of the orthopedic time that we are living in and leading us to an immensely relative, immensely open time, which curiously has more to do with the time that science is discovering right now. that with the linear time that has been shaping the Western novel for a good stretch of its history, and that the new fiction should overcome with more rigor and more splendor than in the interwar period of the last century.

Journey to the West forces us to face the literary fact from dimensions that can be very enriching for today’s authors and readers, since they free them, throughout the happy time of reading, from the world of immediate objectives and reductive and reductionists that characterize our time, for the benefit of a universe saturated with diamonds, in which centuries and centuries of mythology and philosophical and religious speculations, centuries and centuries of meaning and without – meaning, of meaning, are concentrated and dispersed, of lights and shadows, condensing into a novel where, while the immense history of the cosmos is narrated, the trajectory of four fundamental characters is drawn in search of the purest and most lost truths. A novel that includes, in the end, the conquest of immortality and that ends with a priceless description of paradise, where there is no shortage of choruses of grateful beings who have obtained liberation. An end that the novel pursues from the beginning, when it speaks of the original Chaos that will have its mirror in the fundamental chaos of each being, but an end that the narrator is in no hurry to reach, since the truth is always somewhat further away. , like the eyes of the crystal Buddha and like the immanent light of the world, which reigned at the beginning and which will also preside over the end, when the immense set of beads of the universe returns to its original dimension and the chorus at the end of the novel falls silent for excess of plenitude, under a sky full of good omens in which the inner alchemy finds its foundation and destiny, and in which all the modifications of the world find their end, converted into an absolutely transparent substance and absolutely full of its own emptiness.

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I said to finish and I don’t finish, because I wouldn’t want to leave the reader with the idea that we are facing a narrative even more allegorical than The Divine Comedy and absolutely metaphysical. No no. Journey to the West has its initiation dimension and its alchemical dimension, but above all it is a novel of characters and adventures, where all possible narrative registers are put into operation, and presided over by a great sense of humor, which finds its best effects in Pig and the Monkey King. And if it is not first and foremost a novel, perfectly accessible despite its

esotericism, his characters would not be so popular. And it is not in vain that the Monkey King covers all the spaces of Chinese fiction, from the novel, to poetry, from poetry to short stories and opera, and there have been families of actors who for generations and generations have obtained their livelihood thanks to the opera performances in relation to the Monkey King, finally present among us thanks to the translation by Enrique P. Gatón and Imelda Huang – Wang, who make the extraordinary verbal machinery that is set in motion in this prodigious novel that now works in Spanish. you have in your hands, reader.

Jesus Ferrero

Introduction

JOURNEY to the West (Hsi – You Chi) is one of the great monuments of Chinese literature. Its elaborate framework of prose and poetry, in which lyric, epic, satire, philosophy and religion are echoed, turns it into a mosaic that faithfully reflects the motley Eastern universe, whose limits and most peculiar characteristics it once again redefines. in a totally original way. Without such representative characters as Tripitaka, Sun Wu-Kung, Chu Ba-Chie or Sha Wu-Ching, theater, opera, dance, painting and the other artistic manifestations of the Far East would, in effect, lose part of their themes. most recurrent and one of its most representative hermeneutical keys.

That is, precisely, one of the hallmarks of the works that we call classic: becoming a meeting point for a whole series of cultural currents, to which they give a new vitality that makes their permanence over time possible. Without their invaluable contribution, cultures decay and take on that stale air of useless junk that is breathed in many museums. For this not to happen, a resurgence of the imagination is needed that devours the old with its fire and makes it possible for future generations to continue identifying with the brilliance of its light.

Within the Chinese cultural sphere, Hsi – You Chi performed this function with greater force than those four classics unknown in the “Western village”, which are titled Ching – Ping – Mei, The Investiture of the Gods (Feng – Shen Yen – I ), At the Edge of the Water (Shuei – Hu Chuan) and The Romance of the Three Kingdoms (San – Kwo Chi

  • Yi). His preeminence stems, in our opinion, from the fact that he knew how to integrate more perfectly into his pages the postulates of the ideological currents that have contributed most to shaping the Chinese spirit: Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism.

Although it is true that none of its artistic manifestations, no matter how insignificant it may seem, escapes the influence of one or more of these hermeneutical references, in the case in question they intermingle in such a way with the action that the protagonists become into authentic personifications of their postulates, without losing the topical force of fictional individuals. Such an attitude ultimately translates that medieval current, initiated at the beginning of the Suei dynasty (581 – 618) by Emperor Yang – Chien (581 – 604), who considered the three most influential religions (“san”) on an equal footing. – chiao kwei – I») and that found echo in such partisan works of a specific current as the Tao – Tsang, or Taoist Canon.

Therefore, the Japanese critics, led by Tanaka Kenji, are mistaken in wanting to see in the novel we are discussing a modern work, in the sense of

that expresses a rejection of the religious and an affirmation of the human. In fact, the relationship of Hsi – You Chi with these currents of thought – particularly Taoism and Buddhism – goes beyond the mere epistemological framework or a supposed allegorical intentionality, to explain both the structure of the work and the of each of its chapters. To pretend, as Hu – Shr and Lu – Xün did, that it is a mere satirical diversion is to renounce the richness that the text contains, reducing it to a single unidirectional reading. This would, at the same time, dispense with one of the key explanations for its success and influence over the centuries.

I. Taoist influence

Without going to the extremes of Chen Yüan – Chr, Chen Shr – Ping or Cheng Shu – Chen, who, at the end of the Ming dynasty (1368 – 1644) and the beginning of the Ching (1644 – 1911), stated that the work was not It was more than a guide to internal alchemy («nei – dan»), influenced by the teachings of the I Ching and the theories of yin and yang, it is necessary to highlight the strong Taoist and Buddhist flavor that permeates each of its pages. This can be seen in the very name of the protagonists, a detail of capital importance, if we take into account that proper names designate essential qualities of individuals and that, therefore, tend to change throughout their lives. . This explains the onomastic abundance enjoyed by characters of certain relevance.

Chen Hsüan-Tsang, the monk whose pilgrimage to India in search of sacred writings the novel describes, is also known as Tripitaka and San-Tsang. This last name has both a Buddhist and Taoist meaning. In accordance with the first, the name would allude to his function as a Pilgrim in search of Buddhist texts, since it literally means «three collections of writings.» According to the second, it would refer to Taoist anthropology, since it designates the three constituent elements of the human being: the «ching» (or essence), the «chi» (or vital energy), and the «shen» (or spirit). ).

In its strictest sense, «ching» refers to sperm and vaginal secretions, which, like «chi» (vital energy produced by the lungs, heart, spleen, liver and kidneys), must be preserved inside the body and maintain a perfect balance among themselves. Regarding the «shen», it must be said that from very ancient times the Chinese believed in the existence of two different types of souls: the «huen», which came from the ether and returned to it when death occurred, and the «phe», which had its origin in the earth and returned to it at the time of death. Due to astrological influence, starting in the Han dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD) three different kinds of “huen” and seven “phe” were established.

a) The inner alchemy

If the name of the teacher is significant, those of the disciples are no less significant. Due to their status as such, they all have the surname of the first, Sun, although throughout the narrative one continues to be called Chu («pig», due to his unmistakable appearance as such) and another Sha («sand», in clear allusion to the place where he accepts the teaching of the monk Pilgrim). The patronymic Sun refers to the doctrine of the «sacred embryo» («shen – tai»), a term used by practitioners of internal alchemy to designate the last stage of the process that leads to immortality.

The expression is closely related to «chi», which, in addition to the meaning outlined above, refers to the inner breathing of someone who has achieved the ideal balance between the basic components of their being. That enables the

recovery of the respiratory mode that it had in the womb, thereby acquiring a state of perennial regeneration and continuous beginning of life. With this, the expression, so often repeated in the text, of taking the yin to feed the yang, “tsai – yin pu – yang” becomes a reality.

Given the connection of these two principles with the great internal organs, what is actually stated is a profound relationship between the processes of internal alchemy («nei – dan») and the lunar phases, interpreted in the light of the trigrams and hexagrams of the I Ching. This relationship was established by the alchemists Ching – Fang (77 – 37 BC) and Yü – Fan (164 – 233) and was later developed during the 3rd and 4th centuries in works such as Tsan – Tung – Chr, by Wei Bai – Yang, Hsi – Tse – Chuan, Meng – Hsi and Chiao

  • Gen, and Yüan – Chiang Tse Er – min Pian, by Wang Ching – Shen.

There is no doubt that both Sun Wu-Kung, Chu Ba-Chie and Bonzo Sha are beings who have achieved immortality by putting into practice the principles of internal alchemy, but it should not be forgotten either that, due to negligence prior to their encounter with the master Tripitaka, have been subjected to different punishments, from which they will regenerate thanks to the journey they then begin. The whole enterprise is, therefore, a step from “hsiou – Tao” (or “perfection of the Tao”) to “hsiou – hsin” (or “perfection of the heart”). With this, its participants are required to rethink their acquired immortality and an unavoidable return to the moral principles that made it possible.

b) The doctrine of the «Five Phases»

If these points are relevant when it comes to knowing the exact nature of the company and its characters, the identification of each one of them with the constitutive elements of everything that exists («wu – hsing»: fire, air, earth, wood and water), to understand their mode of action, as well as the tensions that exist between them and the development of the novel itself.

This personification is not gratuitous, but is clear from chapter titles such as XXXII, XL, XLVII and LII. In them she explicitly identifies Wu-Kung with metal, Wu-Neng with wood and Wu-Ching with earth. The adjective “mother” that sometimes precedes them is due to the intimate relationship that exists between each of these “Five Phases” (“wu – hsing”). None of them can exist, in effect, without the help of the one that precedes it, but, at the same time, all of them can be destroyed by the one that follows them. Wood, for example, arises from water, but can be destroyed by fire, which it feeds and which, in turn, can be suffocated by water.

This highlights the unity that must reign between the protagonists – it must not be forgotten that both the horse-dragon and Tripitaka assume the personality of the two remaining «hsing», as well as the tremendous tensions that arise throughout the Pilgrimage and that come to endanger the success of the company, particularly those described in chapters XXX, XXXI, XL and LVII.

In light of this doctrine, the battles and encounters with monsters, which make up the main body of the work, also find a justification, beyond the number of tests to which the master must submit due to his lack of attention to a reincarnation. previous. Weapons («shen – ping») are, in fact, a constitutive part of the immortal’s being, as clearly seen in Feng – Shen Yen – I, since with them they can «tame tigers and dominate dragons», a euphemism used to name the processes of internal alchemy.

The higher the perfection of the Tao reached, the more wonderful and powerful will be the weapon wielded by the immortal, since it is, in reality, an extension of

his intimate «ching». Thus, one understands the uniqueness of the «pleasant bar with the ends of gold», of which Wu-Kung, personification of the metal «hsing», feels so proud, for having served Emperor Yü to set the limits to the sea. and to the remaining aqueous masses.

The bravado that precedes the battle, far from constituting a mere psychological resource to undermine the security of the opponents, is, in reality, a declaration of the level of «hsiou – Tao» achieved by each of the combatants. Hence, Wu-Kung makes use of all the resources at his disposal, some of them tremendously fun and ingenious, to gain the “shen – ping” of his adversaries. Such a gesture supposes the appropriation of all the potential of his spirit, with which his personal degree of perfection is substantially increased and his merit becomes progressively as great as the guilt that gave rise to the punishment of he.

It may be repugnant to the Western mentality that battles so bloody that they end up with the brains of the defeated scattered on the ground are an expression of a sublime spirituality, but the truth is that the confrontation itself is born, not from the desire to solve through weapons of any conflict, but of the imperative need to continue advancing along the path («tao») of perfection. That is something that the princes of chapter LXXXVIII, the most critical of all, do not understand at first either, because the three followers of Tripitaka lose their weapons at the hands of a thief monster.

c) Structuring of the chapters

Such an event does not constitute an anecdote within the long tradition of the «Chi – kwai» (or «chronicles of the marvelous»), but rather a confirmation that the development of the action, the relationships of the protagonists and the very structure of the chapters depend, to a large extent, on the Taoist vision that underlies the entire work.

The chapters present, in fact, a structure that maintains points of coincidence with those of the other monumental novels of the same period, but they have their own peculiarities derived from Taoism. The influence of the principles of that school can be seen even in the titles. In addition to their typical function of synthesis of what is going to happen in each of them, they offer a Taoist interpretation of those same events, which, in a quick reading, do not seem to want to exceed the limits of pure entertainment. In fact, there is no lack of explicit references to the divine root, to the morality of the Tao, to the return to the origins as a means of spiritual perfection, to the Eight Trigrams, to the Five Phases, to the «monkey of the mind», to the predatory character of the senses (a concept as typical of Buddhism as of Taoism, as can be seen from the writings of Chuang-Tse), to the «horse of the will», to the Great Immortal, to the dependence and tension existing between each of the «wu – hsing», to the rapport between yin and yang, to the rectification of the mind as a means of achieving immortality, to the distorting nature of intelligence, to the difficulties of remaining inactive at all times, to the constant search for perfection, to the distance from the origins produced by submission to passions, to the nature of the «mother wood», to the ontological weakness of everything that exists, to the sacred embryo, to the defeat of the mind at the hands of the fire, to the Three Pure Ones, to the joint action of «metal» and «wood», to the nutrition of yin by yang, to the return to one’s own way of being, to the source of the different elixirs of immortality…

This brief enumeration constitutes in itself a catalog of the topics that most concerned Taoism. However, where the Taoist meaning of apparently trivial anecdotes is best appreciated is in the poems that open the chapters, they articulate, –

throughout their development – ​​events that are taking place in different scenarios, and conclude them immediately before the repetitive formulas of connection between them.

The action is structured around these little poems. It could not be any other way, since, deep down, these are authentic hermeneutical keys, which reveal the profound meaning hidden behind the most trivial of the vicissitudes to which the Pilgrims are subjected. Most of the time his interpretation is disconcerting, but that is one of the many resources that the author uses to keep interest alive and harmonize, with a clear dramatic sense, the philosophical and the humanistic. Their importance is such that they are highlighted in the text with introductory expressions such as «we have an explanatory poem for all this, which affirms», «according to the poem» and other similar ones.

Its explanation contrasts with the silence with which the other poems that appear in the work are presented, despite being much more numerous and offering greater compositional variety. They cover, in fact, all the traditional poetic modes, without missing examples of «chüe – chü» (compositions of four verses of five or seven syllables), nor of «lü – shr» (stanzas of eight five-syllable or seven-syllable lines), nor «pai»

  • lü» (poems of great length and single rhyme), nor of «tsu» (poems of irregular length and marked lyrical content), nor of «fu» (rhymed prose).

As in the other great works of Chinese novels, these poems are mixed with prose, showing a clear influence of ancient theatrical forms and the proselytizing methods of the Buddhist «pien – wen» (small rhymed compositions that express in verse doctrines previously expounded in prose). Its functions range from the description of scenarios of certain relevance to the action to the enumeration of unforeseen consequences of apparently trivial events, through the singling out of transcendent moments within the plot, the verification of both physical and moral characteristics of the characters, and the allusion to events that will take place in subsequent chapters.

Due to its eminently descriptive nature, and given the impossibility of preserving the rhythms of Chinese in Spanish, we have chosen to translate them into prose, without overlooking the author’s good poetic work. In it the verses of such outstanding poets as Yü – Liang (289 – 340), Yüan – Hung (328 – 376), Tao – Chie (367 – 427), Kwo – Pu, Wang – Wei (701 – 761) resonate strongly. ), Li – Bai (701 – 762), Du – Fu (712 – 780), Li – She, Hao – Yü (768 – 824), Xia – Tao, Lin He – Ching (967 – 1028), Lu Ding – Bei (1037 – 1101), Chin – Kwang (1049 – 1100), Lu Dung – Bai (1086

  • 1102), Hsin Chi – Chr (1140 – 1207), Yüan Hao – Wen (1190 – 1257) and others that are difficult to identify in the text.

d) Zoomorphism of the protagonists

Such a rich literary background should not make us lose the Taoist thread that weaves the entire plot together. In fact, the identification of the main characters with the Five Phases explains, in our opinion, why a popular religious hero like Tripitaka is accompanied on his long journey by some animal figures, who end up subtracting him, particularly Sun Wu-Kung, the first of his disciples, all protagonism. This is one of the points most studied by specialists, without a conclusive explanation being reached until now, due, perhaps, to a profound lack of knowledge of popular beliefs.

In the poetic narrative of the Sung dynasty (960 – 1280) Da – Tang San – Tsang Chü – chin Shr – hua the figure of a monkey disciple who helps the master to

continue with your efforts. In the same 13th century the poet Liou Ke – Chuang (1187

  • 1269) even alludes to the need for this to be the case, but does not explain the reasons for such a statement. Neither do the texts from the beginning of the Tang (618 – 907) and Ming (1368 – 1644) dynasties, which speak of a white monkey endowed with extraordinary powers, nor do those who have wanted to see a precedent for Sun Wu-Kung in divinity. aquatic Wu Chr – Chi, or in certain characters of the Ramayana, or in some of the animal followers of Mu – Lian.

Although it is likely that the author of the novel knew some of these figures – the aquatic god is mentioned, in fact, in chapter LXVI, while the texts found in Tun-Huang confirm the penetration of the Ramayana characters into China. – , from reading the text itself we cannot deduce a significant influence of these fictional beings on the development of the protagonists of the novel or their characteristic way of acting. The explanation must be sought, in our view, both in the identification of the protagonists with each of the «wu – hsing», and in the close relationship they have with the principles of internal alchemy.

According to the Nei – dan Huan – yüan Chüe (Formula for the internal elixir to return to the origins), the metal is related to the secretion (“chi”) of the lungs, the wood with that of the liver, and the earth with the of the spleen. On the other hand, from the combination of the celestial sections («tian – kan») and the terrestrial divisions («di – chr») it is deduced that the metal phase corresponds to the «shen» or monkey time, the wood phase is the “hsi” hour, or the pig hour, and the earth phase is the “wu” hour.

The author has, therefore, taken the zoomorphic symbolism of these hourly measurements to determine the psychological traits of the protagonists and give them a deep taoistic-mystical charge. This explains the surprising necessity that Liou Ke-Chuang attributed to the animal character of Tripitaka’s followers. Without it the novel would lose much of the vividness, originality and humor that have made it so attractive over the centuries. No matter how immortal and powerful Sun Wu-Kung is, practically all of his pranks would be meaningless if, instead of being carried out by a humanized monkey, they were carried out by a Taoist master of unlimited resources. The same could be said of the pig Chu Ba-Chie, since his naivety, his excessive love of food, his strictness and his inveterate tendency to make a fool of himself would combine very poorly with the personality of someone who, in a previous existence, had He had been nothing less than admiral of the celestial fleet.

Without the antics of a monkey capable of mastering seventy-two different forms of metamorphosis and the stubbornness of a pig whose only hope is to always have a full belly, Journey to the West would be nothing more than a grim treatise on inner alchemy preserved in some random collection. thanks to the collecting zeal of some learned emperor. Thus, it would have lost that attraction that has made it possible to read it for centuries, until it became one of the indisputable classics of humanity, although, to tell the truth, its strength comes not so much from its undeniable humorous vein, but from the serious ideological basis that supports it.

    1. Buddhist influence

If Journey to the West has resisted the vicissitudes that have shaken Chinese society from the advent of the Ching (1644 – 1911) to the present day, it has been, in effect, due to the vitality of the two currents of thought that permeate each of its pages. If Taoism had been the preserve of alchemists and idle researchers of the exoteric, and not a force that contributed to creating that universe that we know as Chinese culture, the novel would be a simple entertainment long forgotten.

a long time.

The same must be stated of Buddhism. Without it, the enterprise carried out by our heroes would be completely meaningless, since their efforts lie precisely in the achievement of the sacred texts of that religious current.

a) The historical Tripitaka

It is not, therefore, circumstantial that the entire work is full of references to the Buddhist classics, particularly to the Heart Sutra with which the historical Tripitaka had a close relationship, as can be seen from a careful reading of chapter xix. This is of capital importance, since from its first lines it states that «form is identical to emptiness and emptiness does not differ from form.» Precisely the name of the Pilgrim, Wu-Kung, means «he who opens his eyes to the void», thereby signifying both the unreality of the phenomenal, and the lack of ontological consistency of everything that exists.

Thus, the «sunya», «sunyata» and «maya» principles of the Yogacara school, to which Chen Hsüan-Tsang, the historical Tripitaka, belonged, are followed. In reality, he presented an elitist vision of salvation, since he stated that not all men were capable of achieving the Buddha state. These principles were set forth in the Mahayana – samparigraha Sastra (Shr – Da – Cheng Luen), which the young Hsüan-Tsang had studied, together with the Nirvana Sutra (Nie – pan Ching), at the Pure Land Monastery of Loyang. .

Both texts actually express a contrasting vision of enlightenment, since the latter not only affirmed the possibility of all men reaching the state of «Buddha», but established that, once entering «nirvana», The believer still retained his old self. The desire to resolve such a distressing contradiction was, precisely, what moved the monk Hsüan-Tsang to begin the long journey towards India, since he was convinced that the answer was found in the Yogacarya – bhumi Sastra (Yü – Chia Sr – di Luen ).

This reveals the intellectual concerns of a man who, having been born in Henan around the year 596 into a family of officials, knew the Confucian classics perfectly at the early age of eight and embraced the state at thirteen. monastic, influenced by the fervor of his brother. Together they traveled from Loyang to Chang-An, moved by a desire to deepen their knowledge of the sacred texts, many of which had been translated by Chu Shr – Hsing (3rd century), Fa – Hsien, Huei – Gen (363 – 443), Dharmakshema of Pei – Liang (5th century) and a group of Buddhists from the Yüan – Chian era (424 – 453).

The times in which Hsüan-Tsang lived were among the most influential in all of Chinese history, as they coincided with the Suei dynasty (581 – 618) and the initial years of the Tang dynasty (618 – 907). In such a short period of time, the reunification of China was achieved, the unification of its economic life, the reestablishment of a certain cultural homogeneity and the resurgence of traditional religious currents. Although the three main exponents of the latter were considered equally, the advent of the Suei dynasty meant a strong consolidation of Buddhism, since during the reign of Emperor Yang – Chien (581 – 604) countless temples were built, The proselytizing work of the monks was facilitated and the number of converts increased considerably.

In this atmosphere of intellectual and religious effervescence, Hsüan-Tsang decided to undertake the dangerous journey to India, but Emperor Tai-Chung (627 – 649), who had just come to power, denied him permission to travel for security reasons.

leave their territory. The young monk dreams, however, that he crosses the ocean riding a lotus flower and that a sacred breeze carries him to the very summit of Mount Sumeru, where Indra has established his paradise. This led him to secretly leave his homeland towards the end of the year 627, disguised as a merchant in a caravan that traveled the western route, passing through such representative places as Turfan, Darashar, Tashkent, Samarkand, Bactria, Kapisa and Kashmir.

After four years of painful Pilgrimage, he finally arrives at the kingdom of Magadha, where he dedicates himself, for nearly five years, to the study of sacred texts in the company of the old master Silabhadra, or Chie – Hsien, as he is known among the Chinese. After sixteen years in which, according to legend, he converted all kinds of criminals with his burning word, he decided to return to China with a total of six hundred and fifty-seven Buddhist texts, but not before requesting the forgiveness of Emperor Tai. Chung.

The meeting between both characters took place in Loyang in the first months of the year 645. Admired by his profound knowledge of geography, politics and economics, the emperor offered him an advantageous position as an official, which he promptly rejected to retire to the Hung-Fu monastery. and later that of Tse – En. There he dedicated himself, during the eighteen years that he still had left to his life, to the translation of the texts that he himself had procured, leaving behind a work that included the Chinese version of seventy-four at his death, which occurred in the year 644. fundamental texts of Buddhism, the treatise titled Cheng Wei – Shr Luen and a list of the peculiarities of the lands that he once traveled titled Da-Tang Hsi Yü-Chi. Tang Tai-Chung himself wrote his famous Shen-Chiao Hsü as a prologue to the translation of the Yogacarya – bhumi Sastra, a version of which is offered in the last chapter of the novel.

b) Structuring of the work

It is not the only case, since in chapter xxiii there is a very clear reference to Wen – shu Shr – Li Wen – ching, in which the advantages of renunciation of the family («chu – chia») over its acceptance are discussed. (“tsai – chia”). As if that were not enough, the allusions to the Buddhist vision of reality are constant throughout the entire novel. In fact, there is no lack in its pages of explicit mentions of its anthropology, its morality, its philosophy, its legends, its eschatology and its religious demands. It could not be otherwise in a work whose protagonists are four monks determined to suffer all kinds of calamities to obtain the most representative texts of Buddhism.

The connection is, however, much deeper than what that simple anecdote might imply. The very structure of the novel depends, in fact, on the essential themes of religious Buddhism, that is, the merciful power of Buddha, the need to accumulate merits to achieve enlightenment and the demand to make life a continuous return to Buddha. , in order to escape reincarnatory determinism.

The five thematic parts that we can distinguish in the work are effectively structured around these central ideas: the first would cover chapters I to VII, which narrate the birth of Sun Wu-Kung, his efforts to achieve immortality, his antics in the Heavens, his confrontation with the celestial armies, his definitive defeat at the hands of Buddha and his confinement in the roots of the Mountain of the Five Phases.

The second would include chapter VIII, in which Buddha declares his intention to bring his doctrine to the distant lands of the East, the journey of Kuang Shr – Ing in that direction and the choice of the four beings who will accompany the teacher to throughout his very difficult undertaking.

The third would extend from chapter ix to xii, which deal with the birth of Hsüan-Tsang, the revenge of the murderers of his parents, the journey of the Tang Emperor Tai-Chung to hell, his determination to help the hungry spirits. , the appearance of the Bodhisattva Kwang-Ing and the commission given to Tripitaka to obtain the sacred texts.

The fourth would cover chapters to the former disciple of Sakyamuni.

The last one, finally, would cover from chapter xviii to c, which relate the culmination of the trip, the meeting of the Pilgrims with Buddha, their return to China with the scriptures and their ascension to the Buddhist pantheon.

The first, second and third parts highlight the great mercy of Buddha. At first, attention may be drawn to the disproportion between the guilt and the penalties imposed on future Pilgrims, which, to our current sensitivity, seem more like a product of cruelty than of unlimited tenderness. It is enough, however, to compare the inflexible determination of the Taoist divinities with the open nature of Buddha’s decisions to understand their merciful meaning. At the base of the journey there is, in fact, a feeling of compassion towards the inhabitants of the Eastern Lands, which moves Tathagata to select a Pilgrim and carefully choose the disciples who will make the final success of the enterprise possible.

It is at this starting point where the patina of profound mercy that covers the first eight chapters is best appreciated. All the protagonists, without exception, are beings who have committed crimes worthy of eternal punishment, given their enviable status as immortals. His reprehensible behavior reveals a disconcerting fact that all religions have confirmed: the closer one is to the peaks of perfection, the higher the probability that he will end up becoming an exponent of evil. There is no religious tradition in which the disturbing figure of fallen angels does not exist, beings who, having enjoyed an enviable perfection, will never be able to escape the terrible punishment to which their sole negligence led them.

In light of this inflexible condemnation, we must consider the second chance given to Wu-Kung, Wu-Ching and even Tripitaka himself. Sun Wu-Kung is fully aware of the uniqueness of such an unexpected proposal. That’s why he soon becomes the company’s staunchest defender, constantly lifting the spirits of his colleagues and bringing out, with his proverbial good humor, the best in his complex personalities. His fidelity to the master is based, then, on that awareness of the merciful power of Buddha, which extends even to many of the monsters he is forced to defeat.

The figure of Kwang Shr – Ing is, in this sense, paradigmatic. A staunch defender of life and compassionate to extremes unimaginable in other eastern deities, she not only comes to the aid of the Pilgrims when they request her intervention, but also listens to the cries of the monsters that originally opposed them. .

c) Merits and enlightenment

This, in some way, contributes to increasing the merits of the ancient immortals who have fallen into disgrace, since submission must be added to success on the battlefield.

of his adversaries to the postulates of perfection of Buddhism. Such important events take place throughout the fourth part of the novel, the longest of all, since it covers no less than seventy-six chapters.

In them the teacher goes through the eighty-one tests that have been imposed on him for his unforgivable failure to fall asleep, in a previous reincarnation, during a doctrinal session of Sakyamuni, and the disciples gather those merits that will make their definitive regeneration possible. .

Although it is true that this attitude reflects the scheme of the stories of «nobles fallen from grace» («kuei – tan liou – lei – tan»), with its well-differentiated sections of defeat, exile and glorious return, the definitive explanation must be find it in the very postulates of Buddhism. The passive and somewhat lackluster character of the master may be surprising, but the truth is that, due to his monastic condition and his deep knowledge of the mystical-moral postulates of Taoism, he is not allowed to yearn for anything, not even the achievement of the enviable nirvanic state. . As soon as he surrendered, in fact, to the slightest desire, he would fall into the shifting lands of imperfection and his steps would be insufficient to leave the mud.

The disciples, on the contrary, are free, thanks to their condition of immortals in a regenerative process, from those demands of mystical impassibility and can extend to the teacher, due to the deep ties that bind them to him, the merits that their constant efforts.

In them we can appreciate, at the same time, that characteristic of social repercussion that Buddhism attributes to every virtuous act, with the aim, precisely, of escaping that unavoidable requirement of passive inactivity. The epic battles of the Pilgrims with the monsters always have, directly or indirectly, positive consequences for the beings who lived under their despotic rule. Its variety ranges from the liberation of defenseless creatures to the opening of a path through the mountain range or the solution of a terrible drought.

What is done, in reality, with this constant emphasis on the demands of Buddhist morality is to provide a social counterpoint to the marked Taoist individualism. Indeed, the idea that the entire universe is locked inside the body inevitably leads to the denial of the «other» along the path that leads to perfection. The need for a master has an absolutely transitory character, which will conclude with the establishment of the new immortal in a mountainous territory, to which only his servants and soldiers will have access.

As can be seen in all the chapters that make up this very long fourth part, these imps are nothing more than an extension of the personality of the monster they serve. In fact, when it disappears, they become as helpless as little animals in the forest, which they are, in reality, in many cases. This shared personality is possessed even by the very servants of the Beautiful King of the Monkeys, who appear invincible when he is present, and fall into a deplorable state of slavery when they decide to follow in the uncertain footsteps of another master.

d) The return to Buddha

This ontological fragility finds a certain solution in the emphasis that Buddhist morality places on the maturation of goodness («kusalamula») and on the accumulation of merits that impact the well-being of others («puyam – karati» or «chia – kuo»). ). This social projection is of capital importance, since it avoids submission to the tyranny of desire in the practice of good and represents a foretaste of the believer’s entry into the community of all the «buddhas», «wan – Fuo».

What is required of him, therefore, is a life of continuous return to Buddha, something that the Pilgrims achieve in the last part of the book. It represents, in reality, a culmination of the four sections that precede it, therefore, without that basic attitude of «using the mind to question the mind» («i – hsin wen – hsin») or that other complementary one of «dominating the mind». monkey of the mind and the horse of the will», the Mountain of the Spirit could never be accessed.

Such a very important event takes place in the last three chapters of the work, which constitute a reaffirmation of the merciful power of Buddha, since the Pilgrims not only achieve the remission of their former guilt, but also reach a state of glory much higher than that which they possessed. so. Ba-Chie’s protests are nothing more than an expression of his naive and unstable character, which continues to dominate him after he has achieved the Buddha state. This attitude, which carries a very clear allusion to the postulates of the Nirvana Sutra, is a new confirmation that, although everything that exists is covered in emptiness and nothingness, everything can become a vehicle of illumination and a constant return to Buddha.

III. Literary influences

a) Background

The structure of the novel obeys this idea, although the number of its chapters arises from the identification of one hundred with the concept of perfection. It could not be otherwise in a work that came to be known as «The Enlightenment of Buddhism and the Tao of the Sages», in clear contrast to the Tao of the Immortals. Without a doubt, whoever defined it this way had in mind the historical feat of the monk Hsüan-Tsang and the fictional perspectives that such a feat offered.

This must have penetrated the popular imagination very soon, causing it to be told, again and again, in the atriums of the temples and in the dramatic performances that took place on their esplanades during religious festivities. Although we lack concrete evidence about this gestation process, the probabilities that this has occurred are certainly very high, if we take into account that this was the path followed by many other fictional characters.

What we can affirm with complete certainty is that as early as the 10th century we find a brief story about the monk Hsüan-Tsang in a compilation of short stories of a different nature entitled Tai – ping Kuang – chi. From it emerges the early connection between the traveling monk and the Heart Sutra, which is given to him by a saint covered in rags as an effective remedy against the attacks of all types of monsters and ferocious animals, as well as against natural obstacles that could present themselves to you along the way.

Although the narrative lacks the vividness characteristic of oral traditions, the traveling monk’s enterprise must have been one of the people’s favorites, judging by what the poet Ou Yang – Hsiou (1007 – 1072) tells. According to him, in the time of Emperor Shr – Cheng (954 – 959) the Shou – Ling Monastery had been a palace, of which only the paintings that narrated the deeds of the monk Hsüan-Tsang remained, when the forces that overthrew him entered it. to the Chou (905 – 960). Such disconcerting respect in some soldiers thrown headlong into the typical plunder of the victors reflects the veneration that the memory of the teacher aroused among the common people.

The first texts of his feat that have come down to us are the work of the 13th century and are titled Hsin – tiao Da – Tang San – Tsang Fa – shr Chü – ching Chi (New Account of the Procurement of Scriptures carried out by Tripitaka, Master of the

Law of the Great Tang) and Da – Tang San – Tsang Fa – shr Chü – ching Chi (Poetic Narrative of the Procurement of Scriptures by Tripitaka of the Great Tang). As has happened with many antecedents of other Chinese literary monuments, both texts have been preserved for centuries in Japan, specifically in the Kao-Shan monastery, which stands northwest of Kyoto. At the beginning of this century they were brought to light again, immediately attracting the interest of researchers.

Taking into account Japan’s geographical proximity to the continent and its belonging to the same cultural sphere, that nation felt strongly attracted by the extraordinary Chinese literary production. Their desire for novelty led some feudal lords and influential merchants to charter ships with the sole purpose of acquiring the works of fiction that were appearing on the other side of the strait. Commercial contacts were, in fact, very frequent and tended to take place mainly through the southern ports, which have retained, from the beginning of the Suei dynasty to the present day, a strong overseas vocation.

The atmosphere of these maritime enclaves favored cultural exchange, since everything was insufficient to entertain the sailors’ obligatory leisure. The tellers of popular stories made their fortune in the markets and in the atriums of the temples, as did the theater companies, with the invaluable help of music and dance, the same stories that the bards recited. In this way, two parallel currents of the same plot were created, which sometimes had its starting point in a historical fact and other times in anecdotes as old as the ethnic groups that made up the great Chinese anthropological mosaic.

In order for the monumental novels that we know today to crystallize, the contribution of a writer well gifted for synthesis was subsequently required, who would compile all these currents, structure them in a harmonious way and provide them with a unity derived from his own way of conceiving the reality. This explains the choral character of many of these creations. What, for the moment, we are interested in emphasizing is that the fact that the two precedents of Journey to the West mentioned above have been found in a Japanese monastery is no exception .

There are very few thematic differences between them, although the second offers greater literary richness, by mixing prose portions with sections in seven-syllable “chüe – chü” verses. Divided into seventeen parts, the poetic story narrates the eventful journey of the monk Hsüan-Tsang through mythical regions before reaching India, where he obtains a total of five thousand and forty-eight scrolls of writing. With them he returns to the Hsian-Lin monastery. There he has the enormous fortune of receiving the teachings of the Heart Sutra from the lips of the Buddha Dipamkara, which gives him new courage to continue the return journey. He soon reaches Loyang, where the emperor grants him the title of Master Tripitaka.

What really interests us in this primitive version from the 13th century is the introduction of certain themes, which appear more developed in the definitive version: the monkey disciple endowed with extraordinary powers, who at the end reaches the title of Great Sage; the hat, the staff and the alms bowl, which the teacher receives from the hands of the devaraja Mahabrahma; the monkey’s fight with a monster that is, in reality, a skeleton; his victory over a type of albino fur, obtained thanks to the ingenious method of entering its intestines and tearing, without any mercy, its stomach; the meeting of the Pilgrims with a character reminiscent of the Bonzo Shah; his passage through a kingdom of women, where Manjusri and Samantabhadra test the master’s virtue; the theft of the sacred peaches of Wang – Mu – Niang – Niang perpetrated by the monkey; the childish appearance of “ren – sheng” and the misunderstandings that this leads to.

Some of these themes also find an echo in the Yung – le Da – dien, a compilation of literary texts made between the years 1403 and 1408 by order of Emperor Chang – Tse, which includes, due to the very nature of this type of works, materials older than a century. Although only a few fragments are preserved, the almost twelve hundred characters that refer to the «journey to the West» show a surprising resemblance to the content of chapters ix and x of the definitive work. In these, in fact, the sad fate followed by Hsüan-Tsang’s parents and his salvation in the waters of a river are narrated; the discussion about the advantages of different ways of life between a fisherman named Cheng-Shao and a fisherman named Li-Ting; the Dragon King’s disobedience and subsequent condemnation of him; the execution of it by Prime Minister Wei – Chang (580 – 643), when he unexpectedly drifted off to sleep in the middle of a chess game with the Tang Emperor Tai-Chung; the latter’s loss of credibility and his descent into hell.

Although the fragments that have come down to us are insufficient to judge the influence of this antecedent on the final work, the fact that they are grouped around the name Hsi – You Chi is of great interest. This suggests the existence of a work with the same title and content similar to that of the novel we know today, which circulated with notable success in circles of Chinese cultural influence. Although, unfortunately, this supposed text has been lost, we have references to its existence in a popular version of Chinese novels from the 14th and 15th centuries, which is preserved at the University of Seoul and which responds to the title of Pu-tung. Shr Yüan – chie. It includes very clear allusions to chapters XLIV, XLV and XLVI of the definitive novel, as well as descriptions of the many demons that the teacher must face, including Ba-Chie himself. What’s more, the Korean story mentions the great success obtained by that lost Hsi – You Chi, since readers were eager to get hold of the installments that made up the complete work.

It could not be any other way, because, as we have already mentioned before, there were parallel theatrical versions, which fueled, if not created, the desire to read the novel. There are six works written for the stage that have some relationship with Journey to the West. All of them are, however, fragmentary and of dubious origin, except for a twenty-four-act script, belonging to the “tsa – chü” genre, which has the same title as the book. Preserved for centuries in a monastery in Japan, it saw the light of day again in 1927, initially being attributed to Wu Cheng – Ling, of the Yüan dynasty (1280 – 1368), and later to Yang Ching – Hsien.

What is important for our purpose is that the play already contains the most important characters and themes of the novel version, focusing particularly on the tragic death of Hsüan -Tsang’s parents and their subsequent revenge, the imperial commission to go in search of the scriptures, the delivery to the master of the horse – dragon, the protection provided by different deities, the chaos to which the monkey subjects the heavens and his subsequent conversion thanks to the direct intervention of Kwang Shr – Ing, the insatiable hunger of Ba-Chie , his naivety and his irresponsible way of acting.

As we enter the 16th century, a progressive fixation of the themes and characters can be seen, although the length of the different versions varies significantly and there is no unanimity regarding their date of publication or their possible independence. It is worth mentioning, in this regard, the San – Tsang Chu – shen Chüan – chuan (or Complete Biography of San – Tsang), a novel attributed to Yang Chi – He and possibly published at the end of the century in Fijian. It is part of the group of narratives known as «Sz – You Chi» (The Four Journeys), composed of Dung – You Chi (Journey to the East), Nan – You Chi (Journey to the South) and Bei – You Chi (Journey to the South). North). All

These works have in common the number of chapters and the mythological nature of their plot, since they describe the journey of four legendary figures to as many points in space. Another text to take into account is the Tang San – Tsang Hsi – yu Shr – ni Chuan» {Chronicle of the liberation of Tripitaka Tang during his Pilgrimage to the West), whose compilation is attributed to Hou Ding – Chen. Of a similar length to San – Tsang Chu – shen Chüan – chuan, it presents notable coincidences with chapter ix of the monumental version, which narrates the misfortunes that befell the parents of the monk Pilgrim and his subsequent salvation.

The importance of such a sad event is also echoed by the Hsi – You Cheng – Tao Shu (Book of the Journey to the West, or the Enlightenment of the Tao), compiled by Huang Tai – Hung and Wang Hsiang – Hsü, although today it is recognized that its publication was after that of the one hundred chapter version. In all probability it was published in Nanjing in 1592, with its editor Shr De – Tang, its prologue writer Chen Yüan – Chr, and its printer Tang Kuang – Lu. All of them recognize, for obvious reasons, the extraordinary literary virtues of a work that constitutes the final point of a tradition developed between the 7th and 15th centuries in a double theatrical and novelistic version. Both exalted, in a way that was increasingly distant from reality, the traveling exploits of a monk imbued with investigative concerns.

The case is not unique in Chinese novels. On the contrary, practically all of his most significant works have gone through a long period of oral gestation that, over time, has taken the form of writing in two different literary genres. Their influence has necessarily been mutual, since the performances, with their recitations, their songs and their dances, constituted authentic laboratories, in which the reactions of the public were carefully analyzed. The parts that aroused the greatest interest were maintained and even expanded, to the detriment of those that found less echo. The competition between the different companies was very strong and that meant that any new suggestion was received with open arms. The contributions of narrators and playwrights were accepted surprisingly quickly as their own, since the concept of intellectual property was unknown. Plots were, therefore, something that was within reach of anyone, like sunlight or water falling from clouds.

b) Authorship of the novel

Both the learning method used by the writers themselves and the low esteem in which the novel and its creators were held also contributed to this open attitude. The Chinese literary ideal was not based, in effect, on the novelty of the plot or the expressive means used, but on identification with previous models. This posture inevitably led to an exhaustive repetition of the works of the past, in which gross errors and brilliant successes were equally introduced. To the latter we must attribute both the dazzling vitality of Chinese literature and its subsequent decline, since there is, in fact, no greater enemy of the arts than routine.

Fortunately, the author of the definitive version got rid of it, managing to integrate into a work of one hundred chapters the most outstanding themes of a long centuries-old tradition. Taking into account the fragmentary nature of the antecedents that have come down to us, we will never know which contributions are his originals and which are due to the work of the men of letters who preceded him. What we are sure of is his profound literary capacity, since he carried out a very difficult synthesis of extremely diverse materials, which he melted in the crucible of genius.

with the fire of poetry, drama, philosophy and religion.

Despite his recognized mastery, his personality remains a mystery. It could not be otherwise at a time when the novel was considered a mere entertainment for the populace, completely unworthy of the upper classes. Although there are references indicative of the high interest that intellectuals felt in this type of narrative, they publicly continued to affirm the superiority of poetry and historical stories, with their heavy didactic and moralizing burden.

Showing the slightest curiosity about the stories that so delighted the people would have meant authentic intellectual suicide, since the value of the great works of the past was based both on their undeniable aesthetic values ​​and on the prestige of the men of letters who sponsored them. . This was not an attitude exclusive to the literary field, but extended to all the arts. The great pictorial exhibitions became, in fact, spaces in which the great poets, calligraphers and politicians of their time stamped their stamps and their opinions. The signature of a man of prestige was worth much more than the depth of those visions captured on a roll of silk to be meditated on rather than seen. The approval of the simple people who filled the markets and crowded the esplanades of the temples could contribute little to a work of art.

However, to carry out the harmonization of elements as disparate as those that make up the Journey to the West, the contribution of an experienced writer with great expressive capacity was required. Many names have been considered in this regard, but none has aroused such lively interest as that of Wu Cheng-En. Born around the year 1500 in Shan – Yang, a district belonging to Huai prefecture

  • An – Kiangsu – held different positions in the administration, reaching a mid-level position in the finance department in 1544. Ascribed to the «Hou Chi Tse» («The Seven Sages of Late Times») movement, which advocated the imitation of classical models, he was known and respected for his poetic facility, his overflowing good humor and his interest in the fantastic and exoteric.

All these elements are present in each of the pages of the work in question, but their assignment to Wu Cheng-En is based on the imperial compilations after his death, which occurred in 1582. The first to establish that connection between the writer and Hsi – You Chi was the Geographical Dictionary of Huai – An, which was published during the reign of Emperor Tian – Chi (1621 – 1627).

At the end of that same century, the authorship of the novel is again attributed to him in the Cian – ching – tang Shu – mu, a catalog of literary works, although it appears registered in the geographical section and the historical section. Under that same affiliation it is included in a new Geographical Dictionary of Huai – An, compiled in the times of Emperor Kanghsi (1662 – 1722), as well as in the Geographical Dictionary of the Shan – Yang District, compiled, in turn, during the reign of Emperor Tung – Chr (1862 – 1874). These connections were echoed by such prestigious writers as the critic Wu Yü-Chin (1698 – 1773) and the classical literature specialist Ding – Yen (1794 – 1875).

It is surprising, despite all these references, that neither Shr De-Tang, nor Chen Yüan-Chr, nor Tang Kuang-Lu, nor the respected critic Li – Chr not only do not mention their contemporary Wu Cheng – En as the author of the novel, but they explicitly declare that they do not know the name of the writer who wrote it. On the other hand, the work referred to in the Huai-An Geographic Dictionary from the early 17th century could very well be another version of Hsi-You Chi, different from the one we know today. In any case, a reliable hypothesis cannot be ventured until the investigation into the connections between the internal components of the novel and those of Wu Cheng’s writings has been completed – in which they have reached

us. For now, the only thing that can be stated is the probability that the author of the work is, in fact, the writer who died ten years before its publication with the length and structure that we know today.

Suffice it to emphasize that it constitutes the end point of a long tradition that began a thousand years before, which took different expressive forms over time. It constitutes, in this way, a harmonious synthesis of the Chinese ways of doing things from the 7th to the 15th centuries, covering such rich dynasties, literary speaking, as the Suei (581 – 618), the Tang (618 – 907), the Sung ( 960 – 1280), the Yüan (1280 – 1368) and the Ming (1368 – 1644).

What such notable works as The Investiture of the Gods, At the Edge of the Water, Ching Ping Mei and Journey to the West have actually done is to collect the best and most significant of their cultural universe and project it into the future with that strength that only the imagination is capable of giving. Thus they became not only the arrival point, but also the beginning of a new literary vitality, which crystallized in the rich literary production of the Ching dynasty (1644 – 1911). That is why they are part of the heritage of humanity, despite the condemnation of ignorance to which, time and again, Western cultural centralism has subjected them.

ENRIQUE P. GATON AND IMELDA HUANG

Bibliography

EDITIONS OF THE COMPLETE WORK

Hsin – ke guan – ban kuan – chiang da – dhze Hsi – you Chi (New illustrated and printed edition in official type of Journey to the West), edited by Shr De – Tang, Nanjing 1592.

Er – ke guan – ban Tang San – Tsang Hsi – you Chi (Second edition of Tripitaka Tang’s Journey to the West), edited by Chu Chi – Yüan at the beginning of the 17th century.

Li Zhuo – Wu hsian – sheng piping Hsi – you Chi (The Journey to the West commented by Master Li – Zhi), Suchow, around the year 1625.

Hsi – you Chi chen – kuan (The True Meaning of the Journey to the West), edited by Chen Shr – Bin in 1694.

Hsin – shuo Hsi – you Chi (Revised New Journey to the West), prefaced edition by Zhang Shu – Sheng, 1749.

Hsi – you Chi yüan – shr (Original Meaning of the Journey to the West), edited by Liu Yi – Ming, 1810.

Rung – yi Hsi – you Chi cheng – chr (Authentic Sense of the Journey to the West Simplified), edited by Zhang Han – Chang, Dhsin – Tang 1839.

Hsi – you Chi Iong – men hsin – chuan (Recitation of the Journey to the West next to the dragon gate), published around 1904.

Hsi – you Chi (Journey to the West), prefaced by Hu – Shr, Ya – Dung Tu – shu – kuan,

Shanghai 1921.

Hsi – you Chi (Journey to the West), Dhzuo – jia, Beijing 1954.

Hsi – you Chi (Journey to the West), Ren – min Wen – Hsüe, Beijing 1980.

Hsi – you Chi chr – yi (Explanation of the meaning of the Journey to the West), Kwan – Chen Chu – ban – she, Taipei 1976.

Hsi – you Chi (Journey to the West), Ren – min Wen Hsüe, Beijing 1980. Hsin – shuo Hsi – you Chi chr tu – hsiang (New Journey to the West revised and illustrated), Peijing – shr Chung – kuo Shu – dien, Beijing 1985.

TRANSLATIONS IN WESTERN LANGUAGES

  1. Translations of individual chapters

PAVIE, Théodore, Choix de contes et nouvelles. Paris 1839. (Selection from chapters IX and X.)

GILES, Herbert A., A History of Chinese Literature. London 1901. (Selection from chapters VII and XCVIII.)

WIEGER, León, Folklore chinois moderne. He – Kien 1909. (Selection from chapters X to XII.)

SOULIE DE MORANT, Georges, Essai sur la littérature chinoise. Paris 1912. (Selection from chapters X and XI.)

RICHARD Timothy, A Mission to Heaven. Shanghai 1913. (Very free version of the first seven chapters.)

HAYES, Helen M, The Buddhist Pilgrim’s Progress. New York 1930. (Incomplete and very free version.)

Hsu SUNG – NIEN, Anthologie de la littérature chinoise. Paris 1933. (Selection from chapters VI and LXI.)

Ou ITAI, Le Román chinoise. Paris 1933. (Selection from chapter VI.)

KAO, George, Chines Wit and Humour. New York 1946. (Free version of the first seven chapters.)

YANG, Gladys and HSIEN – YI, Pilgrimage to the West. Chines Literature I and V. 1961 and 1966. (Selection from chapters XXVII and LIX.)

HSIA, CT, and BIRCH, Cyril, The Temptation of Saint Pigsy. New York 1972. (Translation of chapter XXIII.)

  1. Incomplete translations

WALEY, Arthur, Monkey, Folk Novel of China. London 1943. (Classical version from which chapters XVI, XVII, XX, XXI, XXIII to XXXVI, XL to XLIII, L to XCVII are missing.)

AVENOL, Louis, Si Yeou Ki ou le Voyage en Occident. Paris 1957. (Version in one hundred

chapters, of which many portions are missing, both in prose and verse.)

HERZFELDT, Johanna, Die Pilgerfahrt nach dem Westen. Rudolstadt 1962. (Version

free that follows the guidelines of Arthur Waley’s translation.)

NOVOTNA, Zdena, The Monkey King. Czech version of which a translation into English was made in 1964. (Intended for young people, it lacks many chapters.)

      1. Complete translations

A. ROGACEV and V. KOLOKOLOV, Putesestvije na zapad. Moscow, 1959. ANTHONY C. YU, The Journey to the West. Chicago – London 1977 – 1983.

WJF JENNER, Journey to the West. Beijing 1982 – 1986.

ANDRE LEVY, La Pérégrination vers l’Ouest. Paris 1991.

BASIC BIBLIOGRAPHY

  1. General scope

BARY, William – Theodore de, Sources of Chinese Tradition. London, 1960.

BODDE, Derk, Festivals in Classical China. Princeton and Hong Kong 1975.

CHOU WEI, Chung – kuo bing – chi – shr – Kao (History of Chinese weapons), Beijing 1957.

EBERHARD, Wolfram, Beitráge zur kosmologischen Spekulation Chinas in der Han – Zeit, in Baessler Archiv 16 (1933).

HERRMAN, Albert, An Historical Atlas of China. Chicago 1966.

HUCKER, Charles O., Governmental Organization of the Ming Dynasty. Harvard 1958.

NEEDHAM, Joseph, Science and Civilization in China. Cambridge 1954 – 1980.

PORKERT, Manfred, The Theoretical Foundations of Chinese Medicine: Systems of

Correspondence. Cambridge, Massachusetts 1974.

SCHAFER, Edward H., Pacing the Void. Tang Approaches to the Stars. Berkeley 1977.

VARIOUS, Chung – yao chr (List of Chinese medicines). Beijing 1959 – 1961.

  1. Buddhist – Taoist sphere

BEAL, Samuel, The life of Hiuen-tsiang. London 1911.

BLOFELD, John, Taoism. The Quest for Immortality. 1979.

CHEN, Kenneth, Buddhism in China. A historical Survey. Princeton 1964.

DESPEUX, Catherine, Les Lectures Alchimiques du Hsi – yu chi. Wuersburg 1973.

ECKE, G. and DEMIÉVILLE, P., The Twin Pagodas of Zayton. Cambridge, Massachusetts 1935.

EÜCHIRO, Ishida, The Kappa Legend. Beijing 1950.

GROUSSET, Rene, In the Footsteps of the Buddha. New York 1971.

HWANG SHENG – FU, Tang – tai Fuo – chiao duei chang – chr chr yin – hsiang (Political influence of Buddhism during the Tang dynasty). Hong Kong 1959.

HWANG CHR-KUNG, Chung – kuo of Shuei – shen (Chinese water spirits). Shanghai 1934.

LIANG CHI – CHAO, Chung – kuo In – du chr Chiao – tung (China-India relations). Taipei 1966.

DE MALLMANN, Marie – Thérése, Introduction a l’etude d’Avalo – kiteq – vara. Paris 1948. REN CHI – TANG, Han Tang Fuo – chiao sz – hsiang luen – chi (Essay on Buddhist thought during the Han and Tang dynasties). Beijing 1963. SUZUKI, DT, Outlines I heard Mahayana Buddhism. New York 1963.

TAI YÜAN – CHANG, Hsien – hsüe tse – dien (Dictionary of the study of immortals).

Taipei 1962.

TANG YUNG – DUNG, Han Wei Liang – Chin Nan – bei Caho Fuo – chiao shr (History of Buddhism during the Han, Wei and Northern and Southern Chin dynasties). Shanghai 1937. VARIOUS, Buddhist and Taoist Influences on Chinese Novels. Wiesbaden 1962. VEITH, Usa, The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine. Berkeley 1974.

WALEY, Arthur, The Real Tripitaka and Other Pieces. London 1952.

WATTERS, Thomas, On Yuan – Chwangs Travel’s in India. New Delhi 1973.

WEINSTEIN, Stanley, Imperial Patronage in the Formation of Tang Buddhism. New Haven 1973.

WELCH, Holmes AND SEIDEL, Anna, Facets of Taoism: Essays in Chinese Religion.

London 1979.

WEN DUNG – TSE, Chung – In Fuo – chia Chiao – tung Shr (History of relations between China and India). Taipei 1968.

WRIGHT, Arthur, Buddhism in Chinese History. Stanford 1959.

-, The Formation of Sui Ideology. Chicago 1957.

-, «Fu – I and the Rejection of Buddhism», in Journal of the History of Ideas XII (1951).

-, «Tang Tai – tsung and Buddhism», in Perspectives on the Tang. London 1973.

  1. Literary scope

BIRCH, Cyril, «Some Formal Characteristics of the hua – pen Story», in Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 17 (1955).

CRUMP, James I., «The Conventions and Craft of Yüan Drama», in Journal of the American oriental Society 91 (1971).

-, «The Elements of Yüan Opera», in Journal of Asian Studies 17 (1958).

CHAO TIEN – CHI, Hsi – you Chi tan – wei (Study of the Journey to the West). Taipei 1983.

CHEN YIN – KE, Hsi – you Chi Hsüan-Tsang di – tse de ku – shr yen – bien (Study of the disciples of Tripitaka during the Journey to the West). Beijing 1930.

CHENG CHEN – DE, Hsi – you Chi de yen – hua (Studies of the Journey to the West). Beijing 1933.

CHENG MING – LI, Hsi – you Chi tan – yuan (Analysis of the Journey to the West). Taipei 1982. DUDBRIDGE, Glen, «The Hsi – yu Chi Monkey and the Fruits of the Lost Ten Years,» in Chinese Studies 6 (1988).

  • The Hsi – yu Chi. A Study of Antecedents to the Sixteenth Century Chinese Novel. Cambridge 1970.
  • «The Hundred – chapter Hsi – yu Chi and its Early Versions», in Asia Major 14 (1969).

EBERHARD, Wolfram, Die Chinesische Novelle des 17 – 19. Ascona 1948.

EOYANG, Eugene, «The Solitary Boat. Images of Self in Chinese Nature Poetry,” in Journal Asian Studies 32 (1973).

FENG YU – LAN, Chung – kuo che – hsüe shr (History of Chinese Philosophy). Hong-Kong 1959.

HANAN, Patrick, The Chinese Short Story. A Critical Theory in Outline. Cambridge, Massachusetts 1973.

-, «The Yün – men Chuan. From Chantefable to Short Story,” in Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 36 (1973).

HSIA, CT, The Classic Chinese Novel. A Critical Introduction. New York 1968.

HSIA, CT and HSIA, TA, New Perspectives on Two Ming Novels. Hsi – yu Chi and Hsi – yu Pu. Madison 1968.

Hsu CHING, “WU Cheng – En nian – bu” (Biography of Wu Cheng – En), in. Ren – min Wen – Hsüe. Beijing 1980.

Hu SHR, Bai – hua Wen – hsüe Shr (History of literature in colloquial language). Shanghai 1928.

-, Hsi – you Chi kao – cheng (Critical study of the Journey to the West). Hong-Kong 1923 and 1962.

HWANG MENG – WEN, Sung – dai bai – hua hsiao – hsuo yen – chiou (Research on the colloquial novel of the Sung dynasty). Singapore 1971.

Koss, Nicholas, The Xiyou Ji in its Formative Stages: The Late Ming editions. Bloomington 1981.

Kuo SHAO – YÜ, Chung – kuo wen – hsüe pi – ping shr (Critical History of Chinese Literature). Shanghai 1947.

LEGGE, James, The Chinese Classics. Taipei.

LEV, Sylvain and CHAVANNES, Edouard, L’itinéraire d’Ou – K’ong. 1985.

LÉVY, André, «On the Question of Authorship in Chinese Traditional Fiction», in Chinese Studies 6 (1988).

Liu HSIOU – YE, WU Cheng – En Shr – wen chi (Relation of the writings of Wu Cheng – En). Beijing 1958.

Liu TSUEN – YANG, “The Prototypes of Monkey”, in Toung Pao 51 (1964).

  • “Taoist Self – cultivation in Ming Thought,” in Selí and Society in Ming Thought, edited by W. Theodore de Bary and the Conference on Ming Thought. New York 1970.

-, «Wu Cheng – En, His life and Career», in Toung Pao 53 (1967).

Lu HSÜN, Chung – kuo hsiao – shuo de Li – shr de bien – chien (Historical Evolution of the Chinese Novel). Hong-Kong 1924 and 1957.

MAIR, Victor H, «Tun – huang Manuscripts and the Kózanji Journey to the West», in Cahiers d’Extreme Asia 3 (1987).

PLACKS, Andrew H. r Allegory in Hung – lou Meng and Hsi – yu Chi. Princeton 1974. PRUSEK, Jaroslav, «The Creative Methods of Chinese Mediaeval Story

Tellers”, in Chinese History and Literature. Dordrecht 1970.

SA MEN – WU, Hsi – you Chi yü chung – kuo ku – dai cheng – chr (The Journey to the West and ancient Chinese politics). Taipei 1969.

SOYMIE, Michel, «Notes d’iconographie chinoise: les acolytes de Ti – tsang», in Arts Asiatiques 16 (1967). VARIOUS, Chung – wen da tse – dien (Great Dictionary of the Chinese Language). Taipei 1973.

  • Chüan Tang Shr (Complete Poetry of the Tang Dynasty). Tainan 1974.
  • Selí and Society in Ming Thought. New York 1970.

WAGNER, Rudolf, The contemporary Chinese Historical Drama. Four Studies.

Berkeley 1990.

WENG TU – CHIEN, “Combined indices to the Authors and Titles of Books in Two Collections of Taoist Literature”, in Harvard – Yenching Institute Sinological Index Series 25 (1935).

YEN TUN – I, Hsi – you Chi he ku – dien hsi – chü de kuan – hsi (Relations between the Journey to the West and ancient theater). Peking 1954. Yü, Anthony C, “Narrative Structure and the Problem of Chapter Nine in the Hsi – you Ch”, in. Journal of Asian Studies 34 (1975).

ZHANG BEI – HENG, Bai – huei – ben Hsi – you Chi shr fou Wu Cheng – En dhzuo – jia (Is Wu Cheng – En the author of the Hundred-Chapter Journey to the West?). Beijing 1983.

ZHANG CHING – ER, Hsi – you Chi ren – wu yen – chiou (Analysis of the characters of Journey to the West). Taipei 1984.

CHAPTER I

EVERYTHING EXISTS HAS ITS ORIGIN IN THE DIVINE ROOT. THE TAO EMERGES DIRECTLY FROM THE VERY SOURCE OF MORALITY

The scripture says:

«In the beginning there was only Chaos. Heaven and Earth formed a confused mass, in which everything and nothing intermingled like dirt in water. A thick fog reigned everywhere that the human eye could never see and which Pan-Ku 1 managed to disperse with his marvelous strength. The pure was then separated from the impure and the supreme goodness appeared, which spreads its blessings over every creature. His world is that of light. Whoever approaches him discovers the path that leads to the kingdom of good. But he who wants to penetrate into the secret of the beginning of everything that exists must read The Chronicle of Origins .

It states that in the kingdom of Heaven and Earth time is divided into periods of one hundred and twenty-nine thousand six hundred years. Each of them is subdivided, in turn, into twelve epochs of ten thousand eight hundred years in duration, which respond to the following names: Dhzu, Chou, Yin, Mao, Chen, Sz, Wu, Wei, Shen, Yu, Hsü and Hai 3. Despite their enormous breadth, all of them have their equivalent in the repetitive cycle of days. Thus, Dhzu corresponds to the early hours of the morning, when the darkness is total and there is still no glimpse of light; the rooster crows at Chou time; to that of

Yin begins to lighten; the sun finally rises to Mao’s; At Chen’s it is fully daylight and the men are preparing to have breakfast; Whoever works has everything planned at Sz time; at Wu’s the sun reaches its zenith; the afternoon begins to decline to that of Wei; at Shen’s the families gather around the table for the evening snack; the sun sets at Yu’s; at that of Hsü the last vestiges of twilight disappear completely; Finally, the people retire to rest at Hai, thus opening the doors to a new cycle. It is the same one that followed the world in its distant and, at the same time, so close origins. In fact, at the end of Hsü’s time Heaven and Earth lay in a state of total confusion, in which nothing and everything intermingled in a way absolutely incomprehensible to us. After five thousand four hundred years of constant darkness, the advent of the time of Ai, also known as Chaos, occurred, because during its rule there were no human beings or any of the two spheres by which we are now governed. Another five thousand four hundred years had to pass for such a dark time to end and the creative forces of light to slowly begin to act. Such a miracle began to occur during the time of Dhzu, but they did it then so timidly that it is not strange that Shao – Kang – Chr 4 stated:

No change took place in the very center of Heaven, when winter came to the regions of Dhzu. The masculine principle was still dormant and nothing that existed had yet come to light.

But when, after another five thousand four hundred years, spring took over the time of Dhzu, the firmament laid down its immovable roots and the light was finally able to form the sun, the moon, the stars and the other celestial bodies. It is not strange, therefore, that it is said that Heaven began to exist in such a numinous time. Another five thousand four hundred years followed, during which the firmament solidified forever. The same thing happened to the land during Chou’s time. Hence it is enthusiastically stated in the I Ching: How wonderful are the masculine and feminine principles! From them, following the command of Heaven, all things finally emerged.

However, another five thousand four hundred years had to pass after the advent of the time of Chou, for certain unnamed materials to condense and thus give rise to the five essential elements: water, fire, metal, wood and earth. Before such an extraordinary era ended, another five thousand four hundred years had to pass, at the end of which the age of Yin dawned and everything we know began to emerge and grow, as if following the voice of an eternal spring. It is not strange, therefore, that the Book of the Computation of Time says: «The celestial number descended and the terrestrial one ascended. Thus, Heaven and Earth were united and from their copulation all things emerged.

At that time, Heaven and Earth were as bright as light itself and each contained within itself the two principles of yin and yang, to whose union everything owes its existence. During the five thousand four hundred years that followed, in fact, beasts, animals and men appeared. In this way, the three forces that govern the destinies of nature were forever established: Heaven, Earth and Man, who, as has been said, saw the light during the miraculous time of Yin.

After Pan-Ku put the entire universe in order, the mandate of the Three Kings ended and the Five Emperors 5 made public their respected moral provisions everywhere, the world was divided into four great continents. The eastern one was named Purvavideha, the western one was Aparagodaniya, the southern one was Jambudvipa, and the southern one was called Jambudvipa.

finally, Uttarakuru to the north. In this book we will only deal, for obvious reasons, with the one located in the east of the world. At the other end of the ocean that lapped its shores was the renowned Ao-Lai nation, very close to which, in the very center of a placid sea of ​​serene waters, rose the famous Mountain of Flowers and Fruits. It had emerged at the very moment of the formation of the world and was now part of a group of ten islets, which over time gave rise to the Three Islands 6. Its beauty was impressive. It is not strange, therefore, that the poet wrote about her:

His majesty competes with the serenity of the ocean itself, as if he were the emperor of the seas. The waves break against his side, like silver mountains that the blow transforms into tiny flakes of snow, throwing the fish against the rocks and waking the sea serpents from their deep sleep. In its southwestern part you can see striking plains full of serenity, while to the east everything is the abruptness of peaks that throw themselves with poorly concealed ferocity into the sea. Those who remain, proud, on dry land, dress, at twilight, in violet tints, which hide their inaccessible stony bravery. At its peaks the phoenixes sing, paired, while at their foot the solitary unicorns rest. Everywhere you hear the cry of pheasants, desperately searching for the caves where dragons live. The entire island is populated by extraordinary animals that are rarely seen elsewhere, such as the long-lived deer, the immortal foxes, the divine owls or the black-plumed storks. In that extraordinary place the grass never withers nor the flowers wither. Spring is eternal there and wherever you look you can see the greenery of cypresses and pines, unconditional allies of life. The peach trees are always in bloom, the vines break under the weight of their own fruit, the grass in the pastures always remains fresh, and the bamboos reach such heights that they sometimes stop the mad rush of the clouds. This is, in truth, the privileged place where Heaven rests and the Earth rests from its many fatigues, a paradise where more than a hundred rivers converge.

At the very summit of that extraordinary mountain there was an immortal rock. It was thirty-six and a half feet tall and had a circumference of just twenty-four feet. Such measures were not coincidental, since they corresponded exactly to the three hundred and sixty-five days of the solar year and the twenty-four hours 7 that mark the daily work of man. He also had nine deep holes and another eight shorter ones, which found their numerical equivalent in the Nine Constellations and the Eight Planets that inhabit the celestial palaces. Although no vegetation grew on it, for a long time it had been fed with the same seeds of Heaven and Earth and the extraordinary force of the sun and moon. Finally, by direct action from above, she became pregnant and a supernatural embryo began to grow inside her. After a long period of gestation, she unexpectedly opened one day and gave birth to a stone egg about the size of a balloon. Exposed to the force of the elements, he transformed into a stone monkey, exactly like the ones we know today. It wasn’t long before she learned to run and climb trees. When she had mastered such difficult techniques to perfection, she bowed, reverently, before the four cardinal points and then the miracle occurred: two very powerful rays came out of her eyes that reached the Palace of the Polar Star itself. His light was so strong that it caught the attention of the Beneficent Lord of Heaven, the divine Jade Emperor, who was meeting with his ministers in the Cloud Palace of the Golden Arches, specifically in the Treasure Room of the Divine Mist. Surprised by its extraordinary brilliance, he ordered Thousand Eyes and Wind Ears to open the South Gate of the Celestial Palace and find out where such a phenomenon came from. The two captains carried out the order without any loss of time and, after carefully analyzing the situation, they returned to his lord’s side and informed her, saying:

– Your unworthy servants have obeyed to the letter the command that you gave

have received and have found out that these very powerful rays come from the Mountain of Flowers and Fruits. That place, as you know, is located in the Ao-Lai region, east of the continent of Purvavideha. In that singular mountain there is an immortal rock that, strangely, has given birth to a stone egg. The most amazing thing, however, is that the elements have acted on him and turned him into a stone monkey. The rays that have bothered you have come precisely from his eyes, because, when bowing before the four cardinal points, they have acquired such vividness that their light has reached the Palace of the Polar Star itself. But don’t worry. The monkey in question has started eating and drinking and will soon lose all his power.

  • I don’t think so – replied the Jade Emperor with merciful complacency -. The creatures of the world that lie at our feet emerged from the copulation of Heaven and Earth and it is natural that from time to time they surprise us with their disconcerting ways of acting.

By then the monkey had learned to walk, run and jump from one place to another. He ate fruits and plants and drank from the many rivers and streams that flowed through the island. He spent most of his time cutting flowers and climbing trees in search of fruit. He soon, however, made friends with the tiger, the lizard, the wolf, the leopard and the deer, although he considered the other species of monkeys to be his true family. At night he slept in caves that he left as soon as the sun emerged over the horizon and the morning began. Time passed slowly, because, as the popular saying goes, «at the top of the peaks the river advances and retreats with such regularity that no one there is really aware of the passing of the years.»

One morning, however, it was so hot that he found no better way to escape the heat than to play with other monkeys in the shade of some pine trees. He then discovered, surprised, how much he resembled them. His way of having fun was practically the same. Some, in fact, jumped from branch to branch in search of fruits, while others spent their time throwing pebbles or throwing small pine cones at each other. Sometimes they would go to the beach and other sandy places and start building strange sand pagodas. It was also not unusual for them to chase dragonflies and run, like crazy, after lizards. They did not forget, however, to bow before Heaven, thus paying their respects to the worthy Buddhas who inhabit it. But that didn’t mean they stopped being unruly animals and they spoiled at will the vines and other trees that grew, lush and exuberant, around them. When they got tired of that, they would lie down on soft beds of grass and start looking for each other for fleas and parasites. When, after much digging through their thick fur, they found one, they ate it greedily or simply killed it with their nails. Others preferred, however, to groom themselves. To do this, they would reach the trunk of a pine tree and rub themselves against it again and again, until the burning disappeared and the feeling of discomfort subsided. What they liked most, despite the danger that this entailed, was playing and chasing each other among the pines. They would have time later to get rid of all the parasites they could pick up in their endless runs through the green waters of the streams. They did so that morning, reaching one of the mountain torrents. Seeing the force of the current and the tumbles that the water made between the rocks, like melons that were constantly shattering against the stones, they were amazed and began to ponder its strange beauty. No one should be surprised that they spoke. If, as the traditional saying goes, «beasts have their language and birds have theirs,» what is so strange about monkeys communicating with each other with words? The monkeys therefore said to each other:

  • Since we don’t know where all this water comes from and today we have nothing to

do, it is best that we trace its course and, thus, discover where its source is located. Don’t you think it will be a great way to pass the time?

Everyone enthusiastically accepted the idea and, shouting loudly for joy, they followed the unknown course of the torrent up the mountain. The monkeys walked in families and soon found its source: an impressive waterfall, the sight of which made them fall silent. It rose in the landscape like a very tall column, from which beautiful rainbows emerged that the wind constantly changed position. Thousands of white waves danced at its base, making one think of truly non-existent breezes and the bravery of unknown lunar rivers. Her brilliance recalled, in effect, that of the lady of the night and slightly dyed white the deep greenery of the landscape in which she was located. The existence of powerful tributaries that fed it was suspected, but the sensation that most dominated anyone who was lucky enough to see it was that of a very beautiful curtain that someone had hung from the clouds themselves. At the sight of such an unexpected miracle, the monkeys began to applaud and exclaim excitedly:

  • Wonderful! What incredible beauty! Its water comes directly from the bosom of the mountain and will flow, without a doubt, into the distant placidity of the Great Ocean. Others added with unshakable certainty:
  • Whoever dares to cross that impressive curtain and return safely to tell us the wonders hidden behind it will be our king. Is there anyone willing to do it?

Nobody responded to such a challenge. They had to throw it into the wind three times before the stone monkey emerged from far behind and shouted in a loud voice:

  • I will do it! I will cross the curtain of water and tell you again what is behind it!

He was a really brave monkey. It is not strange that his fame has been kept alive from generation to generation, until reaching our days, intact. When he launched himself against the column of water, he did so with such arrogant confidence that he looked like a king entering the door of his own palace. He closed his eyes, gained momentum, and jumped across the waterfall. When he felt that no drop was licking his stone body, he opened them again and realized, astonished, that he was standing before a bridge that shone with the same strength as the sun. Incredulous, he approached it with unsteady steps and saw that it was made of iron sheets. The water that flowed under his arch flowed from a hole and disappeared into the distance, perhaps giving birth to the splendid waterfall he had just crossed. With one jump he climbed to the top of the bridge and from there discovered a heavenly place, which, without a doubt, must have been the palace of some important person. It lay amid a faint mist, which gave it a patina that was both reminiscent of the pure blue of the sky and the cold green of jade. Judging by the number of its windows, it must have had countless rooms, although not a single one of its possible inhabitants could be seen. Its walls had been carefully carved with floral motifs, which were repeated, as in a mirror, in the lush garden that surrounded it. He was so cared for that someone had to live in such a splendid mansion. Near the main wall, in fact, there were still live embers of a bonfire, a table full of glasses, bottles, plates, bowls and remains of food, and an unknown number of exquisitely made stone seats. A little further on, a few bamboo clumps grew, behind which one could see the eternal greenery of a group of pine trees and the fragrant beauty of four or five plum trees. Despite its undeniable palatial feel, the place had all the appearance of a home.

The stone monkey looked at him for a long time, not believing what he saw. When he had made sure that it was not a dream, he jumped to the very center of the bridge and, more sure of himself, looked left and right.

right. This is how he discovered a stone inscription that said: «This is the sacred land of the Mountain of Flowers and Fruits, the Celestial Cavern that hides the Water Curtain.»

The stone monkey was overjoyed. He had deciphered the mystery of that extraordinary place and decided to return to tell his brothers. He turned around quickly, closed his eyes again and, gaining momentum, crossed the wall of water once again.

  • How lucky I have been! What a wonderful stroke of luck! – He exclaimed, excited, when he found himself on the other side again.
  • What is on the other side? – the monkeys asked, surrounding him impatiently -. How deep is the water there?
  • Water? – repeated the stone monkey, laughing -. In that world there is hardly any water. I have only seen a bridge made of iron sheets, from which a splendid celestial mansion can be glimpsed.
  • What do you mean by that? – the other monkeys asked again.
  • The water that passes under the bridge I’m talking about – responded the stone monkey, without stopping laughing – flows from a hole in the rock and is so abundant that it completely blinds its arch. On one side of the bridge stands a splendid stone mansion, surrounded by a magnificent garden full of trees and flowers. Next to its main door there are stone tables with all kinds of cooking utensils: ovens, pots, pans, benches, plates… The most amazing thing is that they are made of flint, like the inscription that appears in the very center of the bridge and that It reads: «This is the sacred land of the Mountain of Flowers and Fruits, the Celestial Cavern that hides the Water Curtain.» I think, therefore, that it is the ideal place to stay and live. It is extremely peaceful and of such size that it can accommodate thousands and thousands of beings of all ages and conditions. Let us settle in it and forget forever the vicissitudes to which Heaven has subjected us. There we will protect ourselves from the wind and find shelter from the rain, because in that paradise snow is unknown and never freezes. Everything in it seems to have the shine of gold and even the fog is luminous like the rays of the moon or the very breath of thunder. What is so strange, then, that the flowers never wither and are always as luxuriant as the crests of the pines?
  • If what you say is true, what are we waiting for to enter that world? – exclaimed the other monkeys, exhilarated -. You jump first and lead us to him.

The stone monkey did not take long. He closed his eyes, gained momentum and disappeared behind the curtain of water, shouting:

  • Go ahead, guys! Follow me everyone!

This is what the bravest did. Others, however, backed away, as if they doubted what their new king had told them and did not dare to follow his example. Fortunately, in the end curiosity prevailed over fear and, without stopping shouting and clapping, they also launched themselves into the unknown. They all ended up on top of the bridge, but they didn’t stay there long, because they soon rushed over the stone ovens and plates, rudely fighting over bowls and chairs. It was fortunate that they were made of stone; Otherwise, they would have been reduced to smithereens in a very short time. The hubbub was frankly indescribable and only subsided when the monkeys’ strength failed and they lay down to rest peacefully on the grass. The stone monkey then sat down on the highest place he could find and said to them with a solemn gesture:

  • Gentlemen, as you well know and the saying goes, he who does not enjoy confidence cannot perform any feat. You yourselves agreed not long ago that whoever

If he crossed the curtain of water and crossed it again without suffering any damage, he would be named your king. Well, I have done it not once, but twice and I have even had the delicacy to bring you to live in a place as privileged as this, so that you can enjoy its wonders and raise your families without any problems. How is it possible, then, that you do not kneel before me and pay your respects? Have you forgotten your promise so soon? What kind of monkey is he who does not keep his word?

Upon hearing this, all the monkeys were deeply ashamed and, crossing the

hands on their chest, they humbly prostrated themselves on the ground. They were then

paying their respects one by one, starting with the oldest and ending with

the youngest ones. When they had finished, they bowed reverently before him and

They all shouted together:

– Long live our king!

In this way, the stone monkey was enthroned, which began to be known from that moment on as the Beautiful King of the Monkeys. This is attested to by an ancient poem, which says:

Once everything had emerged from the copulation of Heaven and Earth, a divine rock appeared from the union of the moon and the sun. It soon transformed into an egg, which, as time went by, turned into a splendid monkey. His intelligence was so profound that he managed to penetrate the mystery of the Great Tao and know the secret of the very elixir of life. No one has ever seen the features of his spirit, because he completely lacks form, but his work is known to everyone and has never ceased to be praised everywhere. The memory of him will last from age to age, for he is a wise king whose dominion extends beyond the vague borders of the eternal flow.

Without wasting time the Beautiful King of the Monkeys selected the bravest and most intelligent of his subjects and appointed them ministers and officers. They all accepted these appointments without envy or resentment and began to explore the new world that they had been given the chance to inhabit. His existence could not be more idyllic. In the morning they toured the Mountain of Flowers and Fruits, retiring to rest in the Water Curtain Cavern when night fell and everything lay in darkness. The monkeys lived in perfect harmony, without mixing with other beasts and animals, jealous of their independence and concerned only with their own happiness. During the spring they gathered flowers, fruits during the summer, berries and nuts in the fall, and roots in the winter. What more could they ask for?

The Beautiful King of the Monkeys had been enjoying such a placid existence for three or four hundred years when one day, while attending a banquet surrounded by the other monkeys, he suddenly became so sad that tears began to flow freely down his cheeks. The monkeys approached him, alarmed, and, bowing with more respect than usual, they asked him:

  • Can we know what is happening to you, great sir?
  • Although I must admit that being your owner has brought peace to my spirit – responded the King of the Monkeys – the uncertainty of the future has taken hold of it and planted the seeds of restlessness in my heart.
  • Come on, your majesty! – exclaimed the monkeys, bursting out laughing -. How is it possible that you are not satisfied with the life we ​​lead? We inhabit an immortal mountain, nestled in a sacred land, and at night we rest in a cave that belongs to the gods themselves. Are you not satisfied with the banquets we offer daily in your honor? Even the immortals are envious of our existence. Not even phoenixes or unicorns have any power over us and, what is more important, we have completely escaped the influence of man. That

Can there be a greater blessing than this independence we now enjoy?

How can you say that you care about the future?

  • It is true that we are not subject to human dispositions nor are we the slaves of any animal and that not even old age has any power over us – admitted the King of the Monkeys -. But that does not mean that we have escaped the influence of Yama, the King of Beyond the Grave. What good will it have been for us to live so long if, in the end, we have to die? Don’t you understand that, despite our paradisiacal existence, we are not among the number of immortals?

Upon hearing this, the terrified monkeys raised their hands to their faces and began to cry uncontrollably. The restlessness of their king had also taken over their spirit, tormented by the unbearable thought of their own disappearance. However, when her cries sounded most heartbreaking, one of the lower-ranking monkeys came forward and, bowing before his master, said with chilling conviction:

  • As your gracious majesty knows very well, within the five classes of living beings 9 that exist, there are only three that have managed to escape the tyranny of Yama, the King of Beyond the Grave.
  • Do you know what they are? – the King of the Monkeys asked him, surprised.
  • Of course yes – he replied -. You just have to be a little familiar with religion to know those truths. The only ones who are not subject to death are the Buddhas, the immortals and the sages. Only they have managed to break the iron wheel of transmigration, escaping, once and for all, the infinite series of births and deaths that awaits the rest of us and possessing an existence as long as that of Heaven, Earth, Mountains and Watercourses.
  • Do you know where these extraordinary beings live? – the Monkey King asked again.
  • You don’t have to leave the lands of Jambudvipa to find them – answered the religious monkey -. They live, in fact, in the caverns of the immortal mountains of that distant continent.
  • In that case – concluded the King of the Monkeys, trembling with satisfaction and hope -, tomorrow I will leave this mountain and go in search of you. I will find them, even if I have to travel the entire earth and reach the very ends of the sea. When you have done so, I will remain at your side until you have passed on to me the secret of eternal youth and, thus, I will be forever free from the unbreakable tyranny of King Yama.

His enthusiasm for escaping the nets of transmigration and becoming a great sage in everything similar to Heaven itself took hold of all his subjects, who began to applaud, enthusiastically, while saying to each other:

  • What a wonderful idea our sovereign has had! Tomorrow we will travel from end to end of the mountain, we will collect all the fruits and berries we find and we will give a splendid farewell banquet to our Great King.

As soon as it was dawn, the monkeys set out, in fact, in search of peaches, fruits, aromatic herbs and sweet roots. They also collected orchids, chrysanthemums and all kinds of exotic flowers and decorated the enormous stone table next to the main wall of the mansion with them. It was exactly there where the glittering farewell party took place. The aroma of the wines was confused with that of cherries, red with ripeness and lubricious temptation, and that of plums with fine skin and sweet pulp. Next to him were branches of lechí 10 , some still in bloom; splendid golden pears, reminiscent, in their shape, of the heads of smiling rabbits; beautiful dates, throbbing like freshly plucked chicken hearts; fragrant peaches, sweet like the very elixir of life; strawberries loaded with acidity and sweetness at the same time, which brought to mind the ambiguous flavor of certain cheeses and the buttery

softness of the cream; immense watermelons, loaded with the maiden blush of their pulp and the jet tears of their seeds; very tasty pomegranates, which, once opened, looked like strange beings pregnant with rubies; splendid clusters of grapes, which turned into must as soon as you touched them, drowning thirst and anxiety in their juice, like wine; sun-painted oranges, which competed in luminosity with the yellowish fierceness of walnuts and almonds; All kinds of fruits, seeds and berries filled, in short, the splendid marble table, which extended, with flirtatious gallantry, parallel to the front wall of the house. The good taste of humans cannot boast of anything, compared to what the mischievous mountain monkeys showed off that day.

The king occupied the head of the table, while the others took their seats according to their rank and age. The banquet lasted a whole day. The wine flowed like torrents and all the monkeys took turns serving their sovereign, who at no time showed signs of feeling moderately drunk. The next morning his sobriety was, in fact, absolute. He got up very early, summoned all of his subjects and gave them very precise instructions for the trip, telling them:

  • Cut down some pine trees and build a raft with them. As a pole I will use the longest bamboo pole you can find. You already know that the sea is deep and the journey must last many days. Therefore, you will also have to prepare a large quantity of berries and fruits with which I can feed myself.

When everything was ready, he mounted the raft and, with a powerful stroke of the pole, entered the waters of the immense ocean. The wind helped him in his attempt, blowing strongly towards the southern tip of the continent of Jambudvipa. The poem speaks clearly about his feat, saying:

The monkey who owes his existence to the heights abandoned the mountain where he lived and expertly governed his raft, until he managed to place it in the very hands of the wind. Driven by his strength, he sailed the seas in search of immortality. That longing had taken over his spirit, expelling from him all the worries that cling the rest of us mortals to the spider’s web of existence. Her heart and his mind had been predestined to perform great deeds. For this reason, he now emptied himself of everything and launched himself into the nothingness of the distance in search of the incomprehensible mystery of origins and death.

Luck guided his defeat with a sure gesture. For days he did not stop blowing, in fact, a strong southeast wind that took his raft to the northwest coast, at the very end of the continent of Jambudvipa. Tired of such a long journey, one day he took the pole and, after verifying that the waters were no longer deep, he jumped off the raft and swam vigorously towards the beach. The place was bustling with extraordinary animation. Everywhere you looked you could see busy people. Some were busy fishing; others, hunting wild ducks; who was dedicated to searching for clams, patiently digging in the sand; The one further away made dams, so that the water, when it dried, would leave its residue of salt. Seeing the King of the Monkeys approaching, fierce as a spirit and clumsy as a beast, they abandoned their nets and buckets and ran, terrified, to hide. Only one of them, who was lame and was not afraid of anything, continued in his place, without paying the slightest attention to him. With unusual skill the monkey stripped him of his clothes, leaving him completely naked and putting them on as best he could. It did not take him long to get used to them and, in this way, he was able to go more unnoticed among men, whose customs and ways of life he came to dominate almost perfectly. He toured cities and towns, entered markets and markets, talked with some and made friends with others, rested during the night and filled his belly during the day, but at no time did he forget the Buddhas, the immortals and the wise men, possessors of the secret of eternal youth. This is how he discovered that

Men only ran after profit and fame, without caring at all about the fateful end that awaited them. Not a single one he met ever showed the slightest concern about death, as if it would never happen to him.

How could his quest for fame and fortune never end? The lust for riches and power tyrannized them like a gutless governor, but they gladly offered themselves to their game, getting up early from their beds and returning to them at dusk. To get a single copper coin they didn’t mind getting on their mules and riding for days on end. His greed was without measure. The one who had become prime minister dreamed of being king and the one who had already reached the throne aspired to become a god. Poor unhappy beings, thirsty for recognition and honor, absurdly ignorant of the inevitable call of Yama! Their blindness even forced them to accumulate wealth and fame for their children and grandchildren, as if they would not suffer the same disease. Why did no one escape that madness and stop to think about the implacable end that awaited them?

With such a deplorable attitude around him, it is not surprising that the search for the King of the Monkeys became totally useless. How was he going to find the secret of immortality if no one cared about her? But she was not discouraged. For eight or nine years he did nothing but wander through villages and cross cities, until, finally, he reached the opposite end of the bewildering continent of Jambudvipa. Before him stretched the endless placidity of the Great Western Ocean. It was so immense that he felt the urge to enter its waters, certain that the immortals lived beyond the horizon line. Without wasting time he built a new raft, similar to the one he had used on his previous journey, and jumped, excited, into the waters. After many months of painful navigation, he finally arrived at the distant shores of the continent of Aparagodaniya, located at the western end of the world. But he seemed to be totally uninhabited and his enthusiasm suffered a serious setback. With a tired gesture he entered the dense jungle that extended to the other side of the beach and discovered an impressive mountain, whose crest was lost in the clouds and whose base was firmly anchored in the thick vegetation that covered everything. Its unfading beauty made him regain hope and he set out to conquer its summit, without caring at all about the danger that the wolves, vermin, tigers and panthers that, without a doubt, lived on its slopes, could pose. The King of the Monkeys feared nothing. As he ascended, he discovered a landscape of indescribable beauty and that made him forget about the beasts definitively.

The mountain was, in fact, part of a very wide mountain range, whose peaks rose in the distance, aligned like the spears of an army about to enter battle. In some the sun reverberated, as if they were really made of steel, while others were covered in a thick bluish fog, which made one sense the imminence of torrential rain. However, what identified everyone was the deep green of the impenetrable vegetation that covered them. Its trees, old as the world itself, had their branches intertwined and next to them passed an inextricable network of paths that led nowhere. The pine trees and bamboos numbered in the thousands, providing protective shade to a grass that had grown on that sacred land for thousands of years and to flowers that never stopped opening, without caring at all about the season or time of day. To this we had to add the hidden symphony of the birds, the limpid whisper of the streams, the fresh laughter of the leaves of the trees as they are constantly shaken by the wind. But at the same time, one could feel the silent formation of orchids in the depths of the cliffs and the inaudible ascent of mosses and lichens along the slippery walls of the embankments. The mountain was a deafening song to life and it itself seemed to pulsate, as if

It was part of the body of a gigantic dragon. It had to be the hidden residence of some eminent being.

That’s what the Monkey King thought, at least, when he finally arrived at the summit of such a unique mountain. Panting from the effort, he looked curiously around him and suddenly thought he heard a man’s voice coming from inside the jungle that stretched to the right of him. He launched himself towards her at full speed and, straining his ears, confirmed that he had not made a mistake. With beatific insouciance someone was singing a song, which said:

I am an inveterate chess lover, but what I like most is carrying the ax on my shoulder

  • and walk through the forests. I love the sound of steel butchering fresh wood; However, what really excites me is heading to the entrance of the valley, sweating under the weight of the firewood that I have to exchange for wine to my neighbors. Then I feel so happy that I laugh carelessly, as if, instead of a man, I were nothing more than a child. I don’t care that the approach of winter has painted the roads with frost and the peaks with venerable snow. My world is the forest and in it I unfold the placid monotony of my existence. Lying down looking at the moon, the pine roots serve as a pillow and their earthy hardness gives me such a springy rest that I sleep straight until dawn. Then I ascend, surely, to the plateaus and scale the very high peaks that support them in search of wood for the irresistible strength of my axe. When I have managed to gather enough, I carry it on my shoulders and head, without stopping singing, towards the market, where I exchange it for a few bushels of rice. I never discuss its price, because I do not seek enrichment or self-profit, and honor is as barren to me as the rocks that fall down the torrent when an avalanche occurs. My life has been allied with sobriety, following the path laid out by the immortals and the respectable Taoist masters, who explain The Yellow Court while sitting peacefully on the ground.

When the King of the Monkeys heard it, he was filled with deep joy and said to himself, hopefully:

– So the immortals are hiding in this place! Who could have said it?

He penetrated even further into the forest and thus arrived, unseen, to where the woodcutter was brandishing his axe. The first thing that caught her attention was his strange clothing. The hat on his head was made entirely of freshly cut bamboo leaves and twigs. The skirt that covered his body was made of coarse cotton and a rough belt of undyed silk girded his waist. A pair of straw sandals covered his feet, rough like the roots of ancient trees, which contrasted sharply with the shiny edge of his very heavy axe. On his shoulder he carried a gigantic bundle of firewood, so strikingly voluminous that there was no doubt that the man was one of the best woodsmen in existence. The King of the Monkeys left his hiding place and, raising his voice, said:

  • Hey, immortal, don’t go! I need you to teach me your secret, because death terrifies me and doesn’t let me live in peace.

Immortal me? – Exclaimed the woodcutter, so embarrassed that he dropped the ax and the beam to the ground at the same time. Unhappy me! How can I be an immortal, if I barely have enough to clothe and feed myself?

  • If you are not an immortal, how come you speak the same language? – asked the King of the Monkeys, in turn, surprised.
  • What have I said to make you have such a wrong idea of ​​me? – replied the woodcutter -. As far as I know, my tongue is as coarse as that of the animals around us.
  • Come on. Don’t be so humble – answered the King of the Monkeys -. As soon as I entered the forest, I heard you sing a song that, more or less, ended like this: «My life has been allied with sobriety, following the path laid out by the immortals and the respectable Taoist masters, who explain The Court yellow sitting peacefully on the ground. Everyone knows that this book contains the secrets of Taoism. As

Would you, then, know its existence, if you were not an immortal?

  • I don’t know absolutely anything about those things – answered the woodcutter, after laughing as much as he wanted -. That song you say is part of a long poem titled A court inhabited entirely by cocoons, which a neighbor of mine taught me. Yes, he is an immortal and, seeing me so overwhelmed and burdened with worries, he took pity on me and advised me to recite it when he was at the limit of my strength. According to what he told me, his beauty would bring peace to my spirit and all my problems would immediately disappear. Just a little before you showed up, I was feeling a little depressed and I started singing it. The least I suspected was that someone could be listening to me.
  • If, as you claim, you are the neighbor of an immortal – the King of the Monkeys inquired, once again, incredulously -, how come you don’t follow his teachings? Wouldn’t it be more practical if you mastered the secret of eternal youth, instead of dedicating yourself to learning strange poems that lead nowhere?
  • Why do I want eternal youth? – replied the woodcutter -. My life has always been very hard. Until I was eight or nine years old I depended on my parents. Just then, when I was beginning to understand what life was all about, my father died, and my mother never remarried, so I didn’t have another brother. What choice did I have, except to go to work like crazy and try to raise the family? My mother has always been the most important thing to me and I am not going to abandon her now that she is very old. To make matters worse, the fields I own are very rocky and barely produce enough to feed her and me. So I am forced to go into the forest every day in search of wood, which I then exchange at the market for a few bushels of rice. I cook it myself. It’s not that I’m very good at it, but over time I have managed to acquire some practice and have even become a master in the art of preparing tea. Do you understand now why I cannot dedicate myself to the terrible ascesis that my illustrious neighbor advocates?
  • That has nothing to do with it – concluded the King of the Monkeys -. From what you have just told me, I gather that you are an extremely pious person and I have no doubt that, sooner or later, you will be rewarded as you deserve. Now, if you don’t mind, I would like you to lead me to where the immortal lives. This way I will be able to pay my respects to him and ask him to pass on his invaluable teachings to me.
  • It’s very close to here – explained the woodcutter -. The lush place we are in is known as the Mountain of the Heart and Mind. In it there is a cave called the Three Stars and the Waning Moon, within which lives an immortal who responds to the name of venerable Subodhi. Throughout his long existence he has indoctrinated thousands of disciples and currently I estimate that around thirty or forty people follow his teachings. His house is seven or eight miles from here. Precisely this path leads directly there. Follow him without turning to the right or left and I assure you that, before you know it, you will have arrived at his door.
  • Why don’t you take me? – the King of the Monkeys begged him, nervously grabbing him by the cotton skirt -. If I get any benefit from this visit, I promise to repay you for all the trouble you have taken with me.
  • Be careful, you are stubborn! – the woodcutter protested -. I just told you and you still don’t want to understand it. Don’t you understand that if I accompany you, I will lose precious time and won’t be able to take care of my mother properly? I have to cut all the wood I can to exchange it for rice. Don’t you realize that I am very poor? I’m very sorry, but I can’t go with you.

The King of the Monkeys realized that there was nothing to do and headed to the path

that the woodcutter had pointed out to him. It was extremely narrow and followed a very sinuous and irregular path, as if it had been created by a goat. With no little difficulty she advanced along it and after seven or eight miles she glimpsed the entrance to a cave. It was located in a splendid place, where the fog shone as if it had taken over part of the light of the moon and the sun. There were thousands of cypress trees and thriving bamboo shoots could be seen next to them, giving the entire landscape a refreshing sensation of rainwater. Next to the mouth of the cave spread a dense carpet of flowers of all kinds, which rivaled in beauty with the perennial greenery of the grass, so deep that it seemed like jade. A legion of mosses and lichens clung to the rocks, giving them the venerable appearance of old men with long beards and serene demeanors. In the distance the mythical song of the phoenixes seemed to be heard, while the rhythmic croaking of the storks took over all the marshes and ascended quickly towards the heavens, loaded with clouds that resembled multicolored embroidery. One sensed the proximity of white fawns, golden lions and jade elephants, as if that sacred place were, in reality, an imitation of paradise.

The King of the Monkeys immediately realized that the door of the cave was firmly closed and that no trace of human presence could be seen in its surroundings. Everything lay in total serenity, as if the very moment of creation had just occurred. When he turned around, he saw that at the top of the cliff in which the grotto was located there was a huge stone sign. It was approximately thirty feet high and eight feet wide, and on it had been written in artistic letters of unusual size: “The Mountain of the Heart and Mind. The Cavern of the Three Stars and the Waning Moon.

This seemed to greatly please the King of the Monkeys, who said to himself, excitedly:

  • The people who inhabit this land are truly trustworthy, because, contrary to what I expected, the mountain and the cave of that name really exist.

He approached a little closer to the grotto, but did not dare to break the peace that was in the air, knocking inconsiderately on the door. She preferred, therefore, to continue enjoying him. She climbed up a pine tree with an acrobatic jump, picked up a pine cone and calmly began to eat the treasure of pine nuts it contained. Soon he heard the creak of a door and, hastily turning his head, he saw a young immortal emerge from the cave. His figure was extremely graceful and all his features had a finesse typical of princes or great lords. He had two silk ribbons tied to his head and wore a tunic so wide that the flutter of its folds was confused with the very breath of the wind. Both his body and his face appeared haloed in a strange light, a true transcript of universal intelligence, which made him oblivious to everything around him, without completely losing his connection with it. He seemed to have the age of the world and, at the same time, the shy inexperience of a teenager. He gave the impression of being above all pain, impassive to happiness and misfortune, but he suddenly raised his voice and shouted:

  • Can you tell who is there making noise?

The King of the Monkeys hastily jumped down from the pine tree and, bowing before him, answered:

  • It is I, a humble seeker of immortality, who sincerely regrets having bothered you.
  • Are you really interested in the Tao? – the young man asked again, bursting into laughter.
  • That’s right – acknowledged the King of the Monkeys.
  • You didn’t need to answer me – stated the young man -. He already knew it. Just a few minutes ago my teacher was preparing to teach us his teachings, when he suddenly turned to me and said: «There is someone out there who wants to penetrate the secrets of the Tao. Come out and welcome him in my name and in the name of all the immortals here.

«we live.» So I assumed it would be you.

  • Indeed – answered the King of the Monkeys, smiling, satisfied -. Who else could it be?
  • In that case – the young man concluded – follow me.

The King of the Monkeys arranged his clothes as best he could and entered the cave behind the immortal, who led him through a complicated network of corridors and large rooms, in which artistic stone arches had been carved. Some were completely empty, while others displayed the variegated luxury only seen in palaces. The King of the Monkeys did not have the opportunity to enjoy his beauty, because the young man walked very quickly and he did not want to get lost in that inextricable labyrinth. At last, after many twists and turns, they came before a splendid platform of green jade, on which the venerable Subodhi was seated. His bearing was solemn and around him was a small cohort of no less than thirty immortals of lower rank. None could, however, compare with him. You only had to look at him to realize the depth of his intelligence and the disconcerting purity of his mind. He palpably felt that he was a being without beginning and that he would never have an end, always meditating on the authentic wisdom of total abandonment 13 . This gave his figure a peaceful appearance, in which opposites coexisted, creating and destroying each other at the same time. Everything and nothing came together in his venerable body of an authentic Buddha, which, without a doubt, was the same age as the universe. What did it matter that it had arisen several millennia after the Dhzu period? Master Subodhi was the authentic Great Priest of Enlightenment.

As soon as the King of the Monkeys saw him, he immediately fell on his face and, continuing to hit the ground with his forehead, said:

  • You are, truly, the wisest teacher there is. Allow me, then, to count myself among the number of your disciples.
  • Where are you from? – the venerable old man immediately cut him off -. If you want to become my disciple, you will have to first tell us your name and the country you come from.
  • Your humble servant – answered the King of the Monkeys with unusual respect – comes from the Cave of the Water Curtain, which is located in the Mountain of Flowers and Fruits in the country of Ao-Lai on the distant continent of Purvavideha.
  • Kick him out of here immediately! – the venerable old man then shouted -. He is nothing more than an impostor and a complete liar. I don’t understand how he can be interested in the illumination of our pure doctrine!
  • I have never told a lie in my entire life! – protested the King of the Monkeys, striking the ground with his forehead with more energy than before -. Believe me! The answer I have just given you is as authentic and true as the sound of your own voice.
  • Don’t mix my voice with your lies! – bellowed, offended, the venerable old man -. How do you want us to believe that you come from the continent of Purvavideha, if between that and ours extend two great oceans, separated by the immense continent of Jambudvipa? It is practically impossible to make such a long trip. Don’t you understand?
  • Your humble servant – answered the King of the Monkeys, without daring to raise his eyes from the ground – has invested more than ten years to get here. In all that time he has had to ford seas and cross countless regions of all kinds.
  • I admit that such an endless journey can be done in stages – the venerable old man acknowledged, calmer -. But to determine if what you say is true or not, I would like to know what your natural is.
  • «My character is the most peaceful,» explained the King of the Monkeys, suddenly animated -. If someone insults me, I don’t even flinch, and if he hits me in the face, I never take it into account. I, sir, am one of those who think twice about things before

to do them and, in this way, I manage to control the attacks of anger in time. I can assure you that all my life I have followed this principle to the letter: «Never give in to a bad mood, because it is the very source of unhappiness.»

  • It is clear that you have no shortage of words – the venerable old man acknowledged -. However, when I asked you about your natural origin, I was not referring to your character, but to the name of your parents.
  • I do not have parents, great sir – answered the King of the Monkeys.
  • Do you mean that you have emerged from a tree? – asked the venerable old man, mockingly.
  • Of course not – answered the King of the Monkeys, without paying attention to his strange tone of voice -. I owe my existence to something as humble as a rock from the Mountain of Flowers and Fruits. For millennia it was considered immortal, but one day it suddenly opened and I came out of it.

This answer seemed to greatly please the venerable old man, who said:

  • Good. That clarifies your origin. It cannot be said that you are not a fortunate creature, since very few can boast of having Heaven and Earth as parents. Now, if you don’t mind, I’d like to see you walk.

The Monkey King immediately stood up and, standing as tall as he could, walked around the jade platform a couple of times. Seeing his limping walk, the venerable old man burst out laughing and said:

  • Although the features of your face are attractive in appearance, it must be recognized that, due to the way you walk, you resemble a monkey that only feeds on pine nuts. By the way, that gives me an idea. Since you still do not have a proper name and your appearance is that of a beast, we will call you Hu. Now, if we remove its radical and break down the characters that form it into two, we have the words «ku» and «üe», which, as you well know, mean respectively «old woman» and «female». Now, since an old woman is incapable of conceiving, I think it is best for you to be surnamed Sun. I’m going to explain to you more clearly why I lean toward this name and not that one. If we subject it to the same process as the word Hu, we will discover that it is made up of the characters «tzu» and «si», which mean «boy» and «baby.» Precisely within the Taoist tradition the so-called doctrine of childhood occupies a very prominent place. That’s why it seemed so appropriate to call you Sun.
  • Excellent! – The King of the Monkeys exclaimed, exhilarated, without stopping bowing before his venerable teacher. I have finally received a surname according to my personal characteristics. However, I would like to ask you for a new favor. Since calling someone by their last name is too formal and you will necessarily have to scold me with some frequency, so that it is less violent for you to order me around as much as you want, I would also like to have a name like everyone else.
  • Let me think – said the venerable old man, looking him straight in the eyes -. I have given all my other disciples a name, based on the twelve principles that make up my doctrinal tradition and the rank that they occupy within it. By the way, you belong to the tenth.
  • What principles are those? – asked the King of the Monkeys interested.
  • The wide, the great, the wise, the intelligent, the true, the adequate, the natural, the watery, the sharp, the awake, the complete and the alert – answered, solemnly, the venerable old man -. You, as I just told you, belong to the tenth group, that is, to «the awakened», which is expressed with the character «wu». Hence the name that sought you out is Wu-Kung, which means «awake to nothingness.» Do you think it’s OK?
  • It’s really splendid! – the King of the Monkeys exclaimed once again, almost crying with gratitude -. From now on everyone will know me as Sun Wu-Kung – and so it was.

His name could not be, in fact, more appropriate for the new activity in which

Now he was embarking. The scripture, in fact, states: “When the world began to exist, there was no name. To break, then, the indestructible wall of non-existence, it is necessary to awaken to nothingness.

The King of the Monkeys was excited about his new name and was consumed by the desire to penetrate the mystery of the Tao. But this is the subject of the next chapter.

CHAPTER II

FULL UNDERSTANDING OF THE EXTRAORDINARY DOCTRINE OF SUBODHI 1.

THE DESTRUCTION OF MARÁ 2 AND THE RETURN TO THE ORIGINS LEAD TO THE UNITY OF THE SPIRIT

As soon as he had received his new name, the Beautiful King of the Monkeys began to jump, crazy with joy, bowing repeatedly to Subodhi in gratitude. The Patriarch ordered those gathered there to take Sun Wu-Kung out and teach him to moisten the earth and dust with water, to speak properly, and to behave with the courtesy required in a place like that. The group of immortals did as they were asked and Sun Wu-Kung bowed before his respectable fellow students, who without wasting time cleared a place in the corridor so that he could sleep. The next morning he began learning the arts of language and etiquette, memorizing sacred writings, discussing doctrinal aspects, practicing calligraphy, and burning incense. This is what his daily routine boiled down to. When his obligations allowed, he swept the floors, cleared the garden of weeds, planted flowers, pruned trees, collected wood, made a fire, fetched water and served those who lived with him with a drink. He lacked absolutely nothing and, thus, without him realizing it, six or seven years passed. One day the Patriarch went up to the platform, took his seat, called all the immortals around him and began to instruct them in the principles of the great doctrine. His words were so full of eloquence that golden lotuses immediately sprouted from the earth. With extraordinary subtlety he expounded the doctrine of the three means 3, without omitting the slightest detail. With indescribable elegance he moved his deer-tail fan 4 to the right and left, while his portentous voice reached the height of the Ninth Heaven. At times he would lecture on the Tao, and then on Zen. For him it was absolutely natural to harmonize the principles of the three schools 5. Unraveling the exact meaning of a single word could lead to a more intense life and infinitely deeper knowledge. .

Wu-Kung, who had also come to listen to the master’s teachings, was so moved by what he heard that he began to scratch his ear and paw at his face. A satisfied smile crossed her from ear to ear. Unable to contain herself, she began to dance on all fours, but the Patriarch saw him and, raising his voice, suddenly asked her:

  • Can you tell why you’re jumping and dancing like crazy, instead of listening to what I’m saying?
  • I swear to you that your disciple was respectfully attending to you – Wu-Kung explained -. But, upon hearing things as wonderful as those that came out of your mouth, it was impossible for me to contain my joy and I began to jump and dance without realizing it. I humbly request your forgiveness, master.
  • I would like to know – the Patriarch replied – if you have really understood what I have just explained. How long have you been in this cave?
  • Your disciple – Wu-Kung responded – has a very weak memory and does not remember the number of seasons he has been here. To tell the truth, I’m not really interested either. However, I can tell you that when the fire expires in the stove, I usually go to

a mountain to collect firewood. It is a splendid place covered in peach trees and every time I have gone I have had my fill of their golden fruits. I think there have been a total of seven times that I have sunk my teeth into a peach.

  • The place you speak of is called the Ripe Peach Mountain – the Patriarch concluded – and, if you have eaten its fruit seven times, it means that you have been here for at least seven years. What kind of Taoism would you like to learn?
  • I am totally subject to the decisions of my respectable master – Wu-Kung answered -. Your disciple will learn everything that is impregnated with Taoist flavor. For him that is the most important thing.
  • Within the Taoist tradition – the Patriarch explained – there are three hundred and sixty different classes that can lead directly to Enlightenment. I don’t know which of them you would like to follow.
  • “I am subject to the will of my respectable master,” Wu-Kung repeated. For your disciple there is no greater virtue than obedience.
  • How about I teach you the practice of the Art Division? – asked the Patriarch.
  • What is this about the Art Division? – Wu-Kung asked.
  • The Division of Art – explained the Patriarch – deals with invocations to the immortals, divinatory practices based on the use of stems of different plants and learning the secrets that lead to the practice of good and the rejection of evil.
  • Can such a practice lead to immortality? – asked Wu-Kung.
  • No – answered the Patriarch.
  • Then I won’t learn it – concluded Wu-Kung.
  • How about I show you the practice of the Schools Division? – asked, in turn, the Patriarch.
  • What does School Division mean? – Wu-Kung asked again.
  • The Division of Schools – explained the Patriarch – includes the teachings of the Confucians, Buddhists, Taoists, Dualists, Mohists and Alchemists. They all study scriptures and recite prayers. Some consult priests, while others directly invoke characters from the spirit realm.
  • Can such a practice lead to immortality? – asked, once again, Wu-Kung.
  • If what you want is immortality – answered the Patriarch -, this practice is like inserting a column inside a wall.
  • I, as you well know – Wu-Kung replied, humbly -, am a simple person who does not know the most ordinary ways of speaking. Can you explain to me what it means to insert a column inside a wall?
  • When someone builds a building and wants it to be very firm – said the Patriarch, condescendingly – he inserts straight columns inside the walls. But, when, with the passage of time, ruin takes hold of him, the column also participates in his immediate destruction.
  • What you mean by that – Wu-Kung concluded – is that they are not durable at all. I’m not

very inclined, therefore, to learn those principles.

  • How about I teach you the practice of the Division of Silence? – suggested, once again, the Patriarch.
  • What is its purpose? – asked Wu-Kung.
  • Cultivate fasting and abstinence, stillness and inactivity, meditation and the art of crossing the legs, language control and a vegetarian diet – explained the Patriarch -. To achieve this, yoga practices, series of exercises in an erect or recumbent position, immersion in a state of absolute stillness, individual meditation and things like that are recommended.
  • Can all this provide immortality? – Wu-Kung insisted.
  • These practices in no way surpass the usefulness of bricks that are still found.

to be cooked inside an oven – answered the Patriarch.

  • Be careful, you like to waste your time with me, teacher! – exclaimed Wu-Kung, bursting out laughing -. Didn’t I just tell you that I don’t know the way ordinary people talk? What do you mean by bricks that are still to be fired inside a kiln?
  • It is possible that the tiles and bricks that are inside an oven already have their own shape – responded the Patriarch -. But if they are not purified by fire, any torrential rain can destroy them one day.
  • In other words – Wu-Kung concluded – they lack consistency. I am not interested in learning those practices.
  • How about I teach you the practice of Action Division? – the Patriarch suggested, without being discouraged.
  • What is this Action Division? – Wu-Kung repeated.
  • It covers an infinite number of activities – said the Patriarch -, among which it is worth mentioning the collection of yin to feed the yang, the drawing of the bow and the discharge of the arrow. It also extends to experimentation with certain formulas of alchemy, the obtaining of red mercury, the manufacture of the autumn stone 6 , the drinking of newly married milk and other similar practices.
  • Can they provide long life? – asked Wu-Kung.
  • Trying to achieve immortality from practices like those is like looking at the moon from the water – answered the Patriarch.
  • Come on, teacher! – exclaimed Wu-Kung -. Do you want to explain to me what it means to look at the moon from the water?
  • When the moon is high, it is natural for it to be reflected in the water – answered the Patriarch -. Trying to discover all its mysteries in it is a vain illusion, since it is nothing more than a pure reflection.
  • I won’t learn that either – concluded Wu-Kung.

When the Patriarch heard it, he screamed and, jumping, got down from the dais.

He pointed the staff in his hands at Wu-Kung and faced him, saying:

  • What kind of capricious monkey are you? I don’t like learning this, I don’t like learning that! Can you know what it is you want?

He got even closer to him and hit him on the head three times. She then put her hands behind her back and left the room, closing the doors behind her and leaving out those who had come to listen to her. Faced with such an unexpected reaction, they turned, furious, towards Wu-Kung and began to scold him, saying:

  • Damn monkey! You ruin everything! Can’t you have a little more education? The teacher was willing to teach you magical practices. Why have you refused to learn them and started arguing with him? Who knows, now that you’ve offended him, when he’ll come out here again?

Everyone was against him and despised and ridiculed him as much as they wanted. Wu-Kung, however, was not bothered and responded to his insults with the broadest of smiles. Without them realizing it, the King of the Monkeys had solved the mystery of the teacher’s strange behavior; hence he did not get angry with any of his companions and kept his tongue at bay. He realized that, by hitting him three times in a row, the master had urged him to be prepared for the third watch; At the same time, as he put his hands behind his back and retired to his chambers, closing the doors behind him, he had ordered her to use the back door to receive his teachings in secret.

Wu-Kung spent the rest of the day in the company of the other disciples in front of the Cavern of the Three Stars, anxiously awaiting nightfall. When the

Afterwards he finally gave way to the shadows and immediately retired to rest with the others. It was not long before, after closing his eyes, his breathing became regular and he remained completely still, thus implying that he was fast asleep. Since there was no one on the mountain in charge of marking the passage of time or the uninterrupted succession of vigils, he had to rely on his own calculations to measure the slow flow of the hours. To do this he patiently counted the number of times his lungs inhaled and exhaled air. Around the time of Dhzu 7 , he got up quietly, dressed, carefully opened the door and walked out into the serenity of the night. He raised his head and saw the moon shine and the dew form, pure and cold, on the calm that enveloped everything. Inside the forest the solitary owls rested, while in the distance the gentle flow of a fountain could be heard. The faint flickering of the fireflies broke, with the force of darts, the shield of darkness. Calligraphic columns of wild ducks flew through the clouds. It was exactly the time of the third watch, the best time to seek the Truth and the Perfect Path.

Wu-Kung headed to the back along a very familiar path and discovered to his indescribable joy that the door was ajar.

  • I wasn’t wrong – he said to himself, beside himself with joy -. The teacher truly intends to transmit his teachings to me. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have left the door open.

In three strides he reached it and crossed it with indescribable care. He tiptoed to the Patriarch’s bed, but, to his surprise, he found him asleep, his body curled up and facing the wall. Wu-Kung did not dare to bother him, simply kneeling before his bed. Soon the Patriarch woke up, stretched his legs as far as he could and murmured to himself:

  • How hard is this! There is nothing darker than the Camino! The elixir of gold 8 is incapable of illuminating the humblest of things. Whoever insists on teaching deep mysteries to an imperfect man is condemned to deprive words of meaning, uselessly tire his mouth and dry his tongue forever.
  • Master – Wu-Kung said immediately –, your disciple has been kneeling for a long time, waiting for you to wake up.

As soon as the Patriarch heard Wu-Kung’s voice, he jumped out of bed and dressed hastily.

  • You again, damn monkey? – He exclaimed, sitting down with his legs crossed. Why aren’t you resting in the front? May I know what you have come here to do?
  • Yesterday – Wu-Kung answered – you yourself, in front of the platform and in the presence of all your disciples, ordered me to come through the back door around the third watch to be instructed in the mysteries of the Tao. If not for that, how would I have dared to come to your bed?

When the Patriarch heard it, he felt very satisfied and said to himself:

  • This type belongs, indeed, to the progeny of Heaven and Earth. Otherwise, how could he have found out so clearly about my intentions?
  • Except for your humble disciple – Wu-Kung insisted – there is no one else here. Why are you not kind to me and show me the path that leads to endless life? If you do so, I will never forget such an immense favor.
  • Having solved the riddle that I proposed to you so quickly is a clear indication that you have been chosen to master the mystery that bothers you so much – stated the Patriarch -. I feel proud to be able to pass it on to you. Come closer and listen carefully. I am going to show you the extraordinary path of life without end.

Wu-Fung touched his forehead several times in succession as a sign of gratitude, washed his ears and, kneeling before the bed, prepared to listen as attentively as he could.

could.

  • Learn well the secret of this formula that is both wonderful and true: strengthen and make use of the vital forces; That’s what it all lies in. Absolute power resides in semen, breath and spirit. Take care of them with great zeal and complete safety; May there not be the slightest escape from those forces in you. Above all, prevent them from dispersing! You always held firm inside your body! Make my teaching yours and the Path will develop itself within you. Do not throw on deaf ears the verbal formulas, so effective in dominating concupiscence and leading you to the kingdom of purity, where the light is absolutely brilliant. Then you can head towards the dais on which the elixir rests and you will be able to enjoy the moon 9. The moon supports the jade rabbit and the sun forces the rooster to hide. The snake and the turtle 10 are linked firmly, they intertwine as if there were no distance between them! Iron are the vital forces. When you are able to hold them together in your body, you will be able to plant golden lotuses inside the flames. Gather and reverse use the Five Phases 11! When you have achieved this, you will be, according to your convenience, a Buddha or an immortal.

At that same moment the mystery of origins was revealed to Wu-Kung. His mind was filled with the spirit and happiness descended upon him. He carefully wrote down in his memory all the verbal formulas that had been entrusted to him and, after bowing before the Patriarch, repeatedly touching the ground with his forehead in gratitude, he left his chamber through the back door. He then saw that the eastern portion of the sky was beginning to fill with light, although the golden rays coming from the Milky Way were still visible. Following the same path he had trodden hours before, he returned to the front, carefully opened the door and, without making the slightest noise, slipped inside. He then sat down on his bed and, throwing aside his blankets, began to shout:

  • It’s daytime already! Come on! You have to get up!

Everyone was fast asleep and no one knew that Wu-Kung had received such an extraordinary revelation. He himself contributed to confusing them by being as silly as he could after getting up. But he did not throw on deaf ears what he had learned secretly, practicing series of breathing exercises before the time of Dhzu and after that of Wu 12.

In this way, three years passed, after which the Patriarch took the stand again and began to indoctrinate his large number of disciples. On this occasion he discoursed on parables and scholastic discussions, paying, at the same time, special attention to the dense network of interrelationships of external behavior. When he seemed to be more absorbed with that topic, he suddenly stopped and asked:

  • Can you find out where Wu-Kung is?
  • Here, teacher – he responded, approaching the platform and getting down on his knees.
  • What kind of art have you been doing lately? – the Patriarch asked again.
  • Your disciple – Wu-Kung answered once again – has recently begun to grasp the nature of everything that exists, thus laying firm foundations for his endless edifice of knowledge.
  • If in your search for the origins you have already penetrated the nature of dharma – the Patriarch stated, amazed –, it means that, in fact, you are within the divine substance. However, you must guard against the danger of the three calamities.

Hearing this, Wu-Kung began to meditate and after long deliberation he finally dared to say:

  • I am afraid that your words are not entirely accurate, since I have heard it said with

It is common that he who is versed in the knowledge of the Tao and excels in the practice of virtue is the same age as the Heavens, fire and water cannot do him the slightest harm, and he is completely free of diseases. If this is so, how is it possible that he is still in danger of the three calamities?

  • What you have learned is not ordinary magic – answered the Patriarch -. What you have done is to seize the very creative powers of Heaven and Earth and penetrate the dark mysteries of the sun and moon. I assure you that your success in mixing the elixir is something that the gods and demons simply cannot allow. Although you will retain your appearance and see your age substantially lengthened, once five hundred years have passed, Heaven will send misfortune upon you and the destructive power of lightning will reach you. So you should try to be smart enough and prevent that from happening beforehand. If you succeed, your age will, in truth, be the same as that of Heaven; Otherwise, your life will end right then and there. Once another five hundred years have passed, Heaven will send a fire upon you that will consume you. That fire, of course, is not natural. It is known by the name of Yin Fire and will emerge from the inside of the soles of your own feet. From there it will ascend through your body until it reaches the hollow of your heart, reducing your insides to dust and your bones to pure ruin. In this way, the arduous work of an entire millennium will have become totally superfluous. Then another five hundred years will pass and then the misfortune of the wind will blow upon you. It is not a wind from the north, or from the south, or from the east, or from the west; Nor is it one of the winds that characterize each of the seasons nor those known as the winds of the flowers, the willows, the pines or the bamboos. It is called the Powerful Wind; It enters the body through the top of the head, passes through it completely and circulates freely through its nine openings 13 . Your flesh and bones will dissolve like wax and your whole body will disappear. You must, therefore, avoid these three calamities at all costs.

As soon as Wu-Kung heard it, his hair stood on end. And, kneeling respectfully before his master, he said:

  • I beg you to have mercy on me and teach me the way to avoid these three calamities. If you do so, I swear that I will never forget such a high favor.
  • What you ask of me is not that difficult to obtain – replied the Patriarch -. Only, since you are different from the rest of the people, I can’t teach it to you.
  • How am I different from other people? – Wu-Kung protested -. I have a round head that points directly towards Heaven and more or less square feet that allow me to walk on the Earth. I also have entrails, nine openings and different cavities. Do you want to explain to me what differences exist between others and me?
  • Although you certainly look like a man – answered the Patriarch – your face is a little sunken.

Monkeys have, in fact, an angular face, almost flat cheeks and a very protruding mouth. Wu-Kung touched his face with his hand and, bursting out laughing, replied:

  • It seems that the teacher does not know how to balance things. Although it is true that I have a more sunken face than that of human beings, I have a more protruding mouth, which, in some way, serves as compensation.
  • Very good. Let’s not talk about that anymore – the Patriarch then said -. What method would you be interested in learning? There is, on the one hand, the Art of the Celestial Ladle, which encompasses thirty-six transformations, and that of the Terrestrial Multitude, which reaches seventy-two.
  • Your disciple has always been more attracted to catching fish – Wu-Kung confessed – so I think I will learn the Art of the Terrestrial Multitude.
  • In that case – concluded the Patriarch -, come closer and I will teach you a few formulas – and

He whispered something in her ear that none of us have ever heard of.

The Monkey King, however, belonged to that class of people who, once they have learned one thing, are able to instantly deduce a hundred others. He immediately memorized the formulas and, after practicing them with singular consistency, he managed to master the seventy-two transformations.

One day, when the Patriarch and several of his disciples were admiring the fall of night in front of the Cavern of the Three Stars, the teacher suddenly asked:

  • How are your practices going, Wu-Kung?
  • Thanks to the deep benevolence of my master, your disciple has finally achieved perfection – Wu-Kung replied -. Now I am able to rise into the air like mist and fly.
  • Let me see how you fly – asked the teacher.

Eager to show off his skills, Wu-Kung rose to a height of fifty or sixty meters, a jump that he completed with a graceful twist. He then walked through the clouds for the duration of a meal and traveled until he reached a distance of approximately three miles. Then he descended from his height, falling right in front of the Patriarch.

  • This, teacher – he said, folding his hands with satisfaction at chest level – is what is called flying at the height of the clouds.
  • What would that be called flying through the clouds! – exclaimed the Patriarch, bursting out laughing -. You should say, rather, crawl through the clouds. As ancient sayings state, «the immortal travels across the North Sea in the morning and reaches Tzang-Wu at night.» If it takes you at least half a day to cover just three miles, it is natural to conclude that what you are doing is crawling through the clouds. Don’t you think so?
  • What do you mean by saying that «the immortal travels across the North Sea in the morning and arrives at Tzang-Wu at night»? – asked Wu-Kung.
  • Those who can truly fly through the clouds – explained the Patriarch – are capable of leaving the North Sea in the morning, traveling through the East, West and South Seas and returning again to Tzang-Wu, a place that It actually refers to Ling-Ling, which is located in the North Sea. You will be able to properly affirm that you are capable of traveling through the clouds, when you can travel the four seas in a single day. Otherwise all you do is crawl. Do you understand? Just crawl!
  • But that is extremely difficult! – exclaimed Wu-Kung.
  • There is nothing difficult in the world – declared the Patriarch -. Only the mind makes many things seem that way.

Hearing these words, Wu-Kung threw himself on the ground and, repeatedly striking the ground with his forehead, humbly implored:

  • Master, if you do a favor for someone, it is natural that you take it to its ultimate consequences. I beg you, therefore, to be kind enough to teach me the techniques that facilitate flight through the clouds. If you do, rest assured that I will never forget such a high favor.
  • When the immortals want to fly through the clouds – explained the Patriarch -, the first thing they do is stomp their feet hard on the earth and then they rise. You, on the other hand, take a leap. So, to teach you how to spin through the clouds, I will have to adapt to your peculiar way of acting.

Wu-Kung buried his face even deeper in the dust and intensified his supplications. Excited, the Patriarch entrusted him with a verbal formula, saying:

  • Make the magic sign, recite the spell, clench your fist tightly, shake your body and, thus, when you jump up, the somersault you take will take you a distance of one hundred

eight thousand miles.

As soon as those around him heard it, they exclaimed enviously:

  • How lucky is Wu-Kung! If he learns that little trick, he will be able to make a living carrying missives from one place to another and delivering the documents entrusted to him. With that he already has his future assured.

It had begun to get dark and the master retired inside the cave accompanied by his disciples. Wu-Kung, however, practiced the teachings received throughout the night without stopping, until he managed to master the technique of jumping through the clouds. From then on, he enjoyed complete freedom, enjoying his newly acquired immortal status.

One day at the beginning of summer all the disciples gathered to discuss under the pines and asked him:

  • May I know, Wu-Kung, what kind of merits you accumulated in your previous reincarnation so that the master whispered in your ear the other day the way to avoid the three calamities? Have you already learned everything he taught you?
  • Of course yes – Wu-Kung responded, smiling -. You already know that I am incapable of deceiving anyone, least of all you, who are my brothers. Thanks, first of all, to the teacher’s teachings and then my own dedication, I have come to master everything he transmitted to me.
  • Why don’t you give us a little demonstration now that we’re all gathered here? – suggested one of the disciples.

Wu-Kung was deeply flattered and willingly prepared to display his newly acquired powers.

  • Choose the test yourselves – he said -. What do you want me to transform into?
  • Why not in a pine tree? – they suggested again.

Wu-Kung made the magic sign, pronounced the spell, shook his body and instantly turned into a pine tree. He had a cup so wide that the vapors of the four seasons accumulated in it. Its height was such that it was lost in the immaculate purity of the clouds. That tree was in no way reminiscent of the mischievous monkey from which it had emerged. So much so that its branches showed the ravages of frost and the destructive action of snow.

As soon as they had recovered from their surprise, the disciples began to applaud and laugh like crazy, while exclaiming in wonder:

– What an extraordinary monkey! It’s downright incredible!

They were so excited that they did not realize that their screams had disturbed the Patriarch’s meditation, and he ran away brandishing his staff. – Can we know who is creating such a fuss? – He asked, angry.

His voice sounded so authoritative that the disciples almost stopped laughing, arranged their clothes as best they could, and bowed respectfully before him. Wu-Kung resumed his usual form and, making his way among his companions, said:

  • For your information, respected master, we are gathered here discussing. There is no one among us who does not belong to the group of your humble servants.
  • So you are the ones who are screaming and shouting, behaving in a manner totally inappropriate for people consecrated to the practice of the Great Art – the Patriarch bellowed -. Don’t you know that those who cultivate the Tao should not open their mouths so as not to lose their vital force, nor move their tongues to avoid all kinds of arguments? Why were you laughing in such a vulgar way?
  • We cannot hide the truth of what happened from you – they all confessed in chorus -. We were having a great time with Wu-Kung, who gladly agreed to give us a demonstration of his extraordinary powers. We suggested that he become a

pine tree and he did so without question. That made us feel so excited that, without realizing it, we started applauding like crazy. The last thing we suspected was that we were bothering you. What else is left for us to do but humbly beg your forgiveness?

  • Get out of my sight, everyone! – the Patriarch bellowed again -. Not you, Wu-Kung. Stay here. What did you intend to achieve by becoming a pine tree? Do you think I taught you that special ability to entertain people? Suppose someone had seen you. Most likely I would have asked you how you did it. You would have done it yourself, if you were in his place. Recognize it! The bad thing is that later they would beg you to trust them with the secret and, if you didn’t, they would end up ruining you. Right now your life is in serious danger, without going any further, and all because of your incomprehensible irresponsibility.
  • I ask you to forgive me – Wu-Kung begged, hitting the ground with his forehead.
  • I am not the one to condemn you – stated the Patriarch – but you must immediately leave this place.

When Wu-Kung heard it, tears began to flow from his eyes.

  • Where can I go, teacher? – She asked, sobbing pitifully.
  • To the place from which you came – answered the Patriarch -. That is where you must return.
  • «I came from Purvavideha, the Eastern Continent,» declared Wu-Kung, his memory refreshed by the master’s words, «from the Water Curtain Cavern of the Mountain of Flowers and Fruits, which rises in the country of Ao.» -The I.
  • Return there as soon as possible and save your life – the Patriarch advised him -. You can’t stay here any longer.
  • Allow me to tell you, respectable master – Wu-Kung dared to say – that for more than twenty years I have been absent from my home and that it is, therefore, natural that I feel a desire to see my subjects and followers again. that one day I had. But, despite everything, I do not dare to leave, since I have not thanked you enough for the profound generosity with which you have always treated me.
  • There is nothing to be grateful for – the Patriarch tried to reassure him -. The only thing I ask of you is that you never get into any trouble and, if you can’t avoid it, that you never mention my name to anyone.

Seeing that there was nothing more to do, Wu-Kung bowed before the Patriarch and prepared to leave the company of his disciples.

  • Once you have left here – the Patriarch anticipated -, sooner or later you will end up doing evil. I don’t care what kind of crimes you’ll be involved in. The only thing I forbid you is to mention that you have been my disciple. If you ever manage to say even half of my name, rest assured, damned monkey, that I will find out and have your skin torn off in strips. Then I will break each of your bones and bury your spirit in the Darkness of the Nine Folds, from which you will not be able to escape even after suffering ten thousand torments.
  • I will never dare mention your name – declared Wu-Kung -. I will say that I myself, without needing any teacher, have learned everything I know.

As soon as he had thanked the Patriarch, Wu-Kung turned around, made the magic sign, rose high and did a dodge over the clouds. Such a jump made him head directly towards Purvavideha and in less than an hour he was able to see the Mountain of Flowers and Fruits and the Water Curtain Cavern. Overjoyed, the Beautiful Monkey King said to himself:

  • Overwhelmed by the weight of mortal bones, I left this place one day. Now I return to him light as a feather thanks to the influence of the Tao. What a pity that in this world of calamities and misfortunes no one decides to reveal the mystery of immortality, so

clear for everyone who searches! How hard it was for me to cross the ocean on the way there and how easily I did it today on my return trip! The advice of the farewell still rings in my ears and I am already seeing the depths that surround the Eastern Continent. I never imagined I could see them so soon!

Wu-Kung slowed down his cloud and landed right in the center of the Mountain of Flowers and Fruits. He had barely set foot on it when he began to hear the grunting of the herons and the cry of the monkeys; While their song rose cleanly toward the heavens, their lament filled his spirit with deep sadness. He raised his voice and said:

– I’m back, my dear little ones! I am among you again!

Immediately, tens of thousands of monkeys of all sizes began to emerge from the cliffs, from the wild beauty of the flowers and bushes, and from the thickness of the forests and trees, and surrounded their Beautiful King without loss of time. They all knelt respectfully before him, hitting the ground with their foreheads, while shouting:

  • How carefree is yours, great king! Why have you been absent for so long, leaving us abandoned and longing for your return, like someone dying of hunger or thirst? We have been lately mistreated by a monster that has tried to take over our Water Curtain Cavern. We have fought against him with the strength of desperation, but, despite everything, he has taken possession of many of our possessions, he has kidnapped many of our young people and he has deprived us of the necessary rest, forcing us to guard our properties. day and night. It is fortunate that you have finally returned, great king! If you had been absent one more year, the mountain cave would have completely passed into the hands of that beast.

As soon as Wu-Kung heard it, he flew into a rage and asked angrily:

  • What kind of monster is this that behaves in such a thoughtless manner? Tell me in detail and I swear that I will give you full revenge.
  • For your information, great king – said the monkeys, continuing to hit the ground with their foreheads –, that guy calls himself the Monstrous King of Disasters and lives north of here.
  • Approximately how far away? – Wu-Kung asked.
  • We don’t know – the monkeys responded, scared -. It appears with the speed of clouds and leaves again with the speed of fog, wind and rain, lightning and thunder.
  • In that case – Wu-Kung concluded – go have some fun. Do not be afraid. I’ll take care of that guy.

The King of the Monkeys rose high again, made a leap and headed north, until finally he saw a steep and high mountain. The pointed peak of it seemed to cut the air, as if it were a gigantic stone knife. Streams flowed from its slopes, rushing wildly over cliffs of incalculable depth. In its turbulent waters you could see myriads of flowers and trees loaded with exotic elegance. In some places the pine trees matched the greenery of the bamboos. On the left, the dragon seemed extremely docile and calm, almost domesticated, while on the right the tiger showed signs of gentleness and submission. Sometimes steel oxen were seen plowing and flowers of gold coins grew everywhere. The air carried melodious songs of strange birds, as the phoenix faced the harshness of the sun. With the continuous hammering of time, the water had polished and polished rocks, which sometimes acquired grotesque shapes and other times, strange and fierce ones. The world is full of splendid mountains in which the flowers do not stop

to mature and grow, to open and then die. No place, however, was comparable to that one. Looking at him, she had the impression that he had never been touched by the four seasons or the eight epochs 14 . Within the Three Regions 15 that was the Mount of the Northern Spring, where the Cavern of the Water Belly is located, which is fed by the Five Phases 16 .

The Beautiful King of the Monkeys began to contemplate the rapturous beauty of such a splendid spectacle, but he could not enjoy it much. Someone seemed to be talking and he went down the mountain to see who it was. This is how he discovered the Water Belly Cavern, which was at the foot of an extremely steep cliff. Just in front of the grotto there were several imps dancing, who started running as soon as they saw Wu-Kung.

  • Don’t run! – he shouted at them -. Before you hide, you must listen to the message I want to convey to you. I am the sole lord of the Water Curtain Cavern, which, as you know, is located on the Mountain of Flowers and Fruits, just south of here. I know that your Monstrous King of Disasters, or whatever you want to call himself, has been bothering my subjects and I have decided to come to his domain with the sole purpose of setting the record straight, once and for all.

Hearing this, the imps rushed into the cave and began to shout:

    • Sovereign sir, something disastrous has happened!
  • Can I know what disaster you are talking about? – asked, surprised, the Monstrous King.
  • Outside the cave there is a monkey who has claimed the title of lord of the Water Curtain Cavern, located on the Mountain of Flowers and Fruits. He says that you have been bothering his subjects and that he has come to settle your scores.

The Monstrous King burst out laughing and said rudely:

  • I have often heard those monkeys say that they had a king who had come to learn the secrets of the Great Art. Apparently he just returned. Do you want to tell me how he is dressed and what kind of weapons he uses?
  • None, great sir – answered the imps -. He is bareheaded, wears a red tunic with a yellow sash, and wears a pair of black boots. He gives the impression of being neither a monk, nor a layman, nor a Taoist, nor an immortal. He is so crazy that he has come to demand an account from you with completely empty hands.

When the Monstrous King heard it, he ordered his imps, smiling maliciously:

  • Bring me the weapons and the armor.

The imps obeyed without question and helped him put on his breastplate and helmet. When everything was ready, he grabbed his scimitar and left the cave, followed by all his subjects.

  • Where is the lord of the Water Curtain Cavern? “Him,” he asked, raising his voice and opening his eyes as wide as he could.

Wu-Kung immediately noticed that the Monstrous King was wearing a helmet of black gold on his head, on which the sun’s rays reverberated. His body appeared covered by a silk robe, also black, that swayed at the whim of the breeze. His chest was protected by black iron armor, fastened to the sides by iron leather straps. His feet had been stuffed into perfectly finished boots as large as those once worn by the most famous warriors in history. He was about thirty feet tall and his waist circumference was well over twenty hand spans. In his hands he carried a sword with a sharp blade and perfect workmanship. There was no doubt. That was, because of the fear he inspired and the fear he aroused, the terrible Monster of Disasters.

  • What good are such big eyes if you can’t see such an old monkey?

like me? – the Monkey King mocked.

The Monstrous King turned towards him and, seeing him, burst out laughing and exclaimed:

  • You’re barely four feet tall, I doubt you’re even thirty years old, and you stand before me empty-handed. I don’t understand how you can be so insolent. What do you plan to break me with? With your bragging?
  • What a stupid monster you are! – Wu-Kung replied -. It shows that you are as blind as a ground caterpillar. You think I’m small and you don’t know that I can reach any height I want. You think that I am completely unarmed and you forget that with just these two hands I am capable of tearing the moon from its place in the sky. But do not worry. I just want to make you test the strength of my fists.

He had barely finished saying it when he rose into the air and struck a terrible blow on the monster’s face. With incredible agility the King of Disasters stepped aside and said, mockingly:

  • To me you are nothing more than a ridiculous dwarf. If you want to use only your fists, that’s up to you. I prefer to use my scimitar. Although, looking at it closely, it was going to be too easy for me to split you in two with her. So, if you let me take it off, we’ll test our strength.
  • That is a decision that honors you – Wu-Kung answered -. Come on. What are you waiting for to attack me?

The Monstrous King jumped to the left and unleashed one of his blows, which Wu-Kung dodged with unmatched mastery. He then launched himself at him and the two engaged in a terrible hand-to-hand fight. Wu-Kung knew that it is easy to miss blows from a distance, while those close up are as safe and effective as falling a rock. In this way, he managed to deliver a series of sharp punches to its chest, which made the monster stagger. Feeling insecure, he forgot what had been agreed and reached for his scimitar. He brandished it with both hands and was about to cut off Wu-Kung’s head, who managed to duck when the blade was already penetrating his flesh. Later, seeing that the fierceness of his enemy was increasing, he decided to use the technique known as «body beyond the body.» Without wasting time, he pulled out a few hairs, put them in his mouth, chewed them until they were reduced to tiny pieces and, spitting them out forcefully, shouted:

  • Change shape!

They instantly turned into two or three hundred small monkeys, which began to circle around the two fighters. When someone acquires the body of an immortal, he is able to abandon his own spirit, become whatever he desires and perform all kinds of wonders. Since the King of the Monkeys had reached the full understanding of the Great Art, each of the eighty-four thousand hairs on his body had the property of acquiring any form or substance he wanted. The little monkeys that he had just created had such fine eyesight and such rapidity of movement that even the sword and the spear were powerless against them. With astonishing speed they launched themselves against the Monstrous King and some began to grab him, others to push him, these to trip him, those to kick and punch him, those from further away to pull his hair and stab his eyes, and the rest to throw him. of the nose and put all kinds of obstacles to make him lose his balance. They all formed a confused mass whose sole purpose was to distract the Monstrous King’s shifting attention.

Taking advantage of the confusion, Wu-Kung snatched the scimitar from his hands and, brandishing it strongly in the air, dealt a tremendous blow to the monster’s head, which instantly fell to the ground divided into two equal parts. He then turned on the imps who had run for cover inside the cave and killed them.

all, without leaving a single one. He then shook his body and the monkeys, turned into hairs again, returned to the place they had occupied before the battle began. Only those who had been torn from the Water Curtain Cavern and forcibly taken there by the Monstrous King remained with him.

– Can we know what you are doing in a place like this? – Wu-Kung asked them.

  • As soon as you left in search of immortality – the thirty or fifty monkeys who were there responded sobbing – the monster harassed us for more than two years, until it finally forced us to come here with all our possessions. Have you not noticed that those utensils scattered on the floor actually belong to our cave? Look, for example, at those stone pots and bowls. They were all stolen from us by the beast.
  • If what you say is true, charge them as soon as possible – Wu-Kung decided and immediately set fire to the Water Belly Cavern. It wasn’t long before it had been reduced to ashes. He then turned to his subjects and ordered them: Follow me. It’s time to return home.
  • How are we going to get back? – everyone asked, scared -. When we came here, we did so on the wings of a very strong wind, which forced us to float through the air like clouds without a destination. We don’t know which direction we should take now.
  • “All that was nothing more than a trick of that monster,” replied Wu-Kung. But don’t worry. Now I too am conversant not only in it, but in ten thousand more. So don’t be afraid. Close your eyes and hold on tight.

The Monkey King recited a spell, mounted a strong wind, and rode it for a few tenths of a second. He then slowed the speed of the cloud and, turning to his subjects, said:

  • You can now open your eyes.

The monkeys felt the hardness of the solid ground under their feet and, obeying their master’s command, they found, to their astonishment, that they were back in their place of origin. Crazy with joy, they ran along completely familiar paths to join those who were anxiously waiting for them in the caves. In this way, joy bloomed again in the Water Curtain Cavern. Grateful, all the monkeys went to meet their king and humbly paid their respects. The wine flowed like the waters of a stream at that splendid welcome banquet, the main course of which was fruits and berries. When they asked him how he had defeated the monster and freed the young people, Wu-Kung told them without missing a single detail and they, enthusiastically, burst into an endless barrage of applause.

  • Where have you been? – they asked him, when there was silence -. It never occurred to us that you could acquire such powers.
  • The year I left your side – Wu-Kung explained – I sailed through the waves of the Great Eastern Ocean, until I finally reached Aparagodaniya, the Western Continent. Later I moved to Jambudvipa, the Southern Continent, where I learned how humans work, learning to use these clothes that I now wear and these shoes that I wear. However, eight or nine years the clouds passed over my head and I still did not know a single principle of the Great Art, so I chose to cross the Great Western Ocean and managed to reach the shores of Aparagodaniya, the Western Continent 17 . My search was long, but I finally had the immense fortune to come across an old Patriarch who had the delicacy to teach me the formula to reach the age of heaven itself and thus become immortal.
  • How lucky you are! – exclaimed the other monkeys, congratulating him effusively -. Cases like this do not occur even after undergoing ten thousand hardships.
  • What fills me with the most satisfaction, however – Wu-Kung said again, smiling – is that now I know which family we all belong to.
  • To which? – they asked, excited.
  • To that of the Sun – he answered -. So my full name is Sun Wu-Kung.

Upon hearing this, all the monkeys began to applaud and exclaimed, captured by contagious joy:

  • If you are the greatest of the Suns, we are the youngest Suns. Ours is the family of the Sun, Sun is called our nation and this cave necessarily bears that same name.

So great was their enthusiasm that, to honor the eldest of their lineage, they brought bowls of all sizes filled with coconut and grape wine, flowers and all kinds of fruits. Theirs was, in truth, a happy family, possessing the admirable name of one who had just returned to his own origins. Such glory is only reserved for names inscribed by the gods in Heaven.

Anyone who does not know what happened next and does not know the fate of Wu-Kung should listen to what is told in the next chapter.

CHAPTER III

THE FOUR SEAS AND THE THOUSAND MOUNTAINS INCLINE IN A SIGN

OF SUBMISSION. THE NAMES OF TEN SPECIES 1 ARE ERASE FROM THE HELL OF THE DARKNESS OF THE NINE FOLDS 2

After having killed the Monstrous King of Disasters and taking away his enormous scimitar, Wu-Kung began to practice the art of war with his subjects daily, teaching them to make spears with sharpened bamboos, to make wooden swords, to to make flags and standards, to form patrols, to advance and retreat, and to set up camps. For a long time he was training them in these arts, but one day he suddenly stopped doing so. He became taciturn and silent and, after much deliberation, came to the following conclusion:

  • At the moment this is nothing more than a simple game, but things can get really serious. Suppose that, without our knowledge, we offend the kings of men or the leaders of beasts, or that they simply take these military exercises as a threat and take up arms against us. How are we going to be able to face them with bamboo spears and wooden swords? We must necessarily have real weapons. What could we do to get them?

Wu-Kung had made these reflections aloud and nervousness immediately took hold of all his subjects.

  • We believe that your points of view are completely correct, they said, alarmed. Where could we get the weapons we need?

They had not finished saying it, when four of the oldest monkeys – two females dressed in red tunics and two bare-chested males – came forward, bowed before their king and said respectfully:

  • If that is what worries you, there is nothing simpler to solve.
  • Really? – Wu-Kung exclaimed, surprised.
  • That’s right, sir – answered the four monkeys -. Two hundred miles from our mountain, traveling in an easterly direction, is the country of Ao-Lai. In it there is a king whose army is made up of countless soldiers and men, from which we deduce that the blacksmiths of his kingdom must number in the thousands. If you went there, you could buy the weapons we need from him or, in the last case, order them from him. In that way, it would not be

very difficult to instruct ourselves later in its use and, thus, we would defend this mountain against any intruder and we would bequeath it to our descendants in due course.

Those words brought joy back to Wu-Kung, who hastened to say to his subjects:

– You stay here having fun. I think I’m going to take a little trip.

He had not finished saying it, when he made an acrobatic leap and, in less than a rooster crow, covered the two hundred miles that separated him from the place his advisors had told him about. There stood, in fact, a city with wide streets, strikingly large markets, practically countless houses and numerous arcades. A swarm of people filled every corner, totally oblivious to the purity of the sky and the harshness of the sun.

  • Not far from here there must be an infinite number of weapons – Wu-Kung said to himself -. The best thing would be to go down and buy them, but that would be much more difficult for me than obtaining them through my magical arts.

He immediately made the sign that had given him such good results on previous occasions and recited the spell that completed it. Then he turned toward the southwest and, after filling his lungs with air, he blew with all his might. Immediately a hurricane wind arose, carrying stones and rocks, as if they were made of straw. His power was terrible. At the same time, a dense layer of clouds formed over the world, completely obscuring the earth. Clouds so high emerged from the seas and rivers that even the fish and crabs felt the weight of terror. In the mountain forests, branches broke in thousands, panicking tigers and wolves. The merchants and merchants abandoned their shops and warehouses and fled in terror. Not a single man could be seen in all the space that the view encompassed. Even the king himself left the throne room, retreating to his chambers at full speed. Not to be outdone, all the officials of the kingdom locked themselves in their homes strictly. The wind was so strong that it shook Buddha’s ancient throne and shook the foundations of the Five Phoenix Tower.

In the country of Ao-Lai everyone, from the king to the most insignificant of his subjects, was terrified. Everywhere families locked themselves behind the safety of the doors of their homes, with no one daring to come out. Wu-Kung slowed down the cloud in which he was traveling and entered the imperial palace through its main gates. It didn’t take him much work to find the weapons room. With a single blow he knocked down the heavy gate that closed it and saw that inside were piled countless weapons of all kinds and sizes: scimitars, spears, swords, battle axes, scythes, whips, drumsticks, drums, bows, arrows and other thrown weapons. Such a vision fully satisfied Wu-Kung, who said to himself again:

  • I do not know where to start. There is so much material here that I’d better use my magic to transport it.

He tore out a handful of hairs, chewed them until they were reduced to tiny pieces, and then spat them out, while reciting the spell and shouting at the top of his lungs:

  • Transform yourselves!

They instantly turned into little monkeys, who began to take over the weapons. The strongest carried six or seven, while the weakest could only do so with two or three. But everyone acted so effectively that within seconds what had been the largest armory in the world was empty. Wu-Kung mounted the cloud again and, after reciting the magic words, summoned a strong wind, which transported all the monkeys to the place from which they had left.

Those who had stayed, having fun, in the cave of the Mountain of Flowers and Fruits heard the whistle of the wind and raised their heads, surprised. Seeing that immense army of tiny monkeys coming through the air, they fell prey to panic and

They fled in all directions. Fortunately, Wu-Kung descended from the cloud, gracefully shook his body, and all the bits of hair rejoined him, as if they had never left him. The weapons were stacked right in front of the mountain.

  • Can we know what you are afraid of? – Wu-Kung asked, raising his voice -. Go out and collect your weapons.

More encouraged, the monkeys raised their heads from their shelters and saw Wu-Kung, alone, standing on solid ground. Overcoming his shyness, they approached him and, after greeting him with the utmost respect, asked him what had happened. Wu-Kung explained to them that he had simply used a powerful wind to be able to transport the weapons there. Excited, they thanked him and immediately jumped on the precious steel recently brought from the distant country of Ao-Lai. While some grabbed scimitars, others took hold of swords, axes and spears, stretched their bows and let their arrows fly freely. The monkeys spent the entire day playing with the weapons, so excited that they did not stop screaming for a single second.

The next morning they formed lines and Wu-Kung counted them one by one. In this way, he was able to verify that his army was composed of forty-seven thousand infantry. Such strength greatly impressed all the beasts of the mountain – wolves, insects, tigers, leopards, deer of all kinds, foxes, wild cats, lions, elephants, apes, bears, antelopes, wild boars, green one-horned buffaloes, wild mares and giant mastiffs -. Led by the demon kings of more than seventy-two caves, they all flocked to pay their respects to the Monkey King. From then on they paid tribute to him every year and responded to his call at the beginning of each season. Some of them even joined his maneuvers, while others paid more attention to the provisioning of such a vast army. In this way, the entire Mountain of Flowers and Fruits became as strong as an iron container or a metal city. The kings of the demons were in charge of offering him drums, helmets and banners of a thousand and one colors. At no time was military training neglected, which continued for days and days.

But the Beautiful King of the Monkeys was not satisfied. He gathered all his followers and said to them:

  • You are all now true masters in the use of the bow and arrows. Weapons no longer contain any secrets for you. You will understand, therefore, that I don’t really like this scimitar. More than a help, it is a complete nuisance. What I can do? The four old monkeys approached him and said:
  • You are a celestial sage and it is natural that you do not find the weapons of earth to your liking. We wonder, however, if you would be able to undertake a long journey across the seas.
  • Since I have perfectly mastered the secrets of the Tao, the seventy-two transformations offer no mystery to me. The jump above the clouds also has unlimited power. Not to mention that I am totally familiar with the magic of apparitions and the art of ubiquity. This allows me to walk freely through the heavens, penetrate the interior of the earth, move under the sun and moon without casting any shadow and even enter the heart of minerals and stones. Water cannot drown me and fire is unable to burn me. How can there be a place I can’t go?
  • It is fortunate that you possess these powers, because the water that flows under this iron bridge will flow directly into the Dragon Palace of the Eastern Ocean. If you dared to get there, rest assured that the old dragon would provide you with the weapon you need and that, without a doubt, it will be yours.

liking.

Hearing this, Wu-Kung’s face lit up, and he exclaimed decisively:

– I am willing to make that trip as soon as possible.

Without thinking twice, he climbed onto the railing of the bridge, determined to make use of the magic of the parting of the waters. He made the magic sign with his fingers and threw himself into the current of the river, which opened like a door before him. In this way, it was not difficult for him to reach the very bottom of the Eastern Ocean. He walked along it a short distance, bumping into an officer who asked him, surprised:

  • Can we know what kind of wise man you are, who separates the waters as if they were harvested crops? Tell me clearly so I can announce your arrival.
  • I am the wise Sun Wu-Kung of the Mountain of Flowers and Fruits – answered the King of the Monkeys -, one of the neighbors of your lord, the old dragon. I have a hard time believing you didn’t recognize me.

The officer then ran into the Water Crystal Palace and reported to his king, saying:

  • There is a wise man out there who says his name is Sun Wu-Kung, of the Mountain of Flowers and Fruits, and who claims to be your neighbor. Given his impulsive manner, I wouldn’t be in the least surprised if he showed up before you without being invited to enter.

Hearing this, Ao-Kuang, the Dragon King of the Eastern Ocean, immediately rose from his throne and came out to welcome such an illustrious guest, accompanied by countless sons and grandsons of dragons of the highest lineage, a cohort of shrimp – soldier and the most select of his generals – crab.

  • Come in, immortal, and honor us with your company – said his excellency.

The procession headed inside the palace and, after offering Wu-Kung the place of honor and a glass of tea, the king asked him with great courtesy:

  • When were you instructed in the mysteries of the Tao and what kind of celestial magic have you received?
  • Shortly after I was born, I left my family to dedicate myself to the practice of the Great Art – Wu-Kung answered -. It is not strange, therefore, that he now possesses a body without beginning or end. Lately I have been training my subjects militarily in order to protect the mountain we inhabit, but unfortunately I have not been able to find an appropriate weapon for myself. It has reached my ears, however, that my honorable neighbor, who has lived in this palace of green jade and mother-of-pearl porticos since time immemorial, must necessarily possess some spare celestial weapon. I have precisely taken the liberty of bothering you, to see if that is true or not.

The Dragon King could not ignore such a fair request. He therefore turned to one of his commanders and ordered him to bring a scimitar with a strikingly long handle, which he deferentially presented to such an illustrious visitor.

  • If you don’t mind – Wu-Kung then said -, I would like another type of weapon, because, to tell the truth, I am not very skilled with scimitars.

The Dragon King again ordered a lieutenant – whiting and a servant – eel to bring a nine-pointed trident. Seeing him, Wu-Kung jumped from his seat, grabbed him with both hands and tried a few blows. But he returned it almost immediately, saying, disappointed:

  • I find it too light. It doesn’t fit my hand as it should. Would you mind bringing me another weapon?
  • Are you sure of what you say? – exclaimed the Dragon King, bursting into laughter -. This trident weighs more than three thousand six hundred kilos.
  • Even so, it doesn’t fit the hand as it should – Wu-Kung repeated – I can’t master it to my liking!

The Dragon King became impatient and once again ordered an admiral – bream and a brigadier – carp to bring a huge ax, which weighed around seven thousand two hundred kilos. When Wu-Kung saw her, he ran towards her and took her in his hands. He again tried a few blows, but his impression did not seem to be any better than the previous time. Disappointed, he hit the ground with the shaft and exclaimed:

  • I find it still light. Too light!
  • But immortal! – the Dragon King protested, bewildered -. In the entire palace there is no weapon heavier than this axe.
  • Go Go! – Wu-Kung replied, smiling -. As the old saying goes, «The Dragon King is never short of treasure.» Please find me something else and, if you manage to find something that I really like, rest assured that I will offer you a good price for it.
  • I tell you that I have no more weapons here – the Dragon King insisted.

While they were in that tug of war, the mother dragon and her daughter introduced themselves, saying:

  • It is clearly seen that this is not just any wise man. We do not need to remind you that in the treasure of our ocean there is a piece of magical iron that marks the depth of the Celeste River 3 . Precisely these last few days it has been shining in a very strange way. Doesn’t that mean that it should be entrusted to such an eminent sage?
  • That – the Dragon King explained – is the measure that the Great Yü 4 used to determine the depth of the rivers and oceans, when it dominated the Flood. It is, indeed, a piece of magical iron. But do you want to tell me what purpose it will be used for our neighbor?
  • That is neither for us nor for us – replied the dragon mother -. Give it to him and let him do with it as he pleases. The most important thing now is to get him out of the palace as soon as possible.

The Dragon King agreed completely with her and, turning again to Wu-Kung, told him about the origin of such a precious treasure.

  • If what you say is true, what are you waiting for to take it out and let me see it? – Wu-Kung asked, impatiently.
  • None of us can move it! – exclaimed the Dragon King, waving his hands -. She is so heavy that we can’t even move her. I’m afraid you’ll have to go see it yourself.
  • Where is? – Wu-Kung asked again, determined -. Take me to him as soon as possible.

The Dragon King led him without delay to the very heart of the ocean treasure, where they saw the blinding glare of a thousand rays of golden light.

  • There you have it – said the Dragon, pointing to the point from which such extraordinary brilliance emerged -. It is that which shines like the sun itself.

Excited, Wu-Kung rolled up his clothes and went directly to touch her. He was thus able to verify that it was an iron bar more than twenty feet long and as thick as a vat. Summoning all his strength, he lifted her with both hands and said:

  • It’s too long and a little thick. If it were a little thinner and a little shorter, it would be, frankly, ideal for my purpose.

He had barely finished saying it when the bar lowered itself a few feet and became mysteriously thinner.

  • A little more would be ideal – Wu-Kung said again, passing it from one hand to the other.

The bar bowed, once again, to their wishes. Visibly pleased, Wu-Kung took it out of the ocean treasure and began to examine it carefully. Thus,

He discovered that it was made of pure black iron and that its two ends were of flawless gold. On one of them precisely the following inscription had been engraved: «The complacent bar with the golden tips. Weight: thirteen thousand five hundred kilos.

  • This undoubtedly means – thought Wu-Kung, crazy with joy – that the bar is capable of satisfying all my desires.

As he walked, he kept whispering to himself, while changing hands with the treasure:

  • It would be wonderful, if only it were a little shorter and a little thinner.

When he finally left the ocean treasure room, the bar was no more than twenty feet long and no thicker than a bowl of rice. Wu-Kung grabbed her with both hands and began to pass and feint, as if he were fighting a mortal enemy. Such absurd combat lasted until he once again found himself inside the Water Crystal Palace. The Dragon King was so scared that he began to tremble with fear; The dragon princesses, for their part, didn’t know where to go. Even the turtles hid their heads inside the shell and the fish, shrimp and crabs fled to take refuge in places they thought were safe. Wu-Kung, without leaving his precious treasure in his hand for a single second, sat in the Water Crystal Palace and said, smiling, to the Dragon King:

  • I am indebted to my splendid neighbor for his extraordinary kindness.
  • Don’t talk like that – the Dragon King begged him -. After all, what have I done for you?
  • “This iron bar is certainly magnificent,” replied Wu-Kung. However, I would like to ask you for a new favor.
  • What kind of favor is that requested by an immortal of your category? – asked the Dragon King.
  • «If I didn’t have this splendid iron rod,» answered Wu-Kung, «I wouldn’t have brought up the subject.» But now that I have become the lucky owner of it, I have realized that the clothes I wear do not fit such a magnificent weapon. What I can do? If you had some kind of warrior attire out there to give me, rest assured that I would thank you with all my heart.
  • I’m afraid I won’t be able to please you in that – replied the Dragon King.
  • “A single guest is incapable of disturbing two hosts,” said Wu-Kung. Even if you pretend not to have what I ask of you, know that I am willing to stay here until I have it.
  • Why don’t you take the trouble to go to another ocean? – the Dragon King begged him -. Maybe there you will find what you want.
  • Visiting three homes is much more tiring than sitting in one – said Wu-Kung -. I beg you, therefore, to provide me with the clothing I need.
  • But I don’t have it – the Dragon King insisted -. If he had it, rest assured that he would have already given it to you.
  • So we have those, huh? – Wu-Kung exclaimed, threateningly -. Do you want me to try my iron on you?
  • Do not raise your hand against me – the Dragon King pleaded nervously -. Don’t lift it. Let me see if my brothers have any type of military attire that you like. If so, we will gladly give it to you.
  • Who are your respectable brothers, if it may be known? – Wu-Kung asked, contemptuously.
  • Ao -Chin, Dragon King of the Southern Ocean, Ao -Shun, Dragon King of the Northern Ocean, and Ao -Jun, Dragon King of the Western Ocean.
  • I’m not going to go see them – said Wu-Kung, determined -. As the saying goes, «two

in hand they are much better than three in promise. All I want is for you to find something appropriate and give it to me. That’s all.

  • I assure you that you have no need to go anywhere – the Dragon King tried to reassure him -. Right here in my palace I have an iron drum and a golden bell. When I need something, I ring them and instantly my brothers appear.
  • If so – Wu-Kung concluded – the sooner you beat the drum and ring the bell, the better.

A turtle general immediately came out to ring the bell, while a marshal did the same with the drum. The instruments had barely stopped vibrating when the Dragon Kings of the Three Oceans made their appearance in the outer courtyard of the palace.

  • Dear brother – asked Ao-Chin, alarmed – do you want to explain to us what made you beat the drum and ring the bell?
  • It’s too long to tell, brother – answered the old dragon -. I have with me a certain wise man from the Mountain of Flowers and Fruits. He suddenly appeared before me, stating that he was my neighbor, and he asked me to provide him with a weapon appropriate to his military skills. I offered him a steel trident and a battle axe, but he found the one too small and the other too light. Finally he himself appropriated the light blue iron bar that marked the depth of the Celeste River and began to make feints and passes, as if he were in the very heart of a fray. He has now sat in the palace and says that he will not leave it until he has provided him with clothing suitable for battle. The bad thing is that I don’t have any. This is the reason why I have beaten the drum and the bell and invited you to come. If any of you have what that wise man is looking for, I would appreciate it if you would give it to him as soon as possible. That way I could get rid of him once and for all.

When Ao-Chin heard this, he became angry and said:

  • Let us summon our army and take him prisoner.
  • Don’t even think about doing such madness! – exclaimed, alarmed, the old dragon -. I don’t want to hear about it. A small blow with his iron bar is practically fatal. Simply by touching her, his skin tears and his muscles are reduced to nothing. That weapon is invincible!
  • If so – concluded Ao-Jun, the Dragon King of the Western Ocean –, I think it would be most prudent not to lift a single finger against him. Let’s give him the military attire he’s looking for and get rid of him as soon as possible. Afterwards we will present a formal complaint to Heaven and he will be in charge of giving him the punishment he deserves.
  • “You are right,” Ao-Shun, the Dragon King of the Northern Ocean, agreed. Here I have a pair of cloud-walking shoes the color of lotus root.
  • I have brought a breastplate and a coat of gold mail – confessed Ao-Jun, the Dragon King of the Western Ocean.
  • And I have a helmet, also of gold, crowned by a bunch of phoenix feathers – said, in turn, Ao-Chin, the Dragon King of the Southern Ocean.

The old dragon’s face lit up with joy and he hurried into the Water Crystal Palace with such unique gifts. Wu-Kung immediately put on the feathered helmet, the golden breastplate, and the cloud-walking shoes, and, taking hold of the bar, he made his way among the dragons, pretending to be fighting and shouting with all his might. forces of him:

  • I’m sorry for bothering you!

The Dragon Kings of the Four Oceans were furious at such inconsiderate behavior. They entered the palace and wrote a formal complaint, of which,

moment, we will not talk here.

The Monkey King, meanwhile, made his way through the waters again and ended up directly at the head of the iron bridge. The four old monkeys were waiting patiently, in front of everyone else, for their hardworking master. When they were most distracted, they saw Wu-Kung suddenly jump out of the waters. His body was as dry as if he had never dived into them. The monkeys felt so disconcerted that, lying on the ground, they began to shout: – What things is our great king capable of doing! What wonders!

Beaming with satisfaction, Wu-Kung sat on his throne, placing the iron bar directly in front of him. Since they had nothing else to do, the monkeys approached, timid, and tried to lift their master’s treasure. Everything turned out to be useless. It was as if a dragonfly had insisted on shaking the branches of an iron tree. They couldn’t move it a single millimeter. Puzzled, they began to bite their fingers and click their tongues, saying:

– How heavy is this! How did you manage to get him here?

Wu-Kung reached the bar, extended his hands and grabbed it without any difficulty.

Then, bursting into laughter, he responded:

  • Each thing has an owner. This wonder has occupied, for no one knows how many thousands of years, the very center of the ocean’s treasure. Lately it has been shining with insistence, but for the Dragon King it was nothing more than a piece of black iron, although it was no secret to anyone that it had served to mark the depth of the Celeste River. Neither the Dragon nor his subjects could move it from the spot and they asked me to do it alone. At first this single piece measured more than fifteen feet and was thicker than a vat, but once I had expressed my desire for it to be a little smaller, she did so. And not just once or twice, but three times. When, finally, I was able to examine it with some care, I saw that on one end it had the following inscription engraved: “The willing bar with the golden tips. Weight: thirteen thousand five hundred kilos. Stand back for a moment, I’m going to ask you to change a little more.

He then took it in his hands and shouted:

  • Get smaller, smaller!

It instantly shrank to the size of a tiny embroidery needle, small enough to be hidden in an ear without being seen. When the monkeys saw him, they exclaimed in fear:

  • It’s extraordinary! Why don’t you take it out of your ear and play with it some more? The Monkey King did so. He placed it carefully in the palm of one hand and, again, ordered:

Get older! Bigger, bigger!

She obeyed him immediately and once again acquired the thickness of a vat and a length that far exceeded twenty feet long. Wu-Kung was so delighted with this game that he hurriedly left the bridge and went outside the cavern. He gripped the bar tightly with his hands and began to practice the magic of cosmic imitation. He bowed respectfully and shouted loudly again:

  • Grow as much as you can!

In the blink of an eye, his body acquired a height of ten thousand feet, his head became as large as Mount Tai, his chest became the ruggedness of rugged peaks, his eyes became lightning bolts, his teeth became swords. and axes, and his mouth looked like a bowl of blood. The bar he held in his hands had reached such a size that the highest end of it touched the thirty-third heaven and the lowest extended into the eighteenth level of hell. Tigers, leopards, wolves, all kinds

of crawling animals, the mountain monsters and the demon kings of the seventy-two caves were so frightened, upon seeing such a portent, that they immediately threw themselves on the ground and paid their respects to the King of the Monkeys, beating the ground without stopping. with the forehead. Satisfied with such submission, Wu-Kung once again acquired his usual shape, at the same time reducing the iron bar to the size of a tiny embroidery needle, which he immediately put in his ear. Without further ado, he returned to the cave that was his abode. The demon kings of the other caves were, however, so frightened that they continued for a long time submissively hitting the ground with their foreheads.

To celebrate the return of their lord, the monkeys unfurled their banners, beat their drums and sounded their rattles and gongs with all their power. At the same time, they offered him a splendid banquet, which did not lack any exquisite delicacy. The glasses overflowed with fruit wines and the tasty juice of coconuts. The banquet lasted several days, until, tired from eating so much, they decided to resume their military practices. The Monkey King appointed the four elders as commanders of his troops, with Ma and Liu, the two females, being marshals, and the two males, Peng and Pa, being generals. The four were entrusted with tasks of such importance as defending the camp and maintaining discipline among the troops. In this way, the King of the Monkeys could dedicate himself without any worry to walking on the clouds, riding in the dew, visiting the four seas and frolicking at his leisure across ten thousand mountains. However, he did not ignore his military interests, continually meeting with the most famous heroes and warriors, with whom he established ties of deep friendship, sometimes using the infallible remedy of his magic. He sealed, at the same time, alliances with six other monarchs as powerful as the King – Bull Monster, the King – Dragon Monster, the King – Garuda Monster, the Lion King of the Long Mane, the Queen of the Monkeys and the King of the Giant Apes. Together they formed the Brotherhood of the Seven. Every day they met to discuss both military and civil matters, they toasted their health non-stop, they sang very delicate songs and danced to the sound of ancient instruments. They met at dawn and said goodbye as soon as night fell. There was no pleasure that they did not deprive themselves of, sometimes traveling ten thousand kilometers to experience a new one. For them distance simply did not exist. As the saying goes, «a mere movement of the head exceeds three kilometers, while a turn of the body is equivalent to eight hundred.»

One day the four commanders received the order to prepare a splendid banquet in their cave, to which the other six kings were duly invited. Without loss of time, a large number of horses and cows were sacrificed, which were then offered to Heaven and Earth. The diners drank until they fell drunk on the floor, while groups of imps did not stop singing or dancing. The banquet was so perfect that, after saying goodbye to his illustrious guests, he rewarded the commanders with splendid gifts. He then lay down under a group of pine trees that grew proudly next to the iron bridge and soon fell asleep. Seeing him, the four elders immediately called all the monkeys and ordered them to form a tight circle around his master. No one dared to raise their voice for fear of waking him up.

In his dream, the Beautiful King of the Monkeys saw two men approaching with a summons in their hands on which these three characters could be read: Sun Wu-Kung. They approached him and, without saying a single word, tied him with a rope and dragged him away. The spirit of the Beautiful King of the Monkeys struggled as much as he could, but his efforts were useless. It didn’t take them long to reach the edge of a city. Not knowing

Why, the King of the Monkeys raised his head and saw a metal sign on which the following characters had been engraved: «This is the Region of Darkness.» The Beautiful King of the Monkeys fully regained consciousness and said:

  • The Region of Darkness is the abode of Yama, the King of Death. May I know why you brought me here?
  • Very simple – the two men responded -. Your time in the World of Life has ended and we have received the order to arrest you.
  • I am the Monkey and I am above the Three Regions and the Five Phases. Therefore, Yama has no jurisdiction over me. How is it possible that I ordered you to arrest me? He lacks the power to do so!

But the men did not pay the slightest attention to him. They continued to push and pull him, determined to force him into the city. The King of the Monkeys became furious, seeing the inconsideration with which they treated him. He took out the iron bar, made it grow until it was as thick as a bowl of rice, raised it above his head and dropped it on the two unfortunates, who were instantly reduced to pure ash. Then he freed himself from the rope and, with his hands completely free, entered the city, brandishing the bar. Upon seeing him, bull-headed demons hid in terror, while others with horse faces found refuge wherever they could. A detachment of ghost soldiers managed to reach the Palace of Darkness and shouted, panting from their panicked run:

  • A great calamity has occurred! An unspeakable disaster! A god of thunder, his face completely covered in hair, has entered the city like a whirlwind and is heading this way.

The news so alarmed the Ten Kings of the Lower World that they stretched their clothes a little and went out to see what was happening. Seeing the brave and fierce figure of Wu-Kung, they stood in line, scrupulously following the rank they occupied in the realm of death, and, after greeting him with unexpected respect, they asked him:

  • Would you mind telling us what your name is?
  • I am Sun Wu-Kung, wise man of celestial origin from the Water Curtain Cavern, located in the Mountain of Flowers and Fruits – answered the King of the Monkeys -. Can I know what kind of officials you are?
  • We are the Emperors of Darkness – responded, in turn, the Ten Kings, bowing –, the Lords of the Lower World.
  • Tell me each your name, if you don’t want me to beat you up – Wu-Kung threatened.
  • We are – replied the Ten Kings at once – King Chin-Kuang, the King of the River of Origins from which everything arose, the King of the Empire of the Sung, the King of the Avenging Spirits, the King Yama, the King of the Identical Traits, the King of Mount Tai, the King of the City Markets, the King of Total Change and the King of the Wheel-that-will-not-stop-turning.
  • Since you are all members of royalty – Wu-Kung rebuked them – you should be a little smarter and know who you reward and who you punish. How is it possible that you are incapable of distinguishing good from evil? I have penetrated the secrets of the Tao and have received immortality as a reward. I am, therefore, the same age as the Heavens, finding myself on the other side of the Three Regions and the Five Phases. Why then have you ordered my arrest?
  • Try to control yourselves, please – the Ten Kings suggested -. As you will understand, things are not so simple. In this world there are many people with the same first and last name. Has it not occurred to you to think that, perhaps, our

have emissaries confused you with another?

  • Crap! – exclaimed Wu-Kung, even more bad-tempered -. The saying states that «the magistrate and the official err, but not the man on whom they depend.» Show me the books in which you record births and deaths. Come quickly. Don’t waste my time.

The Ten Kings immediately invited him to enter the palace to see for himself. With a determined step and without letting go of the bar for a single second, Wu-Kung entered the Mansion of Darkness and took a seat, facing south, in the main room. The Ten Kings called for the judge in charge of the record book and ordered him to bring it in for examination. Without wasting time, the officer left through a side door and returned a few seconds later with five or six volumes of documents and files, which contained all the data on the ten species of living beings. With unexpected skill Wu-Kung went through them one by one – animals with short hair, long hair, with wings, crawling, with scales – but he could not find his name among them. With the same result he reviewed the data on monkeys, which did not surprise him at all, since, although his appearance was human, he was not properly a man; Although he had short hair, his abode transcended that of the animals of that kingdom; although he resembled the beasts, he was not a subject of the unicorn; and although, in some ways, his appearance was reminiscent of that of flying beings, his destiny was not fixed by the whims of the phoenix. He therefore had to carefully examine a series of separate files, among which he finally found, under the heading «spirit one thousand three hundred and fifty», the name of Sun Wu-Kung. His file read: «Stone monkey begotten by Heaven. Age: three hundred and forty-two years. Happy ending».

  • «I don’t know exactly how old I am,» said Wu-Kung, «nor do I care.» The only thing I want is to delete my name from here as soon as possible. So please bring me a paintbrush.

The judge obeyed with alacrity. In less than he blinked, a tiger handed him a brush, which he immediately filled with ink. He then took the files of the monkeys and crossed out the names of as many as he could, before throwing the papers on the floor and saying with obvious contempt:

  • I hope I don’t have to do it again. I am in no way subject to your whim. Remember it! – And, grabbing the iron rod from him, he left the Region of Darkness. The Ten Kings did not dare to stop him nor did they dare to speak to him again. They considered it more appropriate to go directly to the Jade Cloud Palace and consult King Ksitigarbha about what had happened. His intention was to inform Heaven of such an unpleasant incident, a matter of which, for the moment, we will not discuss.

The King of the Monkeys was about to leave the city, when he suddenly tripped over some brambles and fell pitifully to the ground. That made him wake up instantly, realizing then that it had all been a dream. As he stretched at his ease, he heard the four commanders and other monkeys shouting in relief:

  • Can I know how much wine you drank yesterday? You slept all night in one go. How is it possible that you haven’t woken up even once?
  • What’s so special about sleeping like a log? – Wu-Kung replied -. Nothing, certainly. The most disturbing thing, however, was that I dreamed that two men arrested me and that I did not realize their intentions until we were in the Region of Darkness. He then made a show of strength, taking me to the Palace of Death itself and confronting me directly with his Ten Kings. I demanded that they let me examine the records of births and deaths and crossed out all our names. So those guys no longer have any power over us.

All the monkeys prostrated themselves on the ground and began to hit the ground with their hands.

forehead as a sign of gratitude. From then on, many mountain monkeys stopped aging, always remaining healthy and young, since their names were no longer registered in the Lower World. When the Beautiful King of the Monkeys concluded his story of what had happened, the four commanders told it, in turn, to the demon kings of the other caves, who came instantly to express their deep gratitude. The remaining members of the Brotherhood of the Seven did the same a few days later. They were all delighted that their names were no longer in the records of the Ten Kings. As a token of recognition, they offered a splendid banquet to their brave brother, whose glory we will not speak of here.

Yes we will, on the contrary, from the Venerable Celestial Sage, the Jade Emperor of the Most Worthy Deva, who a few days later called a public audience in the Treasure Room of the Divine Mist, located in the very center of the Palace of Clouds of the Arches of Gold. The celestial officers had barely taken their seats, when the immortal Taoist Chiu Hung-Chr suddenly appeared and announced in a confident voice:

  • Your Majesty, Ao-Kuang, Dragon King of the Eastern Ocean, has just arrived at the Transparent Palace and requests to be received by you immediately, to deliver an urgent report.

The Jade Emperor ordered that he be brought to his presence and within a few seconds Ao-Kuang, solemn, made his entrance into the Hall of Divine Mist. After paying his respects, a page took the report and placed it directly into the hands of the Jade Emperor, who read it in one sitting from beginning to end.

Coming from the region of the Eastern Ocean, which is located in Purvavideha, the Eastern Continent, your humble servant the dragon Ao-Kuang respectfully comes before you, in order to inform the Eminent Lord of Heaven of the following: Sun Wu-Kung , immortal without scruples, originally from the Mountain of Flowers and Fruits and currently residing in the Cavern of the Water Curtain, has seriously offended your humble servant, by forcefully entering his water mansion. Using intimidation, he demanded the handover of a magic weapon. Not content with that, he later demanded, using chilling threats, appropriate military attire. Without any consideration he terrorized my entire family and made my turtles flee. I only tell you that the Dragon of the Southern Ocean began to tremble like a leaf shaken by the wind, that of the Western Ocean fell prey to the most indescribable horror, that of the Northern Ocean was forced to bow its head in submission, and Your humble servant, Ao-Kuang, had no choice but to bend his body in proof of total submission. Apart from that, we had to give him a magic iron bar, a golden helmet crowned with phoenix feathers, a chain mail of the same metal, and shoes for walking on the clouds. We then tried to say goodbye to him in the most courteous way we know, but he, determined to demonstrate his martial knowledge and his mastery of magic, had the audacity to tell us: «Sorry, if I have bothered you.» I have to admit that none of us were a suitable opponent for him and that, even if we combined our forces, we would not have been able to dominate him. Your servant requests, therefore, from your unquestionable sense of justice, fulfilled revenge for our grievance, humbly begging you to send as soon as possible a detachment of celestial soldiers to arrest this monster. In this way, tranquility will flourish again in all the oceans and prosperity will spread throughout the Lower Regions. This, and no other, has been precisely the purpose that has moved us to deliver this report to you.

When the Celestial Emperor had finished his reading, he turned to his subject and ordered:

  • You can return to your ocean with the assurance that my generals will take care of it.

to properly arrest the culprit.

The Dragon King said goodbye to his sovereign, touching his forehead to the ground in gratitude, and left the palace. He had not crossed the last of its doors, when the Immortal Go, the Divine Master, stepped forward and announced, solemnly:

  • He has just arrived to present a report to His Majesty King Chin-Kuang, Officer of Darkness and protégé of the most venerable King Ksitigarbha, High Commissioner of the Lower World.

A jade girl came up to him, took the report and handed it to the Lord of Heaven, who read it from cover to cover in one sitting.

  • The Region of Darkness – the writing began by stating – is the lowest portion of the Earth. In the same way that the Heavens are reserved for the gods, the Earth belongs squarely to the domain of the spirits. In this way, life and death happen in a completely cyclical way. Beasts and animals are continually being born and dying. The male and female are in charge of such an extraordinary process, creative principles in which all birth and transformation have their origin. Such is the order of nature, which in no way can be altered. But suddenly Sun Wu-Kung has burst into our domain, a disastrous monkey of celestial origin, currently residing in the Water Curtain Cavern, in the Mountain of Flowers and Fruits, and an assiduous cultivator of all types of evil and violence. , and has refused to accept our irrevocable decisions. Using magic, he freed himself from the messenger spirits of the Darkness of the Nine Folds, even terrorizing, by sheer force, the Ten Pious Kings who govern it. But the confusion he brought to the Palace of Darkness was even greater, since, using such reprehensible methods, he appropriated the Book of Names and erased from it all the monkeys he could. As a consequence, the necessary control over this species has been lost, which now enjoys a disproportionately long life, and the wheel of transmigration has been stopped with unexpected abruptness, since birth and death have been eliminated from the world of apes. . We know that by presenting this report to you, we run the risk of bringing your anger down on our heads, but we considered it our duty to do so. Therefore, we humbly dare to suggest that you send your army against this usurper as soon as possible. In this way, life and death will remain, once again, under our control and the Lower World will once again regain the security that it has always possessed. We present this report to you with the greatest of respect.

As soon as the Jade Emperor had read it, he turned to his subject and ordered: You may return to the Lower World. I assure you that my generals will arrest this culprit and give him what he deserves.

King Chin-Kuang touched his forehead to the ground again, in gratitude, and left his lord’s palace. As soon as he had left, the Great Deva summoned his council of immortals and asked them:

  • Do any of you know when that rowdy monkey was born and in what reincarnation he began his long path to perfection? How is it possible that he has managed to achieve such mastery of the Great Art in such a short time?

He had barely finished speaking when the Eye of a Thousand Miles and the Ear of the Iron Wind stepped forward and said in chorus:

  • That is the stone monkey that was born under the direct action of Heaven approximately three hundred years ago. Despite his origin, he did not seem to have special powers, so we do not know where he was able to acquire the knowledge that he now boasts and that has ended up making him an immortal. For him there is no secret in training tigers and mastering dragons,5 in light of which it is not so

surprising that he forcibly alters the Death Records.

  • Which of my generals is willing to go down to arrest him? – the Jade Emperor asked again.

He had not finished doing so, when the Everlasting Spirit of the Planet Venus took a step forward and, prostrating himself with his face to the ground, said:

  • Most High Sovereign, all beings of the Three Regions who have nine apertures in their bodies are capable of achieving immortality through simple exercise. It is not strange, therefore, that this monkey has achieved it, especially when Heaven and Earth themselves collaborated in the formation of his body, the sun and the moon were in charge of modeling his features and he himself has a head that points directly to the Heavens, feet that rest on the Earth To walk and feed on mist and dew. How is he different from a human being, now that he can even dominate dragons and train tigers? Allow your servant to remind you that you have always shown yourself generous to all beings. Why don’t you make public a decree of reconciliation, then order him to come to these Celestial Regions and grant him some official position? In this way, his name will be recorded in the registry and we will be able to control him better. If he is respectful of your decisions, he will be suitably rewarded and will acquire a higher position. If, on the other hand, he surrenders to disobedience, we will arrest him without any loss of time. In this way, we will save ourselves, firstly, a military expedition and, secondly, we will welcome an immortal among us with the decorum that he deserves.
  • “Your views are correct and prudent,” the Jade Emperor commented, pleased. Rest assured that we will follow them to the letter.

He then turned to the Sidereal Spirit of Songs and ordered him to immediately write the decree, immediately appointing the Golden Star of the Planet Venus as his messenger. When the document was finished, he took it in his hands and left the Celestial Palace through its South Gate. Without wasting time he mounted his holy cloud and descended, like an exhalation, to the Cavern of the Water Curtain on the Mountain of Flowers and Fruits. There he encountered several monkeys, to which he reported:

  • I am a celestial messenger, sent directly from above, and I bring with me an imperial order in which your king is invited to go without loss of time to the Upper Regions. So, the sooner you let them know, the better for everyone.

The monkeys passed the order to each other, until it reached the very heart of the cave and one of them was finally able to inform his master:

  • There is a man out there with a writing in his hands, who claims to be an envoy from Heaven and claims to bring an invitation from the Emperor for you.

Hearing this, the Beautiful Monkey King was deeply flattered and said:

  • Precisely these last two days I have been pondering the possibility of taking a small trip to Heaven and it turns out that now an envoy from above is coming to invite me. It cannot be said that my luck is bad.

He hastily fixed his clothes a little and went out to welcome such an illustrious guest. The Golden Star reached the very center of the cavern and remained standing the entire time, without stopping looking towards the south.

  • I – he announced, solemnly – am the Golden Star of the Planet Venus and I have descended to Earth to deliver to you this decree of reconciliation from the Jade Emperor and invite you to ascend to Heaven, where you will receive one of the highest appointments reserved. to the immortals.
  • “I greatly appreciate the unexpected visit of the Gold Star,” replied Wu-Kung, smiling. He then turned to his subjects and ordered them: Prepare a banquet for

our illustrious visitor.

The Gold Star, however, rejected such a flattering invitation, saying:

  • As a bearer of an imperial document, I am not allowed to stay here for long. I’m afraid I must ask you to come with me immediately. We will have the opportunity to chat and have fun together later, when you have been promoted to the high position that the Emperor has reserved for you.
  • Your presence among us is an unspeakable honor – Wu-Kung said ceremoniously -. I don’t know what to let you leave with empty hands.

There was little else I could do. He summoned his four commanders and exhorted them:

  • Don’t forget to train the younger ones and, above all, be calm. I’m going up to Heaven to see if I can find a place there where we can all live together.

The four commanders bowed before him in a sign of compliance and the King of the Monkeys, riding on the same cloud as the Golden Star, rose in haste. Guided by his companion, he ascended to the highest point of Heaven, the one reserved for the highest ranking immortals, where he was surprised that his name had been written on the countless scrolls of paper that covered the columns of clouds. We do not know what position was entrusted to him by the benevolence of the Celestial Emperor. Anyone who wants to know should listen carefully to the explanations offered in the following chapter.

CHAPTER IV

HOW COULD YOU FEEL SATISFIED ABOUT YOUR APPOINTMENT AS PI-MA? HIS DISCONTENT, DESPITE BEING KNOWN AS THE SOSIA FROM HEAVEN

The Golden Star of the Planet Venus left the cave accompanied by the Beautiful King of the Monkeys and together they soared above the clouds. Wu-Kung, however, thought they were traveling too slowly and did his famous somersault. He soon acquired tremendous speed that allowed him to leave the Gold Star far behind and reach the South Gate of Heaven first. When, after coming down from his cloud, he was preparing to enter the palace, Devaraja Virudhaka, Pang, Liu, Kou, Pi, Tang, Hsin, Chang, Tao and other celestial heroes appeared with swords, scimitars, axes and swords in their hands. hands. With a fierce gesture they approached him, cutting off his entrance and preventing him from moving forward.

  • What kind of scammer is this Gold Star guy? – exclaimed, bad-tempered, the King of the Monkeys -. If, as he says, I have been invited to come here, I do not understand how all these turn their swords and spears against me, refusing to let me enter.

He had not finished airing such a just protest when the Gold Star arrived panting. Wu-Kung turned furiously on him and reproached him, saying:

  • Why have you deceived me? If I am here, it is because you yourself informed me that the Jade Emperor had given you a decree of reconciliation for me. If that is true, how is it possible that they close the entrance to me and insist on not letting me pass?
  • First of all, try to calm down – the Gold Star advised him, smiling -. Since you have not been to the Celestial Palace before nor do you have a proper name, it is natural that the guardians do not know you. How are they going to let you pass, if you are a perfect stranger to them? As soon as you have met with the Honorable Veda and he has entrusted you with an official responsibility, your name will appear on the lists of the immortals and you will be able to come and go as you please. Who will then dare to cut you off?
  • “All that seems very good to me,” Wu-Kung admitted, calmer. But, seeing how they’ve treated me, I’m not going to go in alone.
  • In that case, I will do it with you – concluded the Gold Star, grabbing his hand. In this way, they headed towards the door. When they were a few steps away from her, the Gold Star raised her voice and said with all her might: «Open the doors, guardians of the Celestial Palace, and let this respectable immortal enter!» He comes from the Lower Region and has been summoned by the Jade Emperor himself to deliver a decree of reconciliation.

Devaraja Virudhaka and the other celestial heroes immediately laid down their arms and stood aside to let such illustrious visitors pass. In this way, the King of the Monkeys ended up believing what he had been told. Guided by the Golden Star, he finally entered the palace, standing in awe of such beauty. It was the first time that he visited the High Region and he was deeply impressed by the magnificence of the Celestial Hall, where ten thousand darts of golden light rotated, like a whirlwind, forming an impressive coral rainbow. The atmosphere possessed a delicate blue hue, produced by thousands of layers of sacred air. How splendid, indeed, was the South Gate! It was covered in brilliant dark green tesserae and crowned by impressive jade battlements. On both sides were posted scores of sentinels, some so tall that their bodies protruded above the bastions and all armed with bows and other thrown weapons. Wherever your eyes looked you could see celestial beings protected by golden armor and holding axes, whips, scimitars and swords in their brave hands.

But if the exterior of the court was impressive, its interior far surpassed it. Its halls looked like gardens in which only enormous pillars grew, on which dragons had been sculpted of a brilliant red color with scales of pure gold that glistened in the sun. In its wide open spaces, strikingly long bridges had been built, over which phoenixes with reddish heads and bright, multi-colored plumage fluttered. At times a bright mist reflected the tremulous light of the sky, then turned green and became so dense that it obscured the timid twinkling of the stars.

In such a wonderful place stood the thirty-three celestial mansions 1, which have such significant names as Scattered Cloud, Vaisravana, Pancavidya, Suyama, Nirmanarati… and on whose roof ridge the presence of a golden beast could be seen. The seventy-two treasure rooms could also be seen there, designated with names such as Morning Meeting, Supernatural Void, Precious Light, Celestial King, Divine Master… and whose columns had friezes of jade unicorns. There, likewise, grew flowers that had been open without withering for more than a thousand millennia, and exotic herbs, used in the preparation of different elixirs, that had not lost their greenness during the last ten thousand years.

Wu-Kung passed by the Tower Dedicated to the Great Sage, where he could see the purple silk robes, bright as shining stars, the reptilian-shaped caps, loaded with gold and precious stones, the jade hairpins, the mother-of-pearl shoes, vermilion sashes and golden ornaments. When the ringing of the golden bells was heard, the uniforms of the Three Judges of the Lower Kingdom crossed the bright scarlet courtyard, while, when the roll of the celestial drums was heard, ten thousand wise men of the court did so, ready to serve the Jade Emperor.

Wu-Kung also passed by the Treasure Hall of the Divine Mist, where the doors and frames were of jade, and the points and nails that joined them were of pure gold. Its hallways and corridors numbered in the thousands and everywhere one could see sculptures and reliefs of a perfect and elegant workmanship. He possessed three and four eaves, so spacious

that in each of them the dragons and phoenixes took care of their young. At its widest point opened a splendid round dome, a gigantic pumpkin of purple gold, under which the protective goddesses spread their fans and the jade maidens hung their immortal veils.

The appearance of the celestial marshals who supervised the progress of the court was fierce, and worthy of that of the ten thousand officers whose responsibilities included protecting the throne. None, however, paid special attention to a crystal dish filled to overflowing with pills of the elixir of the Great Monad, next to which were several carnelian vases with twisted branches of coral protruding from the graceful opening of their mouths. In that celestial hall one could contemplate all kinds of strange objects, absolutely different from those that can be found on earth, such as golden arches, silver chariots, coral cocoons, jasper plants with tender jade buds… For greater astonishment, A lapis lazuli rabbit approached the throne to pay its respects to the King of Heaven, while a golden raven 3 came flying to pay homage to the Great Sage. What immense luck was that of the King of the Monkeys, to be admitted into the mysteries of the celestial kingdom, he, who was worth nothing in the world of men!

The Golden Star of the Planet Venus led the Beautiful King of the Monkeys to the Treasure Room of the Divine Mist, from where they were taken, without any delay, to the presence of the Lord of Heaven. Upon seeing him, the Star immediately fell face to the ground. Wu-Kung, for his part, remained standing, disrespectfully scratching his ear, while his traveling companion informed his lord of the result of his efforts.

  • Your humble servant – said the Gold Star – has brought with him, according to your wish, the capricious immortal.
  • Who is this capricious immortal you speak of? – asked the Jade Emperor, condescendingly.

Only then did Wu-Kung agree to bow slightly and reply haughtily:

  • Who else could be more than me?

The celestial officials fell silent, scandalized, and commented among themselves, bad-tempered:

  • What a rude monkey! Not only has he not prostrated himself before the throne, but, on top of that, he has the audacity to respond without anyone having asked him. You would have seen so much insolence! He is worthy of the death penalty!
  • Sun Wu-Kung is a capricious immortal, from the Lower Regions, who has very recently acquired human appearance – said the Jade Emperor, stepping out of his comments -. It is logical, therefore, that he does not know the etiquette of the court, so I think that this time we should overlook his insolent ignorance.
  • We think His Majesty’s decision is correct – replied the celestial officials. Realizing how difficult his situation was, Wu-Kung folded his hands on his chest and bowed deeply, while muttering an unintelligible expression of gratitude. The Jade Emperor then turned to his subordinates and ordered them to see if there were any vacant positions that Sun Wu-Kung could fill. Immediately the Star Spirit of Wu-Chü came forward, reporting with trembling respect:
  • In all the departments of the Celestial Palace there is not a single vacant position, great sir. Only in the stables does there seem to be a need for a supervisor.
  • In that case – concluded the Jade Emperor – let him take charge of the imperial stables 4 and take care of the horses as best he can.

All the courtiers praised the emperor’s wise decision, except, of course, the

Monkey himself, who, however, had no choice but to bow deeply and express out loud the unconditional gratitude. The Jade Emperor then turned to the Spirit of the Planet Jupiter and ordered him to accompany his new officer to the stables.

The Monkey King followed the Spirit to the stables, ready to fulfill his new responsibilities as best he could. As soon as the Star of Jupiter had left him alone, he summoned all of his subordinates – grooms, grooms and grooms – and asked them to inform him of the situation in the stables. He was able to verify, thus, that the number of celestial horses far exceeded a thousand, including animals of the worth of Hua-Lian, Chr-Ching, Lu-Ar, Hsien-Li, Tzu-Hsiang, Chüe-Te, Yao -Niao, Dragon Wives, Red Swallows, Folded Wings, Silver Helmets, Flying Yellows, Chestnuts, Faster-than-arrows, Red Hares, Faster-than-light, Jumping Lights, Shadows of Vault, Mist Dispersers, Wind Chasers, Distance Destroyers, Flying Wings, Wind Causers, Hurricane Breezes, Dazzling Lightning, Copper Sparrows, Floating Clouds, Multicolored Dragonflies, Painted Tigers, Dust Removers, Purple Scales 5 and related specimens from all corners of the Ferghana region 6. They were animals that, like the eight steeds and the nine stallions, were completely unrivaled within a radius of a thousand kilometers around. The celestial horses surpassed all others in finesse, despite their neighing resembling the howling of the wind and their gallop possessing the indescribable strength of thunder. Incessantly they trampled the frost and soared above the clouds with unalterable vigor. The King of the Monkeys carefully reviewed the lists of the animals in his charge and made a careful inspection of all the facilities. The people in charge of him were countless, some being in charge of obtaining the provisions; others to wash and brush the horses, cut the hay and prepare their food; and others, finally, to ensure the smooth running of the entire establishment. From the first day the new «pi-ma-wen» 7 did not rest for a single moment, personally supervising the care of the animals, worrying about their condition during the day and watching over them with paternal diligence at night. Those who wanted to sleep he made them wake up and then fed them, while those who wanted to gallop he made them enter the stables and did not let them leave. In this way, he managed to make them behave with inexplicable docility as soon as they saw him and they all gained weight after a very short time.

Approximately half a month passed in this way and the officers in charge of the other departments decided that the time had come to congratulate him on his achievements and admit him definitively into their circle of immortals. They therefore offered him a splendid banquet, which included none of the most famous people of the court. When the time came for the toasts, the Monkey King took the opportunity to ask them:

  • What place does that “pi-ma-wen” position that I hold occupy within the civil service?
  • Exactly the same as its title – they responded, mockingly.
  • Yes, but what is its degree? – he insisted.
  • Your position totally lacks rank – they explained.
  • Do you mean that he is so tall that he surpasses them all and there is none above him? – the Monkey King asked again.
  • No way! – they exclaimed, bursting out laughing -. Your position is…

how would we say…? Reluctant to any classification.

  • What do you imply by saying that it is resistant to any classification? – asked, once again, the King of the Monkeys.
  • Nothing – they answered -. Only she is the last of all. Consider it coldly and

You will realize that your responsibility consists of taking care of horses exclusively, something that, in reality, anyone can do. You see, since your arrival you have dedicated yourself body and soul to that task and what reward have you received to date? None! If you manage to make the animals fat, at most they will tell you that it is not bad. But, if they lose weight or suffer some type of injury, they will give you a good fight and they may even take you before the judge and make you pay a considerable fine.

Hearing this, the Monkey King’s heart sank and he exclaimed, gnashing his teeth bitterly:

  • How is it possible that I am treated with such contempt? In the Mountain of Flowers and Fruits I was considered a king and was respected like a patriarch. Who thought of bringing me here under deception to simply take care of animals and horses? Why did they have to treat me like this, when everyone knows that I have the qualities to be more than a common stable boy, a lower-ranking job that only the least intelligent and the youngest perform? I will never do it again! I refuse to do it! I’m leaving right now!

Blind with anger, he kicked the table on which the banquet had been served tremendously and pulled the iron bar out of his ear, which, in the blink of an eye, acquired the thickness of a bowl of rice. Dealing blows left and right, he left the imperial stables and headed towards the South Gate. As they knew that he now held the rank of «pi-ma-wen», the celestial guardians did not dare to stop him and allowed him to freely leave the Celestial Palace.

In less than one moves a finger, he mounted the cloud and hurried back to the Mountain of Flowers and Fruits. From the air he saw the four commanders exercising their troops, in the company of the Monster Kings from the other caves, and, raising his voice, he shouted to them:

  • Make way for me! Your king has just arrived!

Instantly all the monkeys fell on their faces and began to hit the ground with their foreheads. He was then led with great fanfare into the cave, where he was offered a splendid welcome banquet. Pleased, the King of the Monkeys sat on his throne and the representatives of his subjects respectfully told him:

  • Please accept our most sincere congratulations, great sir. Having resided for more than ten years in the regions above, it is natural that we assume that you have obtained countless honors up there, honors that, in some way, affect us all.
  • What, ten years? – exclaimed the King of the Monkeys, surprised -. I’ve only been away for a little over half a month.
  • When one lives in Heaven, great sir – some of his subjects made him reconsider -, he completely loses consciousness of time. One day up there is equivalent to at least one earth year. May we ask what role you have held during your absence?
  • Don’t talk to me about that! – answered the King of the Monkeys, shaking his hands -. I’m ashamed to tell you! The Jade Emperor does not know how to appreciate the value of people. Seeing my monkey appearance, he entrusted me with a position called “pi-ma”, which actually means head groom of his stables. It is a job so little considered that it does not even fall within the category of imperial civil servant. Of course, I didn’t know it, when I took care of him; I even got to have a good time in the stables. But when I asked the other immortals today about the consideration I deserved and discovered that it was a position that did not inspire the slightest respect, I became so furious that with a single blow I knocked over the banquet table they were offering me and resigned. my position. That is the reason why I now find myself back among

you.

  • We are glad that this is the case – the monkeys said, excitedly -. Welcome to your home! In this sacred cave you will find the respect and happiness that you have been denied in that other place. There is no point in abandoning it to become a simple stable boy.
  • Bring wine immediately and let us toast the health of our great king! – shouted others.

When they were most cheerful, drinking and chatting happily, one of his subjects appeared and informed him, saying:

  • Out there, great lord, there are two one-horned demons, who wish to see you.
  • Make them pass – ordered the King of the Monkeys.

As soon as the demons heard it, they straightened their clothes a little and rushed into the cave, prostrating themselves respectfully when they saw Sun Wu-Kung.

  • Can I know why you want to see me? – the Beautiful King of the Monkeys asked them.
  • We have wanted to meet with you for quite some time, but we did not dare to request an audience – the two demons confessed -. Today, finally, we have heard that the Celestial Emperor has offered you a very important position in his court and that you have returned with more honors than when you left one day. That has encouraged us to come and give you this red and yellow tunic and thus join your celebration. If you have no problem dealing with people as vulgar and low as us, we would love to enter your service, even if only as dogs or pack animals.

Pleasantly pleased by his sincerity, the King of the Monkeys accepted the gift, which he placed right there, while the others paid homage to him. His satisfaction was so great that, without thinking twice, he named the demons Commanders of the Vanguard and Marshals of the Shock Regiments.

  • May we ask you – his two new subordinates humbly said, after thanking him – what position you have held in Heaven during all this time you have spent there?
  • The Jade Emperor does not know how to appreciate the worth of the people who approach him – answered the King of the Monkeys -. It is not surprising, therefore, that he only named me «pi-ma» from his stables.
  • How is it possible? – the two demons exclaimed, scandalized -. With the powers that you possess, and he only entrusted you with the care of his horses? There is nothing that can prevent you from assuming the rank of Great Sage, Sosia of Heaven.

The Monkey King could not hide his deep satisfaction. He was, in fact, so big that it was practically impossible for her to restrain his enthusiasm and not start applauding. He turned, smiling, to his four commanders and ordered them:

  • Immediately make a banner that says «The Great Sage, Sosia of Heaven,» and place it in a clearly visible place. From now on the title of Great King is abolished, and anyone who wants to address me must use that other name. Let the Monster Kings of the other caves be informed of this and, thus, annoying misunderstandings will be avoided.

The next day the Jade Emperor summoned his courtiers and prepared to listen to the reports of those responsible for the different departments. He had barely taken his seat when Master Chang 8 appeared in the reddish courtyard, followed by the acting manager of the imperial stables and one of his assistants. The three fell on their faces and said to His Excellency:

  • Yesterday Sun Wu-Kung, the immortal to whom you entrusted the care of your stables,

He considered that his position was not appropriate to his many qualities and left the Celestial Palace with an attitude that we do not hesitate to describe as authentic rebellion.

He had not finished saying it, when Devaraja Virudhaka appeared in front of the guardians of the South Gate and informed his lord, saying:

  • For reasons beyond our understanding, the new “pi-ma” left the palace yesterday and has not yet returned.

Hearing this, the Jade Emperor became angry and ordered them:

  • You and your subordinates can return to your posts. I assure you that that beast will not go unpunished, because I plan to send a group of soldiers to arrest him.

Devaraja Li 9 and Prince Nata then stepped forward and said with indescribable respect:

  • Despite not belonging to the group of your most prominent subjects, we request permission to carry out the arrest of that monster.

Impressed by his bravery, the Jade Emperor appointed Devaraja Li-Ching as supreme leader of the expedition and promoted Prince Nata to President of the Assembly of Immortals. Both were thus made responsible for the force that, without any delay, had to descend to the Lower Regions and carry out the Emperor’s mandate.

After repeatedly hitting the ground with their foreheads, they requested permission to leave and went to say goodbye to their people. They then reviewed the troops, naming the Almighty Spirit God, Chief of the Vanguard; to General Fish Belly, Commander of the Rear Guard, and to the General of the Yaksas, Liaison Officer 10. Without further delay, they left the Palace through the South Gate and headed directly to the Mountain of Flowers and Fruits. After choosing a suitable place to set up the camp, the Almighty Spirit God received the order to attack. The general adjusted his armor, took his axe, which he only used in defense of virtue and order, and headed, determined, toward the Water Curtain Cavern. In front of her he saw a great multitude of monsters – among which were wolves, insects, tigers, leopards and other similar vermin – jumping, screaming and waving their swords and spears incessantly.

  • Damn beasts! – shouted the Almighty Spirit God -. Go inform the “pi-ma-wen” that a general from Heaven has just arrived with the specific order to arrest him. Tell him in the name of the Jade Emperor to surrender and leave as quickly as possible. Otherwise, all of you will be put to death.

The monsters rushed into the cave and shouted to their lord:

  • What a disgrace! Bad fortune is about to overtake us!
  • Can I know what you are talking about? – asked, surprised, the King of the Monkeys.
  • Out there – they explained as best they could – there is a celestial warrior who claims to come in the name of the Jade Emperor to arrest you. He demands, therefore, that you come out as soon as possible and surrender, if you do not want all our lives to be sacrificed.

The King of the Monkeys immediately stood up and ordered with a martial gesture:

  • Bring me my battle gear!

Without wasting time he adjusted the red gold helmet on his head, protected his chest with the yellow gold breastplate, put on his shoes for walking through the clouds and took the iron bar with the golden ends in his hands. Immediately he gathered his entire army, arranged them in battle order, and led them out of the cave. When the Almighty Spirit God saw him, he was struck dumb with fear. The appearance of the King of the Monkeys

It was so impressive that I couldn’t take my eyes off it. She had never seen a figure as magnificent as his. The golden breastplate that covered his body shone as if it were an imitation of the sun, as did the golden helmet that protected his head. Such an impressive outfit in no way belied the gold-tipped bar that he held in his hands, nor the cloud-stomping shoes that fitted his feet. To make matters worse, his eyes shone with the fury of a thousand burning stars and above his shoulders stood the steep hardness of his two ears, which had already begun, like his entire body, to metamorphose. Her voice sounded, in fact, like the ringing of bells, making it extremely difficult to recognize in her the «pi-ma» with the protuberant mouth and gaping teeth, who had made the audacity to call himself Wise Sosia of Heaven. Despite everything, the Almighty Spirit God was not daunted and asked with a loud voice:

  • Do you recognize me, damn monkey?
  • What kind of personalityless god are you? – the Great Sage immediately replied -. I don’t think we’ve ever met before, so you’d do well to tell me your name as soon as possible.
  • What do you mean by saying you don’t know me, you cocky monkey? – the celestial envoy asked again -. I am the Almighty Spirit God, Chief of the Vanguard of the Celestial Army under the command of the Honorable Li-Ching, sent by the Jade Emperor to obtain your surrender. So get rid of all your weapons as soon as possible and submit to the heavenly blessing, if you do not want all the creatures of this mountain to be put to the sword. You yourself will be reduced to dust in a few seconds, if you dare to open your mouth to say a simple no!
  • What kind of reckless fool are you? – bellowed the King of the Monkeys, furious -. Stop bragging and talking, once and for all! I could erase you from this world just by touching you with my bar, but since I have not yet told you what I have to tell you, I will spare your life for the moment. Return to Heaven as soon as possible and tell the Jade Emperor for me that he has no respect for true worth. Look at me, for example. My abilities are practically infinite and yet he only agreed to trust me with the care of his horses. Have you seen the words I’ve had embroidered on my banner? They express what I really am. I promise you, therefore, that if I am granted a position consistent with what they mean, I will lay down my weapons and peace will flourish again in the universe. But if, on the other hand, the Jade Emperor does not grant my requests, I will not stop fighting until he has set my feet in the Treasure Room of the Divine Mist and sat on his dragon throne.

Hearing these words, the Almighty Spirit God opened his eyes as wide as he could and turned in the direction in which the wind was blowing. This is how he discovered, outside the cavern, a huge mast from which hung a gigantic banner that read: «The Great Sage, Sosia of Heaven.» The god burst out laughing and exclaimed with evil content:

  • Stupid monkey! It’s incredible how fatuous and arrogant you have become! How did you think of arrogating to yourself the title of Great Sage, Sosia of Heaven, when you are incapable of facing the destructive power of my axe? – And he launched an accurate backhand against her head.

But The Monkey King was an experienced warrior and was not deterred. He parried the blow without any difficulty with the iron bar, thus beginning an exciting encounter. The two weapons were, in truth, unmatched. One, the bar, was called Complacent and the other, the ax, had been named Proclaimer of Virtue. The two met repeatedly and neither showed the slightest weakness nor showed signs of being superior to the other. If one possessed extraordinary secret powers, the other was not far behind, openly showing his power and her strength. Who the

They were, in truth, splendid warriors. Their concentration on each blow was so great that they seemed like wise men focused on a codex. But his fierceness was no less. In each encounter the two blew mists and clouds, raising waves of mud and sand storms around them. It couldn’t be any other way, since they were both celestial warriors. But the metamorphosing power of the King of the Monkeys knew no limits and, in the end, he ended up prevailing over his rival. The iron rod looked like a dragon playing in water and the ax resembled a phoenix slicing flowers cleanly, but the Almighty Spirit God, despite being known throughout the world, was no match for the Great Sage. With a single blow of his bar he was able to make the strongest body disappear.

The Almighty Spirit God soon realized that he had nothing to do against such a formidable rival. However, he continued to defend himself as best he could. The King of the Monkeys launched a terrible blow against his head, which he opportunely stopped with his axe; But he could not prevent the shaft from breaking in two and he had no choice but to leave the field free, fleeing shamefully to save his life.

  • Idiot! – shouted, contemptuously, the King of the Monkeys -. Don’t think you’ve managed to escape through your own industry. If I have not finished you off, it has been because I want you to return to your lord and convey my message to him.

Out of shame, the Almighty Spirit God returned to the camp and immediately went to see Devaraja Li-Ching. Panting like a wounded animal, she knelt before him and said:

  • That «pi-ma» truly possesses extraordinary magical powers. He has used them against me and I have found it impossible to control him. Dishonored and defeated, I now beg your mercy.
  • There is no forgiveness for those who do not know how to behave with manliness on the battlefield! – exclaimed Devaraja Li with acrimony -. Take him out and execute him.

Prince Nata then stepped forward and, bowing respectfully before his superior, begged for mercy, saying:

  • Let the embers of your anger be extinguished and forgive God the Almighty Spirit for any part of the blame he may have had in his shameful defeat. Allow me, at the same time, to enter into combat and thus we will discover if what he claims is true or not.

Li-Ching did not disregard his advice and, turning to the Almighty Spirit God, ordered him to retire to his tent and wait there for notification of his final decision. Prince Nata, meanwhile, put on his armor and hurried out of the camp, heading for the Water Curtain Cavern.

Wu-Kung was discharging his troops, when he suddenly looked up and saw him approaching with a ferocity that did not at all fit his extreme youth. His hair barely reached his shoulders, in fact, and the strands that fell over his forehead further accentuated his boyish appearance. It was abundantly clear, however, that he possessed a quick and intelligent mind, which in no way disdained the nobility and elegance of his bearing. Whoever saw him immediately realized that he was an immortal as authentic as the phoenix or the unicorn, whose son he could very well pass for. The blood of the dragon ran through his veins and that made him possess very unusual traits even among immortals. The tenderness of his age was no obstacle for him to perfectly master six kinds of warrior magic. For him there was no secret to flying, taking magnificent jumps and metamorphosing into whatever he wanted. There was nothing strange about the Jade Emperor having appointed him President of the Assembly of Immortals.

Seeing him approach, Wu-Kung raised his voice and asked him with visible sarcasm:

  • Can I know whose brother you are and what you are up to, coming to knock on my door?
  • Damn rebel monkey! – shouted the Prince -. Don’t you recognize me? I am Nata, the third son of Devaraja Li-Ching, and I am here not of my own free will, but at the express wish of the Jade Emperor, who has ordered me to come to arrest you.
  • Will you arrest me? – Wu-Kung replied, bursting out laughing -. You don’t even know what you’re saying, young prince. Your baby teeth have not yet fallen out nor have your lanugo detached from your body, and you dare to speak to me with that insolence? I should give you an exemplary punishment, but I’m not going to do it. I’m not going to fight with you. What I do ask of you is that you take a look at the words embroidered on my banner, so that you can then transmit them verbatim to the Jade Emperor. If you agree to grant me the position they demand, you will not have to fight against me, because I myself will lay down my arms. But, if he refuses to grant my wishes, rest assured that my weapons will lead me directly to the Treasure Hall of the Divine Mist itself.

Nata looked up and read with amazement the inscription «The Great Sage, Sosia of Heaven.» Such audacity made him lose his temper and she exclaimed with contempt:

  • What kind of power do you have to arrogate such a title to yourself? You must know that I am not the least afraid of you. And what’s more: I’m going to make you swallow my sword.
  • «That doesn’t scare me,» Wu-Kung replied, mockingly. I will stay still, as long as you launch your thrusts against me, and I am sure that you will not even touch me.

Such bravado drove young Nata out of his mind, and he shouted angrily:

  • May my body transform!

And instantly he became a terrible character with three heads and six arms, with which he brandished many other weapons: a sword to kill monsters, a scimitar to dismember beasts, a rope to bind rebellious spirits, a whip to tame demons, a filigree ball and a wheel of fire, with which he organized a deadly frontal attack.

  • Oh! – exclaimed Wu-Kung, surprised at such an unexpected deployment of troops -. It seems that the little boy knows a few tricks. But there is no reason to be alarmed. I am also an expert magician – and he shouted with all his might -: Transformation!

In the blink of an eye, he became a horrendous creature with three heads and six arms, which held, threateningly, the three iron bars into which the golden-tipped weapon that the king gave him was mutated. Dragon King of the Eastern Ocean. No wonder the encounter was so fierce; The earth began to tremble and the mountains were shaken to their roots. A battle like the one that Prince Nata and the Beautiful King of the Monkeys offered that day had never been seen! Both owed their strength to the same origin and at no time did they reject hand-to-hand combat. Quick was the sword for killing monsters, lethal was the scimitar for dismembering beasts, deadly like a flying snake was the rope for binding rebellious spirits, destructive was the ball of fire like fiery darts, and maddening was the speed with which the filigree ball rotated; but the three iron bars of the Great Sage effectively covered his flanks and proved invincible in defending his rear. The battle was so close that it was impossible to predict with certainty a winner. In order to break the stalemate that seemed to have been reached, the Prince’s indefatigable mind ordered his six magical weapons to become hundreds and billions, and to attack, all at once, the head of his adversary. . Undaunted, the Monkey King laughed and urged his three iron bars to multiply first by a thousand, then by ten thousand, and finally by a number that surpassed all calculation. Thus he was able to face the attack of his enemy, filling the sky with a swarm so

so many dancing dragons that the Monster Kings of the different caves felt mortal fear and ran to take refuge in their well-protected lairs. In reality, there was nothing cowardly about his attitude. The tired breath of the two contenders resembled thick clouds and the rapid movement of their many arms was reminiscent of the hurricane wind. His ferocious cries terrified everyone who heard them, including the soldiers on both sides who held their masters’ banners. If possible, their fear was even greater, because no one could predict which way the fortunes would fall or to whom the glory of victory would fall.

Making constant use of their supernatural powers, the Prince and Wu-Kung resisted without fainting for more than thirty rounds. The six weapons of the former became ten thousand, but the three bars of the latter did the same. All of them displayed their deadly effectiveness at altitude, colliding in the air like meteors or raindrops. However, not even such amazing tactics were able to establish a clear winner. In the long run, it was Wu-Kung who showed signs of possessing a more accurate eye and hand. When the battle seemed to be fiercest, he tore a hair from his chest and shouted:

– Transform yourself!

He instantly became such a perfect copy of himself that he ended up deceiving Nata himself. With a formidable leap, the real Wu-Kung stood behind him and dealt him a terrible blow on the left arm with the bar. Still the owner of all of his magical powers, Nata heard the hiss of iron and hurriedly tried to dodge it, but he couldn’t move aside quickly enough and the weapon ended up wounding him. The pain made him lose his magic and, collecting as best he could his six weapons, he fled, defeated, towards his camp.

Devaraja Li-Ching had been watching the battle unfold from afar and, seeing how bad things were getting for his son, he immediately tried to come to his aid, but the Prince prevented him, saying:

  • That «pi-ma-wen» truly possesses extraordinary powers. You’ve already seen. Not even I, who master the magical arts to perfection, have managed to dominate him. What’s more, it was he who beat me, causing this horrific wound on his shoulder.
  • «If he is as powerful as you claim,» replied the Devaraja, losing the color in his face, «no one will ever be able to defeat him.»
  • There is still an open door to hope – said the Prince -. In front of his cave he has placed a huge banner, which reads: «The Great Sage, Sosia of Heaven.» He himself has stated with unbearable boastfulness that, if the Jade Emperor voluntarily agrees to grant him that title, he will immediately lay down his arms and peace will be restored. But, if he refuses, he will continue fighting until he puts his blasphemous foot in the very Treasure Room of the Divine Mist.
  • In that case – Li-Ching concluded – the most advisable thing is to suspend hostilities for the moment and inform the Jade Emperor as soon as possible of what you have said. There will always be time later to return with more soldiers and reduce him in any way.

The Prince felt such pain in his shoulder that he did not even want to hear about battles. He was totally exhausted and, with the help of his father, he began the journey back to Heaven to inform the Celestial Emperor of everything that had happened.

The Monkey King, meanwhile, returned victorious to his mountain. It didn’t take long for the Monster Kings of the other seventy-two caves and his six proud brothers to come to congratulate him, who celebrated his triumph with a gargantuan banquet.

  • If I, who am your younger brother – he told them with ill-contained satisfaction -, hold the title of Great Sage, Sosia of Heaven, there is no reason why you should not also share in my glory.
  • You are right! – exclaimed the Bull King -. From now on I will call myself the Great Sage, Reflection of Heaven.
  • I will be known as the Great Wise Lord of the Ocean – stated, in turn, the Dragon King.
  • I will assume the title of Great Sage United to Heaven – the Garuda Monster announced, enthusiastically.
  • I will be respected as the Great Sage, Lord of the Mountain – the Lion King proclaimed proudly.
  • I will be remembered as the Great Sage of the Serene Breeze – said the Queen of the Monkeys.
  • I will take the name of Great Sage, Scourge of the Gods – declared, smiling, the Giant Ape.

From then on the Seven Great Sages enjoyed total freedom to do whatever they wanted and assume the titles they liked the most. Between jokes and whims they spent the day together and then each one retired to his home.

Li-Ching and Prince Nata went at that very moment to the Treasure Hall of the Divine Mist, to present, in the company of their army officers, a report of what had happened to the Lord of Heaven.

  • Following your wishes – they stated with indescribable respect -, we descended to the Lower Regions at the head of a large group of soldiers in order to arrest Sun Wu-Kung, the immortal rebel. What we could least suspect then was that he possessed enormous strength, which has made all our efforts to successfully carry out the entrusted mission useless. We beg, therefore, your majesty to multiply our troops, so that we can, in this way, give the punishment to which you have deserved.

How is it possible that you request reinforcements to dominate a common monkey? – asked the Jade Emperor, surprised.

  • Our shameful failure is, in truth, deserving of the death penalty – confessed the Prince, standing out from the group -. That vulgar monkey, as you yourself say, has an iron bar that makes him practically invincible. With it he first defeated the Almighty Spirit God and then wounded your servant in the shoulder. He feels so safe with her that he has had a huge banner placed at the door of her cave on which the following is written: «The Great Sage, Sosia of Heaven.» He even told me that if you agree to grant him such a high rank, he will immediately lay down his arms and establish an alliance with your kingdom. Otherwise, he will continue fighting and will not stop until he has set his blasphemous foot in this Treasure Room of Divine Mist.
  • How dare that rebellious monkey be so insolent? – The Jade Emperor exclaimed, not completely believing what he heard. Let my best generals gather and execute him without delay.

As soon as he had finished saying it, the Golden Star of the Planet Venus took a step forward and said:

  • The rebellious monkey certainly has a very light tongue, but he does not know the difference between what is right and what is not. Even if we send new troops to fight him, I highly doubt that we will be able to subdue him without suffering heavy losses ourselves. I think, therefore, that the most advisable thing would be for you to be benign and send him a new offer of reconciliation. What can you lose, in short, by naming him Great Sage, Sosia of Heaven? After all, it is a title completely lacking in rank.
  • What do you mean by lacking range? – asked, once again, the Jade Emperor.
  • No matter how bombastic that Great Sage, Sosia of Heaven may sound, it will not entail any official responsibility or any type of financial compensation. Furthermore, it will be a tremendous advantage for us, since we will be able to control him more easily and we will do everything in our power to make him desist from the arrogant madness that now dominates him. In this way, the universe and the oceans will once again enjoy the peace and tranquility that has always characterized them.
  • Your words are correct – the Jade Emperor acknowledged -. We will follow your advice to the letter – and he commissioned the Gold Star to be the one in charge of conveying his imperial decision to Wu-Kung.

Without wasting time the Star left the palace through the South Gate, heading, once again, towards the Mountain of Flowers and Fruits. She found to her surprise that things had changed quite a bit outside the Water Curtain Cavern and that everything had taken on a marked military tone. The entire region was, in fact, full of monsters of the most varied species, armed to the teeth with swords, scimitars, arrows and spears. As soon as they saw her, they began to growl and jump, while some threw her deadly weapons at him. The Golden Star therefore had to raise her voice, saying:

  • Listen to me well! I am an envoy from above and I bring a message from the Lord of Heaven to the Great Sage.

The monsters then ran into the cave and announced to the King of the Monkeys:

  • There is an old man out there who claims to come from above with a message from the Jade Emperor for you.
  • Make him come in right away – exclaimed Wu-Kung, excited -. He must be the same emissary from the other time, that is, the Golden Star of the Planet Venus. Heaven is not very given to changes. Although on my previous visit to that kingdom I was not treated with the respect I deserved, I became familiar with its ways of acting and I was able to verify it on more than one occasion. In any case, I am convinced that he has come with better intentions than the previous time.

Without wasting time he ordered his subordinates to take the banners and arrange the troops in a line of review amidst the beating of drums and the clashing of weapons. He then put on his helmet, adjusted his breastplate – which he conveniently hid under his red and yellow tunic – and, after putting on his boots for walking through the clouds, he went out to the mouth of the cave. There he bowed with unexpected courtesy and said, raising his voice:

  • Come in, Gold Star. I apologize for not having come out to meet you sooner.

The Star responded to his greetings with a bow and entered the cave determinedly, where, without stopping looking towards the south 11, he informed his host:

  • I think it is my duty to update you on everything that happened. Once you rejected the position that had been entrusted to you and you left the imperial stables by your own decision, those responsible for the stables were forced to report what had happened to the Jade Emperor. Upon hearing this, his majesty flew into a rage and exclaimed, offended: «The civil service is set up in such a way that a position of lower rank is soon followed by another of a higher order. What is wrong with this system that he dares to subvert it so blatantly? Your abandonment was taken, therefore, as an open rebellion. Hence the military campaign directed against you by Devaraja Li-Ching and Prince Nata was organized. Of course, both were unaware of your tremendous power and, consequently, suffered a shameful defeat, which they promptly reported to Heaven, along with the

fact that you had placed a banner at the door of your cave in which you expressed your natural desire to be considered the Great Sage, Sosia of Heaven. In all honesty, I must tell you that many officials refused to give in to your request, so, risking the anger of the Lord of Heaven, I dared to suggest to him that it would be much more convenient for everyone to renounce the use of violence. and grant you the rank that you yourself demanded. As expected from his prodigious intelligence, the Jade Emperor accepted my point of view without reservation, and that is the reason why I now have the immense pleasure of coming to see you.

  • I gave you enough headaches the last time you visited me, for you to trust me again – Wu-Kung answered, smiling -. My gratitude for what you have done is, therefore, inexpressible. In any case, forgive me for insisting: are you really willing up there to grant me the title of Great Sage, Sosia of Heaven?
  • I can assure you that such a high rank has been approved by the Jade Emperor himself – the Gold Star responded -. She did it precisely moments before he left here. The only thing I can tell you to break your reluctance is that I take responsibility for everything that happens.

Wu-Kung was very pleased with his words, although he seriously regretted that the Gold Star did not accept the banquet he had planned to give in his honor. He had no choice, then, but to mount the sacred cloud of the Golden Star and go to the South Gate, where he was received by a representation of generals and celestial soldiers with their hands folded on their chests as a sign of respect. Paying little attention to them, he continued on his way towards the Divine Mist Treasure Room. There the Golden Star of the Planet Venus laid his face on the ground and informed his lord of his efforts, saying with the utmost respect:

  • Following your wishes, your humble servant has brought the “pi-ma” Sun Wu-Kung here.
  • Let Wu-Kung come closer – ordered the Jade Emperor, to add in a more formal tone -: I grant you the title of Great Sage, Sosia of Heaven, a position of great height to which no other surpasses in dignity. Therefore, you should try to control your rude impulses and always display dignified behavior.

The King of the Monkeys bowed, respectful, and expressed his most sincere gratitude for the grace received. The Jade Emperor then turned to the two imperial architects, officials Chang and Lou, and ordered them to build the official residence of the Great Sage, Sosia of Heaven, on the right side of the Garden of Immortal Peaches. The mansion they built consisted of two large halls – one called Peace and Silence, and the other Serenity of Spirit – attended by a veritable swarm of servants and officials. The Jade Emperor ordered, at the same time, the Spirits of the Five Poles to accompany Wu-Kung to take possession of his new position, giving him, as a sign of friendship, two bottles of the best wine and ten bouquets of golden flowers. . Despite this, he forcefully reminded him that he must control his natural rebelliousness and refrain from all kinds of unseemly behavior. The King of the Monkeys obeyed this advice with unexpected submission and retired with the five spirits to take possession of his new responsibilities. To celebrate, he opened the bottles of wine and toasted them to the bright future that lay ahead. When the spirits had returned to their respective palaces, he prepared to enjoy without measure the innumerable pleasures that Heaven offered him, now completely free of all worries and concerns. His name appeared forever in the Book of Everlasting Life, from which he would never be crossed out to fall into the hell of oblivion.

At the moment we do not know what happened next. Whoever wants to discover it will have to

Listen carefully to what is said in the next chapter.

CHAPTER V

BY STEALING THE ELIXIR, THE GREAT SAGE HINDERS THE CELEBRATION OF THE PEACH FESTIVAL. MANY GODS TRY TO TRAP THE REBEL MONSTER FROM THE SKY

Despite his elevated position, the Great Sage was still a wild monkey. It made no sense to him what rank his bombastic title might occupy or how much his official allowance amounted to. He was content with his name simply being inscribed in the Book of Imperial High Offices. In his official residence he lacked absolutely nothing, thoroughly enjoying the gift with which his subordinates and servants treated him. His only worries were eating three times a day and sleeping soundly at night. As he lacked duties and responsibilities, he spent his time visiting his friends in his splendid mansions, continually opening the circle of friends and constantly establishing new alliances with his peers. When he met the Pure Three 1, he addressed them with a respectful «your bow»; When he met the Four Emperors 2, he did so with a submissive «your majesty.» As for the Nine Planets 3, the Generals of the Five Cardinal Points 4, the Twenty-eight Constellations 5, the Four Guardians of the World 6, the Twelve Hour Divisions 7, the Five Elders of the Five Regions 8, the Star Spirits of Everything the Universe and the countless gods of the Milky Way, he considered them his brothers and treated them as such. He ignored none of them. He sometimes visited those who lived in the eastern zone, to do the same the next day with those who resided in the western zone. When he got tired of feasts and talks, he walked aimlessly through the clouds and thus the hours passed, bearably.

Early one day in the morning, when the Jade Emperor was holding his usual audience, the Taoist immortal Hsü Ching-Yang appeared, who, after repeatedly touching the ground with his forehead as a sign of compliance, said visibly worried:

  • The Great Sage, Sosia of Heaven, has no responsibility and wastes his time pitifully. She has made friends with all the stars and constellations in the sky, which she calls her friends, without regard at all to their position or her rank. That is frankly worrying, since the only thing that can result from so much idleness are untold disorders and mischief. Wouldn’t she be wise, in order to avoid such a regrettable possibility, to assign him some kind of responsibility?

The Jade Emperor nodded silently and immediately sent for the Monkey King.

  • What reward have you thought of giving me, to make me come so hastily to your presence, your majesty? – Wu-Kung asked, sweetly.
  • We have realized – answered the Jade Emperor – that, since you have nothing to do, your life is becoming somewhat indolent, so we have decided to entrust you with a small responsibility. From today you will be in charge, on a purely temporary basis, of the care of the Garden of Immortal Peaches. Watch them day and night and don’t let your diligence falter for a single second. This is what we all expect from you.

The Great Sage bowed respectfully and, after giving thanks, requested permission to leave. He was so excited that he couldn’t control his impatience and ran to take a first look at the Garden of Immortal Peaches. But, to his surprise,

spirit in charge of the garden stopped him, asking him:

  • Can we know where the Great Sage is going?
  • The Jade Emperor has entrusted me with the care of this place – he answered – and I have come to inspect the state in which it is found. The spirit instantly abandoned his suspicious attitude and greeted him with the respect that such a unique character deserved. He then brought in all the servants in charge of removing the earth, watering the trees, caring for the peaches, and clearing and cleaning the ground, and they entered the garden together, but not before greeting the Great Sage, repeatedly hitting the mud with their foreheads. .

Wu-Kung was stunned at what his eyes saw. All the branches were full of delicate flowers and attractive fruits, the weight of which made them bend dangerously. They looked like attractive golden balls that competed in beauty with the sensual carmine of the buds. The trees that supported them were always in bloom and constantly bore fruit. They took a thousand years to mature and lasted another ten thousand. Those who had reached maturity first had the graceful liveliness of faces reddened by wine, while the others hid their promise of future sweetness in the opal green of their skin, which reverberated incessantly under the spell of the sun. At the foot of the trees you could see flowers and grasses, from which the constant flow of the seasons could not take away their original color. To the right and left one could also see capricious constructions of such height that their peaks were lost in the very heart of the clouds. This was, in truth, a garden planted not by human hands, but by the Queen Mother of Jasper Pool 9.

After enjoying such a splendid spectacle for a long time, the Great Sage turned to the spirit and asked:

  • Do you know the exact number of trees there are here?
  • Three thousand six hundred – answered the spirit -. In the front there are a total of twelve hundred trees, but their flowers are very small and their fruits are not yet in season. As you well know, these peaches ripen once every three thousand years and whoever is fortunate enough to taste them instantly becomes an immortal enlightened by the Tao; His limbs become beautiful and his body becomes strong. In the central part there are another twelve hundred trees with larger flowers and more syrupy fruits, which mature once every six thousand years. Whoever tries them ascends to the heavens with the vapor of frost and never ages. In the back, finally, grow another twelve hundred fruit trees furrowed by a thousand purple veins and the bone of an attractive pale yellow color. These are special dogs that only mature once every nine thousand years and whoever eats them can without any difficulty reach the age of the sky, the earth, the sun and the moon.

Pleasantly impressed by these explanations, the Great Sage made a detailed inventory of all the trees, as well as the temples and buildings that stood in that paradisiacal garden. Only when he was completely finished, he decided to retire to rest in his chambers. But he was so enthralled by what he had seen that from that day on he spent more time in that place than in the comfort of the palace, considerably reducing visits to his friends and almost completely eliminating his travels.

One day he was excited to see that more than half of the peaches on the oldest trees had ripened and he felt the irrepressible temptation to pluck one and taste its flavor. But the spirit of the garden and its own servants never left him and he considered it inappropriate to do so in front of them. He therefore devised a plan and, turning to his followers, he asked them:

  • Why don’t you wait for me outside and let me rest here for a bit?

The immortals agreed to his request and left the garden. with incredible

The King of the Monkeys quickly took off his clothes and climbed to the top of the largest tree he could find. He chose the largest ripe peaches and began to eat them quietly, sitting on a branch. Only when he had had his fill did he jump back to the ground, put on his clothes, and order his legion of companions to return with him to his luxurious mansion. After two or three days, he repeated the operation, gorging himself on fruit again.

Soon the Queen Mother decided to throw open the chamber of her countless treasures and offer a banquet on the occasion of the Great Festival of the Immortal Peaches, which was to be held, as always, in the Palace of Jasper Pond. Very excited by the imminence of the date, she ordered her maids in the Red Robe, Blue Robe, White Robe, Black Robe, Purple Robe, Yellow Robe and Green Robe to take a basket each and go to the Garden of Immortal Peaches to pick fruit for the festival. The Seven Maidens came to the door of the garden and, upon seeing the spirit and the servants and officials of the Sosia of Heaven there, they said:

  • We come on behalf of the Queen Mother to pick some peaches for the party.
  • Wait a moment, please – the spirit asked them -. This year things have changed a little. To begin with, the Jade Emperor has entrusted the care of all this to the Great Sage, Sosia of Heaven, and we must inform him of your arrival, before we let you pass.

And where is the Great Sage, if it may be known? – the maids asked.

In the garden, resting – the spirit responded -. He felt a little unwell and lay down to sleep for a while under the coolness of the trees.

  • In that case, let’s go look for him as soon as possible – the maids concluded -. We are very busy and we can’t waste time.

The spirit entered the garden with them, but, no matter how hard he tried, he could not find the Great Sage. In the place where she had said goodbye to him there was only a cap and a tunic lying on the floor. Although he looked up at the tops of the peach trees, he could not see anyone, because, after gorging himself on the fruit, Wu-Kung transformed into a figure two centimeters high and, protected by the foliage, fell peacefully asleep in a branch.

  • Even if we do not find the Great Sage, we cannot return empty-handed – the immortal maidens stated decisively -. We are here by imperial will and, with great regret, we are not willing to disappoint it.
  • They are right – said one of the servants -. It would be a lack of etiquette and respect. Furthermore, the Great Sage likes to move around and it is most likely that he has gone to visit some friends. So the best thing is that you go in now to pick the peaches. We’ll tell him you’ve been here when we see him.

The maidens were grateful for such a gesture of trust and went into the grove to pick the fruits. They filled two large baskets with peaches from the trees planted in the front and three more with those in the center, but when they went to do the same with those in the back, they found that they had almost no peaches. fruit and most of its flowers lay pitifully on the ground. There were only a few peaches left, so green that they were completely covered in fluff and were of frankly ridiculous size. The rest had been eaten calmly by the King of the Monkeys. Despite this, the Seven Maidens were not discouraged and continued their search. Finally, on a branch that grew towards the south they found a single peach, whose color was half whitish and half reddish. Exhilarated by such an unexpected discovery, the Maiden in the Blue Robe pulled down the branch, the Maiden in the Red Robe carefully plucked the fruit and returned the scrawny twig to its place. But that was precisely the place that the

Great Sage took his nap and, feeling shaken, instantly recovered his usual form, quickly reaching for his iron bar, which in the blink of an eye acquired the thickness of a bowl of rice.

  • Can we know where you infamous monsters have come from? –He asked, brandishing his deadly weapon in the air. Who gave you permission to come and steal my peaches?

Terrified, the Seven Maidens instantly knelt down and tried to explain to him in a trembling voice:

  • Calm down, Great Sage, please! We are not monsters, but the Seven Immortal Maidens. If we have dared to enter your domains, it has been because the Queen Mother has sent us to pick the fruits that she needs for the Great Festival of the Immortal Peaches, an occasion that she takes advantage of to open wide the chamber of the innumerable treasures of she. But don’t think that we have snuck in without consulting anyone. As soon as we arrived, we went to see the spirit of the garden, who informed us of your ascent and with whom we tried in vain to find you. For fear that the Queen Mother would misunderstand the reason for our delay, we decided not to wait for you any longer and started picking the peaches. We know that we did wrong and, therefore, we now humbly request your forgiveness.

Such an explanation deeply satisfied the Great Sage, who immediately changed his anger into gentleness and gently begged them:

  • Please get up from the ground, divine maidens. Who does the Queen of Heaven usually invite to her banquet, when she opens the chamber of her countless treasures?
  • Last year – answered the maidens, still trembling – the guests were: Buddha, the Bodhisattvas, the holy monks, the patriarchs of the Western Heaven, Kwang-Ing of the South Pole, the Holy Emperor of the Great Mercy of the East, the Immortals of the Ten Continents and the Three Islands, the Spirit of Darkness of the North Pole, the Great Immortal of the Yellow Cornucopia of the Imperial Center and the Elders of the Five Cardinal Points. These were the most distinguished diners, since the Spirits of the Five Poles, the Three Pure Ones, the Four Deva Kings, the Celestial Deva of the Great Monad and the other inhabitants of the Eight Upper Caverns also took part in the banquet. Coming from the Eight Middle Caverns, the Jade Emperor, the Nine Heroes and the Immortals of the Mountains and Seas attended, while from the Eight Lower Caverns the Lord of Darkness and the Earthly Immortals made an appearance. We take it for granted, then, that this year all gods and devas will take part in the Immortal Peach Festival, regardless of their rank or the place in which they live.
  • Do you know if I am invited? – asked the Great Sage, smiling with delight.
  • The truth is that we have not heard your name mentioned – the maids responded, shrugging their shoulders.
  • I am the Great Sage, Sosia of Heaven! – Wu-Kung protested, irritated -. How is it possible that they have forgotten about me on such an important occasion like that?
  • Well – answered the maids, trembling from head to toe -. We have only counted last year’s diners. This year we don’t know what will happen. Maybe they are the same or maybe not.
  • You are right – the Great Sage answered more calmly -. Believe me, I don’t blame you for anything. You can stay here as long as you want, while I go to make sure if I have been invited or not.

As soon as he had finished saying it, he performed a magical gesture aimed at immobilizing the people and recited a spell that transformed living beings into statues. To the

Instantly the Seven Immortal Maidens were paralyzed, their eyes wide open in surprise and as still as the trunks of the peach trees among which they were found. Without loss of time the Great Sage left the garden, mounted his sacred cloud and took the path to the Jasper Pool. From the height he saw the bright veil of the holy mist and the silent parade of five-colored clouds. The cries of the cranes, immaculately white, echoed throughout the breadth of the Nine Heavens, while in the distance the red delicacy of so many flowering buds could be seen, among the tremulous flapping of a thousand leaves. To the right, the figure of an immortal suddenly emerged from the mist. He had a strikingly beautiful face and features so attractive that they were reminiscent of the always surprising brilliance of a rainbow suspended in the air. It was the Great Barefoot Immortal 10 and, according to all indications, he was also heading to the Great Immortal Peach Festival.

Seeing him approach, the Great Sage immediately hatched a plan and, without making himself known – it was absolutely necessary that no one find out about his attendance at the festival -, bowed his head respectfully and asked him:

  • Can you know where an immortal of as much wisdom as you is going?
  • To the Peach Festival – answered the Great Immortal -. I have received the invitation from the Queen Mother and I am heading towards her palace.
  • It seems that you are not aware of what I am going to tell you – replied the Great Sage -. Knowing that there is nothing superior in speed to my somersaults, the Jade Emperor has asked me to go out to the roads to inform all the guests of his desire to meet first in the Hall of Perfect Light, in order to rehearse. the ceremonies that must necessarily precede the banquet.

The Great Immortal was extremely honest and sincere and did not doubt the veracity of what he heard. However, he couldn’t help but be surprised and exclaimed:

  • What a strange thing! Other years we rehearsed at the Jasper Pond and it was there where we gave thanks. Why in this one do we have to go through the Hall of Perfect Light before sitting down to eat? – Despite everything, he had no choice but to change direction and go to the Jade Emperor’s palace.

Crazy with joy at his triumph, the Great Sage recited an incantation and, with a simple movement of his body, clothed himself in the features of the Great Barefoot Immortal. Disguised in this guise, it was not long before he arrived, at last, at the treasure chamber. After parking his cloud, he entered it with an unsteady step. Immediately he perceived the intoxicating aroma of waves of perfume and contemplated the capricious arabesque that the celestial mist drew on a profusely decorated jade terrace. This was a chamber in which all vital forces converged. The ethereal forms of the phoenixes constantly came and soared to it, shaking with their endless flights of flowers with golden petals and jade stems. Inside the room could be seen a splendid screen representing the New Phoenixes at sunset, a green jade vase with more than a thousand flowers and a table inlaid with gold of five colors, on which rested dragon livers, bone marrows, phoenix, bear paws and ape lips, along with all kinds of exquisite delicacies and fruits of the most varied and tempting color.

Everything lay in perfect order, so it could be deduced that none of the invited deities had yet arrived. The Great Sage fell prey to the harmony that was breathed there and for a certain time he did nothing but contemplate, dumbfounded, the beauty that stretched before him. But he suddenly felt the tempting aroma of wine and, turning his head towards the very long corridor that opened to the right of him, he saw the winery officials and the specialists in fermenting cereals. Apparently they had finished making the wine a long time ago and were giving the

last orders to those in charge of bringing water and to the servants who heated it, to

clean the vats and drinking jugs with it. The atmosphere was filled with an aroma

as dense and aged as the very essence of jade and the Great Sage could not prevent the

Saliva dripped from the corners of his mouth. She felt the irresistible temptation to try

such a generous juice, but he didn’t dare to do it with as many people as there were around

the barrels. Desperate, he decided to use magic. So he tore off a few

hairs, put them in his mouth and, after patiently grinding them, spat them out,

time he said:

– Transform!

They instantly became a swarm of sleep-inducing insects, which attacked the unsuspecting vintners and water carriers. All of them were plunged into a deep slumber. Strength fled from their arms, their heads bowed heavily, their eyelids drooped, and all traces of vigor disappeared from their bodies. Without wasting time, the Great Sage grabbed the delicacies he could and ran into the wide hallway lined with vats and jars, where he began to drink with inimitable dedication. He soon became completely drunk, but he retained enough lucidity to reproach himself for what he had just done, saying:

  • Very bad very bad! The guests will arrive shortly and, if they see me here, the most natural thing is that they will get angry with me and turn me on. What will happen if they catch me red-handed? It is best to go home as soon as possible and rest there as much as you can.

But the Great Sage was completely at the mercy of the wine and, between staggers and tumbles, he ended up getting lost. Instead of entering the Heavenly Sosia Mansion, he entered the Tushita Palace. Fortunately he soon realized his mistake and said to himself, between fear and surprise:

  • The Tushita Palace is located in the highest part of the thirty-three heavens, specifically in the Immutable Paradise, where none other than Lao-Tzu himself resides. How is it possible that he got here? It doesn’t matter. I have always wanted to meet with that old man, but the opportunity has never presented itself. I’m not going to waste it now that I’m in his house. So the best thing is that you stop by to visit him.

He straightened his clothes as best he could and turned the front door open. But Lao-tzu was not at home at that time. The palace was, in fact, empty, because the Master had gone with the old Buddha Dipamkara to give a lecture on the Most High Elixir Dais of the Red Mound, which was attended, surrounding him, by many young men, officials and celestial officials. The Great Sage wandered freely through the mansion until, finally, he arrived at the alchemy laboratory. He did not find anyone there either, but he soon discovered embers of fire in an oven next to the fireplace, and, next to him, five hollow gourds, into which the already refined elixir was poured.

  • How lucky I am! – the Great Sage said to himself, exhilarated -. This is the greatest treasure of the immortals. Since I understood the secrets of the Tao and mastered the great mystery of the absolute identity of the internal and the external, I have always wanted to make some golden elixir to alleviate the suffering of people, but it has never been possible. I have always been too busy with other things, but today, finally, luck has smiled on me and placed this wonderful gift in my hands. Since Lao-tzu isn’t home, I’ll take a few pills and see what they taste like.

Without hesitation, he emptied the pumpkins and ate what was inside, as if it were fried soybeans. Instantly he felt the effects of the elixir, noticing how his drunkenness disappeared, and he scolded himself harshly again:

  • Very bad very bad! With my unconsciousness I have earned one more punishment

bigger than the sky. If the Jade Emperor ever finds out, I’ll be happy to stay alive. What I must do is flee as soon as possible and return without loss of time to the Lower Regions from which I come. There, at least, I am king.

Without thinking twice, he ran out of the Tushita Palace and left Heaven through the Western Gate, so as not to arouse any suspicion, invisible to the guards due to his deep knowledge of magic. He accelerated the descent of his cloud and soon reached the Mountain of Flowers and Fruits. From above he saw the waving of spears and banners and understood that his four lieutenants and the seventy-two kings of the other caves were carrying out their usual military maneuvers. When his feet had touched the ground, he raised his voice and called to them, saying: – I have just returned. Come to my side immediately!

The monsters immediately abandoned their weapons and, throwing themselves on the ground, exclaimed:

    • How detached from your heart, Great Sage! Not even once has it occurred to you to come visit us and see how things were going for us in all this time that you have been away. How could you have forgotten us so soon?
    • Can I know what you are talking about? – the Great Sage reprimanded them -. Looking at it carefully, it’s not been that long since I was away from your side.

Without stopping talking, they headed inside the cave, where they prepared a splendid welcome banquet, which all the monkeys attended. At the time of the toast, the four commanders laid their faces on the ground, as a sign of compliance, and asked him again:

    • What role have you held this time? We assume that it must have been very important, since, otherwise, you would not have spent more than a century in Heaven.
    • What, more than a century? – replied the Great Sage, mockingly -. I’ve been there half a year at most. Have you all gone crazy?
    • A day in heaven is like a year on earth – stated the four commanders.
    • If you say so… – concluded the Great Sage, to add in a more animated tone –
  • I am pleased to inform you that on this occasion the Jade Emperor was much better disposed towards me than the previous time. He had no qualms about granting me the title of Great Sage, Sosia of Heaven, having a splendid mansion built for me, which he provided with guardians and all the servants necessary for the smooth running of such a luxurious place. I will not tell you more than that he had two splendid rooms, one called Peace and Silence and the other known as Serenity of Spirit. Later, when he discovered that he led a life of total leisure and absolute relaxation, he entrusted me with the care of the Garden of Immortal Peaches and that’s where my problems began. Not long ago the Queen Mother celebrated the Great Peach Festival and, from all I know, she was indelicate enough not to invite me. But ultimately I didn’t care, because I secretly headed to the Jasper Pool anyway and drank all the food and wine they had prepared. Then I left there and ended up at Lao-tzu’s mansion, where I also finished off all the elixir pills that I had stored in five hollow gourds. I was afraid that this might have offended the Jade Emperor, so I immediately decided to leave heaven and return here.

The monsters were delighted with his story and offered him a new banquet based on fruits and liquor. They hastily filled a stone bowl with coconut wine and offered it to the Great Sage. But he immediately spit it out and exclaimed with a grimace of disgust:

    • How bad it tastes! It has horrible taste!
    • We are very afraid – Commanders Peng and Pa then said – that you have

too accustomed to the taste of heavenly wine and food. That explains why you find coconut liquor so detestable. It is rightly said: “Tasty or not, it is the water of my home.”

  • And you – the Great Sage declared, moved -, «family or not, you all belong to my house.» Therefore, I want you to share my same fate. This morning, when I was having a great time at the Jasper Pond, I entered a hallway full of jars and vats containing extraordinary wine, the taste of which you cannot even imagine. Let me go back there and I assure you that I will steal a few bottles and bring them to you down here. That wine is so special that half a glass of it is enough for anyone who tries it to live an eternity without aging in the slightest.

The monkeys were overjoyed. The Great Sage then left the cave, made an acrobatic jump and ended up at the place where the Festival of the Immortal Peaches was going to be held. Protected by the invisibility that his magic gave him, he entered the hallway of the Palace of the Jasper Pond and saw that the vintners, grain fermenters, water carriers and other servants were still asleep and snoring like animals. He then took four bottles – two in each hand – and, riding on his cloud, he returned unseen to the monkey cave. In this way, they were also able to celebrate their own Immortal Wine Festival, about which, due to its excesses, we will not say anything here, except that each one had a few glasses.

We will expand, however, on the fate of the Seven Immortal Maidens, who were subjected to the immobilizing magic of Wu-Kung for a full day. When they were finally free from their curse, they took the baskets of fruit and ran to inform the Queen Mother of everything that had happened.

  • Forgive us for being so late – they said, embarrassed -, but the Great Sage, Sosia of Heaven, kept us in the garden, using his magical arts.
  • How many baskets of peaches have you brought? – asked the Queen Mother, ignoring the incident.
  • Only two of the smallest ones and three of the medium ones – they answered -. Of the large ones there was not a single one left in the garden, from which we deduced that the Great Sage had eaten them all. Precisely when we were looking for him, he appeared before us suddenly, threatening to beat us up. Calmer, he later asked us who we had invited to this year’s banquet and we gave him the names of last year’s diners. It was then that he immobilized us with a charm, not knowing where he went or what he did next. What we can affirm is that we were freed from his spell just a moment ago and that we did not have enough time to come and inform you.

As soon as the Queen Mother had heard it, she immediately went to see the Jade Emperor and presented him with a complete tableau of what had happened. She had not finished describing it, when the group of vintners showed up and informed, scandalized, her master:

  • We don’t know who did it, but the fact is that all the preparations for the Festival of Immortal Peaches have been destroyed. We regret to inform you that the jade juice, the eight exquisite delicacies and the hundred special dishes have been stolen or eaten by someone.

No one could react to such a serious report, because at that same moment the four royal preceptors appeared, announcing with a solemn gesture:

  • The Supreme Patriarch of Tao has just arrived.

The Jade Emperor and the Queen Mother immediately stood up and came out to greet him. After paying his respects to them in turn, Lao-Tzu said:

– In his humble home, this old Taoist had stored an indeterminate amount of

Golden Elixir of the Nine Changes n, which I wished to offer to your majesty at the next Festival of Mercury. Strangely, it has been stolen by someone unknown, and I felt obliged to come and personally inform you of such a regrettable fact.

Lao-Tzu’s words deeply moved the Jade Emperor, who, however, had to receive the servants and collaborators of the Sosia of Heaven, who said, alarmed, after lying down and repeatedly touching the ground with their foreheads:

  • The Great Sage Sun has not shown up at his official residence all day. He left her yesterday morning and still hasn’t returned. The most disconcerting thing, however, is that we don’t know where he may have gone.

These words added even more fuel to the fire of anxiety of the Jade Emperor, who saw his deep concern increased when he heard the Great Barefoot Immortal say:

  • Responding to the invitation of the Queen Mother, I was heading to the place of the festival, when I ran into the Great Sage, Sosia of Heaven, who told me that your majesty had ordered him to go out to the roads to tell all the guests to go to the Hall of Perfect Light to rehearse the ceremonies prior to the celebration of the banquet. Following her instructions, I headed to that place, but I did not see your majesty’s dragon chariot or phoenix chariot, so I hastened to come to meet you here.

This statement ended up overflowing the patience of the Jade Emperor, who could not help but exclaim, astonished:

  • That guy is downright amazing! He not only falsifies my orders, but also deceives my closest collaborators! May the Minister of Detection locate his whereabouts as soon as possible!

The official immediately left the palace and began an exhaustive investigation, which led him to the following conclusion, which he himself was responsible for transmitting to His Majesty:

  • The person who has so profoundly altered heavenly order and peace is none other than the Great Sage, Sosia of Heaven – and he provided all the evidence that had led to such a serious accusation.

The Jade Emperor became furious and, turning to the Four Devarajas, ordered them to reinforce the forces of Li-Ching and Prince Nata. Without wasting time, they called up the Twenty-Eight Constellations, the Nine Planets, the Twelve Hour Divisions, the Intrepid Guardians of the Five Cardinal Points, the Four Guardians of Time 12, the Stars of the East and the West. , to the Gods of the North and the South, to the Deities of the Five Mountains 13 and the Four Rivers 14, to the Star Spirits of the Entire Universe and more than one hundred thousand celestial soldiers. All of them were ordered to make eighteen cosmic networks, go with them to the Lower Regions, completely surround the Mountain of Flowers and Fruits, capture the rebel and submit him to the unappealable decision of justice. All the gods reviewed their troops and left the Celestial Palace. Such a select expedition was a truly impressive spectacle. The dust it raised darkened the sky, imitating the blurring power of fog. It was inconceivable that such a procession of celestial warriors would head to mortal earth with the sole purpose of punishing the impious behavior of a monkey who had dared to offend the Most High of Lords. There went the Four Great Devarajas, and the Fearless Guardians of the Five Cardinal Points; The Four Great Kings constituted the general staff, while the Dauntless had countless numbers of soldiers under their command.

Li-Ching gave orders incessantly from the very heart of the army, knowing that the brave Nata was captaining the vanguard forces. The Star of Rahu was responsible for reconnaissance patrols and, just at the other end of the multicolored snake formed by soldiers on the warpath, the Star of Ketu covered the weak points of the rear. The spirit that reigned among the troops was excellent. Soma, the moon, was eager to engage in combat, as was Aditya, the sun, radiant with bravery and prowess, the heroic Stars of the Five Phases, the reckless Nine Planets and the brave Dhzu, Wu, Mao and Yao , Time Divisions, famous for their enormous strength. The Five Plagues 15 could be seen riding in the east, and the Five Mountains in the west. The Six Gods of Darkness covered the left flank, while the right was protected by the courage of the Six Gods of Light. Not to be outdone, the Dragon Gods cleared the heights of enemies, with the Four Rivers taking charge of those from the Lower Regions. The Twenty-Eight Constellations rode together in tight formation. Although difficult to identify among the cloud of dust, it was easy to sense the presence of the captains Citra, Svati, Visakha and Anuradha, the intrepid Revati, Asvini, Apabharani and Krttika, and the very capable Uttara warriors – Asadha, Abhijit, Sravana , Sravistha, Satabhisa, Purva – Prosthapada, Uttara-Prosthapada, Rohini, Mulabarhani, Purva – Asadha, Punarvasu, Tisya, Aslesa, Magha, Purva – Phalguni, Uttara – Phalguni and Hasta. They all brandished swords and spears, in proof of their eagerness to engage in combat. Each one stopping the cloud in which they were traveling, they placed their sacred foot in this mortal world and camped right in front of the Mountain of Flowers and Fruits. What a serious mistake the mutable King of the Monkeys made, when he seized the wine of the gods, stole the elixir and rebelled in his lair! Because he had ruined the Great Festival of Immortal Peaches, one hundred thousand celestial soldiers were preparing to spread God’s net over him.

Li-Ching ordered the march to stop, deploying all his troops around the mountain. The fence was so tight that not even a drop of water could escape, unseen, from the Mountain of Flowers and Fruits. However, as a precautionary measure, the entire region was covered with the eighteen cosmic networks, after which the Nine Planets launched an attack. At the head of their troops, they headed straight for the entrance of the cave, where they encountered a detachment of monkeys of all ages and sizes, prancing and jumping.

  • Hey, you! – shouted the Celestial Spirits with an authoritarian gesture -. Can you tell us where the Great Sage is? We are gods of the Upper Regions and we have come to arrest you. So tell him to give up and leave immediately. Otherwise, all of you will be put to the sword.

Terrified, the monkeys ran into the cave and reported to their king, still shouting like crazy:

  • What a disgrace, Great Sage! What a black fate has suddenly befallen us! There are nine martial-looking gods out there who claim to come from the Upper Regions with the sole purpose of arresting you.

The Great Sage was drinking one of the bottles he had brought from heaven, with his four lieutenants and the kings of the seventy-two caves, and, raising the cup, he said in a surprisingly calm tone:

  • If you have wine today, don’t wait to get drunk tomorrow. Make sure, above all, that misfortune does not come to camp in front of your door.

He had not finished saying it, when another group of imps came jumping in and announced with uncontrollable nervousness:

  • Those nine gods are trying to provoke us with hurtful words and language

obscene.

  • Don’t pay any attention to them – the Great Sage advised them, bursting out laughing -. Let us surrender today to the pleasures of poetry and wine, and pay no attention to what can give us glory and fame.

Those words were still on his lips, when a new group of imps appeared, and communicated to him with obvious concern:

  • The nine gods have just broken down the door and are trying to force their way into your kingdom.
  • Damn gods without feelings! – shouted the Great Sage, furious -. Don’t they know what education is? Whatever happened, I was determined not to confront them. Why did they have to come and provoke me and make fun of me right under my nose?

With unexpected determination he turned to the Unicorn Demon and ordered him to launch himself against the attackers in front of the kings of the seventy-two caves, determining that he himself and his four lieutenants would take charge of the rearguard. Without wasting time, the Demon King led his army of ogres and monsters into the fray, but they fell into an ambush set by the Nine Planets and were unable to advance beyond the head of the iron bridge. When the situation seemed most desperate, the Great Sage appeared, brandishing the iron bar and shouting imperiously:

  • Step aside and let me pass!

The bar had become the thickness of a rice bowl and had grown to a length of more than twelve feet long. Slashing left and right, the Great Sage launched himself into the very center of the fray with such determination that none of the Nine Planets dared to confront him, leaving them with no choice but to retreat in disarray. When, finally, they managed to regroup their troops, they turned towards his attacker and reproached her in an angry voice:

  • Damn “pi-ma”! Have you completely lost your mind? Don’t you understand that you have broken the ten rules? 16. You filled yourself first with peaches and then with wine, thus preventing the celebration of the Great Festival of the Immortal Peaches. Not content with that, you stole the elixir of immortality from Lao-Tzu and had the audacity to plunder the imperial warehouses for purely personal recreation. Don’t you realize that all you have done is accumulate sin upon sin?
  • I recognize that what you say is true – acknowledged the Great Sage -. But do you want to explain to me what you intend with such a warlike deployment?
  • The Jade Emperor has ordered us to lead our troops against you and take you prisoner to his presence. Surrender and we will spare the lives of all those strange beings that accompany you. Otherwise, we will destroy your cave and completely level the mountain in which it is located.
  • What braggarts you are! – bellowed the Great Sage, furious -. Do you consider the power of your magic so great that you dare say such absurd words as those? I’ll show you what is good! Don’t go, I want you to try the flavor of my bar!

The Nine Planets organized a joint attack, but the Beautiful Monkey King was not deterred. He gripped the iron bar tightly and, continuing to strike left and right, fought valiantly with the Nine Planets, until they, exhausted, turned around and fled, abandoning their weapons on the field. At the limit of their strength, they managed to return safely to the camp, where they informed Li-Ching of what had happened, saying:

  • That damned Monkey King is indeed a top-notch fighter!

Although we have done everything within our power, we have not been able to overcome him and we have been forced to accept our defeat.

Li-Ching then ordered the Four Devarajas and the Twenty-Eight Constellations into action. The Great Sage did not lose his calm therefore, ordering, in turn, the Demon of the Unicorn, the Monster Kings of the seventy-two caves and his four lieutenants to place their forces in battle order right in front of the door. from his cave. The battle that followed was one of the fiercest that centuries have ever witnessed. It was as if, in truth, they were facing a cold, gale-force wind, and a dark, dense fog. Here you could see the waving of flags and banners; There the blinding reverberation of spears and war axes could be seen. Endlessly there followed row after row of armor that shone like flames under the implacable rays of the sun, and of warrior helmets that looked like silver bells, whose tolls resounded loudly in the heavens. That endless flow of fierce soldiers in their impressive chain mail was reminiscent of the relentless advance of glaciers crushing the earth. Giant scimitars were seen everywhere, fast and luminous like lightning; spears so sharp that they were capable of piercing the clouds or piercing the warm veil of mist; war axes in the shape of a cross; whips, restless and always alert like tiger eyelashes, with their handles upright like rows of hemp plants; greenish bronze swords and spearheads, so abundant that they constituted a dense forest of death; bows and crossbows of curved design; fast arrows with eagle feathers at one end; countless warrior devices and thrown weapons, as deadly as snake bites, capable of killing and causing wounds that not even time could heal. Above all of them, however, stood out the complacent iron rod of the Great Sage, which did not stop moving in all directions, breaking bones and destroying bodies. The battle continued until the birds stopped fluttering in the air, the tigers and wolves ran to hide inside the jungles and the entire planet was darkened by the enormous amount of dust, rocks and dirt that floated in the environment. The noise was such that even Heaven and Earth began to tremble and gods and demons felt deeply alarmed.

The battle began at dawn and lasted long after the sun had set behind the distant western foothills. The Unicorn Demon and the kings of the seventy-two caves were captured by the celestial forces. Only the four commanders and the mischievous battalion of monkeys managed to escape, who saved their lives by hiding in the depths of the Water Curtain Cavern. The Great Sage, for his part, kept the forces of the Four Devarajas, Li-Ching and Prince Nata at bay for a long time with the sole help of his iron rod. Seeing that night was approaching him and everything was still to be decided, he tore out a few hairs from his body, put them in his mouth and, after crushing them with his teeth, spat them out, shouting:

  • Transform yourselves! – and instantly they became several thousand Great Sages, so equal to him that they all carried an iron rod identical to his. In the blink of an eye, they repelled Prince Nata and defeated the Five Devarajas.

Victorious, the Great Sage recovered all the hairs and ran into the cave. He had not reached the head of the sheet-iron bridge when his four lieutenants came out to meet him, followed by the entire contingent of monkeys, who laid their faces on the ground and, as a welcome, three times surrendered to tears and Many others abandoned themselves to laughter.

  • Can you tell why, when you see me, you start to laugh and cry? – asked, surprised, the Great Sage.
  • When we faced the Deva Kings this morning – answered the four commanders – the Unicorn Demon and the kings of the seventy-two caves fell prisoners of the gods. Only we managed to save lives, and that is the reason why we began to cry. Seeing you, on the other hand, return triumphant and without a single scratch, such joy has taken hold of us that we couldn’t help but burst out laughing.
  • In the life of a soldier – stated the Great Sage – victory and defeat are the same and unique experience. Hence the old saying: «You may be able to kill ten thousand of your enemies, but you will also lose three thousand of your own allies.» Furthermore, it has been tigers, leopards, wolves, insects, badgers, foxes and similar animals that have been taken prisoner, not monkeys. In fact, none of us have been hurt. Why be sad? With that we will achieve absolutely nothing. It is true that we have managed to repel our adversaries, but it is no less true that their camp has not yet been raised and remains firmly anchored in the ground, at the very foot of this mountain. We must not, therefore, give in to easy triumphalisms or abandon our own defense. The most advisable thing at this time is that you eat as much as you want and rest as many hours as you can. This way you will keep all your energy intact. Tomorrow, as soon as it dawns, I am going to capture, with the help of my magic, some of those celestial generals and, thus, we will give timely revenge to our comrades in arms.

Calmer, the four commanders and the bulk of the monkey army drank a few glasses of coconut wine and retired to rest, so, for now, we will not talk more about them.

Once the Four Devarajas had ordered the withdrawal of their armies, thus ending the fight for that day, all the commanders went to their tents to inform them of the results obtained in the fray. It was in this way that they learned that they had captured a large number of lions, elephants, wolves, foxes and all kinds of crawling animals; However, they discovered to their dismay that there were no monkeys among them. Measures were then taken to adequately protect the camp, the tents were completed and the officers who had most distinguished themselves in the fight were rewarded. At the same time, the soldiers in charge of the cosmic networks were ordered to carry bells and demand the password from all who approached them. While waiting for the next day’s combat, the guard was tightened, maintaining the siege they had set up around the Mountain of Flowers and Fruits. The situation remained, therefore, as at the beginning: with his rebellion, the disrespectful monkey had altered the harmonious principles that governed the heavens and the earth, while the net remained extended day and night over his head.

At the moment, we do not know what happened the next morning. Whoever wants to know him should listen with special attention to what is narrated in the next chapter.

CHAPTER VI

KWANG-ING, GUEST OF HONOR AT THE BANQUET, IS INTERESTED IN WHAT HAPPENED. MAKING USE OF HIS POWER, THE LITTLE SAGE DOMINATES THE GREAT SAGE

We will not talk, for the moment, about the siege to which the gods had subjected the Great Sage. Yes we will, however, of the Compassionate Dispenser, the Efficient Bodhisattva Kwang-Ing of the Potalaka Mountain of the South Seas 1. She was one of the Queen Mother’s guests of honor at the Great Festival of the Immortal Peaches and,

Upon entering the treasure chamber accompanied by her faithful disciple Huei-An, she found, stupefied, that the room lay in the most absolute disorder and that the tables had been turned over at will. In fact, none of the guests present seemed to dare to take a seat, preferring to engage in a lively and heated discussion. When they saw the Bodhisattva enter, they greeted her courteously and informed her of what had happened as quickly as possible.

  • Since it looks like there won’t be a toast or a festival this year, I think the best thing we can do is go visit the Jade Emperor – Kwang-Ing suggested.

The gods had no qualms about following her and, without saying another word, they headed to the Hall of Perfect Light, where the Bodhisattva met the Four Celestial Preceptors and the Barefoot Immortal. In general terms, they informed her of the expedition sent by the Jade Emperor against the monster and of the unrest that her delay was causing in the imperial quarters.

  • I would like to meet with the Jade Emperor – the Bodhisattva then said -. Would you be so kind as to announce my arrival?

Without wasting time, Preceptor Chiou-Hung-Chr headed to the Treasure Room of the Divine Mist, where he emerged again a few seconds later to inform Kwang-Ing that the Lord of Heaven was waiting for her. Upon receiving the announcement of her visit, Lao-tzu sat next to the emperor, while the Queen Mother deferentially went to occupy a seat behind the throne. Kwang-Ing soon entered, followed by the other gods, and, after paying her respects to the Jade Emperor and greeting Lao-Tzu and the Queen Mother, she asked with her usual plainness:

  • Do you want to explain to me why the Great Festival of Immortal Peaches has been suspended?
  • Whenever we have celebrated it, we have all had a wonderful time – answered the Jade Emperor -. But this year a cocky monkey has destroyed all the preparations, leaving us nothing but unbearable frustration.
  • Can you tell me where that monkey came from? – the Bodhisattva asked again.
  • “It emerged from a stone egg placed on the summit of the Mountain of Flowers and Fruits, located in the country of Ao-Lai on the Purvavideha Continent – ​​answered the Jade Emperor -. At the very moment of his birth, two rays of golden light emerged from his eyes and reached the Polar Star Palace. Despite everything, we do not pay much attention to it and we forget about it. Later, however, he became a monster capable of defeating the Dragon and taming the Tiger, and so daring that he had his name erased from the Book of Death. Later, when the Dragon Kings and the Princes of the Lower World came to me to complain about his shameful conduct, I made the decision to arrest him without delay, but the Star of Enduring Life made us see that all the beings of the Three Regions who They possess nine apertures and are capable of obtaining immortality and I decided to help him achieve it, bringing him to the Higher Regions. To begin with, I appointed him in charge of the imperial stables, but he thought that this position was too low for his many abilities and left Heaven at his expense. Faced with such blatant rebellion, I sent Li-Ching and Prince Nata against him with the order to arrest him and bring him to my presence. However, I later thought better of it and sent him an act of reconciliation, inviting him again to come to the Upper Regions and granting him the title of Great Sage, Sosia of Heaven, a completely honorary appointment that did not entail any type of responsibility. That was a serious mistake, because he spent all day lazing around and we feared that so much idleness might excite his natural quarrelsomeness and violence. To avoid this, we entrusted him with the care of the Garden of Immortal Peaches, but, once again, he ignored

ignoring the celestial rules, eating all the peaches from the oldest trees. It was then that preparations began for this year’s banquet, to which, by the way, he was not invited, because he was a person without a fixed assignment. Even so, he managed wonderfully to deceive the Barefoot Immortal and appear at the Jasper Pool, posing as him. Then he gave free rein to his natural mischief, eating all the food and drinking all the wine he wanted. He even had the audacity to steal Lao-tzu’s elixir and take a large amount of imperial wine to his filthy cave for the enjoyment and recreation of his monkey brothers. That broke my patience, so I decided to send a hundred thousand soldiers with cosmic nets to capture him. However, we have not yet received any reports on the progress of the battle and we are very afraid that everything has not gone as well for us as we expected. The Bodhisattva then turned to her disciple Huei-An and ordered her:

  • Immediately go down to the Mountain of Flowers and Fruits and find out what the military situation is like at the moment. If the enemy has not yet been subdued, he gives the celestial warriors all the help they need. In either case, he comes right back to let us know how things are going.

Huei-An arranged his clothes as best he could and, mounting his cloud, hurriedly left the palace with an iron bar in his hands. He soon arrived at the mountain, where he could see the cosmic networks and a swarm of sentinels with bells in their hands who did not stop shouting the password to each other. The fence of the mountain was so perfect that it was practically impossible for a single drop of water to escape from it. As soon as he had set foot on the ground, Huei-An raised his voice and said:

  • Hey sentinels! Would you mind announcing my arrival? I am Prince Moksa, second son of Li-Ching, also known as Huei-An, favorite disciple of Kwang-Ing of the South Seas, and I have come to inquire about the military situation.

Without wasting time, the sentinels of the Five Mountains informed their superiors of their arrival, and the Constellations of Aquarius, Scorpio and Hydra were in charge of carrying this announcement directly to the commander in chief of the entire army. Li-Ching gave the order to open a small shutter in the cosmic networks to allow such an illustrious visitor to pass through. It was already beginning to light up in the east, when Huei-An was finally able to prostrate himself on the ground before the Five Devarajas. Once the greetings were over, Li-Ching hugged him affectionately and asked:

  • May I know where you come from, dear son?
  • It is a very long story – answered Huei-An -. It is enough for you to know that I accompanied the Bodhisattva to the Great Festival of the Immortal Peaches, but, seeing the lamentable state in which the Jasper Pool had been plunged, the Merciful Mother went to see the Jade Emperor, followed by me and many others. gods. The Lord of Heaven immediately informed him of what had happened and told him about your expedition to the Lower Regions in order to capture that conceited monkey. However, since Heaven had not yet received any news about its progress, the Bodhisattva asked me to come and inquire about the situation of our weapons.
  • As soon as we arrived – Li-Ching explained – we set up camp in the place where we are now. The Nine Planets immediately mounted an attack, but that guy deployed the entire arsenal of his formidable magical powers and they had to turn back, totally defeated. At that, I threw myself into the fray, but he also rejected me, although the battle lasted well into the night and he alone had to face more than a hundred thousand celestial warriors. As you may have understood, he made masterful use of that magic they call body division. When we

When we regrouped, we were able to see that we had captured a large number of wolves, tigers, leopards, reptiles and similar animals, but not any monkeys. Today we have not yet resumed hostilities.

He had not finished saying it when a soldier arrived from the camp gate and announced in a trembling voice:

The Great Sage has arranged his detachment of monkeys in battle order and is out there taunting us.

The Prince and the Five Devarajas ordered the immediate deployment of the troops.

Moksa then grabbed his father by the sleeve and said:

    • Although the Bodhisattva ordered me to come to collect information, she also allowed me to give you whatever help you needed for the fight. Although it is true that I am not much of a strategist, I would like to see how that Great Sage fights.
    • I suppose you have learned something in so many years that you have been with the Bodhisattva.
  • replied Li-Ching -. But, for the sake of it, be careful! That monster is very special.
    • Do not worry. Nothing will happen to me – Huei-An tried to reassure him -. I have faced beasts more dangerous than him throughout my life.

Impatient to take action, he grabbed the iron bar with both hands, adjusted his richly embroidered clothing, and, leaving his ranks, shouted in a confident voice:

    • Who is the Great Sage, Sosia of Heaven?
    • This old monkey right under your nose! – Wu-Kung responded, arrogantly -. And who are you, to dare ask me such an obvious thing?
    • I am Moksa, the second son of Li-Ching – answered the Prince -. I am also known by the name Huei-An, as I am the favorite disciple of Bodhisattva Kwang-Ing and have dedicated my life to defending the faith she represents.
    • If what you say is true – replied the Great Sage -, do you want to explain to me why you have left your training center in the South Seas to come to see me?
    • My Master wanted to find out about the situation down here and sent me in search of fresh news – Moksa responded -. But, seeing that you are nothing more than a poor braggart, I have decided to capture you myself and thus put an end to all your boasting.
    • How dare you talk to me like that? – exclaimed the Great Sage -. Don’t you know that I am the best warrior in the entire cosmos? But don’t run away. First you have to try the taste of my iron bar.

Moksa was not the least bit upset. He raised his and deftly parried the deadly blow that was coming at her. The two turned out to be excellent fighters. They demonstrated it amply in the center of the mountainside, right in front of the main gate of the camp. In truth, such a fierce and balanced confrontation had rarely been seen. The weapons seemed identical, although the iron in which they had been forged was totally different. The same could be said of the character and moral rectitude of the men who wielded them. The one known as the Great Sage was an apostate who had renounced his original immortal status. His opponent, on the other hand, had honed his righteous ways in the school of the merciful Kwang-Ing. It was not surprising, then, that his iron bar had come from the forge of the Six Gods of Darkness and the Six Gods of Light, who formed it by hitting it with a thousand hammers at the same time. The magic of the Great Sage was not far behind him, since it had served to mark the depth of the Celestial River itself. It was understandable that none of them obtained an appreciable advantage. The matches followed one another, endlessly, and no one managed to emerge victorious. The blows, constant, fierce, fast as a hurricane, accurate and, at the same time, useless, were reminiscent of the monotonous drumming of

The rain. On one side of the battlefield flags and banners flew gallantly, while on the other a constant wave of beating drums emerged. Each side also expressed its tension in a completely different way: nervousness forced the thousands of celestial soldiers to form circles, which contrasted strikingly with the straight rows that constituted the legions of monkeys. In both, however, the excitement was the same. The fierce dust of the battle fell on them with equal profusion. It was like a dense, dark fog that spread throughout the land and then ascended to the very doors of the Celestial Palace. If the fight of the previous day had been fierce, that morning was even more fierce and violent. How worthy of envy turned out to be the warrior skill of the King of the Monkeys, who finally managed to defeat Moksa, making him flee for his life!

Fifty or sixty times the Great Sage and Huei-An crossed their weapons without fainting. Little by little, however, the Prince’s arms and shoulders gave in to fatigue and there came a time when he could no longer fight. Understanding that everything was useless, he left the field, worthily defeated. The Great Sage then turned towards his men and, after making them form in strict order of battle, proceeded to secure the access to the interior of the cavern. The celestial warriors, for their part, stepped aside to let the prince pass, who, sweating and panting, went to meet the Four Devarajas, his father Li-Ching and Prince Nata, to tell them in a voice broken by the fatigue:

  • That Great Sage is a true master! The power of his magic is indeed incalculable. I regret not being able to defeat him, although I know that being defeated by a superior enemy should never be shameful.

Deeply impressed by his son’s appearance, Li-Ching wrote a letter to the emperor requesting reinforcements, which he entrusted to Prince Moksa and the Demon King Mahabali. Neither of them wanted to delay their departure to Heaven. They made a small hole in the cosmic networks and, after mounting the sacred cloud, they hurriedly began the return journey. It didn’t take long for them to reach the Hall of Perfect Light, where they met the Four Preceptors, who, without wasting time, led them directly to the Treasure Room of Divine Mist. After the usual greetings, the Bodhisattva asked him:

  • Have you been able to find out anything about the situation of our troops?
  • Obeying your wishes – answered Huei-An -, I descended to the Mountain of Flowers and Fruits, where, after managing to penetrate the cosmic networks, I requested to be taken to the presence of my father, to whom I promptly informed of your intentions by sending me there. He immediately filled me in on everything, saying: “All day yesterday we were fighting with that King of the Monkeys. When we regrouped at dusk, we were able to see that we had captured a large number of wolves, tigers, leopards, reptiles and similar animals, but not any monkeys. He had not finished saying it, when we were informed that this monster demanded, once again, to enter into combat. Without thinking twice, I grabbed my iron bar and went out to confront him. We crossed arms fifty or sixty times, but in the end I could not overpower him and had to return to camp, defeated. That has moved my father to send Demon King Mahabali and me for help.

The Bodhisattva made no comment, simply shaking her head slightly and weighing the seriousness of the situation. The Jade Emperor, for his part, finished reading Li-Ching’s writing and, bursting out laughing, exclaimed, contemptuously:

  • It’s ridiculous to request new reinforcements! What is so special about that monkey that a hundred thousand celestial soldiers are incapable of defeating him? I can’t imagine that Li-Ching would ask for more troops to carry out his mission. Does anyone want to tell me what

battalion can we send you?

  • Don’t give it any more thought – said Kwang-Ing with his hands folded on his chest, as soon as he had finished speaking -. I think I can recommend a god to you, who will surely dominate that monkey.
  • Can I tell who you are thinking of? – asked the Jade Emperor, skeptical.
  • In your own nephew, Your Majesty – answered the Bodhisattva -, in Er-Lang 2, the Immortal Master of Absolute Sagacity, who, as you well know, has taken up residence at the source of the River of Libations, in the Kwang Prefecture , where he enjoys with full hands the offerings made to him by the inhabitants of the Lower Regions. I do not need to remind you that he once killed six monsters alone and that he is currently the President of the Plum Mountain Brotherhood, as well as lord of more than twelve hundred plant-headed gods, whose magical powers are incalculable. However, this immortal is somewhat proud and will only decide to capture that monster if, individually, you send him the order to appear with his troops at the scene of the battle. If you do so, rest assured that he will end up taking down your enemy.

The Jade Emperor hastily drafted the order, which he entrusted to the Demon King Mahabali so that he could deliver it to its recipient as soon as possible. Mahabali mounted his cloud and headed towards the source of the River of Libations. It took him just under half an hour to reach the place where the Immortal Master dwelt. Seeing him approaching, the demons guarding the doors of the mansion ran to inform the lord of him, saying:

  • A messenger has just arrived with a letter from the emperor for you.

Er-Lang and his brothers immediately left their seats and went out to greet

Mahabali, who gave them a letter from the Lord of Heaven, which said:

The Great Sage, Sosia of Heaven, a monkey from the Mountain of Flowers and Fruits, has declared open rebellion. By stealing the elixir, gorging on peaches, and getting drunk on imperial wine, that beast has prevented the celebration of the Great Festival of Immortal Peaches. For this reason, we have sent against him one hundred thousand celestial soldiers with eighteen cosmic nets and the express order to surround his mountain and capture him, but until this present moment the victory has not yet been assured. By means of this letter, we therefore ask our very worthy nephew and his brothers to travel as soon as possible to the Mountain of Flowers and Fruits and with his contribution contribute to the definitive defeat of this monster. Should success smile upon your efforts, you will be promoted and rewarded generously.

Visibly pleased, the Immortal Master turned to the Demon King and said:

  • Return to the palace as soon as possible and inform your lord that he can count on my humble contribution in this undertaking.

He then summoned the six members of the Plum Mountain Brotherhood – the four marshals Kang, Chang, Yao and Li, and the two generals Kuo-Shen and Chr-Chien – and told them, once they had taken their seats :

  • The Jade Emperor has decided to send us to the Mountain of Flowers and Fruits to stop a rebellious monkey. Let’s not waste a single minute and get there as soon as possible.

Diligent as always, the brothers summoned their soldiers, took out their falcons and dog leashes, took their bows and arrows, which they always had ready, and, riding a hurricane-force wind, crossed the Eastern Ocean. When they reached the Mountain of Flowers and Fruits, they came across the nets

cosmic waves and shouted to the guards:

  • We have been sent by the Jade Emperor to capture the rogue monkey. Open the camp gate for us, then, and let us pass.

The guardians transmitted the message to their superiors until it reached the ears of the Five Devarajas, who came out to receive them at the very edge of the field. After exchanging the usual greetings, they inquired as much as they could about the military situation, and Li-Ching was in charge of offering them a more or less complete picture of it.

  • Now that I, the Little Sage, am among you – the Immortal Master said sarcastically – I am going to start a race of transformations with our rebellious enemy. You, gentlemen, must keep the net securely fastened everywhere, except for its upper section, which must be completely exposed. Do not worry about my. If I am defeated, there is no need for them to come to my aid, as my own brothers will take care of that. In the same way, if luck smiles on me and I end up winning, they will also be the ones to assume the responsibility of binding the beast. The only thing required is for Devaraja Li-Ching to remain in the air at mid-height with the monster-reflecting mirror. It is to be expected that, if our monkey is defeated, it will try to flee somewhere very far from here. It is necessary, therefore, that his image be reflected very clearly in the mirror; This way, I won’t lose sight of him.

The devarajas then occupied the four cardinal points, while all the celestial warriors lined up following previously established formations. At the head of his brothers, the four marshals and the two generals, the Immortal Master abandoned his ranks and began to rebuke the Great Sage. He had previously ordered the rest of his army to be extremely vigilant over the camp, especially urging the plant-headed gods to have falcons and dogs ready. Once these ends were secured, the Immortal Master headed to the front of the Water Curtain Cavern, where he saw a detachment of monkeys arranged in such a way that they gave the impression of being a coiled dragon. Precisely in its central part stood, proudly, the banner with the motto: «The Great Sage, Sosia of Heaven.»

  • What a cocky monster! – exclaimed the Immortal Master, upon seeing him -. How could he have dared to give himself the title of Sosia of Heaven?
  • Stop that now – the six members of the Plum Mountain Brotherhood advised him -. There is no time for praise or blame. It’s time we faced that monkey.

When the monkeys saw the Immortal Master right in front of their camp, they ran to tell their lord. Without wasting time, the King of the Monkeys took hold of the iron bar, adjusted his golden breastplate, put on his boots for walking through the clouds and, after placing the golden helmet on his head, he took a tremendous leap. which led him away from his own camp. Baffled by the fineness of her features and the elegance of his clothing, Wu-Kung could not take his eyes off his new adversary. He was, in fact, a man with a measured and gentle countenance, whose ears reached to his shoulders and whose eyes, always alert, emanated a blinding light. His head appeared protected by a helmet of three phoenixes flying at different heights, which highlighted the yellowish pallor of his clothing. He wore boots made of strips of gold, which were in no way inferior to his coiled dragon stockings. Eight emblems 3, pressed together like bouquets of flowers, adorned his jade belt. He had a crossbow hanging from his waist that recalled the graceful curvature of the new moon, and in his hands he carried a double-edged spear very similar to a trident. Such were the weapons of a man, who, with a single blow, split the Peach Mountain to save his mother, – who, with a single projectile, felled two phoenixes of Dhzung-Le; that, with his

Ingenuity, he killed eight monsters, magnifying the expanding wave of his fame; and that, a faithful cultivator of friendship, he created the Brotherhood of the Seven Sages of the Plum Mountain. He possessed such a profound mind that he did not consider himself to be a direct relative of Heaven. In fact, his proud and independent nature led him to take up residence on the banks of the River of Libations. Such was the magnanimous and understanding Sage of the City of Chr 4, master of the difficult art of mutations, an immortal whom everyone knew by the name of Er-Lang.

When the Great Sage saw him, he grabbed the iron bar tightly and shouted contemptuously:

  • What a warrior are you and where do you come from, that you dare, without further ado, to challenge me?
  • It is evident that, certainly, you have eyes, but that you use them very little – replied the Immortal Master -. How is it possible that you didn’t recognize me? I am Er-Lang, nephew of the Jade Emperor and King of the Illustrious Spirits by direct appointment of his majesty. I have also received the order from him to come and arrest you, you damned rebel monkey. Don’t you perceive the proximity of your end?
  • I remember that years ago – commented the Great Sage, contemptuously – the Jade Emperor’s sister fell in love with a mortal named Yang, whom she later married and to whom she shortly gave birth to a male child. Do you mean that you are the young man who is said to have split Peach Mountain in two with the sole help of his axe? I would certainly like to test my strength with you, but I have nothing against you. I could destroy you right now with my iron rod, however, I will be generous to you and spare your life. It is shameful to throw a person as young as you onto the battlefield. Why don’t you tell the Four Great Devarajas to come out and show their faces?
  • Damn monkey! – The Immortal Master exclaimed, wounded in his self-esteem. How dare you be so insolent? Try the taste of my steel! – And he suddenly launched a terrible slash from his spear, which the Great Sage stopped, opportunely raising the iron bar.

The fight in which the two engaged was worthy of true champions. Er-Lang, the god of Illustrious Kindness, gallant and high in spirit, challenged the Beautiful King of the Monkeys, the Great Sage Sosia of Heaven, so brave that he feared no one and was willing to face everyone. As soon as they saw each other, they felt the burning desire to measure their Herculean strength. They both did not know who was the best warrior, but that day was going to finally give them the opportunity to discover who was the strongest and who was the weakest. Their weapons clashed left and right, up and down, without rest or respite. The iron rod looked like a flying dragon, while the spear was reminiscent of a phoenix’s movements. On one side, the Six Brothers of Plum Mountain had placed themselves, while the other was occupied by the Four Generals. Both groups incessantly waved their banners and flags amid the beating of drums, the sound of gongs and shouts of encouragement. The two weapons, meanwhile, sought to penetrate the opponent’s flesh, but were prevented from doing so by their continuous feints and rejection. What else could be expected from pieces as wonderful as the iron bar with golden ends, a wonder of the seas, capable of metamorphosing and flying to the very peaks of victory? A single carelessness could lead to death and cause luck to dissolve, like fog, forever.

More than three hundred times in a row the Immortal Master and the Great Sage measured their weapons, without victory favoring either side. The immortal considered, therefore, that the time had come to make use of his magical powers and, with a simple shake of his body, he became a giant more than a hundred thousand feet tall. At the same time, his face acquired a strange green color, His teeth became as sharp as sabers and his entire figure, including his hair, turned a

dark red color. Brandishing with both hands the spear with two cuts and three points, he launched a tremendous blow against the head of the Great Sage, but he, also making use of his powerful magic, transformed into a figure as tall and with the same features as that of Er-Lang. The iron bar underwent a similar change, acquiring a size so large that it looked like the column of Mount Kwen-Lun, on which the heavens sit. Only in this way could he face the blows of the immortal.

Such an unexpected sight produced such terror in Marshals Ma and Liu that they could no longer hold the banners in their hands. The same thing happened to Generals Peng and Pa, who seemed to suddenly forget how to use the scimitar and the sword. Seeing that the situation was becoming difficult for their brother, Kang, Chang, Yao, Li, Kuo-Shen and Chr-Chien ordered the plant-headed gods to release the falcons and dogs and launch them against the monkeys. who protected the Water Curtain Cavern with bows and arrows. The attack was so effective that the four monkey commanders fled in disarray, taking between two and three thousand monkeys prisoners, who, in the confusion, abandoned their shields, threw down their spears and threw their swords to the ground. Then, without stopping running or screaming, some tried to escape up the mountain, while others sought refuge inside the cave. It was as if a wild cat had fallen into a nest of birds at night and they had all risen to the stars, filling the sky with the dark beating of their wings. The Brotherhood of Plum Mountain thus obtained a total and complete victory.

When the Great Sage saw the unfortunate fate that his monkeys had suffered, he felt a deep sadness come over his heart and his courage, little by little, abandoned him. With no courage to continue the fight, he regained his normal form and, turning around, fled, dragging the heavy iron bar. Seeing him, the Immortal Master pursued him with long strides, continuing to shout:

– Where are you going, coward? If you surrender now, your life will be spared.

But the Great Sage, far from stopping to resume the fight, ran as fast as he could. Near the entrance of the cave he ran into Marshals Kang, Chang, Yao and Li, and Generals Kuo-Shen and Chr-Chien, who were precisely trying to cut off his retreat and shouted to him:

– Where do you think you’re going, damn monkey?

Understanding the seriousness of his situation, the Great Sage reduced the iron rod to the size of an embroidery needle and hid it in his ear. Then, with a brief shudder of his body, he turned into a small sparrow, which went to hide on the highest branch of a tree. Puzzled, the six brothers looked everywhere for him, but could not find him.

  • We have lost the monster! – they repeated with visible nervousness -. We have lost the monster!

When they seemed most agitated, the Immortal Master approached them and asked them:

  • At what specific point have you lost sight of him?
  • Right here – they answered -. We had him cornered and suddenly he disappeared.

Er-Lang opened his phoenix eye 5 as wide as he could and carefully inspected the place. In this way, he soon discovered that the Great Sage had turned into a sparrow and was perched on the highest branch of a tree. In the blink of an eye he regained his usual form and shed the weight of his crossbow. But he had not yet touched the ground, when he turned into a falcon with outstretched wings, ready to fall on his prey. The Great Sage then shook his plumage and transformed into a cormorant, which rose quickly towards the height. As soon as Er-Lang saw him, he flapped his wings vigorously and metamorphosed into a gigantic seagull, capable of entering the clouds and capturing with his beak everything that was hidden in them. The Great Sage was forced,

So, he went down and, after mutating into a little fish, he dropped into a stream. Er-Lang immediately reached the edge of the water, but he could not see even the shadow of it and said to himself:

  • That monkey had to go into the water and transform into a fish, a shrimp or something like that. So the best I can do is change my appearance myself.

And, neither quickly nor lazily, it took the form of a fishing falcon, which forcefully beat the waters that flowed downstream. Oblivious to this new change, the Great Sage, meanwhile, allowed himself to be carried away by the current. But, suddenly looking up, he saw a bird that looked like a green comet – although its feathers were not entirely green -, reminiscent of an egret due to its size – although its plumage was rather sparse – and resembled an egret. old crane – although its legs lacked the red hue of those animals.

That must be Er-Lang, who is looking for me – he said to himself, and instantly turned around, swimming in the opposite direction.

But, as he did so, he let out a few bubbles, which did not go unnoticed by the Immortal Master, who thought:

  • This fish looks like a carp, although its tail is not red, it resembles a perch, although its scales do not form any figure, it is reminiscent of an eel, although it does not have any stars on its head, and it is identical to a bream, although its gills are completely devoid of bristles. Why did he try to escape as soon as he saw me? Without a doubt it is the rebel monkey! – And she dove into the water, trying to grab him with her beak.

But the Great Sage managed to avoid him in time and transformed into a water snake, which swam quickly towards the shore, instantly getting lost among the tall grass that grew there. When Er-Lang saw that all his efforts had been in vain and that a snake was rushing out of the waters, he deduced without a doubt that the Great Sage had metamorphosed again. He turned as quickly as he could and turned into a gray crane with a red head, which tried to devour the snake with the steely pincers of its beak. Once again, the Great Sage managed to ward off danger, transforming into a spotted bustard, which stood stupidly still in the murky waters of the shore. When Er-Lang saw that the monkey had taken the form of such a vulgar animal – everyone knows that the spotted bustards occupy the lowest rank within the world of birds and that their promiscuity is so notorious that they do not hesitate to mate indiscriminately. with phoenixes, hawks and rooks -, he refused to approach him. He once again assumed his usual figure, drew his bow as much as he could and launched a projectile at the bird, which was thrown into the air.

But even from a situation as compromised as that, the Great Sage took advantage. As he tumbled down the hill, he managed to metamorphose once again, this time becoming a small temple dedicated to the local deity. His mouth, wide open, was transformed into the porch, his teeth into the doors, his tongue into the image of the Bodhisattva and his eyes into the windows. The tail, however, presented him with a serious problem, which he solved by making it erect and turning it on a mast. The Immortal Master, meanwhile, launched himself in pursuit down the mountain, but, instead of the bustard he had just shot down, he found only a small temple. Puzzled, he opened his phoenix eye as wide as he could and analyzed it carefully. Nothing seemed abnormal. Everything fit perfectly into that type of religious construction. But when he saw the mast rising in the back, he burst out laughing and said to himself:

  • It’s the monkey. I have no doubt. He again he is trying to deceive me, the very deceiver. I have seen many temples throughout my life, but I have never come across any that had a mast in that part, from which I deduce that it must be

of a new trick of that animal. Why risk going inside it and letting it crush me, once I’m inside? What I have to do is destroy their windows with my fists and kick down all their doors. Upon hearing this, the Great Sage became very nervous and exclaimed:

    • What a brute you are! Don’t you understand that the doors are my teeth and the windows my eyes? Do you want to explain to me what I’m going to do, when you’ve reduced them to pieces? – And, taking a great leap, she lost herself again in the height.

The Immortal Master raised his head, trying to find him, but everything was useless. At this, the four marshals and the two generals came up to him and asked him:

    • Have you caught the Great Sage yet, brother?
    • A moment ago that rebellious monkey tried to trick me, turning itself into a temple
  • The Immortal Master answered, smiling. As he was about to smash the windows and kick down the door, he jumped and disappeared from my sight. This is all getting a little strange. Don’t you think so?

The new arrivals joined the search, but they too could not find the slightest trace of the missing person.

    • You stay here watching – the Immortal Master suggested to them –, while I go up there to look for him.

He mounted one of the clouds and rose high. Halfway between earth and sky she ran into Li-Ching and Nata, who were holding the mirror of reflecting monsters and asked them:

    • Have you seen the King of the Monkeys?
    • He has not come up here – answered the Devaraja -. I assure. I’ve been looking in the mirror the whole time.

After telling them about the strange metamorphosis duel they had had and the capture of the rest of the monkeys, the Immortal Master concluded:

Finally, he turned into a temple, but he escaped when I was just about to catch him.

Li-Ching turned the mirror again and, after looking into it carefully, urged the immortal, saying:

    • Quick, Master! Hurry up. Using his powers of invisibility, the monkey has managed to break the siege and heads to the mouth of the River of Libations.

The Great Sage, in fact, soon reached that point and, with a slight shake of the body, became Er-Lang himself. In this way, he came down from the cloud and went directly to the sanctuary. The demons who attended him did not notice any difference with the real Er-Lang and allowed him free passage. All of them, in fact, fell on their faces and repeatedly hit the ground with their foreheads as a sign of welcome. With his usual ease he sat on the throne and began to examine the different offerings: three different kinds of meat presented by Li-Hu, the votive sacrifice offered by Chang-Lung, the request for a son made by Chao-Chia and the supplication healing led by Chien – Ping. While he was inspecting them, someone arrived and reported, startled:

    • Another Holy Father has just arrived!

Panicking, all the demons ran to see if it was true. Without stopping smiling, the Immortal Master asked them:

  • Has that rebel who calls himself the Great Sage, Sosia of Heaven, come here?
  • We have not seen any great sage – the Demons responded, bewildered -. All we can say is that there is another Holy Father in there, examining the offerings.

The Immortal Master rushed inside. Seeing him appear, the Great Sage assumed his usual form and said with astonishing calm:

  • It is useless for you to continue bothering yourselves. Now this is called the Temple of Su Wu-Kung. Without making the slightest comment, he raised the spear with the two cuts and the three points and unleashed a tremendous blow, which the King of the Monkeys timely dodged, at the same time that he removed the tiny embroidery needle that had been his rod from his ear. of iron. With a simple shake, he once again acquired the thickness of a bowl of rice. Wu-Kung grabbed her firmly and once again engaged Er-Lang in a terrible hand-to-hand combat. The combat began right at the door of the temple and continued through clouds and mists until reaching the Mountain of Flowers and Fruits. The contestants did not stop exchanging blows and insults throughout the journey. The Four Devarajas were so surprised by his sudden appearance that they immediately went on guard. It was not long before the marshals joined forces with those of the Immortal Master in their attempt to surround the Beautiful Monkey King, a feat of which, for the moment, we will say no more here. Yes we will, however, of the demon Mahabali, who, after requesting the Immortal Master and his Six Brothers to take charge of the thankless task of subduing the rebellious monster, returned to the Upper Region to report the result of his efforts. . The Jade Emperor was speaking in the Treasure Hall of Divine Mist with Bodhisattva Kwang-Ing, the Queen Mother and a large group of officials and, unable to contain his nervousness, he asked, very excited:
  • If, as you claim, Er-Lang has already entered combat, how is it possible that we have not yet received any more reports?
  • If you allow me to invite you and the Patriarch of Tao to look at the South Gate – Kwang-Ing answered with his hands folded on his chest, trying to reassure him, you will be able to see for yourself how things are going.
  • “Excellent suggestion,” the Jade Emperor exclaimed, pleased.

He had the imperial carriage brought and, in the company of the Patriarch, Kwang-Ing, the Queen Mother and a considerable number of officials, he went to the South Gate, where he was received with the utmost respect by the soldiers and guards stationed there. After opening the gate, they began impatiently to scan the distance, managing to see, with the limitations imposed by the circumstances, the cosmic nets, which the soldiers pulled tightly and which covered the entire field of vision, the Devaraja Li-Ching and the Prince Nata, who held the monster-reflecting mirror at half height, and the Immortal Master and his brothers, who tried to corner the Great Sage in the middle of a savage fight. The Bodhisattva turned to Lao-tzu and asked:

  • What do you think of my recommended Er-Lang? Personally, I am certain that he is strong enough to subdue the Great Sage and that, sooner or later, he will end up capturing him. However, I believe it is my obligation to help him achieve victory and thus ensure that the enemy is taken prisoner.
  • How do you plan to do it and what weapon are you going to use to achieve it? – asked, in turn, Lao-Tzu.
  • Very simple – answered the Bodhisattva -. I’ll drop the immaculate vase that I use to hold my willow twig, and when I hit that monkey, I’m sure it will knock him down, if not finish him off. In this way, Er-Lang, the Little Sage, will have no difficulty in capturing him.
  • Have you considered that your vase is made of porcelain? – replied Lao-Tzu -. What you say is very good, if it hits him on the head. But what will happen if he falls on the iron bar? Will it not be shattered? I think it’s best that you do nothing and allow me to help you win.
  • Do you own a weapon? – She exclaimed, surprised, the Bodhisattva.
  • Of course yes – answered Lao-tzu and, after rolling up his left sleeve, he took off an armband and added -. This weapon is made of red steel and was made while he was making the elixir, so it is fully charged with telluric forces. It can be transformed into whatever one wants, it is totally resistant to the action of fire or water and has the ability to enter the mystery of many things. It is called, in fact, a diamond cutter or catcher. The year I crossed the Han-Ku Pass, he was of great help to me in achieving the conversion of the barbarians, since day and night he was practically my only bodyguard. If you allow me, I will throw it right now and hit that beast with it.

As soon as he had finished saying it, Lao-Tzu dropped the armband, which tumbled through the clouds, ending up on the very battlefield of the Mountain of Flowers and Fruits, specifically on the head of the Great Sage. The Monkey King was engaged in a fierce fight with the Seven Sages and did not realize at all that something had fallen from the sky and hit him right on the top of his head. However, he suddenly felt unable to stand up any longer, and he fell to the ground, as if he had tripped over something. Even so, he managed to stand up and was about to flee, when the Holy Father Er-Lang’s little dog pounced on him and bit him on the calf. In this way, he was knocked down for the second time and remained lying on the ground, continuing to curse and insult, saying:

  • Damn beast! Why don’t you go lick your owner, instead of coming to bite me?

He turned around a few times and again tried to get up, but the Seven Sages rushed at him and held him tightly. They tied him up quickly and, with the help of a knife, broke his sternum, thus preventing him from continuing his metamorphosis. Lao-Tzu retrieved his diamond catcher and asked the Jade Emperor to return to the Hall of Divine Mist in the company of Kwang-Ing, the Queen Mother and the rest of the immortals. In the Lower Region, meanwhile, the Five Great Devas withdrew their troops, broke camp, and ran to congratulate Er-Lang, saying:

  • Your achievement has been truly magnificent, Little Sage.
  • What have I achieved, ultimately? – Er-Lang replied -. This victory would never have been obtained without your collaboration. The most important thing, however, is that imperial authority has been definitively reestablished.
  • There is nothing more to say – Kang, Chang, Yao and Li said almost in chorus -. What we have to do now is take this guy before the Jade Emperor to see what he decides.
  • I am afraid, my respectable brothers – answered the Immortal Master – that since you lack a title, you will not be able to meet with the Jade Emperor. Give it to the celestial guards and let them take care of it. I am going with the Devarajas to the Upper Regions to write a report. Meanwhile, you can thoroughly search the entire mountain. As soon as you have cleared it of monsters, return to the River of Libations. I will join you in celebration as soon as I have realized our feat and received the appropriate reward.

The four marshals and the two generals accepted his plan without question. The Immortal Master then mounted the cloud with the other gods and together they began their triumphant journey back to heaven. Victory songs did not stop playing all along the way. As soon as they set foot in the outer courtyard of the Hall of Perfect Light, one of the celestial preceptors ran to announce their arrival to the Emperor, saying:

  • The Four Great Devarajas who have managed to capture the Great Sage, Sosia of the

Heaven, they impatiently await your majesty’s orders.

The Jade Emperor determined that the prisoner be taken by the demon Mahabali and the celestial guards to the monster execution barracks, where he was to be dismembered and subsequently cut into pieces. Such was the punishment that divine law determined for liars and rebels. How quickly the deeds of heroes vanish!

We don’t know what happened to the Monkey King. Anyone who wants to find out will have to listen to what is said in the next chapter.

CHAPTER VII

THE GREAT SAGE ESCAPES FROM THE BRAZIER OF THE EIGHT TRIAGRAMS. THE MONKEY OF INTELLIGENCE FINDS CALM UNDER THE MOUNTAIN OF THE FIVE PHASES

You should always avoid cunning, because fortune and fame are predetermined in advance. Truth and righteous action are the product of virtue and sometimes reach the age of the cosmos itself. Arrogance, on the other hand, attracts the wrath of Heaven. What matters is that his reaction seems slow to occur; It always ends up happening. His relentlessness is as certain as that of revenge. If we were to ask the Lord of the East why there are so many tribulations and pains, he would answer us that because pride finds no limits to its ambitions and, in this way, subverts the order of the world and mocks the Law.

We were talking about how the Great Sage, Sosia of Heaven, was taken by the celestial guards to the barracks for executing monsters, where he was tied to a column that was used precisely to torture them. There they slashed him with a scimitar, dismembered him with an axe, pierced him with a spear and stabbed him with a sword, but they did not manage to do him the slightest harm. His body continued as unharmed as if he had just gotten out of bed. Seeing that steel could do nothing against him, the Spirit of the South Pole asked the gods of the Fire Section to reduce him to ashes, but, despite his efforts, they did not obtain better results. The deities of the Thunder Section were then ordered to launch lightning bolts at him, but not a single one of his hair was singed. In desperation, the guards and the Demon Mahabali ran to inform the Jade Emperor, saying:

  • We do not know, Your Majesty, where the Great Sage could have obtained that power to protect his body. The fact is that we have slashed him with a scimitar, dismembered him with an axe, handed him over to the fire and subjected him to the punishment of lightning, and we have not managed to destroy a single one of his hairs. What can we do?
  • This is, certainly, a problem with a very difficult solution – exclaimed the Jade Emperor, visibly worried -. What action can be taken against a creature of that species?

Lao-tzu then approached him and said:

  • It was to be expected that this would happen. After all, that monkey ate the peaches of immortality and drank all the imperial wine. He also stole the divine elixir, from which he took as many pills as he wanted, both raw and prepared. Probably all of this was refined in his stomach by the fire of Samadhi 1, forming a single mass. As it was subsequently digested and assimilated by his body, it acquired a diamond constitution that cannot be easily destroyed. The most advisable thing, then, in this case is that you allow me to take him and put him in the Brazier of the Eight Trigrams, where I will subject him to all types of fire.

This will make him distill the elixir inside him and his body can then be reduced to ashes and melted like a simple piece of metal.

As soon as the Jade Emperor had heard this, he ordered the Six Gods of Darkness and the Six Gods of Light to release the prisoner and hand him over to Lao-tzu, who immediately withdrew to satisfy the imperial wishes. The respectable Sage Er-Lang, meanwhile, was rewarded with a hundred golden cocoons, a hundred bottles of celestial wine, ten dozen elixir pills, and a large number of invaluable treasures, such as the finest pearls and delicate embroidery, which he shared generously with his brothers. After expressing his deep gratitude, the Immortal Master returned to the mouth of the River of Libations, so, for the moment, we will not speak of him again.

As soon as he arrived at the Tushita Palace, Lao-Tzu untied the Great Sage, removed the weapon that was stuck in his sternum and forced him to get into the Brazier of the Eight Trigrams. He then turned to the servants who were taking care of him and to the young man in charge of keeping the flame alive and ordered them to make a gigantic fire to begin the fusion process. Inside the brazier there were eight compartments that corresponded exactly to the eight diagrams of Chien, Kan, Ken, Chen, Sun, Li, Kuen and Tuei. Cunningly, the Great Sage got into the compartment corresponding to the triagram Sun, which symbolizes the wind. Everyone knows that, when the breeze blows, the fire does not finish setting, raising dense smoke that reddens the eyes and ends up giving them an appearance that, in some way, is reminiscent of flames. Hence, they are sometimes called fiery eyes and diamond pupils.

In this way, time passed and, without anyone realizing it, the forty-ninth day 2 arrived, which marked the end of the entire alchemical process. Lao-tzu then went to the brazier and opened it to take out some elixir. At that moment the Great Sage was covering his eyes with his hands and shedding tears without stopping. Hearing noises, he looked up and saw light. Unable to contain himself, he made a tremendous jump, which ended up knocking the brazier to the ground, producing a deafening noise. Freed from the torture, the Great Sage headed towards the door of the room, while the bewildered people in charge of stoking the fire tried in vain to hold him back. One after another they were removed in the most brutal way from their path. He looked as fierce and savage as a tiger in the throes of a seizure, or a one-horned dragon with a fever. Lao-Tzu also ran to stop him, but all he managed was a push that sent him face down on the ground, while the Great Sage calmly escaped. He then took the bar out of his ear, shook it vigorously once, and soon it became the thickness of a bowl of rice. With it in his hands he launched himself, once again, against the Celestial Palace, fighting with such ferocity that the Nine Planets ran to hide, while the Four Devarajas prudently disappeared from circulation. No wonder the poem praises the Monkey King, saying:

This cosmic being possesses all the gifts of nature to such a degree of perfection that it passes through ten thousand works and fatigues without any difficulty. Immense and immobile like the Absolute Void, at the same time perfect and immutable, it is called the Primal Abyss. Despite not possessing a body of mercury, he was refined for a long time in a brazier, thus demonstrating his immortal nature, far superior to the rest of all living creatures. Although he is capable of infinite metamorphoses, he prefers to transform into stillness. Likewise he rejects the three refuges 3 and

the five commandments 4.

A second poem states:

Just as the light from above fills the entire breadth of unfathomable space, so his weapon fits his powerful hand. It lengthens or shortens following the wishes of its owner, it grows or shrinks obeying the orders of his will.

One more says the following:

The metamorphosed body of an ape marries the human mind. Intelligence is a monkey; There is no deeper truth than this. The Great Sage, Sosia of Heaven, is not a chimera. How was the position of “pi-ma-wen” going to help him express her unmatched gifts? The Horse works in the company of the Monkey: Intelligence and Will must be firmly harnessed; one should never exclude the other. To enter Nirvana, everything that exists must follow this path: living under two identical trees 5 in the company of Tathagata 6.

This time the Monkey King showed no respect for the position of the people he encountered. By dint of blows he made his way, without any god being able to stop him. Thus he managed to reach the Hall of Perfect Light. As he approached the one with the Divine Mist, Wang Ling-Kwan, assistant to the Chamber Master, who fortunately was on duty at that time, met him. Seeing the Great Sage approaching, he met him trying to stop his path with his impressive golden whip.

  • May I know where you are going, naughty monkey? – She shouted at him, defiantly. Here I am to stop you from being so insolent.

The Great Sage did not let him say another word. She raised the iron bar and dealt him a tremendous blow, which Ling-Kwan dodged with the help of his whip. Thus they began a savage fight that shook the very foundations of the Hall of Divine Mist. It was a meeting to the death between a patriot with a great reputation and a rebel with a no less notorious name. Both the sinner and the righteous engaged in a bloody duel, eager to show their skills as warriors who feared nothing. Despite the speed of his whip, the celestial paladin was at a disadvantage compared to the forcefulness of the iron rod. But he was a god of revenge and he did not hesitate to confront with his thunderous voice the monkey known to the Great Sage, Sosia of Heaven. Both weapons, on the other hand, had been forged in the very house of God and possessed a force greater than that of ten thousand armies. They demonstrated it well that day before the terrified doors of the Treasure Hall of the Divine Mist. The two contenders had set a goal and were willing to sacrifice everything to achieve it. One had proposed to storm the Celestial Palace, while the other took on the responsibility of defending such a sacred place. That is why they fought with unbridled viciousness, taking two steps forward and two steps back, while continuing to brandish their weapons with unmatched skill.

The two contenders were at war for a long time, but neither was able to gain a clear advantage over the other. The Chamber Master’s assistant, however, had managed to report what was happening to the Thunder Section, who immediately sent thirty-six lightning gods to help him. Without wasting time they surrounded the Great Sage and began to harass him with all their forces. But the King of the Monkeys was not deterred. Gripping his bar even tighter, he delivered blows incessantly in all directions, including his back. But the attackers were many and the harassment of their scimitars, spears, swords, battle axes, whips, maces and arrows became increasingly intense and difficult to sustain. Faced with such a compromising situation, the Great Sage shook his body once and became a creature with six arms and three heads. He did the same with the iron bar and instantly it multiplied by three, making them spin so quickly that the lightning gods had to give up their attack. The three bars acted, in fact, as impenetrable shields. The

The speed of the rotations had made them so solid that even the light was reflected in them as if, in reality, they forged a continuous whole. No lesser tactics could be expected from a warrior whom fire was incapable of burning and water of drowning. He was, indeed, like a dazzling sacred pearl 7, against which spears and swords had not the slightest power. However, it was in their hands to do good or abandon themselves to evil. If he decided on the former, he could very well become a Buddha; If, on the other hand, he chose the latter, he ran the risk of becoming a being with horns and completely covered in hair. Continuously metamorphosing, he attacked everyone who got in his way, without any of the celestial warriors or the lightning gods being able to lay hands on him.

The entire noise of the battle soon reached the ears of the Jade Emperor, who without loss of time ordered the Wandering Minister of Inspection and the Immortal Master of the Holy Wings to go to the Western Region and invite the old Buddha to come to dominate the monster. As soon as they received the order, the two sages headed straight to the Spirit Mountain. After greeting the Four Vajra Buddhas and the Eight Bodhisattvas in front of the Thunder Treasure Temple, they begged them to be kind enough to announce their arrival. Without wasting a single minute, the gods appeared at the Lotus Treasure Stand and reported everything to their lord. Tathagata invited them to appear before him, and the two sages bowed three times in succession before Buddha.

  • Do you want to explain to me what made the Jade Emperor send you here?
  • A long time ago – answered the two wise men – on the Mountain of Flowers and Fruits, a monkey was born, which as the days went by came to possess a large amount of magical powers. Feeling secure, he recruited a huge army of monkeys, which plunged the world into perfect chaos. The Jade Emperor then offered her an act of reconciliation and named her «pi-ma» of his stables. But he thought that this was too low a position for his many qualities and he abandoned heaven in an act of indisputable rebellion. Without wasting time, Devaraja Li-Ching and Prince Nata were sent to capture him, but they did not achieve their objective and a second amnesty had to be proclaimed again, as a result of which he was granted the title of Great Sage, Sosia of Heaven. , a degree that did not entail any responsibility. Soon, however, he was entrusted with the care of the Garden of Immortal Peaches, but he finished off almost all of them. Not content with that, he headed to the Jasper Pool, where he ate the food and wine of the festival, making its celebration impossible. Half drunk, he managed to sneak into the Tushita Palace and, without anyone seeing him, stole Lao-Tzu’s elixir, shortly after leaving heaven for the second time. Once again the Jade Emperor found it necessary to send more than one hundred thousand celestial warriors against him, who, despite their large number, were unable to dominate him. Fortunately Kwang-Ing suggested immediately sending Er-Lang and his six brothers to the battlefield. Fighting with indescribable bravery, they managed to surround him, but his metamorphic powers were so great that he escaped them again and again. Only when Lao-Tzu dropped his diamond trap on his head did Er-Lang finally manage to capture him and bring him before the Emperor, who sentenced him to be quartered. However, although he was stabbed with a scimitar, struck with an axe, subjected to fire and subjected to the action of lightning, he did not suffer the slightest scratch. Lao-Tzu then obtained permission to take it and refine it like gold. The brazier was, in fact, closed for forty-nine days, but he achieved nothing against the rebellious monkey. As soon as its lid was lifted, he jumped out of the furnace of the Eight Trigrams and began to beat the celestial guards, reaching the Hall of Perfect Light. As he went to enter the Divine Mist, he met Wang Ling-Kwan,

assistant to the Chamber Master, engaging him in a terrible fight in which the thirty-six generals of the lightning also participated. With undoubted military sense they retreated around them, but up to this moment they have not managed to advance a single step. The situation has become so desperate that the Jade Emperor has chosen to beg you to come to the defense of his throne.

When Tathagata heard this, he turned to the bodhisattvas and said:

  • Stay here in the main temple and let no one leave their contemplative posture. My obligation is to go face that demon and, thus, save the emperor.

He asked Ananda and Kasyapa to accompany him and immediately left for the Celestial Palace. As soon as he crossed the doors of the Hall of Divine Mist, the deafening roar of the fight reached his ears. Swearing and shouting could be heard everywhere. The Great Sage continued to hold the thirty-six lightning gods in check. The Buddhist Patriarch then issued a dharma order, saying:

  • May the lightning gods stop fighting instantly and may the Great Sage approach me, so that I may ask him about the kind of divine powers that assist him. The fighters immediately lowered their weapons, breaking the order of battle they had maintained until then. The Great Sage once again acquired his usual form and, furiously approaching the old man, asked him in bad manners:
  • Is it possible to know who you are, so that, without further ado, you dare to stop the battle in order to interrogate me?
  • I am Sakyamuni – answered Tathagata, smiling –, the Venerable of the Western Region of Supreme Bliss. If I am here now, it is because I have heard about your audacity, your absolute lack of respect and your continuous acts of rebellion against Heaven. So, answer me without delay the following questions: Where were you born? Where did you learn the Great Art? Why do you seem so violent and contrary to the rules?
  • I – answered the Great Sage, strangely calm – was engendered by Heaven and Earth, magically united to give me being, and I saw the light on the Mountain of Flowers and Fruits. In the Cavern of the Water Curtain I established my home, but I later sought the friendship and knowledge of a great teacher, who was kind enough to initiate me into the teachings of the Mystery. With him I learned to make my life eternal, to metamorphose and become whatever being I wanted. Therefore, I found the paths of mortal life on earth too narrow and I decided to live in the green jade sky. However, I discovered with bitterness that I was not allowed to dwell in the Hall of Divine Mist, since, as is the case among men, one king is succeeded by another and only he is allowed to reside in such a palace. But I don’t accept such rules! Honor is closely linked to power and only those who are capable of war and victory should be king.
  • You are nothing more than a monkey with a spirit! – exclaimed, contemptuously, the Buddhist Patriarch, bursting into laughter -. How can you be so presumptuous and aspire to seize the respectable throne of the most honorable Jade Emperor? From his earliest youth he began to practice acts of piety, later going through the bitter experience of one thousand seven hundred and fifty kalpas 8, each of which has a duration of one hundred and twenty-nine thousand six hundred years. You can calculate for yourself the centuries it took to reach the very high position it now enjoys. You are nothing more than a beast, who has obtained a human envelope in this reincarnation. How dare you, then, aspire to what you can never achieve and is totally beyond your possibilities? Your attitude constitutes pure blasphemy and, consequently, will end up significantly shortening your life. Repent, now that you still have time, and

stop talking nonsense. Realize that your tongue can lead you to ruin and cause your many qualities to vanish like mist.

– Although the Jade Emperor has dedicated himself to asceticism from his earliest years – replied the Great Sage –, he should not be allowed to remain here forever. As the saying goes, «royalty takes many turns and no one assures me that next year it won’t be my turn.» So what you can do is tell him to leave his throne as soon as possible and hand over the Celestial Palace to me. That will end the entire conflict. Otherwise, I will continue fighting and there will never be peace.

  • Apart from immortality and your metamorphic capacity, what other powers do you possess to dare to usurp the throne of this holy region? – asked the Buddhist Patriarch.
  • A lot of! – answered the Great Sage quickly -. I master seventy-two transformations and possess a life that will remain unchanged for more than ten thousand kalpas. I also know how to walk in the clouds and with a single jump I am capable of moving a distance of one hundred and eight thousand kilometers. Do you think it’s not enough for him to occupy the throne of heaven?
  • Let’s make a bet – replied the Buddhist Patriarch -. If you are able to fall from my right hand in a single jump, we will all consider you the winner. You will not have to continue fighting, because I myself will ask the Jade Emperor to come live with me in the west and leave the Celestial Palace to you. If, on the other hand, you are unable to leave my hand, you will return to the Lower Regions, where you will have to undergo a few more kalpas, before causing trouble again.
  • What a fool this Tathagata is! – the Great Sage said to himself, upon hearing it -. A single one of my flips can transport me over eighty thousand miles and his hand is only a foot away. How can I not get out of it? It’s ridiculous! – He raised his voice and asked anxiously -: Will you stick to what was agreed upon later?
  • There will be no problem on my part – Tathagata answered and extended his right hand, which was approximately the size of a lotus leaf.

The Great Sage, for his part, put aside the iron bar and, after gathering all his strength, took a leap that took him right into the center of the Patriarch’s hand.

  • The first part is already completed – he said -. Now only the second remains – and again he rose into the air.

Its speed was so great that it looked like a band of light crossing the clouds. The Buddhist Patriarch himself had to sharpen his eyes as much as he could to see him moving like a whirlwind. His fantastic leap led the Great Sage to a region of greenish air supported by five enormous columns of a pinkish color like skin. When he approached them, he said to himself, exhilarated:

  • This must be the end of the world. I will return to Tathagata and force him to fulfill what was agreed, allowing me to dwell forever in the Palace of Divine Mist. But, when he was about to start the way back, he suddenly stopped and exclaimed:
  • One moment! If I am to negotiate with Tathagata, it is best that I leave here proof that I have reached this place.

Without wasting time he tore out a hair and, after taking a breath of magical air, shouted:

  • Transform yourself! – And it became a writing brush dipped in ink, with which she wrote in large letters in the center column: “The Great Sage, Sosia of Heaven, has arrived at this place.”

Once he had finished writing it, he took back his hair and with complete disrespect left a puddle of foaming monkey urine at the base of the first column. He then jumped back and ended up at the place from which he had started. without getting off

hand in hand with Tathagata, he raised his voice and said:

  • As you can see, I have been there and back. So tell the Jade Emperor to hand over the Celestial Palace to me as soon as possible.
  • Damn pissing monkey! – Tathagata scolded him -. Do you want to tell me when you have left the palm of my hand?
  • How can you be so ignorant! – replied the Great Sage, surprised -. I have gone to the very end of the heavens, where I have found five columns of the pinkish color of the skin, which supported a mass of greenish air. By the way, so that there would be no doubt about the veracity of what I affirm, I have left there irrefutable proof of my visit. Do you dare to go with me to see it?
  • There is no need to go anywhere – Tathagata replied, mockingly – – Lower your head a little and look.

The Great Sage did so and, after sharpening his fiery eyes and diamond pupils as much as he could, he saw that on the middle finger of the Buddhist Patriarch’s right hand it had been written: «The Great Sage, Sosia of Heaven, has arrived.» to this place.»

At the same time, a pungent whiff of monkey urine reached their nostrils from the junction between the thumb and index finger. Puzzled, the Great Sage exclaimed: How is this possible? I myself wrote those words on the columns on which the sky rests. How come they appear on one of your fingers now? Most likely you used divination powers on me. The truth is, if I don’t see it, I don’t believe it. Let me go back there again to check it.

Without wasting time, he crouched down to gain momentum, but when he was about to jump, the Buddhist Patriarch gave him a slap that sent him flying out of the West Gate. His five fingers became, at the same time, the Five Phases of metal, wood, water, fire and earth. They transformed, in fact, into a mountain range of Five Peaks, called the Mountain of the Five Phases, which fell on him and imprisoned him tightly, making it impossible for him to escape. Ananda, Kasyapa and the lightning gods joined hands and exclaimed in relief:

  • Marvelous! Fantastic!

Since it emerged from a stone egg, it insisted on acquiring human habits, setting itself the goal of learning the Path of Truth. For more than ten thousand kalpas he lived in a place where quietism and peace flourished everywhere. But one day he suddenly changed and began to exude vigor and strength. His desire was to reach the highest of positions and he ascended to the very heart of Heaven, where he mocked the wise men, stole the pills of immortality and destroyed the relationships that kept the cosmos in order. Slave to evil, he finally finds his punishment, from which no one knows when he will be able to escape.

Once free from the Monkey King, the Buddhist Patriarch Tathagata turned to Ananda and Kasyapa and ordered them to return with him to the Western Paradise. At that same moment, Tian-Pang and Tian-Yu, two envoys from the Hall of Divine Mist, ran to meet him and said:

  • Kindly wait a moment, please. Our lord’s chariot is about to arrive.

Upon hearing this, the Buddhist Patriarch turned around and adopted a posture of reverent waiting. Soon a chariot appeared, drawn by eight multicolored phoenixes and covered by a canopy in which nine brilliant gems stood out. From the procession that accompanied him emerged majestic hymns sung by the countless throats of the heavenly choir. A shower of cocoons fell on him. Among clouds of incense they reached where Buddha was and the Jade Emperor was finally able to thank him, saying:

  • We are indebted to you for having made the monster disappear with the force of

your powerful dharma. Allow us to enjoy the pleasure of your presence for one more day and thus we can invite the other immortals to the banquet that we plan to give in your honor.

Not daring to refuse such a gallant offer, Tathagata folded his hands at chest level and thanked the Jade Emperor with these words:

  • I came here in response to your order, Respectable Veda, not of my own free will. The success of the operation, on the other hand, is due to your good fortune and the cooperation of the other gods. There’s nothing I can brag about. How can I be worthy of your gratitude?

The Jade Emperor turned to the lightning gods and ordered them, without wasting time, to send invitations for the thanksgiving banquet to the Three Pure Ones, the Four Ministers, the Five Elders, the Six Women Officials 9, to the Seven Stars, the Eight Poles, the Nine Planets and the Ten Capitals, as well as the thousand immortals and the ten thousand wise men who had their residence fixed in heaven. At the same time, the Four Great Imperial Preceptors and the Divine Maidens of the Nine Heavens were asked to open the golden gates of the Jade Capital, the Palace of the Primordial Secret, and the Five Abodes of Everlasting Luminosity. Tathagata occupied the highest place on the Spiritual Dastra of the Seven Treasures, while the other gods sat, according to their position and age, around a splendid table, on which dragon livers, phoenix marrow, juice of immortal jade and peaches.

Shortly afterwards, among a sea of ​​flags and banners, and under the canopy, the Respectable Pure One of the Origins, the Honorable Pure One of the Spiritual Treasures, the Exalted Pure One of Mortal Virtue, the Immortal Masters of the Five Influences, the Star Spirits of the Five Constellations, the Three Ministers, the Four Sages, the Nine Planets, the Counselors of the Right and the Left, the Devaraja and Prince Nata. They all carried in their hands splendid treasures, magnificent pearls, fruits of longevity and exotic flowers, which they gratefully gave to Buddha, bowing before him and saying:

  • We revere, Tathagata, your unfathomable power, which has been able to dominate the King of the monkeys. We thank, at the same time, the Most Worthy and Respectable Veda for the kindness he has shown in inviting us to a banquet as splendid as this one. Would it be too much to ask the Honorable Tathagata to give this banquet a name?
  • If that is what you wish – replied Tathagata, condescending –, may this meal be remembered as the “Great Banquet of Heavenly Peace.”
  • What a splendid name! – the immortals exclaimed in chorus -. This is, indeed, the Great Banquet of Heavenly Peace.

They then sat down and the wine was served. After the toasts, bouquets of flowers were distributed, amidst the sound of instruments and the playing of zithers. That was, indeed, a splendid banquet, of which an old poem says:

If the celebration of the Festival of the Immortal Peaches was suspended because of a monkey, the celebration of the Banquet of Heavenly Peace far exceeded the expectations that it had raised. Surrounded by brilliant halos, dragon flags and phoenix chariots fluttered incessantly, immersed in the whirlwind of indescribable sacred lights. From the mouths of the immortals came rhythms full of sweetness, which highlighted, punctuated by the noble sounds of jade flutes. A cloud of ambrosial incense hovered over such a divine gathering. Blessed be the heavenly court for the peace that floods the world!

When they were most entertained eating and drinking, the Queen Mother appeared at the head of an authentic legion of celestial maidens. Without stopping singing or dancing, she

They bowed respectfully before Buddha and said:

  • The monkey spoiled the celebration of the Immortal Peach Festival. We feel, therefore, indebted to you for having dominated and punished him as he deserved. There is little we can offer you as a token of gratitude on such a festive occasion as the celebration of the Banquet of Heavenly Peace. Accept, therefore, these few immortal peaches, which we ourselves have plucked with our own hands from the trees that fed them for millennia.

The fruits they offered him, half red and half green, gave off an attractive sweet aroma, which left no doubt about their origin. Despite having an age that far exceeded ten thousand years, they surpassed in every order those that grow next to the Wu-Ling Stream 10. Incomparable was their sweetness, inimitable their color, unrepeatable their delicacy of purple veins and their skin. of unfading velvet. How could it be otherwise, if they were capable of prolonging life and making an age identify with that of heaven? Happy is he who puts them in his mouth, because he would never experience the taste of death!

The Buddhist Patriarch thanked the Queen Mother for her gift, clasping his hands and bowing his head respectfully. Excited, she turned to the celestial maidens and encouraged them to continue singing and dancing. All the immortals present at the banquet applauded enthusiastically. Swirls of incense filled the spaces that separated the tables, its aroma competing with that of the flowers and petals that incessantly fell on the heads of the diners. How splendid the Jade Capital looked with its golden arches and the invaluable gifts it housed! All the guests were the same age as the heavens; some even exceeded it by more than ten thousand kalpas. How would they know about tribulations and sorrows?

The Queen Mother asked the maidens to continue singing and dancing, while the wine glasses were raised in toast and the glasses tinkled like bells. Little by little, an aroma so intoxicating began to spread that the Stars and Planets stood up, the gods and Buddha forgot about the liquor and everyone looked up, amazed. In the air suddenly appeared the venerable figure of an old man holding in his hands the exuberant plant of an imperishable life. In his gourd he kept the elixir of ten thousand years and in his book lists of names with more than twelve millennia of existence appeared. The sky and the earth showed all their strength inside their cavern, while the sun and the moon reached their perfection in their crucibles and retorts. He could roam the Four Seas and make the Ten Islands his home. He often got drunk during the Peach Festival celebration, but, when he woke up, the moon still looked as bright as ever. He had an elongated head, a weak build and very large ears. He was called the Star of Enduring Life of the South Pole. After greeting the Jade Emperor, he came to where Tathagata was and showed his gratitude, saying:

  • When I learned that Lao-tzu had taken that conceited monkey with him to the Tushita Palace to refine him like gold, I thought it was all over. I never imagined that he could escape and that you would be the one who ended up subduing him with your kindness. I have come to congratulate you, as soon as I have heard of the celebration of this banquet. My gifts are certainly poor for your merits, but I beg you to please accept this jasper plant, this green jade lotus root and this golden elixir.

No wonder the poem says:

Sakya received the green jade lotus and the golden medicine. Her age is the same as that of the sands of the Ganges. The brocade of the three wagons that lead living beings along the painful path of reincarnation is full of allusions to eternal happiness. The garlands of the

nine degrees of celestial reward expel an aroma of endless life. He is the true master of the San-Lung 12 School and his abode is in the heaven of emptiness and form. It is not in vain that the universe and the earth consider him their lord. Happiness and life flow from his diamond body.

Tathagata gladly accepted his thanks and the Star of Enduring Life went to occupy the seat he had reserved. Again streams of wine flowed and toasts were repeated, momentarily interrupted by the arrival of the Great Barefoot Immortal. After paying his respects to the Jade Emperor, he approached the Buddhist Patriarch and said:

  • The gratitude I feel for your dharma, for having dominated the beast, is inexpressible. To show you my appreciation, I have nothing more than two magic pears and some fire dates, which I beg you to accept.

Hence the poem states:

Fragrant, indeed, are the pears and dates that the Barefoot Immortal offered to Amitabha, he of endless years. The Lotus Stand of the Seven Treasures has the security of the mountains and its Throne of Flowers is completely embroidered in gold. The age of him who sits upon him surpasses that of heaven and earth, and his good fortune is as immense as the ocean. There is no falsehood or deception in this. In him happiness and long life reach the culmination of their plenitude. His abode of eternal bliss is settled in the Western Regions.

Tathagata thanked the Immortal for his gifts and asked Ananda and Kasyapa to place them with the others. He then came to the Jade Emperor and expressed his gratitude for the splendid banquet he had given in his honor. By then all the guests were already a little drunk. At this moment one of the Spirits of the Universal Inspection arrived and announced, very excited:

  • The Great Sage just stuck his head out!
  • There is no reason to worry – the Buddhist Patriarch reassured him.

He then took out from his sleeves a scroll on which the following words had been written in gold letters, «Om mani padme hum,»13 and handed it to Ananda, ordering him to place it on the summit of the mountain under which The Great Sage was buried. The deva took the scroll and took it to the Mountain of the Five Phases, where he tied it tightly to a quadrangular rock that was right at its top. He immediately put forth new roots and covered all the cracks in it, although he left enough space free so that his prisoner could breathe and move a little. Once his mission was completed, Ananda returned to the imperial palace and informed his lord, saying: – The scroll has been tied tightly in the place you indicated to me.

Tathagata then bid farewell to the Jade Emperor and the other gods and left the Celestial Gate, followed by the two devas. Pitying, however, the fate of the Great Sage, he pronounced a magical formula and immediately the spirit of the place and the Intrepid Guardians of the Five Cardinal Points came to his presence, whom he ordered to guard the Five Mountains day and night. Phases. He ordered them, at the same time, to feed the prisoner with iron balls, when he was hungry, and to give him molten copper to drink, when he was thirsty. Once the time of his punishment had expired, an envoy from heaven would come to free him and they would obey the order without question.

The rebellious monkey thus suffered the punishment due to his rebellion. It was precisely Tathagata who subdued his blasphemous pride, enclosing him under the weight of a mountain. To cope with the inclemencies of the sky, he feeds himself with iron balls and dips his lips in molten copper. Hard and bitter is the punishment, but he feels happy to be still alive. If one day he manages to obtain freedom, he will put himself at the service

from Buda and will undertake a very long journey towards the West.

Proud of his extraordinary powers, he mastered the dragon and tamed the tigers. No wonder he found favor and respect in the Jade Capital. But he destroyed such enviable trust, stealing the sacred peaches and wine and plunging the heavens into unbearable disorder. Therefore, he now purges his guilt in the gloom of a rock prison. Only his good works will be able to free him from such extreme punishment, making his eyes look at the light again. For that, however, they will have to wait for the arrival of a holy monk from the illustrious Tang court. We do not know the month or the year in which his guilt was finally atoned for. Whoever wants to find out will have to listen carefully to what is said in the next chapter.

CHAPTER VIII

TO OBTAIN SUPREME HAPPINESS THE SOVEREIGN BUDDHA HAS CREATED THE SCRIPTURES. KWANG-ING RECEIVES THE ORDER TO HEAD TOWARDS CHANG-AN 1

Whoever is capable of reflecting will be amazed to see that a life of constant worries only leads to emptiness, old age and death. It is like trying to make a mirror, polishing blocks of stone, or piling snow to fill the barns. How many young people fall prey to such gross deception! Can a feather swallow the vastness of the ocean or a mustard seed contain Mount Sumeru? 2 Faced with such questions the Golden Dhuta 3 smiles, condescendingly. He who has received enlightenment is above the ten stages and the three chariots that ply the paths of reincarnation. On the contrary, he who does not strive to achieve it is subject to the four forms of birth 4 and the six ways of beginning a new existence 5. Who has heard under a cliff without cliffs or a tree without shade the song of the cuckoo greeting the dawn of spring? Dangerous are the paths of Tzao-Chr 6 and dark are the clouds that hang over the Chiou – Ling 7, where voices are soundless, like the waterfall of ten thousand feet, the opening of the lotus flower, or the soaked curtain of incense hanging in an old temple. Whoever understands the mystery of origins will be able to contemplate with his eyes the three treasures 8 and the Dragon King.

The melody that accompanies this «tzu» poem is the «Su-wu-man.»

Once the Tathagata had bid farewell to the Jade Emperor, he hurried back to the Thunder Monastery, where the three thousand Buddhas, the five hundred arhats, the eight diamond kings, and the countless bodhisattvas who inhabited it came out to greet him. Carrying banners, embroidered canopies, invaluable objects and immortal flowers, they came in lines to welcome him under the two Sala Trees. Tathagata then descended from his sacred cloud and said to them:

I have studied the Three Regions with wisdom and a spirit of understanding and have come to the conclusion that the essence of everything that exists is completely lacking in consistency. Not even immaterial beings escape this rule, since nothing has an isolated nature. No one can understand, without going further, the suppression of the rebellious monkey. After all, origin, birth, name and death are characteristics of every living being.

As soon as he had finished speaking, he emitted a ray of beatific light 9, filling the space with forty-two white rainbows, which formed a resplendent bridge of light from north to south. Upon seeing him, everyone present fell to the ground in a sign of submissive adoration. Tathagata then ascended his Lotus Dass, above which there was no other, and sat down with his usual solemn serenity. The three thousand Buddhas, the five hundred arhats, the eight diamond kings and the four bodhisattvas respectfully folded their hands at chest level and approached his teacher.

After bowing before him once again, they asked:

  • Who was the rebel who plunged Heaven into chaos and prevented the celebration of the Peach Festival?
  • A superb monkey originating from the Mountain of Flowers and Fruits – answered Tathagata -. His evil had acquired degrees difficult to imagine and his power had reached levels impossible to describe. So much so that all the celestial warriors were unable to dominate him. Although Er-Lang was finally able to capture him and Lao-Tzu tried to refine him like gold, no one managed to inflict the slightest damage on him. When I arrived, he was making a real display of power and strength before a group of bewildered lightning gods. After stopping the fight and asking him about his past, he answered me that he possessed magical powers, which enabled him to metamorphose into whatever being he wanted and walk through the clouds one hundred and eight thousand miles in a row. I bet him that, despite everything, he was not capable of jumping from my hand and he, boastful, accepted without a second thought. Once I had him in my palm, I grabbed him tightly and made my fingers become the Mountain of the Five Phases, under which he is now a prisoner. As soon as he found out what he had done, the Jade Emperor opened the golden doors of his palace to me and offered the Great Banquet of Heavenly Peace in my honor, attended by countless immortals. . I have just left the throne to return to your side.

Everyone felt pleased at these words. After praising Buddha, they retired, according to rank, to continue with the duties that had been entrusted to them. A holy mist spread across the land of Tien-Chu 10, as the rainbow light rested on the Worshiped One, also known as the First of the West, the Master of the School of No-form. In its kingdom of balances, black monkeys have often been seen offering fruits, long-tailed deer holding flowers in their mouths, blue phoenixes dancing like maidens, birds of a thousand colors singing, spirit-filled turtles boasting of their age, and divine cranes collecting agaric. Together they enjoy the peace that is breathed in the spotless land of Jetavana 11, in the Dragon Palace and on the immense banks of the Ganges, where flowers bloom every day and fruits ripen every hour. There they abandon themselves to the practice of silence to return to full existence and achieve authentic joy. They neither die, nor are born, nor grow, nor shrink. In that world of blessings the mists settle and rise, but the seasons are denied entry and time does not exist. The poem states:

Here all movements are free and easy and pain and sorrow have ceased to exist. Wide and open are the fields of paradise, where neither spring nor autumn have ever set foot in hope and agony.

The Buddhist Patriarch stayed to live in the Thunder Monastery, nestled in the heart of the Spirit Mountain. One day he called around him the buddhas, the arhats, the guardians, the bodhisattvas, the diamond kings, the nuns and mendicant monks and said to them:

  • I do not know the exact time that has passed since I dominated the superb monkey and pacified the sky. I calculate, in any case, that at least a millennium must have passed on earth. Today is the fifteenth day of the first month of autumn and I would like to share with you the bowl that I have prepared to celebrate the feast of the blessed. I have filled it with more than a hundred kinds of exotic flowers and a thousand strange fruits. I hope you will be willing to accept my humble offer.

They all folded their hands on their chests at the same time and bowed before Buddha three times in a row. Tathagata then asked Ananda to pick the flowers and fruits and

distributed among those present with the help of Kasyapa. As a token of gratitude, the blessed offered his poems to the Respectable One. The one with blessings stated:

The star of blessing shines brightly before the Most Venerable 12, the only one capable of enjoying everlasting and total happiness. His countless virtues last as long as heaven, from which flows the inexhaustible source of his joy. His boundless fields of blessing become even more numerous with the passing of the years, while the depth of the ocean of his happiness remains unchanged for centuries. The world is full of his blessings and everything that exists benefits from them.

The wealth poem said:

Their riches, as the praise of the phoenix goes, exceed the mountains in weight and proclaim their long life everywhere. In the same way that his body becomes increasingly healthy, his fortune increases without ceasing, spreading the brilliance of his peace throughout the world. Its riches reach the heavens, they have the same name as the sea, they are coveted by everyone, they know neither measure nor limit and they give value to countless nations and lands.

The longevity poem stated:

The Star of Longevity offered its gifts to Tathagata, from whom emanates the light that produces endless life. The fruits of longevity rest on a fruit bowl in which divinity is reflected. Its buds, freshly plucked, adorn the lotus trunk. How beautiful and well composed are her poems that praise her! The songs that praise her can only be interpreted by privileged minds. Its duration exceeds those of the moon and the sun, the mountains and the sea, with which it is sometimes compared.

After offering him their poems, the bodhisattvas asked Tathagata to reveal to them the mystery of the sources and origins. Buddha condescendingly opened his mouth and prepared to spread the great dharma and proclaim the Truth. With the serene sweetness that characterized all his actions, he spoke to them of the wonderful doctrine of the three means, of the five skandhas 13 and of the Surangama Sutra. While he did so, the dragons of the sky came down from their heights and began to hover, in a circle, above their heads; At the same time, a dense rain of flowers fell on all attendees. In truth, the doctrine of Zen is as luminous as the reflection of the moon in a thousand rivers, and the true essence of things is as pure and broad as the firmament on a cloudless day.

When he had finished indoctrinating his followers, Tathagata told them:

I have carefully observed the Four Great Continents and have come to the conclusion that the morality of their inhabitants varies greatly from place to place. Those who dwell in Purvavideha, that of the East, worship the Earth and the Sky and are peaceful and honest. Those of Uttara-kuru, the North, although they seem to enjoy destroying all forms of life, do so motivated by their own need for subsistence. In fact, they have a rather dull mind and a strikingly apathetic will, so, deep down, they are incapable of harming anyone. Those of Aparagodaniya, that of the West, are not greedy nor do they show an excessive tendency to kill. They are people who control their impulses and dominate their instincts. There are, of course, no first-rate enlightened ones among them, but it is certain that the vast majority will reach a very advanced age. Those who, on the other hand, live in Jambudvipa, the southern one, are prone to lasciviousness, strife, animal sacrifice and all kinds of evil deeds. They are trapped in the quicksand of slander and in the stormy sea of ​​defamation. However, in my possession I have three large baskets of sacred writings capable of

persuade man to begin a life of virtue and good works.

When the bodhisattvas heard this, they folded their hands at chest level and, bowing respectfully, asked him:

  • What are the three baskets of scriptures you speak of about?
  • One – answered Tathagata – is full of vinaya, which deals with heaven; another of sastras 14, which talk about the earth; and the last, of sutras, which have the virtue of saving the damned. They contain a total of thirty-six divisions written on fifteen thousand one hundred and forty-four scrolls. They are scriptures that urge the cultivation of truth and constitute the door that leads to supreme happiness. I myself would go and take them to the inhabitants of the Eastern Lands, but they are so stupid and make such a mockery of the Truth that they ignore the most basic dictates of our laws and openly mock the authentic school of Yoga. We need, therefore, someone with sufficient moral weight to go to that part of the world and find an authentic believer, from whom he will ask the tremendous sacrifice of crossing the thousand mountains and fording the thousand rivers that separate him from here to come. to collect the writings. In this way, the inhabitants of the east will receive enlightenment and will be able to enjoy as many blessings as grains of sand make up a mountain or drops of water make up the immensity of an ocean. Which of you is willing to undertake that journey?

He had not finished saying it, when Bodhisattva Kwang-Ing came to the Lotus Stand and, after paying her respects to Buddha, said:

  • Although my lights are not many and I consider myself the most unworthy of your disciples, I volunteer to go to the Eastern Lands and find the Pilgrim you seek.

Surprised, the other Buddhas raised their heads and saw that the Bodhisattva possessed an intelligence honed in the practice of the four virtues 15: a body ennobled by perfect wisdom, a border of pearls and jade, aromatic bracelets decorated with precious stones of a thousand and a species, black hair tied up in a striking bun that was reminiscent of a resting dragon, and an elegant sash that the breeze made ripple as if it were a phoenix feather. On her white silk tunic the greenery of the jade buttons stood out, competing in beauty with her velvet skirt, bordered with gold brocades. The line of her eyebrows had the curvature of the new moon, her eyes seemed to have stolen their brilliance from the stars, her face, pale as jade, emitted flashes of complete happiness, and her fresh lips brought to mind the impossible memory of two red lightning bolts. In her hands she held a spotless vase, from which nectar continually flowed, and a new willow shoot, which she could never wither with the passage of time. Only she was capable of keeping the eight afflictions in check and, thus, redeeming the people. Great was her compassion for her sufferer and her fame extended beyond the South Seas, where she had established her abode, on the very slopes of Mount Tai. If a poor person invokes her, she comes eagerly to his aid and frees him from her anguish. Her orchid heart delights in the fresh greenery of the bamboos and her natural chaste delights in the view. She is the merciful mistress of Potalaka Mountain, the Immortal Kwang-Ing of the Cavern of the Sound of the Tides.

Tathagata was delighted with his offer and said:

  • There is no person better qualified than you to make a trip like that. Precisely, before you approached me, I was thinking: great are the magical powers of the Honorable Kwang-Ing. How well everything would turn out, if she were in charge of carrying out such a transcendent mission!

Do you want to make me any recommendations for the trip? – asked the Bodhisattva, eager to leave.

Look carefully on the road. Try not to travel at high altitudes, staying in

an intermediate position between clouds and fog. That way, you will be able to see the mountains and waterways clearly and it will be easier for you to calculate exact distances. It is necessary that you provide all the information you can to the person chosen to come and look for the deeds. Even so, the journey will be difficult and extremely dangerous for you, so I believe that my five talismans will be of great help to you.

He turned to Ananda and Kasyapa and ordered them to bring an embroidered robe and a staff with nine rings of marked priestly cut. Handing them to the Bodhisattva, he added:

  • Give them to the person you choose. If you remain firm in your intention to come for the scriptures, the robe will help you not fall into the tireless Wheel of Transmigration. On the other hand, once he holds the staff, he will be free from poison and all poisonous substances.

The Bodhisattva bowed and took the gifts in her hands. Tathagata then took out three small scales and added:

  • These treasures are for you. Although they look the same, their uses are totally different and each one has a different spell. With this one, for example, you have to recite the so-called golden spell, to this one you have to apply what is known as a constrictive spell, and this only becomes effective when it is accompanied by the prohibitive spell. If you encounter a monster with magical powers along the way, make him see the error of his actions and convince him to accompany the man who is to come in search of the scriptures on his journey. If he objects to becoming your disciple, place one of these crowns on his head and recite the appropriate incantation. That will be enough. Your head will swell like a bubble and you will feel pain so strong that you will think your brain is going to explode at any moment. This will make him see the convenience of surrendering to your desires.

The Bodhisattva bowed again, grateful, and left the room. As soon as she had left, Buddha called her disciple Huei-An and ordered her not to leave her side at any time. Huei-An possessed a huge iron rod that weighed more than a thousand pounds, and he fulfilled his teacher’s wish with such fidelity that he did not leave the Bodhisattva’s side day or night, becoming, in fact, in her bodyguard. Grateful, the goddess of mercy gave him a willow twig. She then folded the silk robe and carried it on her back, carefully keeping the three scales of it. She then took the staff and began to descend the slopes of the Spirit Mountain. In this way, a journey began that would conclude with the return of a disciple of Buddha, determined to fulfill his promise, while the old man of the Golden Cicada held candana 16 in his hands.

Upon reaching the foot of the mountain, the Bodhisattva was received at the door of the Taoist Temple of Yü-Chen by the Great Immortal of the Golden Head with all honors. Although she accepted the glass of tea that the immortal offered her, she did not want to linger long and she said:

  • Tathagata has ordered me to go to the Eastern Lands to find a person who is willing to come here in search of the sacred scriptures.
  • When do you estimate that man will arrive? – asked the immortal.
  • I don’t know exactly – the Bodhisattva responded -. I figure it will take at least two or three years.

He said goodbye to the immortal and took flight at a height that did not exceed that of the clouds nor was it lower than that of the mist. That way, he could later remember the path more clearly and accurately calculate the distance. There is a poem about his trip that says:

Their search extended for more than ten thousand miles. It is not easy to say in advance who will be the person chosen to fulfill such a high mission. There never was a men’s selector

more careful than her. Why can’t I be the lucky one? Discussing the Tao when one does not firmly believe in it is as empty as speaking about something one does not know. If fate reserved such a high destiny for me, I would scream my faith until I destroyed my throat and vomited bile and liver.

They soon arrived at the region of Sand Stream River 17. From the height the

Bodhisattva saw a large body of water and, turning towards Huei-An, commented:

  • This place is very difficult to cross. The person selected to come in search of the scriptures must necessarily possess brittle bones and mortal flesh. How is he going to be able to ford a river as wide as this?
  • How many miles wide do you estimate it is? – asked Huei-An.

The Bodhisattva stopped his cloud and looked carefully. Thus she discovered that that immense river reached the sandy coasts in the east, united the barbarian kingdoms in the west, reached the lands of Wu-I in the south and approached the nation of the Tartars in the north. It had a width that exceeded eight hundred miles and its length reached several thousand more. The water ran along its channel as if the earth had suffered a tremendous shock. At some points its current was so violent that the waves it raised were reminiscent of a mountain struggling to stand up. That was a vast, endless, immense and unfathomable mass of water. The sound produced by its torrent could be heard many kilometers away. Its waters were so fierce that not even a god’s raft could cross them. Even a simple lotus leaf would have found it impossible to stay afloat in them. Only macerated stems of lifeless grass ran along its channel. As if nature itself understood the full magnitude of its destructive force, the sun was covered, in the places it passed, by a mass of yellowish clouds that significantly obscured its edges. How were the caravans of merchants going to pass through there or were the fishermen going to dare to put up their huts? Wild geese never descended on its sandbanks. Not even the monkeys reached them, preferring to water in more distant places. Only wild herbs with reddish flowers grew in such dangerous places, dotted, from time to time, by the whiteness of duckweed.

The Bodhisattva was looking, disconsolate, at the spectacle offered by the river, when suddenly a violent splash was heard and a frightful and terrible monster jumped out of the water. He had a face between black and greenish, fierce in appearance, and a body, neither too short nor too long, with a constitution that was both vigorous and sinewy. His eyes shone like the embers of a brazier; His mouth, irregular and menacing, was reminiscent of a butcher’s basin full of blood; His lenses, protruding like a cape protruding into the sea, looked like sharp knives; His hair, completely disheveled, had a chilling reddish color; and her bare feet brought to mind the coldness of the dead. She roared just once, and his roar sounded as menacing as the roar of thunder, while his paws moved so quickly that they seemed like a whirl of wind.

With a club in his hands, such a diabolical creature ran towards the shore and tried to grab the Bodhisattva. Fortunately, Huei-An stood in her way and, brandishing the iron bar, shouted authoritatively: – Stop!

The beast was not daunted. She raised her club and engaged him in a fierce and terrible battle, such as had never been seen in the River of the Sandflow. While Moksa’s iron rod was raised to defend justice and law, the monster’s was raised to show his enormous power. They were both like two silver snakes moving nimbly along the banks of the river. While the latter wants to assert his rights as lord of the Sandstream, the latter only wishes to protect Kwang-Ing.

and, thus, increase its already countless merits. One raises storms of foam and forms gigantic waves, while the other vomits mists and spits wind. The sky and the earth succumb to its influence and the sun and the moon, obscured by such portentous phenomena, lose part of their beneficial luminosity. The monster’s club is as fierce as a white tiger coming out of the mountain; The iron bar, on the other hand, looks like a yellowish dragon standing in your way. That one tears up the grass from the ground, penetrating so far into it that it exposes the snakes’ lairs. This shortens the flight of the kites, knocking them down, and cuts the tall pine trees of the forest in two. The fight continues until the darkness becomes thick and the stars begin to twinkle in the sky. By then a dense fog has settled on the earth, submerging everything that sits on it in a world without contours. But that does not seem to matter either to the perennial inhabitant of the waters, a brave and fierce fighter, or to the everlasting inhabitant of the Mountain of the Spirit, who seeks his first triumph in this combat.

The two battled each other for twenty or thirty rounds, but neither gained a noticeable advantage. Puzzled, the beast momentarily stopped its attacks and asked its opponent:

-Where are you form? There are certainly not many who dare to confront me.

  • I – answered Moksa – am the second son of Devaraja Li-Ching. Although my name is Moksa, I am better known by Huei-An, as I am called in the religious world to which I belong. I am precisely accompanying my teacher to the Eastern Lands in search of someone who wants to go collect the sacred writings at the Spirit Mountain.
  • Now I fall! – exclaimed the monster, recognizing him -. You have long followed the teachings of Kwang-Ing, leading a life of sacrifice and hardship in the bamboo groves of the South Seas. Can you know how you got here?
  • Don’t you realize that that is precisely the teacher I was telling you about before? – Moksa replied -. If you look closely, you will see that it is Kwang-Ing herself who is the woman standing on the shore.

Hearing this, the monster apologized as best he could and threw his club aside. Then he let Moksa grab him by the neck and lead him docilely before the serene figure of the Bodhisattva. He bowed respectfully before her and, without daring to raise his eyes from the ground, said:

  • I beg you to forgive me. Allow me to explain to you why I have acted this way. Although it may seem otherwise, I am not a monster, but the Marshal-who-raises-the-curtain, in charge of going out to greet the Jade Emperor’s phoenix chariot in the Hall of Divine Mist. During the celebration of the Immortal Peaches Festival I made the mistake of breaking a crystal goblet and the Emperor sentenced me to receive eight hundred lashes, then banished me to the Lower Regions and turned me into the beast I now am. But that is not all. Every seven days he sends a flying sword against me, which pierces my chest and side more than a hundred times, before returning to the place from which it started. Hence it presents the lamentable state that you see. The most difficult thing to endure, anyway, is the cold and, above all, hunger, which forces me to get out of the water every so often in search of a walker to devour. What I least imagined was that it was you and your disciple who were trying to cross my river today.
  • You were expelled from the heavens for your sin – the Bodhisattva rebuked him -. Far from repenting, you have continued destroying lives, so it can be said that the only thing you have done all this time has been to add offense to sin. How have you

As my disciple explained, by order of Buddha I am heading to the Eastern Lands in search of a person who wants to go collect the sacred writings. Why don’t you embrace me, take refuge in good works and accompany, as a disciple, the chosen one, when he goes to the Western Paradise to ask Buddha for the scriptures? If you do, I will order the flying sword to stop bothering you. Furthermore, this will help you accumulate merits, which will make the Jade Emperor forget your sin, and you will regain your former position. What do you think of what I just told you?

  • “I am eager to begin a virtuous life again,” the monster confessed. But I have devoured so many human beings in this place that I believe that for me there is no longer possible forgiveness. Countless people have passed through here in search of sacred writings and I have eaten them all. Their heads lie at the bottom of this river of sand, because you already know that its waters are so special that not even ducks can float in them. In any case, there have been nine that have remained afloat, totally unwilling to sink. This is a miraculous fact, which should have made me reflect. But instead, I tied them with a string and now, when I find myself bored and not knowing what to do, I have fun playing with them. If someone finds out, surely no one else dares to pass by here and the writings will not be able to make their way back. Won’t that endanger my own future?
  • What nonsense! How can they not dare to stop by here? – exclaimed the Bodhisattva -. What you have to do is hang those heads around your neck. We will find some use for them when the person we have chosen arrives.
  • In that case – concluded the calmest monster -, I agree to receive your teachings.

The Bodhisattva then touched him on the head and gave him the commandments. She took the sand as a witness and was granted the religious name of Sha Wu-Ching 18, thus becoming part of the world of the enlightened. Once the Bodhisattva was gone, he washed his heart and was thus purified. He never again killed anyone, dedicating himself from then on to impatiently awaiting the arrival of the man of the scriptures.

The Bodhisattva and Moksa continued, meanwhile, their long path. After a certain time they came across a very high mountain, from which emanated such a foul smell that it was impossible for them to climb it on foot. When they were about to mount their clouds to fly over it, a very strong wind suddenly arose and another fierce-looking monster appeared before them. He had full lips as twisted as dried lotus leaves, ears as large as reed fans, eyes shining with grim and cruel gaze, teeth strikingly spaced and as sharp as files of pure steel, and a mouth as long and wide as a pot. On his head he wore a gold cap attached to his chin with leather straps, which, like those that fastened his armor to his body, seemed to be made of snakeskin. In his hand he held a trident, reminiscent of an open dragon’s paw. From his waist hung a bow in the shape of a crescent, which gave him an air that was both proud and terrible. His appearance was that of a fighter so ruthless and cruel that even the gods themselves would have been intimidated by seeing him.

He rushed at the two travelers with the speed of a breeze and, without the slightest warning, raised his terrible trident and brought it down with force on the Bodhisattva. Fortunately, Huei-An deflected the blow with the iron bar, shouting angrily:

  • Damn monster! How can you be so insolent? If you want to fight, I am willing to make you test the power of my bar.
  • You don’t know who you’re talking to, you stupid monk! – replied the monster -. You should be a little more cautious, because I warn you that my trident is invincible.

The two threw themselves into the fight with a ferocity that made the mountainside itself tremble. Their meeting was one of the most magnificent that history has ever witnessed. If the monster exuded bravery, Huei-An was not far behind him. The iron bar sought the heart of his enemy, while the trident worked to tear the face of his attacker. Their movements, fast as lightning, made the mud fly and raised clouds of dust upwards that darkened the sky and the earth. The gods and demons were terrified by such violence. The trident made a deathly sound as it rotated incessantly in the air, bright as the flickering of a star. The iron rod, on the other hand, black as the heart of the night, flew in the hands of a prince. The son of a Devaraja, defender of the faith in Potalaka, faced the spirit of a grand marshal, who lived in a cave transformed into a monster. His warrior merits were so similar that no one could say who was going to win and who was going to be defeated.

When the battle seemed to be fiercest, Kwang-Ing dropped a few lotus flowers from the air and instantly the trident and the bar were separated. Astonished at such a portent, the monster hurriedly asked:

  • Where are you from? I have to admit that the trick with the flowers is frankly extraordinary.
  • Damned beast with blind eyes and mortal body! – Moksa exclaimed -. I am a disciple of the Bodhisattva of the South Seas and these are lotus flowers that my teacher has just thrown. Don’t you recognize them?
  • The Bodhisattva of the South Seas? – the monster repeated -. Do you mean Kwang-Ing, the one who removes the three calamities from us and saves us from the eight dangers?
  • Who else could it be? – Moksa answered, grumpily.

The beast immediately threw down the trident, bowed its head and, bowing respectfully, said:

  • Can you tell me, respected brother, where the Bodhisattva is? If you would be kind enough to introduce me to her, I would be infinitely grateful.

Moksa raised his head and pointed upwards, saying:

  • Don’t you see it there?

The monster fell on its face and, continuing to hit the ground with its forehead, begged loudly:

– Forgive me, Bodhisattva! Do not take this sin into account!

Kwang-Ing immediately descended from his cloud and, approaching him, asked:

  • Where are you from and why did you dare to stand in my way, you wild pig or whatever you are?
  • «I am no beast,» answered the monster, humble, «but the former Marshal of the Celestial Reeds 19. The Jade Emperor ordered me to be beaten more than two thousand times in a row with a mallet and then banished me to this world of dust and shadows.» , because on one occasion I got drunk and started flirting with the Moon Goddess 20. That forced me to look for a new body in which to reincarnate. But, without knowing how, I got lost and ended up in the belly of a javelin. No wonder you confused me with a wild pig. I myself was so scared when I saw what she looked like that I bit the sow that gave birth to me and the rest of the litter to death. I later took over this mountain and have spent my days devouring people. What I least expected was that one day I would meet you. Have mercy on me, Bodhisattva! I beg you!
  • What is the name of this mountain? – asked the Bodhisattva.
  • The Blessed Mound, lady – he responded -. In it there is a cave known as the Cloud Paths, where the old woman Luán once lived. As soon as she found out that

He was a master of martial arts, he immediately came to ask me to take charge of the place, following to the letter the advice of the saying, which says: «He who lives in his wife’s house must keep his back to the door.» ». Poor girl died after a year, leaving me the entire cave as an inheritance. As I tell you, I have lived in this place for a long time, but I have not yet learned to fend for myself and I have been forced to devour countless people. I ask you to forgive me for such a horrendous sin, lady!

  • There is an old proverb, which says: «Whoever longs to possess tomorrow must always act righteously.» Not only have you turned the Upper Regions against you, but on top of that, you have dedicated yourself to killing every living creature that has had the misfortune of passing through here. Don’t you understand that such horrendous crimes cannot go unpunished?
  • The morning! What do I care about tomorrow? – exclaimed the beast -. If I listen to you, I will most likely end up feeding on air. If I remember correctly, there is another proverb, which says: “If you follow the rules of the court, you will most likely be beaten to death; If you respect the laws of Buddha, be assured that you will die of starvation. So you better let me go. I’d rather continue devouring travelers than become a living skeleton. What do I care, ultimately, about two more crimes, or three, or a thousand, or ten thousand? What difference does it make!
  • There is another proverb – replied the Bodhisattva -, which states: «Heaven helps him who is full of right intentions.» I assure you that, if you decide to return to the path of virtue, you will never go hungry and your body will be healthier and plumper than now. In the world there are five different kinds of grain, capable of relieving hunger. I don’t understand why you have to feed on human beings.

Upon hearing these words, the beast felt like someone waking up from a dream and said, sadly:

  • You don’t know how much I would like to follow the path of truth! But I have offended heaven so much that my prayers have lost all their value.
  • If I am here – the Bodhisattva tried to console him – it is because Buddha has ordered me to go to the Eastern Lands in search of a person who will come to collect the sacred writings. If you agree to become his disciple and accompany him to the Western Paradise, rest assured that your sins will be forgiven and you will never again suffer any of the misfortunes that now afflict you.
  • Of course I agree! Of course! – exclaimed the pig-like beast, excitedly.

The Bodhisattva then placed her hands on his head and gave him the commandments. Later taking his own body as a witness, he gave him the religious name of Chu Wu-Neng 21. From that moment on he became a fervent Buddhist, fasting as much as he could, scrupulously following a vegetarian diet, firmly abstaining from the five meals. prohibited 22 and the three foods not recommended 23, and impatiently awaiting the arrival of the traveler of the scriptures.

Satisfied with the work done, the Bodhisattva and Moksa said goodbye to Wu-Neng and continued their flight at mid-altitude among the clouds and mist. Soon they saw a young dragon asking for help and, approaching him, the Bodhisattva asked him, surprised:

  • What dragon are you and why are you here?
  • “I am the son of Ao-Jun, the Dragon King of the Western Ocean,” he answered. Without realizing it, I burned the palace and with it many of the most valuable pearls hidden in the seas burned. My father angrily sent a report to the Celestial Court, accusing me of gross disobedience, and the Jade Emperor has me hanged from the throne.

heaven and he gave me three hundred lashes. The most desperate thing, however, is that he plans to execute me in a few days. Please save me, Bodhisattva!

Without wasting any time, Kwang-Ing and Moksa sped towards the

South Gate of the Celestial Palace, where they were received by the preceptors Chiou and

Chang, who asked them:

  • Can I know where you are going?
  • This humble nun – responded the Bodhisattva – would like to have an audience with the Jade Emperor.

Immediately the two preceptors went to announce their arrival and the Jade Emperor himself came out a few seconds later to receive her. After greeting him with her usual respect, the Bodhisattva said:

  • This humble nun is traveling by order of Buddha to the Eastern Lands, to find a person who is willing to go in search of the sacred writings. I have just come across a dragon hanging from the sky and I have come to ask you to spare its life and, instead of executing it, hand it over to me. It could be a splendid means of transportation for the Pilgrim I’m going to look for.

He had not finished saying it when the Jade Emperor granted pardon to the prisoner, ordering the celestial sentinels to release him and hand him over to the Bodhisattva. Kwang-Ing thanked the Emperor for his gesture, while the young dragon laid his face on the ground and incessantly hit the ground with his forehead, promising him eternal obedience and submission. The Bodhisattva sent him to live in a mountain stream with the order that, when the Pilgrim she was going to look for passed by, she would transform into a white horse and take him to the Western Paradise. The young dragon obeyed the order without delay, diving into the place he had been ordered to.

The Bodhisattva and Moksa left the mountain behind and continued their journey towards the east. Soon they encountered ten thousand rays of golden light and a thousand layers of glowing vapor. Deeply impressed by her beauty, Moksa turned excitedly to her teacher and said:

  • That splendid place must be the Mountain of the Five Phases. In fact, I can see from here the words that Tathagata had written on it.
  • So that is the place where the Great Sage, Sosia of Heaven, is imprisoned, who wreaked chaos on high and prevented the celebration of the Festival of the Immortal Peaches.
  • That’s right – Moksa confirmed.

Curious, they reached its summit and saw the scroll on which the magic words «Om mani padme hum» had been written. The Bodhisattva sighed and recited the following poem:

Contrite is the impious monkey, who flouted the law and recklessly sought to become a great hero. A slave to pride, he destroyed the Festival and sowed confusion in the Tushita Palace. None of the ten thousand celestial soldiers was a worthy rival for him, eternal sower of terror in the nine spheres of Heaven. When will you return, prisoner of the Sovereign Tathagata, to know the honey of freedom and to taste again the strength of his power?

These words seemed to disturb the silent meditation of the Great Sage, who, raising his voice, asked from the very bottom of the mountain:

  • Can we know who is up there composing verses that speak so clearly of my errors?

The Bodhisattva then left the safety of the summit and began to look, piqued by curiosity. Next to a rocky slope she saw sitting the spirit of the place, the god of

the mountain and the celestial sentinels in charge of the custody of the Great Sage. As soon as they became aware of her presence, they got up from her seats and ran to greet her, bowing respectfully before her. Then they took her to the place where the Great Sage was kept. He lowered his head and saw that he was confined in a kind of stone box, which, although it allowed him to speak clearly, completely prevented him from moving.

  • Hey you! Do you recognize me? – asked the Bodhisattva.
  • How can I not recognize you? – answered the Great Sage, shaking his head and opening his fierce diamond-pupiled eyes as wide as possible. You are the Mighty Intercessor, the Merciful Bodhisattva Kwang-Ing of the Potalaka Mountain of the South Seas. Thank you, thank you very much for remembering me and coming to see me. In this place time passes very slowly and the days last like years, because not a single one of my acquaintances has dared to come here to pay me a visit. Would you mind telling me where you come from?
  • I have received the order from Buddha to go to the Eastern Lands to look for a person who is willing to come and collect the scriptures – answered the Bodhisattva -. As I passed by here, I remembered that you were locked up in this mountain and I decided to pay you a little visit and, in the process, rest a little.
  • Tathagata deceived me – said the Great Sage bitterly – – He spent more than five hundred years under this mountain, without being able to move or speak to anyone. I beg you to have a little compassion and free me from this torment.
  • You have to recognize that your sins were many – commented the Bodhisattva -. Besides, if I set you free, I’m afraid you’ll go back to your old ways again and then your luck will be worse than it is now.
  • No, no – the Great Sage denied decisively -. Now I know the meaning of the word penitence. Have mercy on me and show me the right path, since currently my only desire is to dedicate myself fully to religious practices.

It is true that when the slightest desire blossoms in the heart of a man, he immediately reaches knowledge of heaven and earth. If virtue or vice lacked sanction, the universe would, in truth, be unjust.

When the Bodhisattva had heard these words, she was overcome with immense joy and said to the Great Sage:

  • The scripture says, “A righteous word always gets a response, while an unrighteous word only finds opposition.” If indeed you have the purpose you have just expressed to me, wait until I reach the Tang Nation in the Eastern Lands and find the man who is to come in search of the scriptures. I will tell him that when he passes by, he will set you free and you will become his disciple. You will respect the teachings and incessantly recite the thousand names of Buddha, thus beginning a new life of meditation and mortification. Are you willing to do it?
  • Of course! – exclaimed the Great Sage.
  • If you have to dedicate yourself to the practice of virtue – the Bodhisattva continued saying – you must have a religious name.
  • I already have it – answered the Great Sage -. In religion I am known as Sun Wu-Kung.
  • Before you – the Bodhisattva commented – there were two other people who, upon embracing our faith, received precisely names that revolved around the character “Wu”. I guess they won’t mind if you own it too. Anyway, I can’t think of anything else to tell you. Very sorry, I have to continue on my way.

This is how the Great Sage accepted the Buddhist creed, becoming enlightened. The Bodhisattva and Moksa took flight and headed towards the east, reaching

the few days to Chang-An, the capital of the Great Tang Nation. Leaving aside the clouds that had brought them there, they became two mendicant monks covered with festering sores 24 and, in this way, they entered the city. The sun had recently set. As they passed through one of the streets, they saw the temple of the local spirit and entered it. Alarmed, the demons who guarded the doors and the spirit itself fell on their faces and, without stopping hitting the ground with their foreheads, respectfully welcomed them. The local spirit then ran to inform the guardian god of the city and the deities of the other temples of Chang-An of his presence. As soon as they knew who it was, they ran in droves to pay their respects, saying:

  • Forgive us, Bodhisattva, for having taken so long to come to receive you.
  • It’s okay, it’s okay – the Bodhisattva responded -. You are forgiven, but no one must reveal my presence in this city. I have come here, by express order of Buddha, in search of a man who wants to go collect the sacred writings. I’m afraid, then, that I will have to stay among you until I have found the right person. I estimate, however, that it won’t take me more than a couple of days or three.

More calm, the gods returned to their usual residences, but not before advising the local spirit that, in order to make the stay of the teacher and her disciple in the city completely incognito, he would take up residence in the temple for a few days. of the god who protects it.

We do not know what kind of person the Bodhisattva chose to carry out the high mission that Buddha had entrusted to him. Anyone who wants to find out should listen carefully to the explanations offered in the following chapter.

CHAPTER IX

WHILE GOING TO TAKE POSSESSION OF HIS POSITION, CHEN KWANG-JUI ENCOUNTERS WITH MISFORTUNE. BY BEING AVENGED, THE PARENTS RECEIVE THE PRIZE DUE TO THEIR DEVELOPMENTS

The city of Chang-An, located in the Province of Shen-Si, was the place where, generation after generation, emperors had established their capital. Since the times of the Chou, the Chin and the Han it had been beautified non-stop. Eight rivers 1 converged on it, giving it an air of incomparable beauty. At that time, Emperor Tai-Chung 2, of the Great Tang Dynasty, occupied the throne, giving his reign the name Chen-Kwan. He had been ruling for thirteen years, being known as Chi-Sz. His kingdom enjoyed peace and people came from all regions to offer him tribute. There was not a single inhabitant of the earth who did not consider himself his subject.

One day Tai-Chung sat on the throne and called all his collaborators to his presence. After paying his respects, Prime Minister Wei-Cheng 3 came forward and said:

  • Since the world enjoys peace and tranquility everywhere, it would be advisable to reestablish the ancient custom of examinations and set specific dates for their celebration. The most distinguished intellectuals would be invited to them, so that, once those with the most upright conduct and profound intelligence had been selected, they would be entrusted with the high responsibilities of administration and government.
  • Your point of view is completely correct – commented Tai-Chung and immediately made public a document in which all those versed in Confucian writings, all those who were capable of writing accurately, were invited to come to Chang-An, to be examined.

elegance and style, and to those who have passed the three grades 4, without distinction of age, profession or point of origin. The order reached the last corner of the empire, focusing on all prefectures, cities and towns.

Thus, he also arrived at a small place called Hai-Chou, where lived a certain young man named Chen-Er, also known as Kwang-Jui, who, after reading the imperial document, ran to the house of his mother, surnamed Chang, and told her :

  • An announcement has come from the court 5, calling for examinations in all the southern provinces for the selection of the most intelligent and virtuous people. With your permission, I have decided to take these very important tests. If I manage to obtain a position of some importance, you will all feel proud of me, our name will acquire a luster it never had, my wife will receive the title of lady, my son will not have to fear anything in the future, and our house will be respected as if it were a temple. All this sums up the aspirations I have always had. I wanted you to know before I left.
  • I know well, my son – answered the mother – that an educated person «studies when he is young, and seeks life when he has matured.» I think you should also follow the teachings of this proverb. Try to be careful during the trip and return home as soon as you have achieved the position you want.

Kwang-Jui ordered the servant to pack all his things and, after saying goodbye to his mother, he set off on his journey, excited. Upon arriving at Chang-An, he saw that the exams had already begun and without wasting time he headed to the large hall in which they were taking place. He passed the first tests, going directly to those held in court. These dealt with administrative policy and, after a very close competition with other candidates as intelligent as him, he obtained first place. In this way, he obtained the title of «chuang-yüen» 6, signed by the Emperor of the Tang himself in person. Then, following custom, he toured the city for three days on horseback.

The procession passed by the house of Prime Minister Yin Kai-Shan 7, who had a daughter named Wen-Chiao, although she was known to everyone as Man Tang-Chiao. She had not yet married. Precisely at that very moment she was preparing to choose her husband, throwing a small profusely embroidered ball from the top of a tower decorated with flowers and garlands. Seeing Kwang-Jui’s virile appearance and learning that he was the new «chuang-yüen», she felt attracted to him and threw the ball of embroidery, with such good luck that it ended up on the silk hat. black from Kwang-Jui. Instantly, a joyous music of lauds and flutes spread throughout the area, festive like the cyclical rebirth of spring, while dozens of servants and maidens rushed down the tower, took Kwang-Jui’s horse by the bridle and led him inside. from the prime minister’s residence, where the wedding celebration was to take place. Immediately the high imperial official and his wife left the chambers, gathered the master of ceremonies and all the guests, and handed the girl over to Kwang-Jui as his wife. The bride and groom bowed before Heaven and Earth, greeted each other with respect and knelt before the bride’s parents. Visibly satisfied, the prime minister gave a lavish banquet and all the guests celebrated such a happy event until well into the night. By then the two bride and groom had already left the banquet room and had retired, holding hands, to the bridal chamber.

Very early the next morning the emperor took his seat in the Treasure Room of the Golden Chimneys and, after summoning all the advisors, both military and civil, he asked:

  • Where should we send the new “chuang-yüen”?
  • We have discovered that there is a vacancy in Chiang-Chou – responded the minister

Wei-Cheng -. I beg you to grant him that position.

Tai-Chung appointed him governor of Chiang-Chou, ordering him to leave there as soon as possible. After thanking the emperor for such a high honor, Kwang-Jui left the court and hurried to the prime minister’s house to report everything to his wife. He did not take long to say goodbye to his in-laws and it was not long before he headed, accompanied by his wife, towards his new destination.

When they began the trip, spring was already coming to an end. A light breeze shook the delicate greenery of the willows, while the fiery red of the flowers was splashed by tiny drops of rain. Since his home was on their way, Kwang-Jui stopped at her house in order to greet his mother. The new spouses bowed before her with respect and, crazy with joy, her mother exclaimed:

    • Congratulations, my son. You left alone and returned accompanied by a beautiful wife.
    • Relying solely on the power of your blessing – Kwang-Jui replied, excited –
  • I achieved the undeserved title of «chuang-yüen.» When I was walking through the streets of the city by imperial order, I happened to pass by Minister Yin’s mansion, with such good luck that a small ball full of embroidery fell on my head. The minister himself came out to receive me and gave me his daughter as his wife. Later His Majesty appointed me governor of Chiang-Chou and I headed there to take up my position. It would be a great honor for us to have your company.

Mrs. Chang felt the glow of joy in her heart and immediately began to pack her things. The trip did not take long. A few days later they arrived at the Inn of Ten Thousand Flowers 8, whose owner was a certain Liou Siao-Er. Mrs. Chang suddenly felt unwell and said to her son:

    • I do not feel well. Why don’t we rest here for a couple of days or three, before moving on?

Kwang-Jui accepted his suggestion without question. The next morning he met a man outside the inn selling a tent of an attractive golden color. Thinking of his wife, he bought her for a string of coins. When he was about to cook it, he noticed that the carp was blinking as if it were alive. Astonished, he thought:

    • I’ve heard it said that when a fish or snake blinks like this, it’s a sure sign that it’s no ordinary animal.

So he went again in search of the fisherman and asked him:

    • Would you mind telling me where you caught this fish?
    • Not at all – the fisherman responded simply -. I caught it in the Hung River, which is approximately fifteen kilometers from here.

Kwang-Jui ran to the indicated place and released the fish. As soon as he returned to the inn, he told everything to his mother, who commented, satisfied:

    • I’m really proud of what you’ve done. It is a good deed to set living beings free.
    • You are right – Kwang-Jui responded, adding in a different tone -: We have been in this inn for three days and I am frankly worried, because the emperor’s order was urgent. I have no choice but to resume my journey tomorrow. I would like to know if you are fully recovered.
    • “I still don’t feel well,” Mrs. Chang replied.

Furthermore, the heat has begun to get really hot and I’m afraid that this will aggravate my illness during the trip. Why don’t you rent a house and leave me here with a little money until I fully regain my strength? You can continue the path. You can come find me, if you want, in the fall, when it’s a little cooler.

Kwang-Jui discussed the matter with his wife and, as agreed, rented a house, where he accommodated his mother. After giving her some money, they said goodbye to her and continued on her way. The fatigue of the journey soon took over their bodies again, although they soon reached the banks of the Hung River. To cross it, they requested the services of two boatmen, named Liou-Hung and Li-Piao, who gladly offered to take them in their boat. It happened that Kwang-Jui had been predestined in his previous reincarnation to encounter misfortune, embodied in these two evildoers. After ordering his servant to put all the luggage on the boat, Kwang-Jui and his wife prepared to get on it. Liou-Hung immediately noticed Mrs. Yin’s extraordinary beauty. Her face was reminiscent of the full moon, her eyes had the serene appeal of autumn water, her mouth resembled plums in color and size, and her waist, delicate and narrow, was like a willow. young. Her features were so attractive that, just to see them, the fish were capable of allowing themselves to sink and the wild ducks of folding their wings and falling, like stones, to the ground. Her beauty was so perfect that the moon hid when she saw it, and the most beautiful flowers felt ashamed. Liou-Hung agreed with Li-Piao and they directed the boat to a secluded area, where they waited impatiently for night to fall. They then killed the servant and beat Kwang-Jui to death, then threw his body into the water. When the woman saw that her husband had been killed, she tried to dive into the river, but Liou-Hung acted quickly and managed to keep her next to her.

  • If you agree to my wishes, nothing will happen to you – he said, putting his arm around her waist -. Otherwise, I will cut you in two with this knife that I have in my hands.

Lacking a better plan, the woman consented and gave herself to Liou-Hung. The thief then took the boat to the south bank and handed it to Li-Piao. He then put on Kwang-Jui’s clothes, took his credentials and continued on the way to Chiang-Chou, accompanied by the lady.

The body of the murdered servant was carried downstream by the current, while that of Chen Kwang-Jui sank and ended up at the bottom, where he was soon spotted by a yaksa who was on patrol. Without wasting time he ran to the dragon’s palace and reported what had happened to his king, who was precisely holding a public audience at that time, saying in a broken voice:

  • A man of letters has just been beaten to death near the mouth of the Hung River by an unidentified person and his body lies completely inert at the bottom.

The Dragon King ordered the corpse to be brought to him and, after carefully examining it, he exclaimed angrily:

  • This man is my benefactor! How could he have been murdered? As they say, “kindness must be rewarded in kind.” I must bring him back to life and, thus, repay him for the inestimable benefit that he did to me yesterday.

Without wasting time, he wrote a letter to the local spirit and the protective god of Hung-Chou, in which he earnestly begged them to give him the soul of the literary man, thus bringing him back to life. These in turn ordered the demons to give the spirit of Chen Kwang-Jui to the yaksa who had brought them the letter and who, happy with the success of his management, led the bewildered soul to the Crystal Palace of Water. There an audience with the Dragon King took place.

  • What is your name and where did you come from? – he asked him -. Why have you come this far and what are the reasons why you have been beaten so brutally?
  • My name – answered Kwang-Jui, after respectfully greeting his host – is Chen-Er, although everyone knows me as Kwang-Jui. I come from the village of Hung-Nun, in Hai-Chou. In the last imperial examinations I obtained the title of «chuang-yüen» and, consequently, the emperor appointed me governor of

Chiang-Chou, where I was heading with my wife to take up my position. What I least suspected, when taking the boat to cross the river, was that that evil boatman called Liou-Hung would fall in love with my wife and plot to take her life. When he was most careless, he beat me to death and then threw my body into the waters. I beg you, sir, to have mercy on me.

  • “So that’s what happened,” the Dragon King exclaimed indignantly. Believe it or not, I am the golden carp you saved yesterday.

You are, therefore, my benefactor. You are, certainly, in a very difficult situation, but there is no reason that prevents me from coming to your aid.

He moved Kwang-Jui’s body aside and placed a magical pearl in his mouth to prevent it from decomposing and thus facilitate the reunion with his soul. This way, she could get revenge later.

    • Meanwhile – added the Dragon King – your spirit can remain as an officer in my palace.

Grateful, Kwang-Jui fell on his face and repeatedly hit the ground with his forehead. The Dragon King, for his part, prepared a splendid welcome banquet, to which he invited his most direct collaborators.

While this was happening in the kingdom of waters, Lady Yin began to feel such hatred for the bandit Liou that her only wish was to be able to eat his flesh and sleep on his skin. However, since she was pregnant and she did not yet know if it was a male or a female, she had no choice but to submit against her will to her despicable kidnapper. Her arrival in Chiang-Chou occurred a few days later. All the officials came out to receive them, then offering them a lavish treat in the governor’s mansion. To the toasts Liou-Hung said with false modesty:

    • As you well know, I am nothing more than a simple man of letters. I depend, therefore, on your help and your suggestions to carry out my government responsibilities.
    • Such humility honors you, sir – the officials answered -. No one is unaware that you have been first in the exams and that you have one of the most privileged heads in the entire kingdom. We do not doubt, therefore, that you will consider the people as your own children and, in this way, your decisions will be correct and your pronouncements completely fair. We all depend on your ability to command. So what is the point of being so humble?

The banquet lasted well into the night.

Time passed quickly. One day Liou-Hung’s official duties took him to a very remote place in his constituency. As always, Madam Yin stayed in the mansion. She sat in one of the little pavilions in the garden and began to think sadly about her husband and her mother-in-law. Suddenly, she felt tremendous fatigue and began to experience such strong pain in her belly that she lost consciousness and fell to the ground. Thus, she gave birth to a son. At that moment she thought she heard someone whisper in her ear:

    • Man Tang-Chiao, listen carefully to what I am going to tell you. I am the Spirit of the North Star and I have come to give you this son by express order of Bodhisattva Kwang-Ing. One day his name will be known throughout the earth, since there will be no comparison between him and an ordinary mortal. When the bandit Liou returns, he will most likely want to harm the child. You have to do everything you can to prevent it. Be brave and don’t be afraid. Your husband has been saved by the Dragon King. Soon you will meet again, – of that you can be sure. The day will come when everything crooked will be made right and all crimes will be punished. Never forget my words! Now wake up, wake up as soon as possible!

The voice became distant and could no longer be heard. The lady woke up and kept what she had heard in the chest of her heart. She took the child in her arms and held him tightly to her chest, not knowing exactly what to do to protect him. As soon as Liou-Hung returned, she wanted to drown him, but the woman stopped her, saying with studied cunning:

  • Today is already too late. Let him live until tomorrow. After all, there is always time to jump into the river.

It was fortunate that the next morning Liou-Hung was again requested on urgent business, which kept him away from the palace all day. Between despair and relief, the woman said to herself:

  • If the boy is still here, when the bandit returns, his life will be in very serious danger. The best I can do is abandon him in the river and let death or life take its own course. Perhaps heaven will take pity on his fate and send someone to his aid to take care of him and take care of him. Who knows if we will meet again in the future! But it is the only solution.

Fearing that he would not be able to recognize him later, he bit his finger and wrote a letter with his own blood, which clearly stated the name of his parents, the unfortunate history of his family and the tragic reasons why he had been abandoned. For added security, he tore off a little toe on her left foot with his teeth. He then took a robe, wrapped it around the creature and took it out of the mansion, without anyone seeing them. Fortunately the palace was not far from the river. When he reached the shore, he could not contain his tears and the tears flowed quickly down his cheeks. When he was about to throw the child into the waters, he saw a board next to the bank. He took it, tied the child to it, placing the letter written in blood on his chest, and, after entrusting him to the heavens, he let the current carry him down the river. She felt so dejected that for a long time she could not move from the spot. Little by little she was she, however, regaining her strength and returned to the mansion with slow steps and her eyes filled with tears.

The board slid safely downstream, until it came to a stop by itself next to the Temple of the Golden Mountain. The guardian of that monastery was a monk named Fa-Ming. He had managed to cultivate virtue with such constancy and to understand the meaning of the sacred books with such perfection that for him the mystery of immortality contained no secret. He was sitting in a meditative attitude, when suddenly he heard the crying of a child. He got up in a hurry and ran towards the river to see what was happening. That’s how he discovered the baby tied to the board next to the shore. Without wasting time he pulled him out of the water and immediately noticed the letter written in blood that he was carrying on his chest. After reading it with unusual avidity, he gave the creature the name «He-who-floats-in-the-river» and gave him to a pious woman to feed and care for him. The letter remained in his possession, jealously guarded. Time passed as quickly as the flight of an arrow and the seasons followed one another as quickly as the shuttle moves across the loom. «He-who-floats-in-the-river» thus reached his eighteenth birthday. The guardian of the monastery then shaved his head and invited him to devote himself to a life of asceticism and meditation, giving him the religious name of Hsüan-Tsang. As soon as he had received the blessing and accepted the commandments, Hsüan-Tsang set out with enthusiasm along the paths of the straight Path.

One day, when spring was coming to an end, several monks gathered in the shade of the pine trees to discuss the principles of Zen and debate the mysteries that were the constant theme of their meditations. One of them, feeling unable to solve the riddles that Hsüan-Tsang masterfully presented to him, lost his patience and exclaimed, in a bad mood:

  • Who do you think you are? You don’t even know your name nor do you know the name of

your parents. How dare you come here and act so grand? You are a nobody. Do you find out? A nobody!

Desolate, Hsüan-Tsang ran into the temple and, kneeling before his master, said with his eyes filled with tears:

  • Although every human being owes his existence and everything he is to the Five Phases and the forces of yin and yang, he must then be educated by his parents. How is it possible that there is a person in the world who lacks a father and mother, like me?

Using these arguments, he insisted so firmly that his mentor reveal the name of his parents that he ended up saying:

  • If you really want to know who your parents are, come with me to my cell.

Hsüang-Tsang followed him to his room. The old monk then climbed a beam and lowered a small box. He opened it and took out a letter written in blood and a dress, which he handed to Hsüang-Tsang, without saying a word. He unfolded the letter and read it carefully. In this way, he discovered the names of his parents and the unexpected tragedy that had befallen his life. Still crying, he fell to the ground.

  1. exclaimed:
    • How can someone who is incapable of avenging his own parents be called a man? For eighteen years I have ignored their names and today, at last, I discovered that my mother is still alive. In any case, she would never have reached this age, if she had not been saved and cared for by you. So let me go in search of my mother. I promise to rebuild this monastery later with the alms I collect and, thus, I will return to you in part for everything you have done for me.
    • If you want to meet your mother – answered the old master -, take the letter and the dress and go ask at the governor’s mansion of Chiang-Chou. There you will find the woman who gave you your being.

Hsüan-Tsang accepted his master’s advice and went to beg at Chiang-Chou. Heaven would have it that Liou-Hung was outside the palace when he arrived and, in this way, mother and son were able to reunite with the tenderness that the moment required. Precisely the night before her arrival, Mrs. Yin had had a dream in which she saw the waning moon become full again and she said to herself, hopefully:

    • How odd! It has been a long time since I heard from my mother-in-law, my husband has been murdered and my son thrown into the waters. Does that mean that someone saved him from drowning and has taken care of him all this time? If so, he will now be around eighteen years old. Who knows? Perhaps Heaven has decided that we will meet again soon.

While he was thinking about this, he suddenly heard someone constantly reciting fragments of the scriptures at the door of his chambers, while shouting:

    • An alms for this mendicant monk! An alms, please! As soon as she could, the lady approached him and asked:
    • Where you come from?
    • I, madam – answered Hsüan-Tsang, humble –, am one of the many disciples of Fa-Ming, guardian of the Golden Mountain Monastery.
    • So you are a disciple of the guardian of that temple? – She repeated and invited him to enter the mansion, where she fed him some vegetables and a little rice.

Looking at him carefully, she discovered that in his gestures and way of speaking there was something that reminded her of her husband. Intrigued, she ordered the maids to leave her and she asked him again:

    • When did you abandon your family to become a servant of the truth: as a child or as an adult? What were your names before entering religion? Are your parents still alive?
  • I never left mine, neither when I was older, nor when I was young – Hsüan-Tsang answered -. To tell the truth, I have an offense to avenge as big as the sky and as deep as the sea. Believe it or not, my father was murdered and my mother kidnapped. If I came here, it was because my teacher, the guardian Fa-Ming, told me that he could find it precisely in the mansion of the governor of Chiang-Chou.

Do you know what your mother’s name is? – She inquired, once again, the lady.

  • Yin Wen-Chiao – answered Hsüan-Tsang -. My father belonged to the Chen family and was called Kwang-Jui. Everyone knows me as «He-who-floats-on-the-river», although my religious name is Hsüan-Tsang.
  • I am Wen – Chiao – the lady stated, excited -. But allow me to insist. What proof can you give me of your identity?

Hearing that it was his mother, Hsüan-Tsang jumped up and, throwing himself on the ground, wept, saying:

  • How is it possible that not even my own mother believes me? If you want proof, here is this dress and this letter written in blood.

Wen-Chiao took them with a trembling hand and immediately realized that they were authentic. Crying with joy, she hugged him and shouted:

  • My son is back! My son is back! – However, his joy soon turned into anxiety and he urged him, saying, “Get out of here as soon as you can, son!” Stay away from this place!
  • «For eighteen years I have been looking for my parents,» replied Hsüan-Tsang, surprised, «and now that I have found you, you want to take me away from your side?» I couldn’t bear another separation! Don’t you understand?
  • Leave at once! – she insisted -. Run away from here, as if your whole body is on fire! If the bandit Liou comes back, he will surely kill you. I’ll tell you what we’re going to do. Tomorrow I will pretend to be sick and tell him that I must go to your monastery without delay to deliver a hundred pairs of shoes to the monks, the fruit of a promise I made some time ago. This way we can talk more calmly.

Hsüan-Tsang accepted the plan and, respectfully saying goodbye to his mother, returned to the temple in which he lived. Mrs. Yin watched him go with a mixture of anxiety and joy. The next morning, under the pretext of being sick, she stayed in bed, refusing to eat anything. Liou-Hung entered her chambers and asked her the cause of her unexpected illness.

  • When I was young – she responded – I promised to deliver a hundred pairs of shoes to a monastery, but I did not keep that promise. About five days ago I dreamed that a monk came to demand what he promised me with a knife in his hand and since then I have not felt very well.
  • Is that all? – exclaimed Liou-Hung -. Why do not you tell me before?

He went to the audience hall and ordered Superintendents Wang and Li that within five days, one hundred families in the city should give them a pair of shoes each. When they were ready, Mrs. Yin said to Liou-Hung:

  • Very good. I already have the shoes. Now I just have to take them to a monastery. Do you know if there is anyone nearby where I can keep my promise?
  • In Chiang-Chou there are two – Liou-Hung answered -: the one on the Golden Mountain and the one on the Burnt Mountain. You can go to whichever you want.
  • A long time ago I heard that the one at the Golden Mountain was very good. So I think I’ll go to that one – the lady concluded.

Without wasting any time, Liou-Hung ordered Superintendents Wang and Li to prepare a boat. Madam Yin chose the most trusted maid and boarded the small ship. The rowers paddled hard and the boat left the

shore, on the way to the Monastery of the Golden Mountain.

On the day of the meeting with his mother, Hsüan-Tsang returned to the temple in a hurry and told Master Fa-Ming what had happened. The next morning a maid arrived from the governor’s house announcing the arrival of her lady to the monastery to fulfill a promise. All the monks came out, rejoicing, to welcome her. The lady entered the temple and, after paying her respects to the bodhisattva, she offered a splendid vegetarian banquet. She then ordered the maid to put the stockings and shoes on trays and take them to the main hall of the monastery. There she prayed again with edifying devotion and, before the monks retired to her chores, she asked Master Fa-Ming to distribute the gifts among them. As soon as Hsüan-Tsang saw that everyone had left and that there was no one left in the room, he approached her mother and knelt before her. The lady then asked him to take off her shoes AND her stockings and she verified that, in fact, she was missing the little toe on her left foot. Once again, mother and son hugged each other and cried for a long time with joy. They then called Fa-Ming and thanked him for taking care of him all those years.

  • I’m afraid – the teacher then said – that this meeting may reach the ears of the bandit. It is therefore advisable to act quickly to avoid reprisals.

The lady then turned to her son and said:

  • Take this ring and go to Hung-Chou, a place approximately fifteen hundred miles northwest of here. In the Inn of Ten Thousand Flowers you will find an old woman named Chang, who is your paternal grandmother. I hope she hasn’t died yet. I have also written a letter that I want you to take to the Tang capital. The recipient of it is Prime Minister Yin, my father and therefore your grandfather. It won’t be difficult for you to find him. His mansion is located to the left of the Golden Palace. Give him the letter and ask him to get Emperor Tang to send horses and men to arrest the bandit who brought misfortune on our family. In this way, your father will be avenged and your old mother will regain her lost freedom. I can’t entertain myself anymore now. If I do, that rascal may suspect something and get on me like a beast.

Having said this, he left the temple, got into the boat and returned to his mansion. Hsüan-Tsang watched her leave with tears in his eyes. She ran to her teacher and asked for permission to put her mother’s plan into motion as soon as possible. Once she had obtained her approval, she went to Hung-Chou, where, after searching for the Inn of Ten Thousand Flowers, she questioned Liou Siao-Er, the person who served her, saying:

  • A gentleman named Chen stayed here quite some time ago, whose mother, I understand, stayed at your establishment. Can you tell me what happened to her?
  • As you rightly state – Liou Siao-Er responded –, the woman you are referring to was my guest for a certain time. Later she became blind and for three or four years she paid me absolutely nothing for lodging. She now lives in a demolished alfar near the South Gate and she earns a living begging on the streets. What I don’t understand is how the knight could leave her abandoned, without showing any signs of life or sending anyone to look for her.

Hsüan-Tsang did not wait a single second to rush towards the old pottery at the South Gate. Hearing him, the old woman said, surprised:

  • Your voice is very similar to that of my son Chen Kwang-Jui.
  • That is not strange at all – Hsüan-Tsang replied -, since I am the only son of Chen Kwang-Jui, Mrs. Wen-Chiao’s husband.
  • Why didn’t your father and mother come back for me? – the old woman asked with

bitterness.

  • “My father was beaten to death by bandits, one of whom forced my mother to accept him as her husband,” answered Hsüan-Tsang, sadly.
  • How did you find out my whereabouts? – the old woman asked again.
  • “My mother told me where to find you,” replied Hsüan-Tsanq. She also gave me a letter and a ring for you.

The old woman took it with a trembling hand and, unable to hold back her tears, said:

  • My son was a person of great intelligence and exquisite sensitivity. At first I thought that he had abandoned the path of good, leaving aside his filial obligations. How could he suspect that he had been brutally murdered? Blessed be Heaven, which has not forgotten my misfortune and has allowed my grandson to come to my aid!
  • How did you become blind? – Hsüan-Tsang asked, excited.
  • I thought so often of your father! – exclaimed the old woman -. Day and night I was waiting for him, but he did not appear. Realizing that he would never, ever return, I cried so much that his eyes finally went dry.

Hsüan-Tsang then fell on his knees and, raising his eyes to heaven, exclaimed:

  • Have compassion on Hsüan-Tsang, who, despite having already turned eighteen, has not yet avenged the infamy that has fallen upon his parents. Following my mother’s plan, I came here today and, thus, I found my grandmother. Take pity on her for so much suffering and make her eyes regain their sight.

As soon as he had finished the prayer, he touched his grandmother’s eyes with the tip of his tongue and they immediately became as alive and bright as before. Seeing the presence of the young monk in front of her, the old woman exclaimed:

  • You are truly my grandson! You are exactly like my son Kwang-Jui!

In this way, his joy was tinged with the heavy sadness of memory. Hsüan-Tsang took her out of the old pottery and took her to Liou-Er’s inn, where he rented a room for her. When he said goodbye to her, he gave her a certain amount of money, saying:

  • Don’t worry about anything. I’ll be back in less than a month – and he continued on his way to the court.

It was not difficult for him to find Prime Minister Yin’s house, in the eastern part of the imperial city. He approached the official guarding the door and said:

  • I am a relative of the Prime Minister and I have come to visit him

The official ran to inform his master, who exclaimed, surprised:

  • A monk? I am not related to any monk! But his wife immediately informed him, visibly excited:
  • Last night I dreamed that our daughter Man Tang-Chiao was returning home. Doesn’t that mean that our son-in-law is sending us a letter through that monk?

The prime minister had no choice but to let him in. As soon as Hsüan-Tsang was in his presence, he fell to the ground crying, while he took the letter from his robe and handed it to the emperor’s first servant. The minister began to read it and, as he progressed in reading it, his eyes began to fill with tears, until he finally broke into uncontrollable crying.

  • May I know what is happening, Your Excellency? – His wife asked, surprised.
  • This monk you see here – responded the prime minister, excited – is our grandson. Chen Kwang-Jui, our son-in-law, was murdered by bandits and our daughter Man Tang-Chiao was forced to marry her murderer.

Upon hearing such chilling news, the woman also began to cry and he had to console her, saying:

  • Be strong and try to comfort yourself. Tomorrow morning I will submit a report to our

sir, and I myself will go at the head of the troops that must avenge such an unforgivable outrage.

The next day the prime minister wrote a document, which he presented to the Emperor and which read:

  • The son-in-law of your humble servant, the «chuang-yüen» Chen Kwang-Jui, was beaten to death by the boatman Liou-Hung, when he was on his way to take up his new position in Chiang-Chou, accompanied by his family. Not content with such a crime, he forced my daughter to sleep with him, posing as my son-in-law and usurping his position for many years. In view of such a tragic and moving event, I beg your Majesty’s permission to leave as soon as possible with horses and men for that province, in order to punish the guilty as they deserve.

As soon as the Tang Emperor had read the report, he flew into a rage, summoned sixty thousand imperial soldiers, and ordered Minister Yin to head to Chiang-Chou at the head of such a large punishment force. The minister obeyed the order without delay, leaving that same day for such a remote province. Traveling by day and resting at night, it didn’t take them long to reach it. They camped on the northern slope of the river and that same night the prime minister called the Judge and the Military Chief of Chiang-Chou to his camp. After explaining to them the reasons for the expedition, he asked them for their help, then crossed the river and surrounded the mansion of Liou-Hung before daylight. Liou-Hung was still asleep when the soldiers burst into his private quarters amidst the beating of drums and the thunder of firearms. Liou-Hung was arrested before he could put up the slightest resistance. Without wasting time the prime minister led him to the execution ground, while the army camped on the outskirts of the city.

The emperor’s collaborator then went to the main living room of the house, where he sat down waiting for his daughter to appear. She ran, excited, to meet her, but, before reaching the room, she felt overcome with shame and tried to hang herself right there. As soon as Hsüan-Tsang heard about her, he ran to her mother and, kneeling before her, said:

  • Your father and your son have brought the troops here for the sole purpose of avenging your husband. The bandit has, in fact, already been captured. Why do you want to die now? If you do, I won’t be able to continue living either.

Shortly afterwards the Prime Minister also appeared and, when trying to console her, she stated:

  • A woman must follow her husband to the grave. My husband was murdered by that bandit and yet I shamefully surrendered to him. I must admit, however, that the only thing that tied me to life was the child that he carried in my womb and that in those moments helped me endure my tremendous humiliation. Now that he has become a man and my old father has avenged my humiliation at the head of his troops, I have no other hope than to end my life, thus fulfilling the duty that I have towards my husband.

My daughter! – exclaimed the prime minister, moved -. How can you talk about shame? You had no choice. Don’t you understand? Despite what happened, your virtue remained intact, since at no time did you alter your thoughts or surrender to opportunism.

Father and daughter hugged each other crying, while Hsüan-Tsang was unable to contain his emotion. Wiping away tears, the prime minister said:

  • You should not worry anymore. I have the culprit in my possession and right now I am going to dispose of him, with your permission.

Getting up, he headed with determined steps to the place of the executions. To his delight, the Military Chief of Chiang-Chou had also arrested the pirate Li-Piao, who

It appeared guarded by a large group of sentinels. Pleased, the prime minister ordered Liou-Hung and Li-Piao to be given one hundred lashes with a long rod. The accused then signed a confession, in which they recounted, down to the smallest detail, how they had killed Kwang-Jui. Li-Piao was then nailed to a wooden rack and, after being exposed in the public square to the ridicule of all passers-by, he was dismembered and his head placed on top of a pike to the ridicule of all evildoers. . Liou-Hung, for his part, was taken to the exact place where he had killed Chen Kwang-Jui and his heart and liver were torn out, which were offered there as a libation. A writing extolling the high qualities of Chen Kwang-Jui was then burned and his ashes were thrown into the waters.

Unable to take their eyes off the river, the three surrendered to crying, their sobs echoing for miles downstream. That alerted a yaksa who was patrolling the waters. He went there, took the spirit of the writing and took it to the Dragon King. As soon as he had read it, he called a turtle marshal and ordered him to go find Kwang-Jui.

  • Congratulations, Your Excellency! – exclaimed the king, upon seeing him -. At this very moment your wife, your son and your father-in-law are offering you sacrifices on the very bank of the river. I am going to set your spirit free and, thus, you will recover your life. In any case, I do not want you to leave empty-handed, so I beg you to accept, as a token of friendship and gratitude, this pearl that grants all wishes 10, two ordinary pearls, ten pieces of silk or mermaid 11 , and a jade belt inlaid with mother-of-pearl. Today will be a great day for you, because you will be reunited with your wife, your mother and your son.

Kwang-Jui thanked him, deeply moved, and the Dragon King ordered a yaksa to accompany his body to the mouth of the river, where he would be reunited with his spirit. The yaksa immediately carried out the order and left the water palace.

At that same moment, after crying for her husband for endless hours, Mrs. Yin tried to commit suicide again, throwing herself into the waters. Her attempt would have been successful, had it not been for the intervention of Hsüan-Tsang, who opportunely grabbed her waist. When they were struggling, they saw a dead body coming floating towards the shore. The lady hurriedly leaned over to take a look. Realizing that it was the corpse of her husband, she intensified her howls of pain. Everyone around her turned, saddened, towards her and then saw, astonished, that Kwang-Jui was slowly opening his fists and stretching out his legs. Soon the whole body began to move and it was not long before it sat quietly on the shore, to the astonishment and dismay of all present. Kwang-Jui opened his eyes and, seeing Mrs. Yin, her father-in-law, the prime minister, and a young monk whom he did not know crying, asked:

  • Why have you come here?
  • All this has its origins at the very moment when the bandits beat you to death. Shortly after I gave birth to this son of ours, who had the enormous fortune of being educated by the guardian of the Monastery of the Golden Mountain. It was precisely he who introduced him to me and I sent him in search of his grandfather. When my father found out what happened, he went to court and got a detachment of troops assigned to him to come arrest the bandits. Not even five minutes ago we ripped out the liver and heart of the main culprit and offered them to you as a libation. Do you want to explain to us now how you have managed to come back to life again?
  • It is related to the gold carp I bought when we stayed at the

Ten Thousand Flowers Inn. As you remember, I set her free. What I least suspected was that that fish was, nothing more and nothing less, than the Dragon King. As soon as the bandits threw me into the river, he gratefully came to my rescue and now he has restored my spirit, loading me with invaluable gifts, which I bring here with me. I was totally unaware that you had given birth. As for my father-in-law, I thank him with all my heart for taking revenge on me. The joy that now fills me is, frankly, inexpressible. The times of suffering seem to have finally passed.

When the provincial officials found out what happened, they came in droves to congratulate him. Grateful, the prime minister offered them a splendid banquet, after which he began the return march that same day, accompanied by all of his troops. Passing by the Inn of Ten Thousand Flowers, the emperor’s collaborator ordered the army to stop, so that Kwang-Jui and Hsüan-Tsang could go look for his elderly mother. Just the night before the woman had dreamed that a completely dry tree was blooming again and that same morning she heard the magpies whispering incessantly behind her house. That made her wonder, excited: – Does this mean that my grandson is coming to look for me?

He had not finished thinking about it, when the gentleman and the boy appeared. The young monk pointed to the old woman and said with a mixture of pride and respect: – Here is my grandmother.

As soon as Kwang-Jui saw his mother, he bowed before her and then embraced her with indescribable tenderness. Mother and son were crying with joy for a long time. After telling each other what had happened, they paid the innkeeper what was owed to him and continued the journey towards the capital. The first thing Kwang-Jui, his wife and his mother, did when they arrived at the prime minister’s mansion was to go greet his respectable lady. The woman was beside herself with joy. She called the servants and ordered them to prepare a banquet such as had never been seen in the entire city.

  • It is my wish – said the Prime Minister at the time of the toasts – that this banquet receives the name of the Reunion Feast, because it certainly is and our entire family participates in such indescribable joy.

Very early the next morning the Emperor of the Tang held his usual audience and Minister Yin came forward to report in a timely manner what had happened in the course of his mission. He also recommended that Kwang-Jui be granted a position commensurate with his many qualities, which the Emperor agreed to, naming him Vice-Chancellor of the Secretariat of State. In this way, he would follow the court wherever it went and would be in charge of putting all its decisions into practice.

Hsüan-Tsang, determined to walk the pure paths of Zen, was sent to the Monastery of Infinite Blessing to continue his life of meditations and asceticism. Shortly afterwards, however, Lady Yin finally managed to complete his suicide attempt, and he returned to the Golden Mountain Monastery to thank Master Fa-Ming for all he had done for him.

We don’t know how things developed from then on. Anyone who wants to find out should listen carefully to the explanations provided in the following chapter.

CHAPTER X

THE OLD DRAGON KING TRANSGREES THE ORDERS OF HEAVEN. PRIME MINISTER WEI SENDS LETTER TO DEATH OFFICIAL

We will not speak, for the moment, of Kwang-Jui in his new position or of the strong asceticism to which Hsüan-Tsang devoted himself. Yes we will, however, of two very worthy people, who lived on the banks of the Ching River, on the outskirts of the city of Chang-An. One was a fisherman named Chang-Shao, and the other, a woodcutter known by the name of Li-Ting 1. Despite the apparent humility of their jobs, both were intellectuals without official qualifications, mountain people who had come to master the technique of reading. One day, after one had sold the firewood he carried on his back and the other the carp he carried in his fisherman’s basket, they met in a small tavern in Chang-An and drank until they became a little cheerful. With a bottle each in their hands, they followed the banks of the Ching River with hesitant steps, on their way home.

  • «I am of the opinion, Brother Li,» said Chang-Shao, «that those who strive to achieve fame will lose their lives in such a crazy endeavor, those who strive to obtain fortune will perish because of riches, those who strive to piling up titles will run the same risks as someone who sleeps hugging a tiger, and those who fight to receive official favors will be like someone who walks with snakes up their sleeves. When one stops to think coldly, he discovers that their lives cannot be compared to the peaceful existence that we lead in the blue heights of the mountains or next to the serene purity of the waters. We rejoice in our own poverty and pass the days without worrying about our destiny.
  • “There is a lot of truth in what you just said, Brother Chang,” Li-Ting replied. But the serene purity of your waters cannot be compared with the blue height of my mountains.
  • It’s the other way around, dear friend – Chang-Shao answered quickly -. There is no comparison between your high blue mountains and my pure serene waters. As proof, I am going to quote you a poem «tsu», which constitutes the lyrics of the song «Tier-Lian-Hua» 2 and which goes like this: «I have crossed more than ten thousand miles of mist-covered waters in my small boat of He sails, hearing only the murmur of the water and the mischievous splashing of the fish. I have thus purified my heart, depriving it of all desire for fame or wealth, delighting only in the stylized beauty of the cattails and reeds. Is there perhaps a greater pleasure than counting the seagulls that fly above us? My wife and children join their carefree laughter with mine, as willow-covered banks and reed-filled backwaters pass before us. When the wind and the waves calm down, I am invaded by the bliss of sleep that does not yearn for glory nor is disturbed by shame or misery.
  • I insist that the serenity of your pure waters is not superior to the beauty of my blue mountains – Li-Ting stressed -. I also provide as evidence another poem «tsu», which is also part of the lyrics of the song «Tier-Lian-Hua», which says: «In a pine-covered part of the deep forest I hear the song without words of the oriole, vibrant like the sweet lament of the flute. Pale reds and bright greens announce the imminent emergence of spring. There is no transition between summer and it, that’s how quickly time passes between the fronds. Then autumn makes its entrance into the forest palace with its fragrance of golden flowers and its perennial invitation to joy. The cold winter makes an appearance as quickly as you snap your fingers. Nobody dominates him, he doesn’t take orders from anyone. «He is as free as I am in the eternal flow of the four seasons.»
  • I confirm – answered the fisherman – that your blue mountains are nothing compared to my pure waters. From them I get all the joy a wise person could want. To convince you, I quote this poem «tsu», lyrics from «Che-Ku-Tien»: «Only the water and clouds of fairyland are enough for me. The drifting boat And the resting oars make me feel at home. With my knife I split the fresh fish

and I cook greenish turtles. In this universe, which is mine, I feed on purple crabs, red shrimp, green reed shoots, and shoots of aquatic plants, although my favorites are chicken heads, lotus roots, tender leaves of the celery, arrowheads and niao-ying flowers.

  • I am afraid that your serene waters are in no way superior to my blue mountains – the woodcutter repeated again -. Only they are capable of bringing joy to my heart. As proof, I also use a «tsu» poem from the «Che-Ku-Tien», which says: «On the steep peaks that touch the edges of the sky I have built my home of branches and grass. The flavor of salted birds and smoked ducks surpasses that of turtles and crabs; The meat of antelope, hares and deer is ten thousand times finer than that of shrimp and fish. There is nothing comparable to the aromatic leaves of chun 3, to the yellow shoots of lien 4, to the tender stalks of bamboo, to mountain tea, to purple plums, to red peaches, to ripe apricots, to acidic dates, sweet pears and wild fruits.
  • Your blue mountains – the fisherman emphasized – are in no way superior to my serene waters. I can quote you another poem «tsu» from the «Tian-Sien-Tsu», which states verbatim: «On board any boat I go wherever I want. I do not fear the undulations of the waves or the temporary blindness of the fog. I use nets and hooks to get fresh fish, the tastiest delicacy that exists, without having to resort to roasts or sauces. Aside from water I share my home with a young son and an old wife. When the catch is abundant, I go to the markets of Chang-An and exchange it for wine, which I drink until I lose my mind. I shelter myself with algae, lie in the water and snore when I sleep. No worries assail me. «I do not seek pomp nor do I long for glory.»
  • You are very wrong – the woodcutter corrected him -. Your serene waters are inferior to my blue mountains. I also have a poem from the «Tian-Sien-Tsu» as proof. «At the foot of the hill – say the verses – I have built a house of pine branches, orchids, bamboo and plums. In search of dry firewood I leave behind groves and reach the tops of the mountains. With no one to control me, I sell what I want, the prices depending on my will alone. I spend the money on wine, which I then store in clay pots and clay jugs. With my mind numb, I then lie down in the shade of the pine trees. No thought overwhelms me, successes or failures do not matter to me, nothing in this world disturbs me.
  • Your life in the mountains, brother Li – the fisherman said again – is not as pleasant as the one I live by the waters. I quote you as a testimony, a «tsu» poem, which is sung to the music of the «Sin-Chiang-Yüe»: «The bushy flowers of the blackberries shine in the moonlight, while the wind shakes the yellow reeds. The Chu River, completely asleep, reflects the distant blue of the sky. I put my hand in its waters and make its lace of stars vibrate. Fish of all sizes come to get tangled in my nets; The perch flock to my hooks. There is no delicacy more exquisite than them. What is so strange that the carefreeness of my laughter spreads across rivers and lakes?
  • Your life by the waters, Brother Chang – answered the woodcutter – is not as pleasant as the one I lead in the mountains. You have the proof in this other poem «tsu», which is accompanied by the music of «Sin-Chiang-Yüe»: «Along paths covered with vines and leaves I cut wood that I carry on my back. I make bundles of firewood with willow trunks eaten away by insects and pine branches torn off by the wind. They promise warmth in the winter. I am free to exchange them for liquor or money.
  • Although I have to admit that your life in the mountains is not bad at all – the fisherman admitted -, it is not as calm or charming as the one I lead by the water. I refer you to the poem “tsu” from the song “Lin-Chiang-Sian”. «The tide will carry away from here

my boat – the verses say -. I let the oars rest and my song, like an imitation of the moon, rises on the canvas of the night. With what elegance the waning star moves over the waters! The seagull sleeps peacefully in its nest, oblivious to the blanket of flowers that spread across the sky. My dream grows like the virgin reed beds of the islands on which I sleep. Nothing breaks it. The height of the sun has no influence on it. I work when I feel like it and rest when I want. «No one has such freedom of spirit or such an enviable gift of the body.»

  • The tranquility and charm of your life – declared the woodcutter – are nothing compared to those that govern my days at the top of the mountain. I also add as proof the part of the «Lin-Chiang-Sian» that says: «On autumn mornings I carelessly drag my ax along the frost-covered paths. In the cold of the night I return to my home, carrying the weight of the bundle on my back, my forehead fringed with wild flowers. The darkness does not matter to me, when I return to tread the paths that lead me home. When I open his door, the moon appears in the sky. My wife and son come out to greet me with wide smiles of happiness. I then recline on a straw bed with a log for a pillow. As soon as I open my eyes, a dinner of boiled pears and stewed millet is already waiting for me. The drink just poured into the saucepan will help me meditate on the unalterability of my happiness.
  • Everything these poems affirm – the fisherman then commented – has to do with our own livelihood, with what we do to earn an honest living. But my moments of leisure are much more abundant than yours. If you doubt it, here is a «shr» poem that says it clearly: «Lying down, I look carefully at the blue of the sky and the majestic flight of the white herons. My boat is moored on the shore and the door of my home is ajar. In the shade of the sail I teach my son to prepare the lines and fix the hooks. When the oars rest, my wife and I put the nets to dry in the sun. My mind is calm, because I see the tranquility of the waters; I feel safe, because I contemplate the benignity of the winds. My seaweed coat and my bamboo hat are infinitely better than the court suits and their delicate purple-dyed sashes.
  • Your moments of leisure – replied the woodcutter – cannot, in any way, be compared with mine. I also have, as proof of what I affirm, a poem «shr» that says: «Lying down, I look carefully at the flight of white willow-shaped clouds. Then I close the bamboo door of my hut and, sitting in the coolness of the straw, I start thinking about what I want. When I feel like it, I take out the books and teach my son to read; When I have guests, I chat with them and we play chess afterwards; When I feel excited, I walk along flower-covered paths and start singing; When I am sad, I climb the green mountains with the lute and begin to play. My sandals are made of straw, my sashes are made of hemp, and the warmth of my blankets is made of rough fabric. «I prefer them, however, to silk, because my heart here is free and I am its only owner.»
  • Li-Ting – Chang-Shao finally concluded – “fortunate we are, truly, to be able to have fun with songs like these and not worry about the urgency of gold.” 5 However, everything we have done so far It has been reciting fragments of poems, which served both of us and the other to defend our points of view. Why don’t we recite a longer poem together and see how this discussion between a fisherman and a woodcutter develops?
  • I think it’s an excellent idea, Brother Chang! – Li-Ting exclaimed -. Why don’t you start?
  • My boat rests on green waters, covered in fog and rippling waves.
  • In the high mountains and inaccessible plateaus I have established my home.
  • I love to look at the streams and bridges, while the spring tide spreads everywhere.
  • I take pleasure in the high mountain ranges covered in clouds at dawn.
  • I feed on carp caught in distant Lung-Men 6.
  • The fire in my home is fueled with blocks of dry wood.
  • The hook and the net will serve to feed me in old age.
  • I will use the ax until my head is covered with gray hair.
  • Lying on my boat, I watch the fragile flight of the ducks.
  • Lying in green places, I listen to the song of wild swans.
  • I have never surrendered to the temptation of treacherous slander,
  • My ship has never sailed through the stormy seas of scandal.
  • When my nets dry, they seem to be made of brocades.
  • On rough stones sharpened, like the sun, the ax blade shines.
  • Under the bright August cloud I often fish alone.
  • In the lonely mountain streams only the wind accompanies me.
  • When the fishing is successful, I exchange it for wine that I drink with my wife.
  • I exchange the wood I have left over for a bottle that I share with my children.
  • If I sing, moved by my own desire I do it.
  • The music of my ballads is only dictated by my soul.
  • Calling them big brothers, I often invite the other fishermen.
  • My brothers are all the men who live in the forests.
  • We spend time inventing new games.
  • We create words, which we mix with the wine in the jugs.
  • Every day I eat cooked shrimp and crabs.
  • Every day I treat myself to the taste of birds and ducks.
  • My wife makes tea that she gives me to drink herself.
  • My wife cooks rice with the branches that the storm broke off.
  • As soon as it dawns, I grab the rod and go out to catch fish.
  • As soon as the sun rises, I take the ax and go to look for firewood.
  • Dressed, after the rain, in a seaweed coat, I run to catch carp.
  • Before the wind picks up, I try to knock down dead pine trees.
  • Oblivious to laws and regulations, I lead a life of games and jokes.
  • Faced with the rules of the world, I behave as if I were deaf and mute.
  • Wait a moment, please, Brother Li – Chang-Shao then said -. A moment ago I started the first line of the poem. It’s only right that now you do the same. Why don’t we start again?
  • The country man, although it may seem crazy, is in love with the wind and the moon.
  • A wise man gives his pride to the streams and the lakes.
  • My heritage is leisure and I seek recreation above all.
  • I despise backbiting and rejoice in the peace of conscience.
  • On moonlit nights I sleep peacefully in my straw hut.
  • When the sky gets dark and nothing can be seen, I protect myself with my seaweed coat.
  • Free from joys and sorrows, I find company among pines and plums.
  • My greatest friends are seagulls, egrets and other birds.
  • My heart does not harbor desires for fortune or fame.
  • I have never heard the sounds of weapons and drums.
  • I constantly pour wine to get rid of the cold.
  • Three times a day I put food in my mouth.
  • For my own livelihood I depend on the wood I sell.
  • I live off what I catch with my lines and hooks.
  • With the help of my son I sharpened the ax.
  • After emptying it of fish, my family mends the nets.
  • When spring is reborn, I like to contemplate the greenery of the willows.
  • In the heat of the afternoon I love to look at the coolness of the reed beds.
  • The newly planted bamboos free me from the summer heat.
  • The new lotus flowers refresh me in August.
  • When the frost descends 7, the fate of the birds is already cast.
  • At the Double Nine Festival my wife cooks crabs that no one sells.
  • When winter approaches, I sleep well into the day.
  • I am not overwhelmed by the heat or the cold by the rigors.
  • In the year there is not a day that does not travel the hills.
  • There is no season in which I do not plow the lakes with my tiller.
  • Oh if the wise knew the pleasure of chopping wood!
  • When I pull the line, I imagine I am an immortal.
  • There is no fragrance equal to that of the flowers that grow in my doorway.
  • The bow of my boat opens trails of green water.
  • I am satisfied with my life, I do not seek seat 8 from the ministers.
  • My mind is as strong and balanced as a walled city.
  • The proudest cities must be protected against siege.
  • No matter how high a minister is, he must submit to the commands of the divine.
  • What a rare pleasure it is to enjoy the mountains and the sea!
  • We are grateful, for this, to the gods, to the Earth and to Heaven.

The two men continued reciting countless songs and poems together. When they reached the point where their paths parted, they bowed respectfully and thus said goodbye.

  • Dear brother Li – said Chang-Shao, as he did so –, take care of yourself and be careful with tigers when you go up the mountains. I would be extremely sorry if you suffered an accident, since, as the saying goes, «no one assures us that tomorrow we will find the friend we ran into on the street today.»
  • What kind of friend are you? – Li-Ting exclaimed, angrily, upon hearing those words –

. People who truly love each other don’t even bring up things as unpleasant as what you just said. Who would think that she could simply fall into the clutches of a tiger? Would you like me to tell you that your boat is going to sink, when you least expect it, in the river?

  • That will never happen – Chang-Shao responded, laughing -. The sky always announces when there is going to be a storm.
  • OK. It looks like there won’t be one today – Li-Ting admitted. But who can assure you that an epidemic will not break out on earth? How are you so sure, on the other hand, that you are not going to have an accident?
  • You say that – Chang-Shao answered – because you have no idea what can happen to you when you chop wood. I, on the other hand, when I fish I can predict exactly what is going to happen. I assure you that no accident is going to befall me.
  • Do not make me laugh! – Li-Ting exclaimed mockingly -. Your job is one of the most treacherous there is. A fisherman is always risking his life. I don’t understand how you can be so sure about the future.
  • Look – Chang-Shao replied, condescendingly -. I’m going to tell you something that you don’t know. In Chang-An there is a fortune teller, who usually sits on the street of the West Gate to predict the future to whoever he wants to ask. I give him a golden carp every day and he, gratefully, consults for me the chopsticks that he keeps in his sleeve. Following his advice, there is never a time when he casts the nets that he does not bring out full of fish.

I went to consult him this morning and he told me to cast them this time in the bend that the Ching River makes. He also advised me to cast the line in a west direction if he wanted to return home loaded with shrimp and fish. By the way, when I go up to the city tomorrow, I will buy wine and meet you again – and they separated, peace being restored.

However, as the proverb states, «what is said on the road is heard by those who are in the grass.» Thus, it happened that this last part of the conversation was overheard by a yaksa who was on patrol along the Ching River and he ran to the Water Crystal Palace to inform his lord, shouting:

  • What a disgrace! What an unexpected tragedy!
  • Can I know what you are talking about? – the Dragon King asked him, surprised.
  • Your servant – answered the yaksa, excited – was patrolling the river, when he overheard the conversation between a fisherman and a woodcutter. They were talking about something really horrible! According to the fisherman, on the street of the West Gate of the city of Chang-An there is a fortune teller who never fails in his predictions. Knowing his powers, the fisherman gives him a carp every day. He then consults the chopsticks that he carries hidden in his sleeve and tells him the exact place where he must throw the nets. Do you understand the danger we are in? If this continues, in a short time it will end with all our water brothers. Where will you then find beings who want to live in the aquatic regions? No one will jump over the waves and your power will become less and less.

The Dragon King became so furious that he wanted to take the sword and go at that very moment to Chang-An to kill the fortune teller. It was fortunate that his children and grandchildren, the ministers – crab and the advisors – shrimp, the judge – perch and the governor – carp were next to him and tried to dissuade him, saying:

  • Control your righteous anger, your majesty. The proverb is right when it states: «Do not believe anything you hear.» Furthermore, if you march towards Chang-An like this, clouds and rain will follow you, and the people who live there will scream in horror. Do you want to offend Heaven with such thoughtless behavior? Since you have the power to appear and disappear, and to transform yourself into whatever you want, our suggestion is that you take the form of an intellectual and go to that city to find out what is happening. If, in fact, that person exists, the best thing you can do is kill him as soon as possible. If it is not true, there is no need to sacrifice innocent people.

After thinking more about it, the Dragon King accepted his suggestion. He put the sword aside and dismissed the clouds and the rain. He swam vigorously to the river bank and, with a simple shake of his body, transformed into a white-robed man of letters with strikingly virile features. His height was higher than normal, his slow and serene walk denoted a reflective spirit, and his entire figure exuded firmness of mind and control of the body. His learned speech constituted a continuous praise of Confucius, Mencius and the virtuous conduct of the Duke of Chou and King Wen. 9 With his silk robe and his important personage cap, he emerged from the water and walked on foot towards the street of the West Gate of the city of Chang-An, where he found a large crowd surrounding a man, who said in a soft and restrained voice:

  • Those who belong to the sign of the dragon will have good luck, while those born under the sign of the tiger will have to face countless misfortunes. On the other hand, those who saw the light at the time of Yin, Chen, Sz and Hai will see all their affairs flourish and fortune will not leave their hand, something that will not happen to those who, at the moment of their birth, They suffered the influence of the planet Jupiter.

As soon as the Dragon King heard it, he knew that he was in the place where the fortune teller used to sit. He went towards it and, making his way through the people as best he could,

He saw that the four walls of the room were covered with masterpieces of calligraphy, among which could be seen the occasional painting of excellent cut. An incessant smoke came out of the cauldron, whose wisps contrasted with the stillness of the purified water kept in a porcelain container. Prominent place was occupied by a portrait of Kwei-Gu 10, hanging a little higher than two drawings by Wang-Wei. The stone to dilute the ink, brought directly from Tuan-Chr 11, was not at all dissimilar to the brush with bristly bristles that was seen next to it. It was evident that this man mastered a large number of divination techniques, since, along with crystal balls, Kuo-Pu 12 numbers and other divination classics could be discovered. He also knew the hexagrams, mastered the eight trigrams, was aware of the laws that govern the Heavens and the Earth, and was even able to distinguish the way of acting of gods and demons. Before him he had a tray, on which the cosmic hours were outlined. His mind assigned them the planets and stars that corresponded to them with the speed of a genius. There was no doubt that he contemplated, as in a mirror, things past and things yet to come. It did not hold any secret for him, as happens to the gods, knowing which house was going to be built and which was going to be demolished, who was going to be born and who was going to die, when it was going to rain and when it was going to be good… The spirits and the gods had We must feel, of necessity, alarmed at so much omniscience. His name was written in clear letters: Yüan Shou-Chang.

He was none other than the uncle of Yüan Tien-Kang, the official astronomer of the empire. He was a man of pleasant appearance and well versed in all kinds of arts. It was not in vain that he was known to the far corners of the kingdom and enjoyed great favor in the city of Chang-An. Without hesitation, the Dragon King entered his tent. After the usual exchange of greetings, he was invited to occupy the seat of honor. While a servant was pouring tea, the master asked him:

  • What would you like to know?
  • Predict me, please, what the weather will be like – answered the Dragon King. The teacher consulted his chopsticks and, finally, said:
  • Fog will blur the treetops and a veil of clouds will erase the hills. If you wish for rain, tomorrow you will see your wish satisfied.
  • At what time will this happen and how much water will fall? – the king insisted.
  • At the time of the dragon the clouds will begin to swirl – the teacher answered again – and at the time of the snake the thunder will be heard. The rain will begin to fall at the time of the horse and at the time of the sheep 13 it will have already stopped. A total of forty-eight drops of rain will fall for every square meter.
  • I advise you not to joke – exclaimed the Dragon King -. If tomorrow it rains at the times you have said and the amount you yourself have set, I will give you fifty bags of gold as a token of gratitude. But if you make a single mistake, rest assured that I will break down the door and smash the sign you have taped to the lintel. Furthermore, I will expel you from Chang-An as a trickster and you will no longer be able to deceive people.
  • It seems correct to me that you do so – the teacher replied kindly -. Now, if you wish, you can leave. Come back tomorrow after the rain.

The Dragon King said goodbye to him and returned to his water mansion. As soon as they found out about his arrival, his ministers and most direct collaborators came to greet him and asked him:

  • How did your meeting with the fortune teller develop?
  • It is true that such a person exists – answered the Dragon King – but I can assure you that he is a real braggart. I asked him when it was going to rain and he told me tomorrow. I asked him again about the time and amount of rain that would fall and he replied that at the time of the dragon the clouds would begin to swirl, at

From the snake you would hear thunder, from the horse the rain would begin to fall and stop from the sheep. As for the amount of water, he specified that exactly forty-eight drops of rain would fall per square meter. So I bet him that if he was right, I would give him fifty bags of gold, but if he was wrong about something, I would break down his door and then expel him from Chang-An, so that he couldn’t continue fooling people.

  • But you are the supreme leader of the eight rivers, the Great Dragon King in charge of rain! – His subordinates exclaimed, bursting out laughing, amused. It only depends on you whether it rains or stops. How could that man be so stupid? He’s sure to lose!

The children and grandchildren of the dragon were celebrating with the fish and crabs the certain victory of their lord, when a voice was heard from above saying:

  • A celestial messenger arrives with an order for the Dragon King of the Ching River!

Everyone raised their heads and saw the emissary, elegantly dressed in a golden robe, heading towards the water mansion with the letter from the Jade Emperor in his hands. The Dragon King straightened his clothes as best he could and burned some incense. After delivering the shipment, the courier rose into the air and disappeared. The Dragon King opened the order and read, stunned:

  • We command the Prince of the Eight Rivers to prepare thunder and rain and let them fall tomorrow on the city of Chang-An.

The most amazing thing was that the times and the amount of water that appeared in the document coincided exactly, down to the smallest detail, with the predictions made by the fortune teller. The Dragon King felt so dejected that he lost consciousness, as if he were an underfed maiden. When he regained consciousness, he said, saddened, to his subjects:

  • Who would have thought that in that world of dust there would be a person endowed with such prodigious intelligence? It is hard to believe that he possesses such perfect knowledge of the laws that govern heaven and earth! I regret to confess that he has defeated me!
  • Calm down, please – the ministers advised him -. It’s not as difficult as it seems to get rid of that fortune teller. In fact, we just came up with a plan that could silence that guy forever.

Once the Dragon King had asked what it was about, the minister who had spoken for everyone responded:

  • If the rain takes a tenth of a second to occur tomorrow or falls one drop less than predicted, the prediction will no longer be fulfilled and you will have won the bet. It is not like this? Who will stop you then from breaking down his door and throwing him out into the street?

The Dragon King accepted the suggestion, pleased, and stopped worrying. The next day he called the Duke of Wind, the Lord of Lightning, the Youth of the Clouds and the Mother of Lightning and ordered them to accompany him to the city of Chang-An. But he waited for the serpent’s time to spread the clouds, for the horse’s time to make the thunder resound, for the sheep’s time to let the rain fall, and for the monkey’s time to end the storm. Furthermore, he only allowed forty drops of water to fall per square meter, exactly eight fewer than had been ordered.

Once the rain had ended, the Dragon King dismissed his assistants, descended from the clouds and, after once again taking the form of the white-robed man of letters, he headed, furious, to the street of the West Gate. With a terrible push, he broke down the door of Yüan Shou-Chang’s shop and began to destroy everything in his path, including the brushes, ink and paintings. The teacher did not even move; He remained seated, as if the thing was not with him. That made the Dragon King even more angry.

still and, turning towards the place where he was, he bellowed, contemptuously:

  • I already knew that you were nothing more than a trashy prophet, an impostor who goes around deceiving simple people! You yourself have seen that not a single one of your predictions has come true. What more evidence do we need to prove that you are a fake? I am referring, of course, to what you told me yesterday about the rain this afternoon. You have not only failed in the time, but in the amount of water that fell. You are a real liar! I don’t understand how you keep sitting there so calm. You should run, before I call the sheriff and have you executed.

Yüan Shou-Chang did not lift a single finger. Despite the seriousness of the accusation, it was clear that those words did not produce the slightest sign of alarm in him. On the contrary, he remained calm and smiling, staring at his accuser. Finally he cleared his throat and said:

  • I am not afraid, because I have not done anything that deserves the death penalty. The one who should be shaking is you. Do you think I don’t know who you are? You can fool others, but not me. As soon as I saw you, I knew that you were not a literary man dressed in white, but the Dragon King of the Ching River himself. Do you realize what you have done? By changing the time and amount of rain, you have disobeyed the Jade Emperor’s order and transgressed the laws of heaven. If there is anyone here worthy of being put to the knife, it is you, not me. How dare you come and blame me for something that only you are guilty of?

Hearing that, the Dragon King felt such panic that his heart began to pound and all his hair stood on end. Trembling, he fell to the ground and begged the master, saying:

  • Please don’t take what I just told you the wrong way. I don’t know what she was thinking. It was simply a joke. Now I see, however, that what I considered an innocent game was, in reality, a horrendous crime. What can I do now that, as you yourself have said, I have transgressed the laws of heaven? For whatever you want, save my life! Otherwise, I will never move from here.
  • Who told you that I can save you? – replied Yüan Shou-Chang. The only thing I can do is tell you a possible way to solve such a serious problem. That’s all.
  • I promise you that I will do whatever you say – answered the Dragon King.
  • In principle – said Yüan Shou-Chang -, you must be executed, by order of Judge Wei-Cheng, at a quarter to one in the afternoon. If you want to save your skin, the only thing you can do is go to the Tang Emperor Tai-Chung as soon as possible and ask for mercy. I suppose you are not unaware that Wei-Cheng is his minister and that, therefore, he owes him obedience in everything.

The Dragon King hurried out of Yüan Shou-Chang’s tent with tears filling his eyes. At that same moment the sun, red like happiness itself, was setting. A dense fog was slowly spreading over the mountains, while crows returned to their nests and travelers looked for a place to spend the night. The wild geese had already found shelter in the sand and the Milky Way was becoming more and more visible. In the distance the dim lights of a village could be seen. In the temples the night wind was extinguishing, one by one, all the candles, then spreading the smell of smoke. Closer by, a man dreamed that he had turned into a butterfly 14 and was flying away. The moon was moving the shadow of the flowers in a garden. Above, meanwhile, the stars had multiplied a thousandfold. It was midnight and darkness had taken over everything.

The Ching River Dragon King, however, did not return to his water mansion. He waited,

suspended in the air, until the hour of the rat. He then descended from the clouds and went to the palace gate. At that very moment the Tang Emperor was dreaming that he was outside the palace walking among the shadows of flowers that the moon cast on the ground. The Dragon took the form of a man and ran towards him. After lying on the ground, he began to shout:

  • Mercy, Your Majesty! Be merciful with my life!
  • If I knew who you were – Tai-Chung responded – perhaps I could agree to your request.
  • Like you, I am also a dragon – whimpered the main inhabitant of the Ching River -. The curse now weighs on my head, because I disobeyed the order of heaven. Consequently, your subject Judge Wei-Cheng has received the mandate to execute me, for having attacked the cosmic order. That is the reason why I now come to you, asking for mercy.
  • If, as you say, Wei-Cheng is going to be in charge of carrying out justice – Tai-Chung concluded -, rest assured that your life will not be in the slightest danger. Go away and stop worrying.

Delighted, the Dragon King hurriedly rose from the ground and left the palace, deeply grateful. Tai-Chung woke up shortly after and couldn’t stop thinking about what he had just dreamed. However, three-fifths of the hour of the fifth watch had already passed and he had to receive all his ministers in audience. The smoke from incense and other aromatic plants formed graceful scrolls between the phoenix arches and then ascended towards the dragon domes, while the new light reflected on the delicate silk screens. The mist had not yet lifted from the flags and banners, adorned with striking feathers. Officials as virtuous as Yao and Shuen 15 themselves advanced through the corridors. They all followed the ritual of the Han and the Chou, courts to which the music that was heard in the background also belonged. Legions of servants were lighting the lamps, two by two, while groups of maidens, dressed in brightly colored costumes, prepared fans. The light filled the unicorn halls and gave life to the screens decorated with peacocks. Before the emperor appeared, everyone present cheered and cheered. Then the crack of a whip was heard three times in succession, and heads bowed in unison towards the place where the throne stood. A scent of flowers spread throughout the palace, while the choirs sang songs of praise and the procession made its entrance, preceded by banners of pearls and jade. The royal palanquin, adorned with the fans of the dragon and the phoenix, and the mountain and the river, then advanced through the ranks of courtiers, noble and refined, and of generals, brave and brave. They all wore red. The spectacle was so magnificent that no one doubted that the golden seal and the purple sashes with the emblems of the sun, the moon and the stars were going to last millions of years, exactly the same as the earth and the sky.

Once the ministers had paid their respects to the emperor, they retired to one side and remained standing, each occupying the place corresponding to his rank. Tang Tai-Chung scanned them one by one with his piercing dragon eyes. Among the civil officials were Fang Süan-Ling, Du Hu-Hwei, Sü Shr – Chi, Sü Ching-Chung and Wang Kwei, and among the military officials Ma San-Pao, Duan Chr-Sien, Yin Kai – Shan, Cheng Yao- Chin, Liou Hung-Chr, Hu Ching-De and Chin Shu-Pao. All of them remained standing, in a reverent and submissive attitude. The emperor was surprised not to see Wei-Cheng and, turning to Sü Shu-Chi, he beckoned him to come closer and said:

  • This night I had a very strange dream. A man appeared before me who claimed to be none other than the Dragon King of the Ching River. He further said that he had disobeyed the orders of heaven and that, as punishment, he was going to be executed by the judge.

Wei-Cheng. He begged me, therefore, to save his life, which I agreed to do. How is it that Wei-Cheng didn’t come to my call today?

  • It is possible that your dream is more true than you think – Shu-Chi responded -. So, if you want to keep your promise, the best thing you can do is call Wei-Cheng and keep him by your side all day. If you don’t let it go, the dragon of your dreams will undoubtedly manage to save its life.

Delighted, the Tang emperor summoned Judge Wei-Cheng to court. The night before Wei-Cheng had been studying the movements of the stars. As he was about to burn some incense, he heard the herons shout and, looking up, he saw a celestial messenger with an order from the Jade Emperor in his hand. In it he was ordered to execute the old dragon of the Ching River at exactly a quarter to one in the afternoon. Grateful to heaven for such a high honor, the prime minister prepared to fulfill such a transcendent mission, bathing and not tasting anything to eat all day. He also took out his magic sword and sharpened it again and again, thus purifying his spirit. He knew that any preparation was insufficient and he decided not to attend the imperial audience that day. Therefore, his heart skipped a beat when he saw a court official arrive with the order to appear immediately before the emperor. He did not dare to disobey her and, after hastily changing his clothes, he followed the official into the palace. After paying his respects to the Son of Heaven, he fell on his face and, continuing to hit the ground with his forehead, asked for forgiveness for not having gone to his post that day.

  • I forgive you – answered the Emperor of the Tang –, because you are, in truth, one of our most worthy servants.

Soon the hearings were over and the ministers left, one after another. Only he was denied permission to do so. What’s more, he was invited to climb into the golden palanquin and, in the company of the emperor, entered one of the interior rooms, where they discussed the measures to be adopted for the best defense of the empire and other matters of state. Halfway between the hour of the snake and the hour of the horse, the emperor ordered his servants to bring a chess board, saying:

  • Hurry, for I wish to play a game with the most worthy of my subjects.

As soon as the servants had carried out the order, a group of concubines took out the pieces and placed them on the board. After expressing his gratitude for the honor done him, Wei-Cheng took his seat and the game began. The two moved the pieces with caution, following at all times the instructions of the Chess Classic, which states:

Chess helps develop discipline and prudence. In this sense, the strongest pieces should be placed in the center, the weakest ones on the sides, and the least powerful ones at the ends. There is a golden rule, well known to every good player, that says: «It is better to lose a piece than an advantage already acquired. When attacking from the left side, it is necessary to keep the right side well protected. One can only speak of a rearguard when one has a really strong vanguard, for which it is necessary to have, in turn, a secure rearguard. The two extremes are intimately linked, but you must be flexible in your movements and, above all, you must try to prevent both from getting in the way of each other. A deployed formation does not have to be out of control, while a concentration of ranks should not be the cause of a total lack of flexibility. Rather than concentrating on the defense of a piece, it is advisable, if you want to win, to give it up. In the same way, it is preferable to stay still than to move without purpose. When you find yourself outnumbered with respect to your opponent, you must try, above all, to survive. When, on the other hand, you are the one who finds yourself in that advantageous situation, you must strive to make the best use of it you can. He who has victory at hand will not prolong the fight uselessly, in the same way that he who dominates a position will avoid direct confrontation, he who knows how to fight will not suffer defeat, and he who knows that he is going to lose will not give in to panic. It is not unusual for chess to start

gaining a considerable advantage, only to end up totally defeated. If the enemy regroups his forces, without being attacked, it is a clear sign that he intends to go on the offensive; If, on the other hand, it abandons the defense of a small portion of its territory, it is very possible that it is seeking the annexation of a larger one. If he makes his movements without thinking, it thereby shows that he is a thoughtless person; There is no better way, then, to seek defeat than to give in to your own way of acting. The Book of Odes rightly states : «Approach with the utmost caution, as if you were approaching a deep ravine.»

«The chess board – says the poem – is the earth, and the sky is the pieces. The entire universe is symbolized in black and white. When the game reaches the heights of subtlety, the Immortal who never plays laughs.

The emperor and his minister sat at the board until a quarter to one, without either of them being able to notice a notable difference. Wei-Cheng suddenly dropped his head on the table and went to sleep. Seeing this, Tai-Chung burst out laughing and said:

  • It is evident that our trusted man dedicates himself with such dedication to the tasks of state that he even forgets to rest. It is not strange that sleep ended up overcoming his resistance and let him sleep as long as he wanted.

A little while later, however, Wei-Cheng opened his eyes as suddenly as he had closed them and, throwing his face to the ground, exclaimed excitedly:

  • I am deserving of a thousand death sentences! I don’t understand how I could have fallen asleep in your presence. I apologize for the tremendous insult that I have just launched against you.
  • Insult you say? – Tai-Chung repeated, smiling -. Get up and let’s continue playing. I think we should forget about the previous game and start a new one. Don’t you think so?

Wei-Cheng thanked the emperor for his benevolence and rearranged the pieces on the board. When they were about to make the first move, terrible screams were heard outside the large room in which they were. Before they could ask what was happening, ministers Chin Shu-Pao and Sü Mou-Kung appeared with a dragon head dripping with blood. They threw it before the emperor and said:

  • We have seen the seas lose depth and the rivers dry up, but until now we had never seen something as strange as this.
  • Where have you found it? – Tai-Chung asked, immediately standing up.
  • In the south of the corridor of a Thousand Steps – Shu-Pao and Mou-Kung responded in chorus -. We were there chatting, when suddenly this dragon head fell from the clouds. We thought you should see it, that’s why we brought it here.
  • What does this mean? – the Emperor of the Tang asked again, sternly, turning to Wei-Cheng,
  • This dragon – answered Wei-Cheng, lying face down – has just been executed by your humble servant, while he was sleeping.
  • While you were Sleeping? – repeated the Emperor of the Tang, between fear and surprise -. While you were sleeping I didn’t notice the slightest movement of your body. I didn’t even see you take up the sword or the scimitar. How could you execute that dragon?
  • Although my body was next to you, with my eyes closed and overturned on the chess board, the truth is that my spirit left my body. A sacred cloud was waiting for him and took him towards the dragon execution barracks. The heavenly soldiers had already tied him up and my spirit had nothing more to say: «He has condemned you to death for having disobeyed heaven’s orders. By his command I am now going to put an end to your vulgar life. The dragon listened to the sentence trembling. He then retracted his claws and thus awaited death. The spirit of your servant rolled up his tunic, took a step back and raised his sword, which he instantly let fall with force on

the neck of the accused. This explains why that dragon head you see there has descended from the heavens.

As soon as Tai-Chung had heard these words, he felt both satisfaction and sadness. Satisfaction at having a man of Wei-Cheng’s stature as minister – how could he worry about the security of the empire, having such valuable collaborators at his side? -. And sadness, because he had promised to save the dragon and had not been able to prevent it from ending its days in such a pitiful way. He therefore had to force himself to order Shu-Pao to hang his head in the market and for all the people of Chang-An to see. Then, following custom, he rewarded Wei-Cheng and dismissed the other ministers.

That night he retired to his chambers with a strange feeling of defeat. She couldn’t get the dragon crying and begging for mercy out of her mind. He had never imagined that events would develop that way or that, in the long run, the dragon would end up executed. After turning it over and over in his head, the emperor felt physically and mentally exhausted. About the time of the second watch, the lament of someone crying was heard at the very gates of the palace and Tai-Chung felt even greater remorse. In his dreams he saw the Dragon King of the Ching River with his head dripping blood into his hands and crying piteously:

  • Bring me back to life, Tang Tai-Chung! Give it back to me! Yesterday you gave me your word that you were going to save me. Why did you order the judge to execute me? I am going to take you with me to the Lower Realm, where I will state my case and you will suffer the punishment you deserve. He grabbed Tai-Chung so tightly that he couldn’t move, even though he tried, desperately, again and again. His entire body was covered in sweat from the effort. When everything seemed to be lost, a swarm of odorous clouds appeared in the south, in which a Taoist priestess was traveling. With unexpected speed she came up to them and began waving a delicate willow twig. Upon seeing her, the headless dragon fled quickly to the northwest, still crying and wailing loudly. The priestess was none other than the Bodhisattva Kwang-Ing, who had come to the Eastern Lands in compliance with the Buddha’s order to find a person willing to go for the scriptures. She had just settled into the temple of the protective spirit of the city of Chang-An, when she heard the demons scream and the spirits cry. Realizing that the emperor was in danger, she rushed to her aid, managing to drive away the cursed dragon. Despite everything, the former lord of the Ching River went to the Court of the Lower Kingdom to present his complaint.

Tai-Chung woke up so excited that he could only shout:

  • Ghosts! Spirits!

Her screams so terrified the queens of the three palaces, the concubines of the six chambers, and the eunuchs who served them, that they did not sleep again all night. It did not take long, fortunately, for the fifth vigil to ring and all the court officials, both civil and military, gathered in the courtroom. They waited impatiently until dawn, but the emperor did not appear. This made everyone feel imprisoned by a truly indescribable unease and fear. Finally, when the sun was about to reach its zenith, the imperial notification arrived, which said:

Ministers are excused today from attending to their state obligations. I’m sorry I kept you waiting so long, but the truth is that I’m not feeling very well.

Five or six days passed like this. The officials’ concern had reached such a point that they decided to go to court, without being called, to investigate for themselves what was happening. When they were about to enter, the Queen Mother appeared and

He ordered them to go in search of the imperial doctor. Everyone stayed at the door waiting for new news. Shortly afterwards the doctor came out and they rushed towards him, inquiring about the condition of such an august patient.

  • His Majesty’s pulse – the doctor responded, visibly worried – is extremely irregular. As soon as he appears weak, he launches into a frankly crazy rhythm. The most alarming thing, however, is that he mutters something about ghosts and there is absolutely no breath left in his gut. My diagnosis is that within seven days, at most, he will die.

The ministers turned pale when they heard such unfortunate news. Their alarm increased in degree when they learned that Tai-Chung had sent for Sü Mou-Kung, Wu Kuo-Kung and Yü Chr-Kung. The three hurried to the palace and the emperor told them in an almost inaudible tone, which denoted his great effort to make himself understood:

-Since I was eighteen years old I have led my armies to the last corner of the earth. Many have been the calamities to which I have been subjected. However, I can assure you that I have never encountered anything as strange as what is happening to me now.

Believe it or not, I have been attacked by ghosts and spirits.

  • When you laid the foundations of your empire – answered Yü Chr-Kung – you had to kill countless people. Don’t you think it’s ridiculous to fear spirits now?
  • I know it may sound crazy – Tai-Chung insisted – but at night the ghosts don’t stop howling or throwing bricks at me. During the day they are not as aggressive. But I swear, when it gets dark, I can’t stand their craziness.
  • Calm down, your majesty – Shu-Pao advised him -. Tonight Ching-De 16 and I will stand guard at your gate and see what this is all about.

Tai-Chung gratefully accepted the suggestion and the other ministers retired, without making the slightest noise. That night the two imperial officials put on their breastplates and helmets and, grabbing maces and axes, stood on either side of the door to the imperial bedroom. His appearance could not be more martial. Their golden helmets shone as if they were made of fire, as did their breastplates, which seemed to have been made from dragon scales. Their breastplates, encrusted with pearls and precious stones, resembled the clouds in which the gods travel, enhancing the beauty of the silk sashes, which they wore tight at the waist. One had phoenix eyes, which, when looking up, made the stars fill with fear. Those of the other were dark, but their brilliance was reminiscent of lightning and their brilliance brought to mind the whiteness of the moon. They were both excellent warriors. It is not strange that over time they ended up becoming guardians of the doors and protectors of the home.

They spent the whole night at their master’s door, but they saw nothing strange. In this way, Tai-Chung was able to sleep peacefully from sunset to sunrise. Grateful, he let them enter his private chambers and told them:

  • Since I fell ill I had not slept like I did last night. I am indebted to you. Now, if you wish, you can retire to rest. This way you will find yourself in a position to guard my door as soon as it gets dark.

The two generals obeyed their master’s wishes and for two or three nights did not leave the imperial bedroom. Thus, peace fell upon the palace. But Tai-Chung’s appetite decreased alarmingly and his illness became even more serious. He considered, therefore, that the sacrifice of his subjects was unnecessary and, calling them again to his presence, together with the ministers Du and Fang, he said to them:

  • Although I have rested well these last two days, I am afraid it has not been pleasant for you to stay up all night. So I have decided, so that you too can sleep, to have an artist paint your portrait and place it on the doorposts.

my door. I hope you don’t have any objections to make.

The ministers immediately carried out his will and called the two best painters in the empire to portray the two generals in their war regalia. As soon as the paintings were ready, they were placed on the door frames and for the next two or three nights there was not the slightest incident. On the fourth, however, a persistent noise of broken tiles and bricks was heard again in the back of the palace, which ended up undermining the emperor’s fragile health. As soon as it was dawn, he once again called his ministers and said to them:

  • To everyone’s relief, there has been no incident at the front of the palace in recent days. But last night some noises were heard again in the back room so horrible that I almost lost my mind.
  • «That’s because Ching-De and Shu-Pao were standing guard at the main door,» Mou-Kung ventured to say, moving forward. If you want the noises to stop completely, you will have to place Wei-Cheng at the back door.

Tai-Chung accepted the suggestion and ordered Wei-Cheng not to move from the back door that night. Faithful to the imperial command, Wei dressed in his warrior’s clothes and stood guard at the indicated place, holding in his hands the sword with which he had killed the dragon. It would be difficult to find another figure more heroic than his. A green satin turban covered his forehead; His tunic, covered in embroidery, was held at the waist by a striking jade belt, and his sleeves, made of a fabric so fine that it seemed to be made of heron skin, floated in the wind like weightless snowflakes. His appearance was so brave that he surpassed in appearance Lü and Shu themselves. His eyes, bright as a flame, scanned the darkness again and again. How could the demons dare to approach him?

The night, in fact, passed and not the slightest ghost made an appearance. Even so, the emperor’s situation became increasingly critical. His illness worsened so much that the queen called all the ministers and finalized the details of the funeral with them. Tai-Chung himself had Sü Mou-Kung come to his bedside and entrusted him with all the affairs of state and the future education of the crown prince, as Liou-Pei had done with Chu Ke-Liang 18. Once this procedure was completed, He bathed and changed his clothes, resignedly awaiting the arrival of his time. Wei-Cheng then came forward and, pulling him by the cloak, said:

  • Do not be sad, your majesty. I have something with me that will guarantee you a long life.
  • My illness – Tai-Chung replied, totally dedicated – has reached a critical point, from which I will never be able to recover. My life is ending by the moment. How can you advise me not to give in to discouragement?
  • I have a letter here – answered Wei-Cheng – that I want you to deliver to Tswei-Chüe, one of the judges of the Lower Kingdom, as soon as you arrive in hell.
  • Who is this Tswei-Chüe? – Tai-Chung asked, getting weaker.

“He was one of your late father’s main collaborators,” answered Wei-Cheng. He began his career as a magistrate of Tsu-Chou, later being promoted to vice president of the Council of Rites. When he was alive, I had the high honor of being among his closest friends. I know that he now holds the position of judge of the capital of the Lower Kingdom, being responsible for the registration of the living and the dead. He told me this personally, since we see each other in dreams quite frequently. Give him this letter and I am sure that he will not throw away the friendship that unites us and will allow you to return to the world of the living.

Hearing those words, Tai-Chung hopefully took the letter and put it between his hands.

sleeves. She had not finished doing it, when she closed her eyes and expired. The queens and concubines of the three palaces and the three chambers, the crown prince and the two ranks of officials, both military and civil, dressed in mourning and began to mourn him. The imperial coffin was placed in the Hall of the White Tiger. However, we will not talk now about the ceremonies that followed or how the funeral took place.

Whoever wants to know how the return to life of the Tang Emperor Tai-Chung came about should listen carefully to what is said in the next chapter.

CHAPTER XI

AFTER WALKING THE LOWER WORLD, TAI-CHUNG COMES BACK TO LIFE. ONCE THE OFFERING OF MELONS AND OTHER FRUITS HAS BEEN MADE, LIOU-CHÜAN GETS A NEW MARRIAGE

A hundred years pass like the waters of a stream. All that remains of a lifetime of efforts is foam and smoke. Yesterday her face had the liveliness of peaches and today her temples are covered with snowflakes. Life, like the continuous toil of termites, is nothing more than pure illusion 1. When the cuckoo begins to sing, the time for return is approaching. Despite everything, practicing good helps prolong life in a way that is unknown to us. We only know that whoever surrenders to virtue will find help from Heaven.

In the blink of an eye, Tai-Chung’s spirit left the Five Phoenix Tower. Everything was blurry and dark. For a moment he had the sensation of being surrounded by imperial guards, who were insistently inviting him to take part in a hunting party. Tai-Chung accepted, pleased, and followed them at a gallop. They rode together for some time, and suddenly both men and horses disappeared, leaving him alone. Disoriented, he wandered through abandoned fields and desolate plains. He tried to look for his way back in vain and then he heard someone shouting to him from behind:

– Here, Emperor of the Tang! Here!

Tai-Chung turned his head and saw a man with a white silk cap on his head, from which hung strange strips of black silk, and at his waist a rhinoceros horn fastened with attractive gold buckles. He wore a tunic, also made of silk, that gave off a holy light, as did the ivory tablet he carried in his hands. He also wore a pair of boots with white soles, very appropriate for walking through the clouds and climbing high in the mist. Next to his heart he carried the book of death and life, where each person’s destiny is set. His hair, abundant and loose, seemed to form a halo around his head, while his beard floated freely in the wind, marking the line of his chin. That man had been prime minister of the Tang and now collaborated closely with the King of Hades. Tai-Chung went towards him, and the apparition, lying on the ground, said:

  • Forgive me, Your Majesty, for having taken so long to welcome you.
  • Can I know who you are and why you had to come out to meet me? – asked Tai-Chung.
  • About half a month ago – the man answered – the spirit of the dragon of the Ching River filed a complaint against you in the Hall of Shadows, for having allowed his execution, after having agreed that you were going to save his life. Accordingly, King Chin-Kwang sent a detachment of demons with the order to arrest you and bring you to the Court of the Three Judges. As soon as I found out, I came running to meet you. I reiterate my excuses for arriving so late, but the truth is that I was not expecting you today.
  • What is your name and what is your rank? – Tai-Chung asked again.
  • In life – answered the man – I served the emperor who preceded you as magistrate of Tsu-Chou, before being named vice president of the Council of Rites. My full name is Tswei-Chüe and I serve as a judge in the City of Death.

Hearing that, Tai-Chung was very happy. He ran towards him with outstretched hands and, helping him up from the ground, said:

  • I’m sorry you had to bother you because of me. By the way, Wei-Cheng, who is currently one of my main collaborators, has given me a letter for you, which I am pleased to deliver to you right now.

The judge thanked him and asked him where he had kept it. Tai-Chung took it out of his sleeves and handed it to him without further delay. Tswei-Chüe bowed, grateful, and read with keen interest:

  • Your unworthy brother Wei-Cheng sends you this present with his head lowered out of the respect due to a judge as high as you, the Honorable Tswei-Chüe and our loving brother. Every time I remember our pact of brotherhood, your countenance and voice come to mind, which, on the other hand, I always have present in my heart. In any case, many years have passed since I last heard your balanced way of speaking. The only thing I have been able to do in all this time has been to prepare a few fruits and vegetables and offer them to you as sacrifices in the multiple festivities that mark our calendar, although, if I have to be honest, I highly doubt that they have reached you. I am, however, deeply grateful to you, since you have given me enough proof in dreams that you have not forgotten me. If you have not kept me in your hearts, how could I have known the joy of your promotion? Unfortunately, there is such a great distance between the worlds of light and darkness that it is impossible for us to cross it to be able to see each other face to face, which I regret with all my heart. The reason why I have now decided to write to you has been the sudden death of our most worthy emperor, the never sufficiently praised Tai-Chung, whom it is my honor to serve. I assume that his case will be reviewed by the Court of Three Judges, so it will not be difficult for him to meet with you. I refer to our past friendship to earnestly implore you to do everything in your power to ensure that his majesty returns to life again. If you do so, my affection for you will increase and I will be eternally grateful.

As soon as he had read the letter, the judge exclaimed enthusiastically:

  • You don’t know how much I admire Judge Wei-Cheng for having executed the old dragon so cleanly the other day. I don’t need to tell you that I am very grateful for everything he did for my children after my death. Since he has written me this letter interceding on your behalf, rest assured that you will return to life and once again occupy the jade throne.

Tai-Chung thanked him with the courtesy that was expected of him. While they were talking, they saw two young men dressed in blue approaching, carrying banners and flags. When they were close enough to be heard, they raised their voices, saying:

  • We bring an invitation for you from the King of this Lower World.

Tai-Chung and Judge Tswei turned to the two young men and then he noticed the proximity of an immense city. On one of its doors was an inscription, visible from afar and written in gold letters, which read: “The Region of Shadows. Gate of the Spirits.

Still waving their banners, those in blue robes led Tai-Chung into the city. As they advanced along it, they saw the previous one approaching

emperor, Li-Yüan, to his older brother, Chien-Chang, and to another of his dead brothers, Yüan-Chr Without stopping shouting “Here comes Shr-Min! Here comes Shr-Min!» They came up to him and started beating him, demanding revenge 2. Tai-Chung was so bewildered that he couldn’t do anything to escape. Fortunately, Judge Tswei called a demon with a blue face and teeth. twisted and pushed away the attackers in a bad way. In this way, they were able to continue the trip.

They had not gone more than two or three miles when they came to a very tall building with green tiles. His appearance was magnificent, indeed. A mist of a thousand colors covered its highest part, penetrating each of its holes and giving it an attractive reddish color. From the eaves, bright as the sun itself, came the heads of wild animals. The doors, with large blocks of white jade as lintels, were adorned with multiple rows of gold nails. A kind of bright smoke came out of the windows and the curtains that covered their openings had a glow that made them resemble rays from an overwhelming storm. The towers were so tall that they reached, their tops practically invisible, into the blue of the sky. That was not an obstacle to appreciate that a labyrinthine network of corridors linked the different rooms. From enormous three-legged bronze cauldrons 3, profusely decorated, fragrant clouds of incense emerged, which ascended, in capricious volutes, towards the heights. All its hallways were illuminated with striking red silk lamps. Fierce bull-headed warriors stood guard on the left, while horrifying horse-faced guards were in charge of defending the right. To guide the spirits through such labyrinths, countless golden signs had been hung on the wall. On the largest one, placed in a prominent place, one could read: «Central Gate of Hell. «The Hall of Darkness of the Prince of Hades.»

While Tai-Chung was carefully observing such a peculiar place, from inside came the jingling of jade belts, followed by the mysterious aroma of divine incense, and they began to descend the stairs, preceded by two pairs of torches, the Ten Kings of the Lower World. . Their names were: King Chin-Kuang, King of the River of Origins, King of the Empire of Sung, King of Avenging Spirits, King Yama, King of Identical Traits, King of Mount Tai, King King of the City Markets, the King of Total Change, and the King of the Wheel-that-will-not-stop-turning. Once they had left the Treasure Hall of the Palace of Darkness, they bowed before Tai-Chung, thus welcoming him. They then invited him to occupy the position of honor, which he refused with commendable modesty. But they insisted again and again, saying:

  • You, your majesty, are emperor of men in the World of Light, while we are nothing more than mere kings of spirits in that of Darkness. There is no reason for you to show us such deference.
  • I am afraid – Tai-Chung replied – that with my behavior I have offended you all. It is not permissible for me to hide behind the label, bringing out the differences between men and spirits, and the World of Light and the World of Darkness.

Once his protests were answered, Tai-Chung finally decided to enter the Hall of Darkness. The Ten Kings took their seats, according to their rank, inviting their illustrious guest to do the same. King Chin-Kuang then folded his hands at the level of his chest and, approaching him, said:

  • The dragon of the Ching River accuses you, Your Majesty, of not having saved its life, when you promised to do so. Do you have anything to claim in your defense?
  • It is true that, as you say – Tai-Chung answered -, I assured him that nothing would happen to him, when he came to me in his dreams for help. It is known to all that he was found guilty of the crimes with which he was accused, and Judge Wei-Cheng was in charge of

carry out the execution. In order to prevent this from taking place, he invited the judge to play a game of chess, not counting on the fact that Wei-Cheng could fulfill his obligations in his dreams. It was a truly ingenious stratagem, and so, although I did everything I could, I was unable to prevent the dragon from being executed. I confess that I was the first one surprised.

  • Even before the dragon was born – said the Ten Kings, bowing -, it was written in the Book of Death, jealously guarded by the Star of the South Pole, that he was to be executed by a mortal judge. We have always known this, but the dragon brought his charges against you and insisted that you be brought before the Court of Three Judges and make whatever allegations you deemed appropriate. In reality, his case has been reviewed and he is already on the way to his new reincarnation. We regret having to force you to make this trip and we sincerely apologize.

As soon as they had finished speaking, they ordered the judge in charge of the Books of Life and Death to bring the emperor’s file, in order to see how much time he still had left to stay among the living. Judge Tswei hastily retired to his chambers and examined, one by one, the duration of all the reigns of the kings of the world, which appeared in his books. Startled, he discovered that that of the Great Tang Emperor Tai-Chung of the Southern Continent of Jambudvipa was about to end, as he was due to die in the thirteenth year of the Chen-Kwan period. He quickly picked up the brush and added two more strokes. When the Ten Kings saw that the number thirty-three appeared under Tai-Chung’s name, they asked him with obvious uneasiness:

  • How long have you occupied the throne?
  • Thirteen years – Tai-Chung responded.
  • In that case – concluded King Yama -, you have no reason to worry. You still have twenty years to live. Once your case has been reviewed, we have no choice but to send you back to the Kingdom of Light.

As soon as Tai-Chung heard this, he bowed in gratitude, while the Ten Kings ordered Judge Tswei and Marshal Chou to lead him back to the world of the living.

Before leaving the Hall of Darkness, Tai-Chung turned to the Ten Kings and asked:

  • What is going to happen to those who live in my palace?
  • Nothing – the Ten Kings responded -. They will all reach a very old age, except your little sister, who, it seems, will not live long.
  • There is little I can do to express my gratitude to you, once I have arrived in the World of Light – said Tai-Chung, bowing again -. If you feel like it, I can offer you some melons and other kinds of fruit.
  • You don’t know how much we would appreciate it – they responded, enchant them Ten Kings -. Here we have melons from the east and the west, but we lack those from the south.
  • Let us worry – Tai-Chung reassured them -. As soon as I have returned, I will send you as many as I can – and, bowing once more before them with his hands folded at chest level, he began his return journey.

The marshal went in front with a flag of guiding spirits, while Judge Tswei closed the procession, in order to better protect Tai-Chung. When they were about to leave the Region of Shadows, he realized that they were following another path different from the one they used when they came and asked, alarmed, the judge:

  • What’s happening? Have we lost ourselves?
  • “Of course not,” the judge responded, shaking his head. The World of Darkness is organized like this. Following the route that brought you here, you would find it

return is practically impossible. We are trying to remove you from the area of ​​the Wheel of Transmigration, to prevent you from falling into the trap of a new reincarnation. That’s why we’re going around so much.

Faced with these words, Tai-Chung had no choice but to follow the route they had outlined for him. But he once again felt imprisoned by doubt, when a few kilometers later they came across a very high mountain, covered in dark clouds and a threateningly black mist. Tai-Chung turned to Judge Tswei and asked, visibly worried:

  • What mountain is that?
  • “It is the Mountain of Perpetual Shadow of the Region of Darkness,” answered the judge.
  • Do you think we will be able to transpose it without any setbacks? – Tai-Chung insisted, frightened.
  • You should not worry – the judge responded, trying to reassure him -. We are here precisely to guide you.

Trembling with fear, Tai-Chung began to ascend its slopes, following closely behind the others. Tired, he raised his head and saw that it was extremely steep and very difficult to climb. The roughness of the rocks that formed its skirt far exceeded that of the Peaks of Shu 4, and it could be seen that its height surpassed that of the peaks of Lu. There was no mountain like it in the World of Light, as it was terrifying even for a place as dark as the Region of Darkness. Everywhere were thickets of thorns, under which demons sought shelter, and stepped terraces of twisted rocks, in which all kinds of monsters had taken up residence. Not the slightest sound could be heard, as if it were completely uninhabited or the birds did not nest there nor the beasts took care of their litters there. All that was felt was the presence of a cold wind and that persistent black mist. There was no doubt that they were emanations of diabolical beings, who breathed crouching anywhere. There was not the slightest beauty in its gloomy landscapes. Everywhere one looked, one saw only desolation and abandonment. Beside him there were no other mountains, no peaks, no summits, no caves, no streams, no grass, no heights that were lost in the sky, no daring travelers determined to climb their peaks, no sources of water that would soon become in torrents. Ghosts gathered in the rocks, like desperate castaways from a shipwreck, just like the ghosts in the inaccessible caves. In what had been the river beds, now dry, lost souls sought refuge. At mid-height the wild shouting of beings with the heads of bulls and the faces of horses could be heard everywhere. Half hidden, the hungry spirits 5 and the souls in need moaned inconsolably. The judge passed between them, distributing orders to the right and left, while the marshal shouted at them, authoritatively. If it were not for his protective help, Tai-Chung would never have crossed the Mountain of Perpetual Shadow.

Once they had left it behind, they arrived at a place where there were countless rooms and halls. The cries of sadness became unbearable and plunged the heart into a true sea of ​​terror.

  • What’s the name of this place? – She asked, trembling, once again Tai-Chung.
  • This – the judge immediately responded – is the Hell of the Eighteen Folds, which is located exactly behind the Mountain of Perpetual Shadow.
  • And what does it mean? – Tai-Chung insisted.
  • “Okay,” the judge agreed. If you insist, I’ll explain it to you. This is the hell of torment, of unbearable guilt and of fire that is not extinguished. All the pain and desolation that reigns in it is the product of the thousands of sins committed in life by those who are now immersed in its dungeons. They all began their

suffering as soon as you die. In the hell of torn out tongues and flayed skin, the traitors, the rebels, those who murmur against heaven and those who speak like Buddha and have the heart of a snake pay their guilt, between laments, sobs and screams. In the hell of crushing and grinding, those who, to obtain benefits, deceive, lie, flatter and flatter, suffer condemnation of dismemberment and dislocation of teeth and bones. In the hell of ice and mutilation they receive punishment – ​​a filthy face, disheveled hair, a frown and a disgusting appearance – those who fleece the unwary and thus bring ruin upon their heads. In the hell of boiling oil and total darkness, those who violently oppressed good people in life purge their guilt, subjected to horrible convulsions. In the Hell Avici 6, in that of the pool of blood and in that of scales and weights, those who, moved by greed, are subjected to atrocious torments – skin torn, bones exposed, limbs cut off and tendons severed – , committed murders or took the lives of animals or men. Their crimes were so horrendous that in thousands of years they will not be able to wash away their guilt. They are all tied tightly with chains and, as soon as they make the slightest movement, the demons with red hair, those with the heads of a bull and those with the faces of a horse, attack them and pierce their bodies with very long spears, swords as sharp as that it is not known where its blade ends, steel pikes and bronze axes. They feed on them, until their faces are contorted with pain and blood flows in abundance. They cry out to the earth and the sky, asking for mercy, but they get no response. It is thus seen that man should never betray his own conscience, since the gods see and know everything. Sooner or later, vice and virtue end up receiving the payment they deserve. It is simply a matter of time.

Hearing these explanations, Tai-Chung was deeply affected. They continued walking and soon came across a detachment of demon soldiers, who carried banners and flags and who, strangely, had kneeled along the path. Without daring to raise their eyes from the ground, they said, respectfully: The bridge guard is very proud to welcome you.

The judge ordered them to take Tai-Chung to the other side of the Golden Bridge. The emperor moved his head a little and saw that a little further on, there was a silver bridge, along which a few travelers of fair and honest appearance were passing. They too let themselves be guided by a cohort of flags and banners. On the opposite side was another bridge, under which swirls and waves of blood seethed. An icy wind shook it continuously, while screams and moans could be heard that made the hair stand on end. Tai-Chung stopped, impressed, and asked:

  • What is the name of that bridge?
  • That, your majesty – answered the judge – is the Bridge-of-no-return 7. Record it well in your memory, because it is necessary that you speak of it to your subjects, when you have arrived at the World of Light. Under its arches an immense amount of water flows, which no one can ford, because, to the roughness of its waves, we must add that cold air that penetrates to the bones. Not to mention the unbearable stench that comes from his bed. Perhaps for this reason, there is no boat that ventures to transport men from one shore to another. Only condemned spirits with bare feet and matted hair venture to approach him. Although it measures several kilometers long, its width is no more than three spans, rising to a height that exceeds three hundred meters. It is estimated that the depth of the waters flowing under its dilapidated structure reaches more than a thousand fathoms. Despite this, it lacks a railing and the most dangerous thing is that very close to its platform there is a legion of chained demons, who try to devour every man who dares to walk along it. Also notice those fierce looking guards

that is next to the bridge and in those condemned spirits that fight uselessly against the waters. There is nothing that can move more to compassion. It is evident that they have been thrown from a very high height, because the precipice that leads to the riverbed is covered with clothes of all colors. What a bitter fate! They are condemned for all eternity to remain in that state, fighting, at the same time, to avoid being devoured by iron dogs and brass snakes, which feed exclusively on them. No wonder the poem says that here the screams of ghosts and demons are confused, intermingled with the roar of waves of blood of more than three hundred meters. Countless legions of brave horse-faces and bull-heads stand guard on the Bridge-of-No-Return.

As soon as the judge had finished speaking, the bridge guards returned to their posts. Tai-Chung did not comment. He just stared, horrified, and shook his head silently. He was so terrified that he followed the judge and the marshal along the bridge-of-no-return and the Blood Pond Kingdom like a true automaton. Fortunately, it didn’t take them long to reach the City of Death, where little by little a clamor of voices arose, saying: Li Shr-Min is approaching! Li Shr-Min is coming!

Hearing such shouting, Tai-Chung felt that his strength was leaving him and he couldn’t see himself.

with encouragement to move forward. Suddenly a swarm of

spirits, some without heads, others with limbs torn off and backs

destroyed, shouting, threatening:

– Give us life back! Give it back to us!

Panicked, Tai-Chung tried to run and hide in the first place he could find, but he remembered the judge and, turning to him, he pleaded desperately:

    • Save me, Judge Tswei! Save me!
    • These, your majesty – the judge explained – are the spirits of princes, thieves and bandits from the most different places, who died violently and now have no one to take care of them. Since they have no possessions or money at all, they are condemned to be hungry and cold for all eternity. If His Majesty wanted to make a small donation to them, they would be freed from their anguish and would become your allies.
    • Where am I going to get money from now, if I have come completely empty-handed?
  • Tai-Chung protested.
    • That is easy to solve – the judge answered -. In the World of the Living there lives a man who has deposited a large amount of gold and silver in this Kingdom of Darkness. If you want, you can request a loan, for which I will act as guarantor and which you will distribute, generously, among these hungry ghosts. This way, apart from other future advantages, they will let you move forward without any setbacks.
    • Who is this man you speak of? – asked Tai-Chung.
    • He is a native of the Kai-Feng district, in the province of Honan, and responds to the name of Siang-Liang – the judge responded -. I estimate that down here he has about thirteen warehouses full of gold and silver. Once you find yourself in the World of Light, it will not be difficult for you to return what you now borrow.

Tai-Chung gladly accepted this suggestion and, without wasting time, signed a receipt and handed it to the judge. In it, all the gold and silver that was in one of the warehouses was accepted as a loan and which the grand marshal immediately distributed among all the spirits. As he did so, the judge raised his voice and said to them:

    • Distribute these silver and gold coins as best you can and use them in the way you consider most appropriate. In return I only ask that you let the Great Father of the Tang, who still has many years of life left, move forward. I am precisely

accompanying the Kingdom of Light by express order of the Ten Kings. In any case, I guarantee that, as soon as he reaches the world of the living, he will celebrate a funeral ceremony for you 8 and, thus, you will be able to reach your rest sooner. So, for whatever you want, don’t cause us any more problems.

Once they received the gold and silver, the spirits stepped aside and let them continue on their way. Satisfied, the judge turned to the marshal and ordered him to wave the flag used to guide the souls. In this way, Tai-Chung was finally able to leave the City of Death. The path they followed was wide and of a surface very suitable for walking, allowing them to advance more quickly than they had achieved until then.

After traveling for a long time, they arrived at the crossroads of the Six Paths of Transmigration. Looking up, they saw countless people riding on sacred clouds. Many wore richly embroidered suits and cloaks, and some wore gold fish and other Taoist amulets hanging from their waists. Among them were nuns, monks, normal people and all kinds of animals, birds, spirits and ghosts. As if it were a stream, they passed under the Wheel of Transmigration and each one ended up on the path that had been designated for them in advance.

  • What does this all mean? – asked the Emperor of the Tang, surprised.
  • You must take good account of all this and make it public later in the Kingdom of the Living – answered the judge -. Now that your mind has received enlightenment, you are in an enviable position to understand that Buddha nature is immanent in everything that exists. The place we are in is called the junction of the Six Paths of Transmigration. Through it, those who do good are promoted to the category of immortals, those who preserve their patriotic spirit to the end are rewarded with nobility, those who put into practice the principles of filial piety return to life as privileged beings, Those who are just and honest are reincarnated again as human beings, those who take pleasure in the practice of virtue achieve incalculable riches, while those who surrender to vice and indulge in violence end up becoming true demons.
  • What wonderful rewards are contained in good deeds! – exclaimed the Emperor of the Tang, sighing and shaking his head -. The virtuous life never opens the doors to illness. It is necessary, therefore, to be kind to everyone, practice charity and not give in to bad thoughts. Little will be done to eradicate evil. Whoever claims that retribution does not exist is a blind madman.

The judge then led him to the entrance of the path that led to the nobility and, after kneeling before him, said:

  • This is where you must continue. I am not allowed to accompany you one step further, but Grand Marshal Chou is.
  • I’m sorry you had to make such a long trip because of me – the Tang Emperor apologized, gratefully.
  • When you have returned to the World of Light – the judge reminded him -, do not forget to celebrate the ceremony for those forgotten souls who lack roof and home. For whatever you want most, don’t throw it on deaf ears. Know that, if not the slightest murmur is heard in the Region of Darkness about the error of your conduct, the portion of the World of Light that you have ruled will enjoy peace and prosperity. If there is something in your life that does not conform to virtue, you must change it as soon as possible and teach your subjects to always act righteously. In this way, you can be sure that your empire will never falter and your fame will remain alive for generations and generations.

The Emperor of the Tang promised to follow each of his recommendations and said an emotional farewell to Judge Tswei. Grand Marshal Chou then took him by the arm and made him enter through the door that marked the beginning of the path that had been assigned to him. A few meters later they came across a brownish-tinted horse, saddled and with the reins ready. Without wasting time, the marshal helped the emperor mount and the horse shot forward like an arrow, soon reaching the banks of the Wei River. Two golden carp were playing among the waves and the emperor, pleased with such a bucolic spectacle, pulled the reins and began to watch them.

  • Hurry up, your majesty, and return to your city now that you still have time – the marshal urged him.

But the emperor did not pay the slightest attention to him, refusing to move forward. Desperate, the marshal grabbed his leg and shouted:

  • What are you waiting for? Move, once and for all! – And she gave him a push, which made him lose his temper, falling full length into the bed of the Wei River. In this way, he left the Region of Shadows and returned to the World of Light.

Meanwhile, Sü Mou-Kung, Chin Shu – Pao, Hu Ching – De, Duan Chr – Sien, Ma San – Pao, Cheng-Yao-Chin, Gao Shr-Lien, Li Shr-Chi, Fang Süan-Ling, Du Hu-Hwei, Siao Yü, Fu I, Chang Tao-Yüan, Chang Shr-Heng and Wang – Kwei, the greatest civil and military authorities of the Tang Dynasty, had gathered in the Eastern Palace to mourn the dead emperor, together with the crown prince, the queen, the ladies of the court, and the master of ceremonies of the White Tiger Hall. They discussed, at the same time, the convenience of making the death of the Son of Heaven public throughout the empire and elevating the crown prince to the throne as soon as possible. Wei-Cheng then spoke up and said:

  • We must not act hastily. If alarm spreads in different cities and districts, it is possible that we will encounter unpleasant reactions that we had not anticipated. I suggest, therefore, that we wait one more day. I am convinced, on the other hand, that it cannot take long for our Lord to return to life.
  • May I know what you are talking about, Minister Wei? – asked Sü Ching-Chung, mockingly. As the proverb rightly states, «no one can collect spilled water or bring a dead man back to life.» What are you trying to achieve, regaling our ears with nonsense like what we just heard?
  • Respectable Mr. Sü – answered Wei-Cheng -. From a very young age I have dedicated myself to the study of the sciences of immortality and I can assure you that, according to my calculations, the hour of his majesty has not yet arrived.

He had not finished saying it, when a voice came from inside the coffin, saying:

  • You’re drowning me! Is this why you went to so much trouble with me?

The officials felt so startled and the ladies so terrified, that their faces were dyed to the point of a strange yellowish color, reminiscent of blackberries in the fall. At the same time, their bodies lost all energy and became as limp and helpless as the new willow shoots at the beginning of spring. The crown prince’s legs were shaking so much that he was unable to hold the scepter in his hands and continue with the rites. The same thing happened to the master of ceremonies, who lost consciousness and collapsed to the ground. Many of the ladies likewise lost consciousness, as if they were newly sprouted hibiscuses shaken by a wild wind. Others dropped against the walls, like daisies crushed by a sudden rain. The gentlemen stood petrified, trembling with fear and barely having the strength to continue standing. The entire White Tiger Hall looked like a bridge with broken boards and the dais on which

the catafalque rested, a recently razed temple.

Rare was the one who did not start running in the opposite direction to where the coffin was located. Only the upright Sü Mou-Kung, the cerebral Prime Minister Wei, the brave Ching-Chung and the sanguine Ching-De managed to muster their courage and, approaching the coffin, shouted:

  • If there is something that bothers you, let us know and we will try to resolve it the best way we can. But please, stop terrorizing your family members by behaving like a ghost.
  • Who said he’s acting like a ghost? – Wei-Cheng protested -. What happens is that his majesty has just returned to the world of the living! Fast! Bring some tools to open this!

They lifted the top of the coffin and saw that Tai-Chung was, in fact, shouting, in deep agitation:

  • You’re drowning me! Is there no one to help me?
  • Do not be afraid, your majesty – said Mou-Kung and the others, carefully lifting him up -. It’s just a dream. Furthermore, we are here to defend you.

The Emperor of the Tang then opened his eyes and exclaimed, completely dejected:

  • You have no idea what I’ve been through. I almost drowned after narrowly escaping the attack of malevolent demons.
  • Don’t be afraid, Your Majesty – the ministers advised him -, if that makes you feel better, you can tell us what happened to you in the water.
  • We were riding a horse and, upon reaching the Wei River, I stopped to look at two carp that were playing in the water – Tai-Chung explained -. Taking advantage of my distraction, that traitor Chou pushed me off my horse and I ended up in the stream, where I almost drowned.
  • I am afraid, Your Majesty – Wei-Cheng then said – that you have not yet completely freed yourself from the influence of the dead – and he ordered to bring medicine to calm and at the same time strengthen his spirit.

He was then served a rice preparation and, only when he had taken it two or three times, did he regain consciousness and full control of all his senses. The Emperor of the Tang remained three days and three nights in the Realm of Death, before returning again to the World of the Living. There is a poem about such an extraordinary event, which says:

How much the world has changed since ancient times! Countless kingdoms have arisen and then collapsed throughout history. The passage of time has even witnessed the countless wonders of the Chou, the Han and the Tsin. But, no matter how great these were, they cannot be compared with the return to life of the Emperor of the Tang.

As the afternoon fell, when the emperor retired to rest, the ministers finally decided to return to their homes. The next morning they took off their mourning clothes and went to court as soon as it was dawn, wearing their splendid red robes, their striking black hats, their attractive purple sashes, and their innumerable ornaments of jade and gold. Tai-Chung, for his part, slept all night in one go, so that, when daylight came, he felt completely recovered. As if nothing had happened, he put on the crown, a luxurious dark red robe, an artistic green jade belt from the Blue Mountain, and one-piece leather boots. The majesty of his bearing far surpassed that of all the characters at court together, and it could be said that his figure summarized all the greatness of his splendid reign. How extraordinarily just and upright was the Emperor of the Tang, the majestic Li Shr-Min, who returned from the World of the Dead!

As soon as he had dressed, the emperor went in his golden palanquin to the Treasury Hall, where he summoned all his ministers, who shouted, enthusiastically, as soon as they saw him:

– Long live the emperor!

The cheers were repeated three times. When silence had been restored, the emperor raised his voice and said:

  • If anyone has any issues to report, please come and give me the corresponding report. Otherwise, the hearing is terminated. The officials Sü Mou-Kung, Wei-Cheng, Wang-Kwei, Du Hu-Hwei, Fang Süan-Ling, Yüan Tien-Kan, Li Chuen-Feng, Sü Ching-Chung, Yin Kai-Shan, Liou Hung immediately came forward. -Chr, Ma San – Pao, Duan Chr-Sien, Cheng-Yao-Chin, Chin Shu-Pao, Hu Ching-De and Süe Jen-Kwei. They fell on their faces before the white jade stairs and asked with great respect:
  • Can you explain to us why you have remained asleep for so long and what made you wake up?
  • The same day Wei-Cheng gave me the letter – answered Tai – Ghung, condescendingly – I felt my spirit leave these halls and gallop after a hunting party of imperial guards. But both the men and the horses soon disappeared and I found myself surrounded by my father, the previous emperor, and my deceased brothers. If it had not been for the timely arrival of a character dressed entirely in black, he surely would not have been able to escape from them. The man who saved me from my brother’s fury was Judge Tswei-Chüe, to whom I immediately handed the letter that Wei-Cheng had given me for him. While he was reading, a few young men dressed in blue appeared with several banners in their hands, who led us to the Hall of Darkness, where we were received by the Ten Kings of the Lower World. They informed me that the reason I had been summoned to their presence was because the dragon of the Ching River had filed a complaint against me for allowing him to be executed after I had given him my word that nothing would happen to him. . As soon as I explained what had actually happened, they gave me assurances that my case would be dismissed by the Court of Three Judges. They then asked Judge Tswei to look in the books of Life and Death for the time I still had to reside on earth, after which King Yama concluded that my days were not yet over. In fact, my reign has been assigned a duration of thirty-three years, of which only thirteen have passed. Consequently, the Ten Kings ordered Judge Tswei and Grand Marshal Chou to bring me back to this world. After saying goodbye to them, I promised to make them an offering of melons and other fruits, as a sign of gratitude. We had not gone far from the Palace of Darkness when we came across the hell inhabited by those who have betrayed their country, those who have not shown respect to their parents, those who have never cared about the practice of well, those who have defrauded their fellow men, those who have dedicated themselves to deceiving others, those who have altered weights and measures for their own benefit and, in short, all rapists, thieves, liars, hypocrites, libertines, people of evildoing and lawbreakers. They all suffered at the same time countless tortures, including fire, boiling oil, hot water, rope, chain, saw and grinding stone. Their number amounted to several tens of thousands and, to be honest, I could not endure their horrifying sight for long. A little further on we cross the City of Death, where all the bandits and raiders that have ever been on earth reside. Honoring their past office, they blocked our path and refused to let us continue unless we gave them a considerable amount.

of money. Fortunately, Judge Tswei agreed to act as guarantor, and I was able to borrow an entire warehouse full of gold and silver from a certain Siang, who lives in the province of Honan. The spirits seemed satisfied and allowed us to continue on our way. In any case, Judge Tswei insisted that, when I found myself in the World of Light, I should make a series of offerings to those abandoned spirits, so that they could obtain salvation as soon as possible. Thus we arrive at the point where the Six Paths of Transmigration intersect. There Marshal Chou made me ride a horse so fast that, rather than galloping, I seemed to fly. No wonder it took us almost no time to reach the banks of the Wei River. There were two carp playing in the water and I stared at them for a moment. Taking advantage of my abstraction, the marshal grabbed my leg and threw me into the riverbed, thus making me return to life.

All the ministers congratulated the emperor on his good star and sent news of what had happened to all corners of the empire, from where enthusiastic signs of support were received. Excited, Tai-Chung decreed a general amnesty for all prisoners in his kingdom. Not content with that, he asked for a list of all those sentenced to death, whose number, according to data provided by the Department of Justice, amounted to exactly four hundred people. Before being executed, Tai-Chung granted them a year of freedom, so that they could return to their families and put all their possessions and affairs in order. The gratitude of the prisoners was as sincere as the smell that rises from the earth, as it is soaked by the rain. Such a wise decision was followed by a new decree, by which the crown undertook to care for and ensure the well-being of all orphans. He granted, at the same time, the freedom of more than three thousand maidens and concubines of the palace, whom he married to worthy officers of his armies. From then on his reign was truly virtuous, as the poem states:

Great, indeed, is the virtue of the Great Sovereign of the Tang! Under his rule the common people have known more prosperity than under that of Yao and Shun themselves. Five hundred nine people sentenced to death have left prison, while more than three thousand maidens have left the imperial palace. All the officials wish him a long life and the ministers praise the rectitude of his judgments. Such goodness of heart must necessarily have the approval of heaven, ensuring that prosperity reaches up to the seventeenth generation.

After releasing the prisoners and the court maids, Tai-Chung made public a new decree, which he ordered to be posted throughout the empire and which said:

Although certainly vast, the universe is ruled by the sun and the moon. In the same way, the world, although immense, owes its order to virtue and good action. If it is personal gain that governs all your actions, rest assured that you will find your punishment in this same life. If, on the other hand, how much you give exceeds how much you receive, happiness awaits you not only in the near corner of the future life, but also in this one. The greatest wisdom consists of always following the dictates of conscience. Ten thousand violent men cannot be compared with one simple and good one. What good is it for you to study the sutras diligently, if you do not practice mercy or goodness? It is vain to learn the teachings of Buddha if you only intend to harm others!

From then on there was not a single person in the entire empire who did not devote himself to the practice of virtue. At the same time as this decree was made public, a new one came to light asking for the cooperation of a volunteer to bring the promised fruits and melons to the Region of Shadows. Days before, Tai-Chung had sent, through Hu Ching-De, Duke of Koten, all the gold and silver contained in a warehouse to the district of Kai-Feng, province of Honan. In this way, it was settled

the account he had contracted with Siang-Liang.

A few days after this last decree appeared, a man volunteered to take the melons to the Kingdom of Death. He was originally from the Chün-Chou region, his name was Liou-Chüan and he belonged to an extremely wealthy family. The reason for offering to carry out such a sacrificial mission was that his wife Li Chuei-Lien had given a golden hairpin as alms to a monk right in front of her house. When Liou-Chüan pointed out to her the indiscretion of her irresponsible behavior, she was so distressed that she ran into the house and hanged herself, leaving her with two small children who would not stop crying day and night. Seeing them in that state, Liou-Chüan experienced such unbearable remorse that he had decided to abandon life and everything he owned to take the melons to the Lower Kingdom. Happy to be able to help him, the emperor ordered him to go to the Golden Pavilion. There they placed two melons on his head, put a little money up his sleeves, and gave him an appropriate amount of poison to drink. His soul soon arrived with the fruit before the Gate of the Spirits, where some guardian demons met him and asked him:

  • Who are you and why have you dared to come here?
  • I – answered Liou-Chüan – come on behalf of the Tang Emperor Tai-Chung to deliver this fruit and these melons to the Ten Kings of the Lower World.

Upon hearing this, the demons changed their attitude and led him, with great signs of recognition, to the Treasure Room of the Palace of Darkness. When he finally found himself in the presence of King Yama, he gave him the fruit, saying:

  • I have come from far away, by order of the Emperor of the Tang, to bring you these melons as a token of gratitude for the hospitality with which the Ten treated him.
  • That Emperor Tai-Chung is, certainly, a man of his word – exclaimed, visibly pleased, King Yama. After accepting the melons, he asked the emissary his name and the place where he was born, to which he replied:
  • Your humble servant is originally from the Chün-Chou area and his name is Liou-Chüan. Since his wife hanged herself, leaving him to care for a couple of children, he decided to sacrifice everything he owned for the good of the country, helping the emperor bring these melons as a sign of gratitude.

As soon as they heard those words, the Ten Kings sent for Liou-Chüan’s wife, who soon appeared before them escorted by two demon guards. In this way, the two husbands met again in the Palace of Death itself. After talking about what had happened, they turned to the Ten Kings and thanked them for the kindness they had shown them. King Yama had the books of Life and Death brought and found that both the husband and wife must reach a very advanced age. He quickly turned to one of the demon-guards and ordered him to lead them back to the World of Light, but the guard protested, saying:

  • That’s practically impossible now, sir. Li Chuei-Lien has been in the World of Darkness for several days and, consequently, his body has ceased to exist. Do you want to tell me how she is going to be able to continue living in the world?
  • That’s easy to fix – replied King Yama, smiling -. Li-Yü-Ying, the emperor’s younger sister, is about to die. She borrows her body and gives it to this woman. So she won’t have any problems.

The demon-guard obeyed without question and led Liou-Chüan and his wife back to the world of life. We do not know how such an important event occurred or what happened afterwards. Whoever wishes, therefore, to follow the thread of the story must listen carefully to what is said in the next chapter.

CHAPTER XII

THE EMPEROR OF THE TANG CELEBRATES THE GREAT FEAST FOR THE DEAD. KWANG-ING BECOMES THE GOLDEN CICADAD

Wrapped in a swirl of black wind, the demon guard led Liou-Chüan and his wife directly to the city of Chang-An. The demon left the man’s spirit in the Golden Pavilion, taking Chuei-Lien’s spirit inside the palace. At that precise moment Princess Yü-Ying was taking a walk among the flower hedges. Without wasting time, the demon pounced on her and ripped out her soul, replacing it with Chuei-Lien’s. With her mission accomplished, she hurried back to the Shadow Region.

Seeing Princess Yü-Ying fall, the maids assumed that she had died and ran to the Hall of Golden Bells to inform the queen of what had happened, shouting: – The princess has fallen and killed herself!

Panicked, the queen in turn went to Tai-Chung, who exclaimed, sighing and shaking his head:

  • So what they told me was true! I asked the King of Darkness if the members of my family were in any danger and he replied: «They will all reach a very old age, except your younger sister, whose days are, unfortunately, numbered.» It seems that they have not made much mistakes.

The entire palace began to mourn the princess. However, when they reached the exact point where she had fallen, they found, to their astonishment, that she was still breathing. Tai-Chung then turned to his companions and urged them, crazy with joy:

  • Stop crying! Don’t alarm her! He – he then leaned over her and, carefully lifting her head, added -: Wake up, sister Wake up.

The princess turned around and said, as if speaking in her sleep:

  • Don’t go so fast, my husband. Wait for me.
  • We are all by your side, sister – Tai-Chung answered, trying to encourage her -. Calm down. I promise you that we will not abandon you – and she raised his head a little more.

The princess then opened her eyes and, looking around, exclaimed, sullenly:

  • Who gave you permission to touch me? You can know who you are?
  • I am your brother – Tai-Chung responded, bewildered –, and that one you see there, your sister-in-law.
  • Since when do I have a brother and a sister-in-law? – replied the princess, even more angry -. I am Li Chuei-Lien and my husband, Liou-Chüan, both originally from Chün-Chou. About three months ago I gave one of my gold hairpins to a monk as alms right in front of our house. My husband saw it and scolded me severely for not having acted with the discretion expected of a married woman. This made me feel so depressed that I ran to my room and hung myself with a strip of white silk, leaving two children who cried incessantly day and night. Fortunately, when my husband descended into the Region of Darkness to deliver the Tang Emperor’s melons, King Yama took pity on us, allowing us to return to life together. My husband was a little ahead of me. I tried to get to his level, but I stumbled and fell to the ground. Where is the? Why do you dare to touch me, if you don’t know me at all? I don’t understand how people can be so rude!
  • «My sister must have lost her mind when she fell,» Tai-Chung commented to those around him. I don’t understand how she can say she, otherwise, so many nonsense – and

He ordered to take her inside the palace, so that, without loss of time, a remedy could be applied to her. But they had not reached the door, when one of the servants came running and said, very upset:

  • Your Majesty, the man you sent with the melons has come back to life and is out there waiting for your orders.

Not knowing which way to go, the Emperor of the Tang ordered him to be brought immediately to his presence. Liou-Chüan laid his face on the ground and he asked him:

  • Did you do the order I asked you for?
  • Your servant – Liou-Chüan responded – went directly to the Gate of the Spirits with the melons on his head. Upon learning the purpose of my visit, the guards guarding it led me to the Hall of Shadows, where I was received by the Ten Kings of the Underworld in person. I handed them the melons and praised as much as I could your generosity and the high sense of gratitude you possess. King Yama was very pleased and, in turn, praised your way of acting, saying: «This Tai-Chung is truly a man of his word.»
  • What did you see in the Shadow Region? – the emperor asked again.
  • I didn’t go very far into it and therefore couldn’t see much – Liou – Chüan – answered. King Yama questioned me about my name and my place of birth. I then explained to him that he had volunteered to carry out your promise, because my wife had committed suicide, leaving me alone with the children. Hearing that, he ordered a demon-guard to immediately bring my wife. In this way, we were able, at last, to gather in the Hall of Darkness. Meanwhile, they took a look at the Book of Life and Death and saw that we were both destined to reach a very old age; Consequently, once again they ordered the demon-guard to accompany us, but this time to the very doors of life. I went ahead and lost sight of my wife, who, by the way, I don’t know where she has gone.
  • Did King Yama say anything about your wife? – Tai-Chung asked, again, alarmed.
  • Not much – Liou-Chüan answered again -. What I do remember is that the guardian commented that Li Chuei-Lien had been dead for so long that her body had to be completely corrupted by now. But King Yama reassured him, saying: “Li Yü-Ying, the emperor’s sister, is about to die. May she use her body to come back to life.» I, for my part, can assure you that I do not know who your sister is or where she lives. And, of course, I’m not going to lift a single finger to find her.

Satisfied with this information, Tai-Chung turned to the officials around him and said:

  • As I said goodbye to King Yama, I asked him about the fate that awaited all the inhabitants of the palace, to which he replied that only my sister was in imminent danger of death. Her prediction has just come true, since, as you all know, she died from a fall in the garden. In any case, when I came to her aid, she seemed to regain consciousness and cried out, visibly distressed: “Don’t go so fast, my husband. Wait for me». We all thought that her fall had upset her, but when we asked her again about what had happened, she answered exactly what Liou-Chüan had just said.
  • If what you have told us is true – Wei-Cheng concluded – it is very possible that Liou-Chüan’s wife has returned to life, borrowing the body of your august sister. Why don’t you have the princess come and see what she has to add to all this?
  • Now he is inside the palace, taking medicine – Tai-Chung reported. Even so, several ladies of the court went to look for her in her chambers and found her screaming:
  • I don’t need to take any medicine! Let me get out of here! This is not my house. Mine is made of brick and, of course, has absolutely nothing to do with

this one, so yellowish that it seems to have jaundice and so covered with ornaments that it gives the impression of being a temple. I don’t want to stay here!

She was still screaming when four or five ladies and two or three eunuchs forced her out of her chambers and took her before the emperor, who asked her:

  • Do you recognize your husband?
  • How can I not know him? – she responded -. We have been engaged since we were little and have had a boy and a girl. It would be nice if I didn’t know who she was now!

The emperor ordered them to release her and the princess rushed down the stairs towards the place where Liou-Chüan was. She clung to him with all her strength and asked him:

  • Where have you been and why didn’t you wait for me? I fell to the ground and, when I opened my eyes, I found all these people, who do nothing but talk nonsense. Can you explain to me what all this confusion is about?

Liou-Chüan was astonished. That was certainly her wife’s way of talking, but he didn’t look like her at all and he didn’t dare recognize her as such. The Emperor of the Tang then threw his hands on his head and exclaimed:

  • Men have seen the earth open and the mountains split in half, but no one has ever seen this spectacle of a dead person speaking through the mouth of a living person.

What a good ruler that man was! When he understood the situation, he took his sister’s trousseau, including jewelry, and handed it to Liou-Chüan. It was as if she had given him a dowry. In fact, she was relieved of all her obligations to the crown and was allowed to take into her household the one she had until then been a princess. They both thanked him by falling on the jade steps and returned, happy, to his home. There is a poem about such a surprising event that says:

The entire life of man is predetermined in advance. Nothing that happens in it is the work of chance: its duration, its multiple vicissitudes, the time of its beginning and the exact moment of its end. It is not strange that Liou-Chüan returned to life, once the melons were presented, nor that, taking the body of another person, Li Chuei-Lien revived.

Yü Chr-Kung, meanwhile, headed with a huge cargo of gold and silver to the Kai-Feng district, Honan province, in search of Siang-Liang. There he discovered that he made a living selling water, while his wife, surnamed Chang, was selling crockery right in front of her house. Of all the money he earned, they only kept what was essential to live, giving the rest in alms to the monks or burning it for the benefit of the spirits. In this way, they accumulated merit after merit, since, although in the World of Light they were poor people and without any influence, in the World of Darkness they enjoyed great consideration and their wealth was practically countless. When they saw Yü Chr-Kung approaching their door with all that gold and silver, they felt totally disconcerted. But his astonishment increased as he contemplated his splendid entourage of imperial officials mounted on superb chestnut horses. They did not understand that such important people would come to their humble, half-ruined house to present them with such a magnificent treasure. They therefore fell on their faces and began to hit the ground with their foreheads, from where Yü Chr-Kung lifted them up, saying:

  • No matter how important we may seem, we are the ones who must kneel before you. In fact, we come on behalf of the emperor to return to you all the gold and silver that you once lent him.
  • Although it may seem like a lie to you – the man responded, trembling from head to toe -, I

I have never lent money to anyone. How am I going to accept, without further ado, a treasure like this?

  • It is no secret to anyone that you are, in truth, very poor – Yü Chr-Kung admitted -. But we also know that all the money that you do not need for your subsistence is used in alms and in paper money for the spirits. In this way, and without, perhaps, yourselves knowing it, you have been accumulating an enormous fortune in the Region of Darkness. It is not strange, then, that, when after three days and three nights the Emperor Tang-Tai-Chung returned safely from death, he acknowledged having borrowed one of your warehouses full of gold and silver. Its quantity corresponds exactly to what we now bring here. Check it out for yourselves and then we can return to report everything to the emperor.

Siang-Liang and his wife refused to do such a thing, raising their arms to the sky and saying:

  • If we accept all this gold and silver, we will surely die. On the other hand, what proof can you offer us that our father the emperor borrowed all this money from us in the other world? No no! Understand it, but we cannot accept it.
  • His Majesty explained to us – Yü Chr-Kung insisted – that Judge Tswei acted as guarantor of the loan. If you doubt our word, you can ask him directly, but, for what you want, accept this once and for all.
  • “I won’t touch a single one of those coins, even if they kill me,” Siang-Liang replied firmly.

Realizing that all reasons were useless, he sent an emissary to the capital to report everything to the emperor. When Tai-Chung heard that Siang-Liang refused to accept the fortune he had placed in his hands, he exclaimed in admiration:

  • What a virtuous person!

Without wasting time, he issued an order, in which Hu Ching-De was asked to use all that money in the erection of a temple and a shrine, as well as in the maintenance of all the religious services they had. place. In this way, he hoped to be able to definitively settle the debt he had contracted with the Siang. The order soon reached the hands of Ching-De, who read it looking towards the capital, so that everyone would know its contents. With all that money he acquired approximately fifty acres of land, on which he built a temple, which was named Siang-Kwo. To the left of him he also built a sanctuary, which he dedicated to the Siang, with an inscription carved in stone in which it was stated that such constructions had been erected under the supervision of Yü Chr-Kung. Such is the origin of the Great Temple of Siang-Kwo1, which still stands today.

When the work was completed, Tai-Chung was informed, who was highly pleased. He then summoned many of his most direct collaborators and entrusted them with the publication of an order, by which all the monks of the empire were invited to take part in the Great Ceremony of Earth and Water, which was to be celebrated by all the forgotten spirits that lived in the Region of Darkness. The order reached the last corner of the kingdom, with the governors of the different provinces interested in sending to Chang-An, in order to take part in the ceremony, the monks of their territory most famous for their virtuous life. In less than a month everyone gathered in the capital of the empire. Tang Tai-Chung then asked Fu-I 2, official court historian, to choose the most worthy monk of all to preside over the ceremony. But, instead, Fu-I submitted a report to the throne, which doubted the goodness of the Buddha’s doctrines and which, among other things, said:

The teachings imported from the West do not recognize the relationship between the ruler and his subjects and the son and his parent. With the principle of the Three Paths and the Six Paths they deceive the foolish and the simple, promising a coming happiness and emphasizing the sins of the past. By chanting in Sanskrit, on the other hand, they are only looking for a way of escape. We affirm, however, that, although birth, death and the very duration of life are facts fixed by nature, situations of wealth and opulence are the exclusive work of human will. They are not ordained, as some would have us believe, by the Buddha himself. In the times of the Three Kings and the Five Emperors no one knew the Buddhist teachings, and yet the rulers were wise, the subjects loyal, and their reigns strikingly long. The cult of foreign gods was not established until the Ming-Di 3 period of the Han Dynasty, when Western monks were allowed to propagate their doctrines. It was, in reality, a true invasion of foreign teachings, which do not deserve to be practiced at all.

Once reading this report, Tai-Chung submitted it for the consideration of several officials of proven intelligence, among whom was Minister Siao-Yü. After carefully studying the document, he threw himself at the foot of the throne and said:

  • Buddhist teachings, which, by the way, have flourished in dynasties prior to ours, only seek the practice of good and the total suppression of evil. They constitute, therefore, a guarantee for our own survival and should not be rejected at all, but rather the opposite. After all, Buddha is one of the greatest sages who have ever existed, and it is no secret that anyone who despises these good men ends up becoming a being without principles. I therefore suggest that the author of this report be severely punished.

Fu-I got into a bitter argument with Siao-Yü, stating that the beginning of all good deeds lay in respect for the ruler and one’s own parents. Buddha, on the other hand, abandoned his people and left his family aside. He challenged, in fact, the Son of Heaven and used the body that he had received from his parents to rebel precisely against them. Siao-Yü, Fu-I continued to say, although he was certainly not born in the jungle, by accepting the doctrine of paternal denial, he had made true the saying that an ungrateful son actually lacks parents. Siao-Yü, for his part, folded his hands at chest level and, bowing before his adversary, said in a solemn tone:

  • Hell has been created precisely for people like this –

Tai-Chung then brought Grand Chamberlain Chang Tao-Yüan and the President of the Chancery into his presence and asked them whether or not Buddhist practices were effective in obtaining favors from heaven, to which the two officials responded :

  • Buddha preached purity, benevolence, compassion, good deeds and the deceptive appearance of everything that exists. It was Emperor Wu 4 of the Northern Chou Dynasty who was responsible for putting the Three Religions in order. Even Da-Huei, the Great Chan Master, praised the doctrine of the dark and distant. On the other hand, for generations blessed people have been worshiped such as the Fifth Patriarch 5, who, according to tradition, took human form, or Bodhidharma 6, who, as you well know, showed himself in all his sacred splendor. From the earliest times it has been held, therefore, that the Three Religions are equally worthy of respect and should be supported without reservation. Now it is up to you to make the decision that you deem most appropriate.
  • I must admit that your words are full of reason – Tai-Chung concluded, pleased -. Whoever dares to continue arguing about this will be punished without any regard.

Accordingly, Wei-Cheng, Siao-Yü and Chang Tao-Yüan were ordered to assemble all the Buddhist monks, to choose among them the one of most proven virtue and

They prepared everything necessary for the ceremony. Before retiring, the three fell on their faces, thanking the emperor for the high honor he had done them. The law dates back to that time, which determines that anyone who slanders a monk or speaks ill of Buddhism will be sentenced to having their arms broken.

The next morning the three imperial officials got to work. They gathered all the monks on the Stand of the Mountain and the River and selected the one they considered to be of greatest merit and virtue. He had formerly been called the Golden Cicada, a name of clearly divine origin, but, by not paying due attention to the teachings of Buddha, he was forced to suffer existence in this world of dust. He therefore fell into the nets of transmigration and became man. However, before reaching the earth and the time of his birth was fulfilled, he was already pursued by bad fortune. His father, a Hai-Chou official, was murdered by bandits, and his mother had to throw him into the water to save him. The current tried to throw him against the rocks and the waves did everything they could to drown him, but he managed to reach the Golden Mountain and there his luck changed. The guardian of the monastery that stood on such a renowned island took him out of the water and personally took charge of his education. At eighteen he finally met his mother, subsequently informing her grandfather of the affronts suffered by such a respectable lady. As one of the main servants of the court, he obtained command of an army that destroyed the evildoers who had harassed her. For his happiness to be complete, a few days later his father Kwang-Jui returned to life. How exciting the reunion of the whole family was! Even the emperor himself was moved and had their names inscribed in the Tower of Ling-Yeny, along with those of the most illustrious people in the entire kingdom. Because of his bravery, he was offered several public positions, which he rejected one after another, preferring to retire to the Hung-Fu Monastery and dedicate himself to the search for the Path of Truth. This faithful servant of Buddha had been known in his childhood by the name «He-who-floats-on-the-river» and now everyone called him Chen Hsüan-Tsang.

That was precisely the one chosen by the congregation of monks to preside over the ceremony for the helpless deceased. His choice could not have been more correct, since Hsüan-Tsang was a man who had lived in a monastery since his earliest childhood, had followed a vegetarian diet every day of his life and had respected the commandments from the moment he left. the maternal cloister. His father, Chen Kwang-Jui, had obtained the rank of “chuang – yüen” and the subsequent appointment of Secretary of the Legislative Chamber, but he rejected wealth and honors to dedicate himself fully to the achievement of nirvana. He could not find, therefore, a person with a better family background or with a higher moral sense. He also knew thousands of scriptures and sutras and practically all Buddhist chants and hymns.

Satisfied with such a correct choice, the three officials brought Hsüan-Tsang before the emperor. After rigorously complying with the complicated court etiquette, they fell on their faces and said:

  • Following your wishes, your unworthy subjects have chosen to preside over the ceremony a monk of highly recognized virtue, who responds to the name of Chen Hsüan-Tsang.
  • Isn’t it the son of Grand Secretary Chen Kwang-Jui? – Tai-Chung exclaimed after a long and meditative silence.
  • «That’s right, sir,» replied «He-who-floats-in-the-river,» also lying face down on the ground.

. My father holds the position you just mentioned.

  • A more appropriate choice could not have been made! – Tai exclaimed again.

Chung, visibly pleased -. I doubt if there is a monk in the world of greater virtue than you. From this moment you are named Maximum Expositor of the Faith and Supreme Representative of All Monks.

Hsüan-Tsang threw himself face down again, repeatedly touching the ground with his forehead in gratitude. As emblems of his new position, he received a tunic woven with gold threads of five colors, a Vairocana 8 hat, and a belt of pearls and jade. He was asked, at the same time, to select the monks of most proven virtue and appoint them acaryas 9. Once such an important mission was carried out, he had to go with everyone else to the Monastery of the Metamorphosis, where the ceremony had to be celebrated as quickly as the consulted fates allowed.

After bowing once more before the emperor, Hsüan-Tsang left the palace and headed to the Monastery of Metamorphosis. He called all the monks and together they began to prepare the beds, raise the stands and rehearse the music. Noting how they acted, he selected twelve hundred of the most diligent, forming three groups with them, which occupied the back, the center, and the front portion of the room in which the ceremonies were to be held. In this way, the preparations were completed and, after consulting the fates, it was determined that the most favorable date for the celebration of the Great Festival of Earth and Water was the third day of the ninth month. It was also established that the ceremony would last for forty-nine days, since that was the figure resulting from multiplying the sacred number seven by itself. Tai-Chung was duly informed of all this, and he went to the monastery on the prearranged day and time, accompanied by his relatives and his senior officials, both civil and military. With great respect all the great dignitaries burned incense and listened to the reading of the sacred texts. We have a poem as testimony to all this, which states:

When the star of Chen-Kwan turned thirteen years old, the emperor summoned all his subjects to listen to the Holy Books. The Hall of Great Promise seemed like an imitation of heaven. Everyone gathered in such a splendid temple by the wish and grace of the emperor himself. The Golden Cicada presided over the services that would bring so much good to the spirits of the condemned. He spoke of the need to always do good and expanded on the exposition of the Three Ways of Life.

Thus, in the thirteenth year of the Chen – Kwan period, when the ninth month entered the zone of chia-sü and its third day marked the hour of kuei-mao, the Greatest Expositor of the Faith, Chen Hsüan-Tsang, commanded He called the twelve hundred monks of proven virtue that he had previously selected and met with them at the Monastery of Metamorphosis in the city of Chang-An, where he explained to them the meaning of the sacred sutras. After holding his usual audience, the emperor left the Golden Bell Treasure Room and, riding his dragon and phoenix chariot, headed towards the monastery, followed by many of his officials, both civil and military. . As soon as they arrived, they listened respectfully to the texts and burned incense. The imperial procession dragged behind it all the blessings of heaven. Its splendor was such that ten thousand arrows of purest light seemed to float in the air, competing in brilliance with the sun itself. A breeze of good omens blew through the places he passed. It gave the impression that it was born from the solemn movements of the thousand jade-covered lords who opened and closed the march. To the right and left they looked at the flags and banners held by brave soldiers, armed with swords, axes and maces. Its fierceness contrasted with the delicate red of the silk lamps and the artistic incense urn that perfumed the places through which the august person passed. Everyone moved with indescribable

solemnity. The dragons flew and the phoenixes danced, while the falcons rose high and the eagles spread their majestic wings. It seemed as if they wanted to protect a sovereign so just and kind that the happiness he brought to his people far surpassed that of his ancestors Yü and Shun 10; His decisions were always so balanced that they ensured peace forever, rivaling Yao himself. It is not strange that everyone around him wore very luxurious tunics, which, however, could not surpass his own in beauty, full of embroidered dragons, which seemed to come to life with his movements. The jade plaques, the caps full of pearls, the profusely embroidered purple sashes, the gold medallions and the phoenix feather fans contributed to making one believe that this was, in truth, a procession descended directly from heaven. A thousand rows of soldiers protected the throne, with two rows of marshals in charge of its most immediate defense. Everything was not enough for this emperor, sincere and just, who bowed his head before Buddha and did not hesitate to burn incense in his honor or to eagerly seek the fruits of virtue.

Despite the complicated nature of its journey, the imperial procession did not take long to reach the monastery. The emperor then ordered the music to stop and, getting off the carriage, he went to pay his respects to Buddha, followed by all the officials, with incense sticks in their hands. After bowing three times in a row, they raised their heads and looked around, surprised by the solemnity of that extraordinary sacred precinct. Everywhere you could see the fluttering of flags and banners, so bright that they seemed to emerge directly from the sun or from the very bosom of the lightning. The golden image of Lokaj-yestha 11 was a true invitation to contemplation, although it was difficult to say whether it was more or less impressive than those of the arhats, sculpted in jade. All the vases were filled with sacred flowers, giving the temple a refreshing feeling of a forest made up not of trees, but of delicate embroidery. Aromatic clouds of sandalwood incense rose from the cauldrons and rose upward. The transparency of its color contrasted with the red of the trays on which rested the serene pyramids of ripe fruits or pastries and sweets. The monks never tired of chanting sacred sutras for the well-being of the abandoned spirits.

Tai-Chung and the rest of the imperial officials raised their staffs and bowed first before the golden body of Buddha and then paid their respects to the arhats. The Master of the Law and Maximum Expositor of the Faith, Chen Hsüan-Tsang, then came to welcome Tai-Chung, followed by the rest of the monks, who returned to their places as soon as the ceremony had concluded. Tai-Chung was then given a document, which read:

Since Buddhism is based on nirvana, it is easy to conclude that the supreme virtue is vast and incomprehensible. The spirit of the clean and pure moves freely, constantly passing from one to the other of the Three Regions. There are ten thousand transformations and a thousand changes, all of them regulated by the forces of yin and yang. Incomprehensible are, in truth, the substance, the function, the authentic nature and the permanence of such phenomena. How worthy of pity, on the other hand, are forgotten spirits! To alleviate their suffering and following the wishes of Tai-Chung, we have chosen and gathered different monks whose responsibility will be to proclaim the Law and meditate on it without ceasing. In this way, the doors of salvation will be left wide open and the vessels of mercy will be filled to the brim, thus freeing the people from the Sea of ​​Woe and saving them from the condemnation of the Six Paths. All will then return to the path of Truth and enjoy the blessings of heaven. Whether through action, rest or total inactivity, the goal is to achieve union with the pure essences and become one of them. This is, then, a unique occasion, since whoever takes part in these ceremonies will have a foretaste of the enormous pleasures that are savored in the celestial city, will be free from infernal punishment, will ascend without any delay to the regions of supreme happiness. and will move freely through the western regions.

The poem rightly states: «To obtain salvation, all you need is an incense burner and a few writings endowed with liberating power. By proclaiming the unfathomable law, we attract upon ourselves the grace of heaven, the forgiveness of our sins and the redemption of our future punishment. May our nation enjoy the incomparable blessing of lasting peace!

Moved by what he had just read, Tai-Chung turned to the monks and said:

  • Remain firm in your dedication and never abandon the service of Buddha. If you do so, rest assured that you will not have fought in vain and that you will receive a splendid reward from me.

The twelve hundred monks fell on their faces and began to hit the ground with their foreheads in gratitude. After eating the three vegetarian meals prescribed by law, the Emperor of the Tang returned to his palace. The celebration itself was to take place seven days later and he decided to wait in his rooms for the arrival of such a magnificent moment, when he would be invited again to preside over the offerings and rites. His most immediate servants did the same, who left the imperial palace as soon as night began to fall. To the west there was only a narrow strip of light and the rapid flight of a few jackdaws returning to their nests. A web of silence fell over the city, while it was gradually filled with lights and time seemed to stop. There was no better time for the Chan 12 monks to dedicate themselves to their meditative practices.

The next morning the Master of the Law once again occupied his stand and called the remaining monks to his side to continue with the recitation of the sutras. It was not at all different from that of the previous day, so we will not insist further on it.

Yes, we will speak, on the contrary, of the Bodhisattva Kwang-Ing of the Potalaka Mountain of the South Seas, who, after receiving the Tathagata’s order to look for a worthy person who would commit to going after the scriptures, went up and down the city of Chang-An without finding anyone truly virtuous. When she was about to lose hope, she heard that Tang Tai-Chung had ordered the monks of the most proven virtue to be brought to court in order to celebrate a great ceremony for the deceased. Her enthusiasm also increased in tone when she learned that the bonze chosen to preside over the services was none other than the one known by the name «He-who-floats-in-the-river.» The Bodhisattva was not unaware that she had been one of the Buddha’s main disciples, who had had the misfortune of falling into the networks of transmigration. Crazy with joy, she took the treasures that Buddha had given her and, accompanied by Moksa, she went out to sell them on the main streets of the city.

«What kind of treasures were those?» the reader will undoubtedly ask. For his information we will say that it was the tunic covered with embroidery and very rare gems, and the staff with the nine rings. Out of prudence, he did not put up for sale on this occasion the three scales, which became very powerful with the golden spell and the constrictive and prohibitive spells. This was certainly a prudent measure, taking into account that the city was full of monks without any training, who had not been chosen, for that very reason, to take part in the great ceremony for the deceased. One of them, in fact, upon seeing the Bodhisattva, who had taken the form of a bonze covered in sores and wounds, barefoot, with his head uncovered and dressed in rags, approached her and asked her, pointing to the most luxurious tunica:

  • How much are you asking for that, pig?
  • The price of this robe is five thousand pieces of silver – answered the Bodhisattva – and that of this staff two thousand.
  • You are sick in the head! – exclaimed the monk, bursting out laughing -. Of course, you have to be a lunatic to ask for seven thousand pieces of silver for two things as common as that. They are not worth that even if they make you immortal or transform you into the Buddha himself. The best thing you can do is take them home, because I’m sure no one is going to buy them from you.

The Bodhisattva did not even bother to argue with him. She took the merchandise and continued walking, followed by Moksa. Soon they arrived at the Eastern Flower Gate, where they met Minister Siao-Yü, who was returning from court. In front of him were some men shouting to leave the street clear, but the Bodhisattva firmly refused to step aside. She remained standing in the very center of the road with the tunic in her hands. The minister almost ran over her with his horse. Fortunately, he pulled the reins in time and, surprised by the dazzling beauty of her tunic, asked her companions to inquire about the price of such an extraordinary piece.

  • For the robe I want five thousand pieces of silver – answered the Bodhisattva – and two thousand for the staff.
  • Can you tell what is so special about them that makes them worth so expensive? – Siao-Yü asked.
  • This robe is so peculiar – answered the Bodhisattva – that for some it may be too expensive and for others completely free. It depends how you look at it.
  • How does it depend on how you look at it? – Siao-Yü repeated.
  • Whoever uses it – stated the Bodhisattva – will not know the suffering of hell nor will he fall victim to violence or animals as ferocious as tigers and wolves. If, on the other hand, it is worn by a bonze who only thinks about enjoying life, or by a monk who ignores the laws and commandments, or by anyone who mocks Buddha or the sutras, it will add more fuel to his already a heavy sentence.
  • That is very good – the minister admitted – but what do you mean by saying that for some it may be too expensive and for others it may be totally free?
  • He who does not follow the Laws of Buddha – the Bodhisattva declared – or does not show any respect for the Three Jewels must pay seven thousand pieces of silver, if he wants to get my robe and my staff. He who, on the contrary, respects the Three Jewels, delights in the practice of good and obeys Buddha’s rules to the letter, deserves to enjoy treasures like the ones I now sell. I will gladly give him the tunic and the staff and, in this way, we will become brothers in goodness.

Understanding that this was a man of extreme virtue, Siao-Yü dismounted from the horse and, after saluting him respectfully, said:

  • My name is Siao-Yü and I apologize for any inconvenience I may have caused you. Our emperor is one of the most religious people who exist, a concern in which all of us who have the high honor of serving him at court share. In fact, the Great Ceremony of Earth and Water has just begun and I thought that this robe would be perfect for Chen Hsüan-Tsang, the Greatest Expositor of the Faith. Why don’t you accompany me to the palace and we can request an audience with the emperor?

The Bodhisattva accepted, pleased, and, turning around, entered again through the Gate of the Eastern Flower. As soon as she saw them appear, the Guardian of the Yellow Door ran to report her arrival. They were immediately taken to the Treasure Room, where Siao-Yü and the two monks covered in sores waited impatiently for the emperor’s appearance.

  • What is this very important matter you want to talk to me about? – Tai-Chung asked, as soon as he had taken his seat.
  • When I was leaving through the Gate of the Eastern Flower – Siao-Yü responded, leaning on the ground –, I ran into these two monks, who were selling a robe and a staff of clearly priestly style. I immediately thought that Hsüan-Tsang could use them during

the ceremony and that is the reason why I now find myself before you.

Visibly pleased, Tai-Chung asked about the price of the robe, to which the Bodhisattva responded, without bowing or even lowering her head, as did Moksa:

  • The clothing costs five thousand pieces of silver and the staff two thousand.
  • What is so special about them that their price is so high? – Tai-Chung asked again.
  • If a dragon wore a single thread of this robe, it would never be devoured by any beast. What’s more, if a heron let itself hang from one of its strands, it could reach the world where the gods live. Whoever sits on this robe will instantly receive the respectful greeting of ten thousand gods, and whoever puts it on will have the company of the Seven Buddhas 13. Furthermore, it has been made with silk from worms as white as ice and spun by artisans of the highest qualifications. As if that were not enough, it was woven by immortal girls helped by celestial maidens. They were the ones who joined the different parts, then filling them with artistic and complicated embroidery. It is not strange, then, that their colors are as fine and bright as cocoons. Put it on, if you wish, and you will find yourself surrounded by a reddish mist, which will disappear as soon as you take it off. This piece was formed at the very gates of the Three Heavens and obtained the magical aura that surrounds it in front of the Five Mountains. It is embedded with lotus leaves brought from the West and the pearls that adorn it shine like planets and stars. In its four corners it has as many pearls that emit light at night and that rival in purity with the emerald that occupies its highest point. You can keep it stored or wear it to receive the wise men. But know that, in the first case, it emits a light very similar to that of the rainbow, which pierces all the trunks and packaging, and, in the second, that it is capable of frightening the gods and the demons at the same time. This is not surprising, given that it has pearls sewn on it of such value as the radhi, the mani 14, the one that cleans the dust, the one that stops the winds, the one that reminds us of the red carnelian, the one that has the purple color of coral and Sariputra, which emits light at night. All of them are so perfect that they seem to have stolen their whiteness from the moon and their reddish hue from the sun. The aura that surrounds her reaches up to the very sky, penetrating, like a torrent, through all of her doors. Its brilliance grants perfection to everything that exists. When it illuminates the mountains and streams, it draws tigers and leopards from their lairs, – when its light spreads across the seas and reaches the islands, it sets dragons and fish in motion. As if this were not enough, two pure gold chains hang on both sides, closing the neck with a small round of jade as white as snow. This is, in short, the robe of which the poem affirms: «There is only one truth: that of the Three Jewels and that of the Six Paths, along which the four kinds of creatures that exist ceaselessly travel. He who has received enlightenment knows and respects the laws of God and man; An enlightened spirit 15 is capable of emitting flashes of authentic wisdom. If the Buddha himself has ordered the making of this robe,
  • “That is all very well,” replied the Emperor of the Tang, visibly pleased. But can you explain to me what’s so special about that nine-ringed staff?
  • As you have well noticed – the Bodhisattva answered -, my staff has nine protuberances of vine that does not age, separated by as many rings of iron and bronze. Whoever holds it in his hands always remains young, which is not surprising if one takes into account that the Fifth Patriarch wandered with him through the heavens and that Lo-Po 16 took him with him to hell, when he went in search of the his mother It has never been stained with the reddish dust of this world, although it was used by the monk-god in his ascension

to Jade Mountain 17.

Impressed, the emperor ordered the robe to be spread before him so that he could carefully examine it from top to bottom. It was, truly, a unique piece. Tai-Chung had never seen anything like it in his life and, gathering courage, he said to the Bodhisattva:

  • I don’t want to deceive you. I am a fervent admirer of the Religion of Mercy, to the propagation of which I have dedicated no small amount of effort. In recent days, without going any further, I have had quite a few bonzes gather at the Monastery of the Metamorphosis, so that they may delve deeper into the study of the Law and dedicate themselves fully to the recitation of the sutras. Among them is a man of extraordinary virtue who answers to the name of Hsüan-Tsang and I would like to give him these two treasures that you have. I promise you I don’t want them for myself. How much are you really asking for them?
  • If, as you say, this is a man of very proven virtue – the Bodhisattva and Moksa concluded, folding their hands at chest level and thanking Buddha -, we will gladly give him this robe and this staff. For such a humble clergyman, we will not accept a single coin for them – and he turned around, trying to find the exit.

The emperor hastily asked Siao-Yü to send him back immediately. When the minister had completed the order, he rose from his seat and said with obvious uneasiness:

  • Before you said that the tunic was worth five thousand pieces of silver and the staff two thousand. Now that you have convinced yourself that we are really interested in buying them, you tell us that you do not want to accept any money in exchange. If you think that we are going to use force to take them over, you are very wrong. We do not belong to that type of men. We will pay you the sum that you originally asked us for and that, for what you want most, we hope you will accept without any reservation.
  • It seems that you have not understood me correctly – the Bodhisattva replied, raising her hands in greeting -. Some time ago I made a promise that if she met someone who rejoiced in the practice of goodness and in the service of Buddha, I would give him these treasures. It is clear that your majesty is anxious to see her virtue increased and to make the Buddhist cause triumph in your kingdom. I believe, therefore, that the time has come to fulfill what was promised. I will leave those treasures in your hands and I will leave with my pockets as empty as when I came.

The emperor understood his attitude and did not want to continue insisting. He ordered, however, to prepare a splendid vegetarian banquet in her honor, but the Bodhisattva rejected it so firmly that, once again, she had to give up her efforts. She bid farewell to Tai-Chung with her characteristic kindness and retired to the local spirit temple.

At around noon Tai-Chung held a new audience, which he wanted Hsüan-Tsang to attend. Wei-Cheng was in charge of transmitting the imperial order to him. The Teacher of the Law was chanting sufras and reciting geyas 18 when he received it, but he immediately left everything and followed the minister.

  • I sincerely regret having torn you from your meditations – the emperor respectfully apologized -. But this morning Siao-Yü met a couple of monks who insisted on giving me a robe full of embroidery and a staff with nine rings, which I wish, in turn, to put in your hands. I have no doubt that they will be very useful to you, while for me they have not the slightest advantage.

In response, Hsüan-Tsang fell on his face and began to hit the ground with his forehead as a sign of gratitude. That encouraged Tai-Chung to continue saying:

  • If you would be kind enough to put it on to see how it looks on you…

The monk spread the robe and put it on with the speed of someone accustomed to

changing ritual clothing. With the cane in his hands, his figure took on such

presence that both the emperor and his subjects were speechless. In

He truly seemed like a true son of Tathagata. What elegance of his bearing, what finesse

that of your image! Buddha’s robe fit his body like a glove on a hand.

Its splendor was such that it encompassed the entire world and the brilliance of its colors reached

to the last corner of the universe. Wherever the eye turned they could see

innumerable rows of pearls, splendidly combined with the gold and silver ornaments.

the embroidery of strange and striking design. An artistic gold ring joined the two

ends of the neck, made of very fine velvet, on which the most

high hierarchies of the heavens. As they descended, they progressively decreased

the ranks, the stars corresponding to the left and right portions of so

very special tunic. There has never been a man on earth with such good fortune as

Hsüan-Tsang. Worthy of showing off such a splendid treasure, he looked like a newly living arhat.

arrived from the west. Whoever claims that he remembered the Buddha himself with his

nine-ringed staff and his Vairocana hat. Everyone was so excited.

officials, both civil and military, who, standing at the same time,

They shouted excitedly:

– Bravo!

Such a reaction greatly pleased Tai-Chung, who asked the Master of the Law not to remove his robe or leave his staff aside. Not content with that, he had two regiments of honor guards come and entrusted them with the escort of such a distinguished and respectable character. They immediately left the palace, heading to the monastery through the most important streets of the city. The procession was so brilliant that it seemed as if a new «chuang-yüen» had just entered her. All the merchants and merchants of Chang-An, the princes and nobles, the intellectuals and men of letters, the elderly gentlemen and the little girls who had only recently been children, crowded along the road, trying to see him

  • What a monk! – they exclaimed, excited -. He looks like an arhat who has just descended to earth.

Hsüan-Tsang seemed immune to such flattery. Unperturbed, he continued on his way to the monastery, where he was greeted by the other standing bonzes, torn from their seats by surprise. As soon as they saw you appear with that robe and that nine-ringed staff, they thought that he was King Ksitigarbha 19 himself and they formed a path of respectfully bowed heads. Without stopping, Hsüan-Tsang headed to the main hall, where he burned incense in honor of Buddha and spoke of the emperor’s tremendous affection for the most inert treasures of his subjects. Once his harangue was finished, each one returned to the place that had been assigned to him. Soon the circle of fire began to set in the west. The darkness gradually faded from the trees, while the first ringing of the bell could be heard throughout the capital. It rang three times in a row and, suddenly, all types of human activity ceased, plunging all the streets into a progressive silence. Only in the Main Temple could the tremulous beating of a flame be seen. In the stillness that fell over the city, only the monks were preparing to recite sutras, tame demons and test their spirit.

Time passed like water between fingers and the day of the Great Ceremony for the Dead arrived. Hsüan-Tsang sent a letter to the emperor, in which he invited him to offer incense. Tai-Chung immediately had his carriage prepared and headed to the monastery, followed by all his officials, both civil and military, his relatives and the ladies of the court. Knowing the importance of the event, all the inhabitants of the city – young and old, commoners and nobles – flocked to the monastery to listen to the explanations of the sacred texts. The Bodhisattva herself

He said to Moksa:

  • Today is the day of the big ceremony. Its importance is of such magnitude that I think the time has come to blend into the crowd and find out a few things that interest us: first, if the performance is as solemn as it promises, – second, if the Golden Cicada is really worthy of the treasures that I have entrusted to him, and third, whether the Buddhism he preaches conforms to the Master’s teachings or follows the course of his own passions and desires.

Without further ado, they headed to the monastery. That return of two exceptional beings to a sacred place was like the long-delayed reunion of two close friends. Upon entering the temple, his surprise knew no bounds. They had never suspected that in the capital of a great nation like that there could exist a monastery that surpassed in magnificence that of Sadvarsa 20 and even the Garden of Jetavana in Sravasti. It had nothing to envy of the renowned temple of Caturdisah 21, where sacred music and Buddhist chants resounded incessantly. The Bodhisattva went to one side of the dais and began to stare at the Golden Cicada. Everything around her remained immaculately pure, without a single speck of dust. Hsüan-Tsang, the Great Teacher, occupied a prominent place, to which the spirits whom his prayers had just redeemed were approaching, unseen. A little further back, the most important people in the city listened to his explanations with great attention. Everyone, young and old alike, seemed comforted by what they heard. They had never suspected that alms had such value and mercy enjoyed such esteem in Paradise.

All this confirmed to the Bodhisattva that he was a man superior to others. The way she spoke about the trials that every being has to go through in this world of shadow and dust was wonderful; of the universality of the Law, so extensive that it could cover all the hills and reach the last corner of space. His emphasis was on the continuous examination of life and the tireless practice of good deeds. In this way, the favor of heaven and the blessing from above could be obtained.

The Master of the Law then went on to recite the «Sutra of Life and Liberation of the Dead», to then speak on the «Chronicle of the Divine Treasure to obtain National Peace.» After this reading, he explained the meaning of many passages of the Treatise on Merit and Good Work . The Bodhisattva then approached a little closer to the dais and, cupping her hands, she shouted:

  • Hey, you, bonzo! It seems that you only know how to talk about the Little Middle. Don’t you have any idea about the Great One?

Hsüan-Tsang was glad to be asked this question and, descending from the platform, he went towards the Bodhisattva and said, after greeting her with respect:

  • Forgive me, respectable teacher, for not treating you with the consideration you deserve. Regarding the question that you have asked me, I will tell you that, if I have spoken about the Small Middle, it has been because everyone gathered here knows what it is about, while they are completely unaware of what is related to the Great. I myself, acknowledging my ignorance, have to admit that I don’t know much about him.
  • The doctrines you have just expounded – replied the Bodhisattva – are incapable of bringing salvation to the damned and leading them to heaven. The only thing they are good for is to confuse mortals. I have precisely brought with me Tripitaka 22, three collections of the laws of the Great Middle of Buddha. These texts can indeed take lost spirits to heaven, free those who suffer from their anguish and break the ominous cycle of transmigration, giving bodies immortality.

While they were arguing, the official in charge of incense and supervision of the different halls went to meet the emperor and said:

  • The Master was lecturing on the Law, when he was interrupted by the comments of two ragged bonzes, who don’t even know where their right hand is. The emperor was furious and ordered his immediate arrest. As they were being led to the back, they passed Tai-Chung, but the Bodhisattva neither bowed to him nor waved to him in the slightest. She just looked him in the face and asked him:
  • May I know what you want from me, Your Majesty?
  • Aren’t you the monk who brought me the robe the other day? – Tai-Chung exclaimed, in turn, recognizing him.
  • “That’s right – the Bodhisattva admitted.
  • If you have come to listen to the explanations of the sacred texts – Tai-Chung then reprimanded him somewhat harshly -, you should scrupulously follow the vegetarian diet and not engage in sterile discussions with the Master. What are you trying to do by bringing discord into the study room? Unnecessarily lengthening the offices?
  • It so happens that what your teacher was explaining – the Bodhisattva answered – are doctrines of the Little Middle, totally incapable of bringing salvation to lost spirits and taking them to heaven. I, on the other hand, know the Tripitaka, the laws of the Great Medium of Buddha, which can save the damned, liberate the afflicted, and make the body immortal.
  • And where is that Buddha’s Law of the Great Mean? – Tai-Chung asked again, keenly interested.
  • In the land of our lord Tathagata – answered the Bodhisattva -, in the Great Temple of Thunder, which is located in India, specifically in the Western Paradise. Her teachings are so compromising that they can unleash a hundred enmities and bring unexpected misfortunes.
  • Can you remember any fragment? – Tai-Chung insisted in the same excited tone as before.
  • Of course yes – the Bodhisattva responded again.
  • In that case – Tai-Chung concluded, crazy with joy – may the Master make this monk take the stand and allow him to expound such a wonderful doctrine.

The Bodhisattva and Moksa ascended to the top of the platform, but did not take their seats there. They flew through the air, until they landed on a sacred cloud, thus revealing their true personality. The Bodhisattva held the vase with the willow branch in her hands, while Moksa stood beside her with a huge iron bar. The Emperor of the Tang felt so overwhelmed that he bowed his head, adopting an attitude of total veneration. The rest of the officials, both military and civil, fell on their faces and burned incense. In the entire monastery there was no one who did not bow his head – including the bonzes, the nuns, the Taoists, the ordinary people, the men of letters, the artisans and the merchants – and who exclaimed, half awed and excited:

  • The Bodhisattva, the Bodhisattva!

We have a song about such an extraordinary phenomenon that says:

All they saw was an all-encompassing mist and the 23rd dharmakaya enveloped in holy light. In the numinosity of that heavenly air, the figure of a woman suddenly appeared. On her head she wore a headdress made of gold sheets, in which jade flowers and countless strings of pearls were embedded. She wore a blue silk tunic of a shade so pale that it seemed, in fact, white. At waist level she carried two small bags to store perfume, made of jade and pearls, which shone like the moon and swayed delicately in the wind. She was also wearing a silk skirt so white that it gave the impression of having been made by ice worms. Trimmed in gold, she knew the beauty of the thousand-colored clouds and the changing waves of the jasper sea. In front of her fluttered a cockatoo with a red beak and yellowish plumage, which used to roam the Eastern Ocean and the world.

whole promoting works of mercy and filial piety. In his hands he held a vase, a true dispenser of goods, from which came a small willow twig, capable of moistening the blue of the sky and sweeping away all evil from the world. At his feet grew a golden lotus flower, a chromatic counterpoint to the jade rings that joined many portions of his clothing. In this way, Kwang Shr-Ing 24, the liberator of sorrow and pain, was seen.

Such an unexpected vision excited Tang Tai-Chung so much that he completely forgot about the affairs of the empire. The same thing happened to the officials, both civil and military, who, leaving aside court etiquette, began to shout enthusiastically:

– We are with Bodhisattva Kwang Shr – Ing! We are with her!

Tai-Chung called for the most reputable of the painters of his kingdom and ordered him to hastily make a sketch of the authentic figure of the Bodhisattva. The chosen one was a certain Wu Tao-Tsu, a portraitist specialized in wise men and gods because of the elevated and noble conceptions of him. The portraits of illustrious people that appeared in the Ling-Yen Tower were later entrusted to him precisely. Without wasting time he took his incomparable brush and left the figure of the Bodhisattva captured for posterity. As soon as he had finished it, the sacred clouds gradually faded, until, finally, the golden light completely disappeared. At that same moment a sheet of paper descended from above, on which the following had been written in a «sung» style:

We invite the Great Ruler of the Tang to go in search of the most outstanding writings of the West. The road is long, indeed, but its sixty thousand kilometers lead directly to the Mahayana 26 or Great Middle. Only his teachings are capable of redeeming condemned spirits and leading them to heaven. Whoever volunteers for such a painful journey will become a golden Buddha.

As soon as Tai-Chung had read it, he turned to the monks and said:

  • I think it is best that we suspend the ceremony until someone has brought the texts from the Great Middle. Meanwhile, let us strive to bear as many fruits of virtue as we can.

All those present agreed with the decision of the emperor, who, raising his voice again, asked:

  • Who is willing to go to the Western Paradise in search of the sacred writings? He had hardly finished saying it, when the Teacher of the Law came forward and, humbly bowing his head, said:
  • Although I am nothing more than a poor uneducated monk, I am willing to show you the faithfulness of a dog or a horse. I will go in search of those scriptures and, in this way, your kingdom will remain firm and lasting.

The Emperor of the Tang was very pleased. He came to where the monk was lying and, lifting him up with his own hands, proclaimed:

  • If you are willing to demonstrate your loyalty to me in this way, without caring at all about the distance or the inconvenience of the journey, my wish is that, before you undertake it, we establish a pact of brotherhood.

Hsüan-Tsang once again laid his face on the ground and began to repeatedly hit the ground with his forehead in gratitude. The Emperor of the Tang was, indeed, a man of his word and, taking Buddha as a witness, he bowed four times in succession before Hsüan-Tsang, calling him «my brother, the holy monk.» Deeply moved, Hsüan-Tsang replied:

  • I, Your Majesty, am nothing more than a poor bonze who knows how to do nothing but pursue perfection. I don’t understand what you have seen in me to treat me so

consideration and affection. I promise you that I will spare no effort or hardship until I have reached the Western Paradise. I will not return empty-handed, I assure you. I prefer death and eternal damnation in hell to returning without the scriptures.

He then turned towards the image of Buddha and, taking three sticks of incense in his hands, he swore to faithfully carry out the mission that had been entrusted to him. Pleased, the emperor returned in his carriage to the palace, where he drafted a document by which he appointed the Master of the Law as his representative. Its publication was, however, on hold, awaiting a suitable day and time for it. .

Once everyone had retired, Hsüan-Tsang returned, in turn, to the Temple of the Great Blessing. Many of the monks who lived there and not a few of his disciples, upon hearing about the matter of the scriptures, ran to meet him and asked him:

  • Is it true that you have sworn to go to the Western Paradise?
  • That’s right – Hsüan-Tsang answered, sincerely.
  • But I have heard that the road to that place is long and that it is fraught with innumerable dangers – replied, worried, one of his disciples -. Not to mention the tigers, leopards and all kinds of monsters that threaten walkers. How are you going to get rid of them? Hasn’t it occurred to you that the journey is easy and the return is very unsafe?
  • I have taken an oath and I am willing to fulfill it no matter what happens – Hsüan-Tsang responded -. Furthermore, I have made a pact with heaven that, if I do not return with those scriptures, the eternal condemnation of hell will fall upon me. The Emperor has granted me a great honor by entrusting me with a mission of such importance and I am determined to loyally repay all the trust he has placed in me. I can’t afford to let him down, even if I don’t know what awaits me down the road.

He then changed his tone and added:

  • Nobody knows specifically how long I will be gone. Maybe two years, or three, or six, or seven. The only thing that is certain is that, when you see that the branches of the pine trees planted at the door point towards the west, I will be about to conclude the trip. Otherwise, you will have to continue waiting.

The disciples took careful note of those words and bowed their heads in sorrow. The next morning Tai-Chung held a hearing, and all the officials responded to his call. Together they wrote a formal document, which specified the purpose of the trip and requested that its bearer be offered all the help he needed. They had barely finished stamping the seals when the imperial person in charge of astronomical studies appeared and said:

  • The position of the planets today is extremely favorable for the beginning of especially long journeys.

Such a report greatly pleased the Emperor of the Tang. Soon the Guardian of the Yellow Door appeared, who announced in a solemn voice:

  • The Master of the Law waits to be received in audience.
  • Dear brother, according to the stars, today is a favorable day for travel. We have also just finished drafting a safe-conduct document stamped with the imperial seal. It would be advisable, therefore, for you to start your journey as soon as possible. I would like you to accept as a gift this reddish gold bowl, which you can use throughout your journey to ask for alms. Two people will accompany you and you will have a horse at your entire disposal.

Pleased, Hsüan-Tsang accepted the gifts with great expressions of gratitude and immediately set out on his way. The emperor mounted the carriage and went out to bid farewell to him at the gates of the city, accompanied by a large number of officials.

All the monks of the Monastery of the Great Blessing were waiting for him there in all their clothes, both summer and winter. Seeing them, the emperor ordered them to load everything on one of the horses and then asked an officer to bring him a jug of wine. Tai-Chung filled a glass and, preparing to toast, asked:

  • What other name do you have, brother, apart from the one we already know?
  • I, sir, am so poor – answered Hsüan-Tsang – that I don’t even have a family. How can I have another name?
  • It doesn’t matter – Tai-Chung answered -. The Bodhisattva said that in the Western Paradise there were three collections of scriptures. How about we call you Tripitaka from today?
  • No one could have come up with a more appropriate name – Hsüan-Tsang responded again. However, he did not dare to drink the wine and added: – You should know, your majesty, that alcohol is completely prohibited to us. I, in fact, have never tried it in my entire life.
  • Today is a very special day – Tai-Chung replied -. This trip has given me a lot of hope. Why don’t you have a glass of vegetarian wine and we toast together to the success of the company?

Hsüan-Tsang did not dare to say no. When he was about to put the wine in his mouth, he saw Tai-Chung suddenly bend down, pick up some dirt and pour it directly into his glass. Tripitaka looked so surprised that the emperor burst out laughing and asked:

  • How long do you estimate this trip to Western Paradise will take you?
  • I will probably be back in three years – Tripitaka responded.
  • A very long time for a journey full of difficulties – commented Tai-Chung -. Drink, brother, and remember this: a little dust from your own country is far more valuable than ten thousand pieces of gold from other lands.

Tripitaka then understood the meaning of what he had just done and drank the cup in one gulp, thanking the emperor for everything he had done for him. Without further ado, he walked out the door, leaving the city, while Tai-Chung returned, sad, to his palace.

We do not know what happened to him during the trip. Whoever wants to find out should listen carefully to the explanations given in the next chapter.

CHAPTER XIII

THE RELEASE OF THE GOLD STAR IN THE TIGER’S LAIR. PUO-CHIN STOPS THE MONK IN THE DOUBLE FORK MOUNTAIN RANGE

The powerful Emperor of the Tang made public a document, in which he commissioned Hsüan-Tsang to go in search of the sources of Zen. He was willing to reach the Dragon’s Habitation and climb the Vulture’s Peak. How many nations would he have to cross to achieve such a lofty goal? No one doubted that he would have to cross more than ten thousand mountains. Guided by such a sublime ideal, he left the court and headed west, to reach the Great Void with the sole help of his law and his faith.

On the twelfth of the ninth month of the thirteenth year of the Chen-Kwan period Tripitaka was dismissed at the very gates of the city of Chang-An by the emperor and not a few of his officials. For two days the horses galloped incessantly and it did not take them long to reach the Monastery of the Gate of the Law, where the guardian and the five hundred monks who resided there came out to welcome them. After offering him a glass of tea, they sat at the table and had a vegetarian dinner. As soon as they had finished it, it began to fall

the night. The shadows gradually studded the sky with stars, while the moon made its appearance, bright as the aspirations of a pure man. In the distance a flock of wild ducks was wearily returning to their nest. All the homes went dark, except the monasteries of the monks, who began to recite their prayers, sitting on bamboo mats. The prayers lasted well into the night. By then several bonzes had already begun to discuss Buddhist doctrines and the convenience of traveling to the Western Paradise in search of more scriptures. Some affirmed that the journey was extremely long, with wide rivers to ford and very high mountains to cross; others said that the road was full of tigers, leopards and other beasts; a third group maintained that there were mountain ranges so high that no man had ever climbed them; Finally, the most imaginative insisted that the most dangerous thing were monsters that no one had managed to dominate to date. While they spoke, Tripitaka jealously kept his mouth shut, simply shaking his head and pointing his finger at her heart. Intrigued, many of the monks folded their hands at her chest and respectfully asked:

  • Why do you constantly point to your heart and shake your head so much?
  • When the mind is in motion, Tripitaka replied, the realm of destruction and death appears, while when it remains inactive, life becomes stronger. In the Monastery of Metamorphosis, in front of the statue of Buddha, I took a solemn oath and I have no choice but to do everything in my power to fulfill it. I will not stop, therefore, until I have reached the Western Paradise, have met with Buddha and have obtained the scriptures. In this way, the Wheel of Law 1 will turn in our direction and the reign of our lord will be secured forever.

These words sparked admiration in all those present, who respectfully exclaimed:

  • What a loyal and brave teacher! – and, full of praise, they accompanied him to his bed.

Soon the guardians of the city began to rattle the bamboo poles, letting all its inhabitants know that the moon had just set. The crows of the roosters seemed to want to force the sun to come out of its nocturnal hiding place. Many of the monks then left their beds and began to prepare breakfast. Hsüan-Tsang put on his robe and went to the temple to pray, saying:

  • I, sir, am your disciple Chen Hsüan-Tsang and I am on my way to the Western Paradise in search of the scriptures. However, my eyes are too weak and it is difficult for them to recognize the authentic figure of the living Buddha. Therefore, I would like to make a promise to you: I will burn incense at every monastery I find along the way, I will worship you wherever I come across you, and I will sweep and clean every pagoda I have the honor of seeing. In return I only ask that you be merciful to me and show me your five-meter-high diamond body. You know well that my only desire is to obtain the scriptures and bring them to the Eastern Lands.

As soon as he had finished the prayer, he returned to the monastery and took some food. By then his two companions had already saddled the horses and prepared everything necessary for the trip. Tripitaka said goodbye to the monks at the door of the monastery, but they burst into tears and accompanied him for more than seven kilometers. Tripitaka watched them leave with tears in his eyes. However, his goal was the West and that is where he headed decisively. It was late autumn and the trees were completely bare. Only the tall columns of the maples let the occasional fall

red leaf Very few walkers ventured onto the paths, covered in rain and mud. Everything seemed to conspire to fill the heart with heaviness and sadness. It wasn’t long before the reedbeds were covered in snow. Bewildered, the ducks were unable to find the exact location of their nests. The clouds extended, threatening, over the entire landscape covered in frost and ice, while the swallows and wild geese were preparing to migrate to other lands. Their screams sounded urgent and desperate.

After traveling for several days, the master and his companions arrived at the city of Kung-Chou. There the full authorities came out to receive them, who insisted that they stay the night. The next morning they continued on their way, but not before stocking up on food and drink. Walking by day and resting at night, they arrived in two or three days at the district of He-Chou, which was the last stronghold of the Great Tang Empire. When the commander-in-chief of the entire border and the monks of the district learned that the Master of the Law, a brother of the emperor himself, was heading towards the Western Paradise in search of scriptures, they went out to receive them with all the pageantry expected of them. they. The religious authorities invited them to spend the night at the Fu-Yüan Monastery, where they were entertained by all the monks who resided there. After dinner, his two companions, aware of their master’s wishes to continue the trip as soon as possible, fed the horses so as not to lose a single minute the next morning. As soon as the rooster had crowed, the monks jumped out of bed and prepared breakfast, so that such an illustrious visitor could continue on his way whenever he felt like it. In reality, it was not that early, since in late autumn and throughout winter the roosters usually crow a little later than in the other seasons. Even so, when they left the borders of the empire, everything was covered in frost and the moon shone as if it were dark night. After twenty or thirty kilometers they came across a mountain range so high that they soon realized that it was going to be extremely difficult for them to cross it. In vain they tried to find a passage, fearing at every moment that they would take the wrong course. When they were most nervous, all three of them slipped at the same time and fell, horse included, into a very deep pit. Tripitaka was terrified, as were his companions, who did not stop trembling with fear. The most alarming thing of all was that they began to hear voices shouting: – Grab them! Don’t let anyone escape!

Immediately a hurricane wind arose and a group of fifty or sixty ogres appeared, and after grabbing Tripitaka and his companions, they flew them out of the pit. Still trembling, the Master of the Law looked around and saw a Monster King sitting high above. His figure was truly terrifying and his face possessed an unusual fierceness. His eyes shone like lightning and his voice made the mountains tremble, as if it were thunder. He had protuberant teeth as uneven as saws, which emerged from the corner of his lips, as if they were fangs. His entire body was covered in strange figures, which on his spine took on the shape of spirals that ascended through it as if they were smoke. The hair that covered him was steely and his claws, solid and imposing, looked like freshly sharpened swords. Even the brave Hwang-Kung 2 of Tung-Hai would have trembled at the sight of the King of the Southern Mountain with his white eyebrows.

Tripitaka was so terrified that he felt his spirit leave him, and his bones and tendons suddenly went numb. The Monster King ordered them to be tied up and, using thick ropes, the ogres obeyed without question. As they were preparing to devour them, a murmur of voices was heard outside and someone reported:

– The Mountain Lord Bear and the Hermit Ox have just arrived.

Tripitaka raised his head and saw that the first was a dark-skinned fellow, with a brave appearance and a strong body. His strength was so great that he was able to separate the water from the seas. He toured the forests incessantly, just to show how irreducible his power was. Although dreaming about bears has always been interpreted as a good omen 3, it led to submission and fear. He was, in fact, so strong that he could, as he pleased, climb or break any trees he wanted. He also possessed such a profound intelligence that he was able to predict the approach of winter. No wonder he was known as the Lord of the Mountain.

The other was equipped with an impressive pair of horns and a no less striking hump. He was wearing a greenish tunic and his gait was tired, denoting a rather calm manner of being. He was the son of a bull and a cow and was very helpful to men, especially when it came to plowing. It was not in vain that he was known everywhere by the name of the Hermit Ox.

The two swaggered in with some boastfulness and the Monster King was quick to welcome them.

  • I must congratulate you, General Yin – exclaimed the Bear Lord of the Mountain -. It shows that time does not pass by you and that you are in as good shape as ever.
  • It is certainly something incredible – confirmed the Hermit Ox -. General Yin looks younger and younger.
  • «It’s been a long time since I saw you, gentlemen,» said the Monster King, in turn, trying to change the conversation. Can I know where you have been?
  • Lounging around a bit – answered the Lord of the Mountain.
  • Doing what we can – the Hermit Ox responded almost at the same time, and everyone sat down.

One of Tripitaka’s companions had been tied up so roughly that he began to moan in pain. Surprised, the strong man turned and asked:

  • How did those three get here?
  • I don’t know – answered the Monster King -. They showed up at my door alone, without anyone calling them.
  • Can you serve them for dinner? – asked the Hermit Ox, bursting into laughter.
  • Of course! – exclaimed the Monster King, pleased.
  • I think it’s best that we don’t finish them all – suggested the Lord of the Mountain -. Let’s eat two and leave the other for later.

The Monster King accepted the idea without question. He called his servants and ordered them to dismember and gut Tripitaka’s companions. The heads, hearts and livers went to the guests, the host took care of the limbs and the other ogres were in charge of devouring the leftover meat. They looked like real tigers. They chewed so quickly that within a few seconds not even the marrow remained in the bones. Tripitaka was so terrified that he thought he was having a nightmare. It was the first test to which he had been subjected after leaving Chang-An, but he did not doubt for a single second the goodness of his undertaking.

Little by little a timid line of light began to appear in the east. The two monsters sat until it was fully dawn. They then stood up and took leave of their host, saying:

  • We are indebted to your generous hospitality. Rest assured that, as soon as we have the slightest opportunity, we will pay you back in kind – and they left.

The sun was already high in the sky. Tripitaka was immersed in such a stupor that he was unable to distinguish north from south and east from west. In that state he thought he saw, suddenly, an old man with a cane approaching him with a weary step. When you reach his height,

He shook his hands and all his clothes moved. She then blew on

Tripitaka and he seemed to catch his breath. He dropped to the ground and said:

  • I thank you for saving my life.
  • Get up – the old man replied, after accepting his gratitude -. Don’t you leave anything here?
  • My two companions have been devoured by monsters – Tripitaka answered -. As for the horse and luggage, I have no idea where they are.
  • Isn’t that your horse? – The old man asked again, while he pointed with his cane.

Tripitaka turned around and saw that both the animal and the saddlebags had suffered the slightest damage. Surprised, he looked at the old man in the face and asked:

  • Where are we? How is it possible that you walk alone in these places?
  • This – answered the old man – is the Double Forked Mountain Range, a place full of tigers and wolves. How did you manage to get here?
  • I left the He-Chou District with the first rooster crow – Tripitaka answered –

. I’m afraid my companions and I should have waited until dawn, because we got lost and started stumbling through the fog. That’s how we ended up at the hands of the terrible Monster King. Soon the Bear Lord of the Mountain and the Ox Hermit appeared, two fierce-looking beasts who insisted on calling the Monster General Yin. Between the three of them they devoured my two companions in a dinner that lasted until dawn. I don’t know why they respected me.

  • The Hermit Ox – the old man explained – is, in reality, the spirit of a wild bull; the Lord of the Mountain, that of a bear, and General Yin, that of a tiger. As for the others, I will tell you that they are demons of trees and mountains, and spirits of very varied origins. They could not do anything against you, because you have a pious and pure nature. Follow me, if you wish, and I will show you the path you should follow.

Tripitaka could not find words to thank him. He fastened the girths to the horse and, taking it by the reins, walked carefully behind the old man. Thus he was able to leave the pit in which he had fallen and return to the main path. He was so grateful when he found himself on safe ground, that he wanted to lie down with his face; But, when he turned around, after tying the horse to some bushes, he found that the old man had disappeared. At that same moment a soft breeze arose and she saw him rise upward on a white heron with a rosy head. Little by little the wind subsided and then a small sheet of paper fell on which the following was written in careful calligraphy:

I am the Planet Venus and I have come to your aid by express order of Heaven. Don’t give up and keep going. Remember that, as long as your noble mission lasts, you will always enjoy our help.

As soon as Tripitaka had read it, he bowed before the sky and said:

  • Thank you, Gold Star, for freeing me – and, grabbing the reins of the horse, he continued his lonely and melancholy journey.

The places through which it now passed were cold and continually beaten by rain and wind. Sometimes you could hear the faint murmur of the waters of a stream and you could smell the timid aroma of wild flowers. The rocks piled up one on top of the other, like inaccessible walls, as he ascended. In the distance you could hear the cries of monkeys and the cries of deer among sporadic chirping of birds. The calm was absolute; It was clear that there were no men for miles around. This made the monk fall prey to anxiety again and the horse himself felt so uneasy that his legs began to fail.

Heartbroken, but willing to sacrifice his life for the mission he had undertaken.

compromised, Tripitaka continued his painful ascent up the mountain range, which became more rugged with each step he took. He walked for half a day and in all that time he did not come across a single man or inhabited place. The pangs of hunger were becoming more and more intense and his strength was failing him. To make matters worse, he found that two terrible tigers were blocking his path, while behind him several enormous snakes snaked and to his right and left an infinite number of beasts of the most varied origin moved, threatening. Tripitaka had no choice but to entrust himself to the protective decision of the Heavens. He could do little to escape, as the horse was completely defeated and seemed unable to take another step. His weakness was so great that he bent his front legs and lay flat on the ground. There was no way to move him. The sticks were of no use and pulling on the reins would have been completely useless. The worst thing was that the Master of the Law barely had room to put his feet. Desperate, he resigned himself to his fate, ready to give in to death.

However, although the situation was frankly dangerous, salvation was already on the way. When they were about to jump on it, something made the beasts flee, the tigers scatter, and the snakes hide. Tripitaka looked up, bewildered, and saw a man approaching with a steel trident in his hands and a bow strapped to his waist. He couldn’t deny that he was a hero. He had his head covered with a leopard skin sprinkled with amethysts and wore a tunic made of lambskin, on which various black silk embroideries had been printed. His waist was cinched with a belt, the buckle of which showed the figure of a barbarian king with the head of a lion. His boots were strikingly high and had been artfully made. He had eyes so bulging that they looked like those of a hanged man, while his unkempt beard made him look like a warrior god. This was attested to by the bow and poisoned arrows that he carried hanging around his waist and the pure steel trident that he held in his hands. His voice was reminiscent of the roar of thunder and he was capable of filling all the creatures that lived in the forest with fear.

When Tripitaka saw that he was at a sufficient distance to be understood, he fell on his face and shouted:

– Have mercy on me! I beg you!

The man went up to where the monk was, stuck the trident into the ground and, helping him up with unexpected gentleness, said:

  • Do not be afraid. I am incapable of harming anyone. For your information, I will tell you that I make my living hunting in these places. My name is Liou Puo-Chin, although everyone knows me by the name Guardian of the Mountain. I went out to look for something to eat. The last thing I suspected was that I was going to bump into you. I hope I haven’t scared you.
  • I – Tripitaka then explained – am a poor monk who is heading towards the Western Paradise in search of the writings of Buddha at the express wish of his majesty the Emperor of the Tang. Before you arrived, I was surrounded by an untold number of tigers, wolves and snakes and I could not move forward. Fortunately, as soon as they saw you approaching, they fled in terror and I was able to save my life. I am, therefore, indebted to you.

«It was nothing,» Puo-Chin apologized timidly. Wild beasts fear me, because, as I have told you before, I make my living killing tigers, wolves and leopards, and hunting what snakes and reptiles I can. If you come from the Tang empire, you have nothing to fear. This territory is, in fact, part of him and I am one of his subjects. Apparently, we both revere the same Son of Heaven and are citizens of the same nation. If you want, you can rest in my hut and continue

tomorrow the trip.

Tripitaka became crazy with joy, hearing those words. He grabbed the horse by the bridle and slowly followed the hunter. They ascended a very steep slope and after a few steps the howling of the wind was heard again. That made Puo-Chin stop suddenly and say:

  • Sit here and don’t move. Something tells me that a leopard is nearby. I’m going to see if I can catch it so I can offer you something to eat.

Hearing this, Tripitaka felt his heart hammer in his chest. Once again his strength left him and he remained as if rooted to the ground. The Guardian of the Mountain, for his part, took the trident and carefully advanced forward. A few steps later he came face to face with a huge tiger with striated skin, which fled as soon as he saw it. Puo-Chin rushed after him, shouting in his powerful thunder voice:

  • Damn beast! Can anyone tell where you’re trying to escape?

Realizing that flight was useless, the tiger turned around, spread its claws and faced the fearsome trident of its adversary. Tripitaka was so terrified that he could not move from the spot. He had never seen so much violence after leaving his mother’s womb. The Guardian of the Mountain pursued the tiger to the very foot of the mountain, where man and beast engaged in a formidable encounter.

The Guardian’s hair moved like swirls of wind, while the animal raised clouds of dust, which clearly spoke of its incredible strength. Showing his sharp teeth, he launched a terrible blow at his adversary, who dodged it with a quick movement of her waist. Then he raised the trident and the sun reflected on its steel. The tiger raised a cloud of dust with its tail and the hunter’s blow missed the beast’s chest. The two were extremely agile and dodged with the mastery of true warriors, otherwise one of the two would have immediately gone to join King Yama. The tiger’s roars could be heard throughout the mountain, sending the beasts and birds into an uncontrollable tremor. For his part, the cries of the Guardian of the Mountain so impressed the firmament that he immediately revealed his treasure of stars. The fierceness of one made it seem as if his eyes were going to pop out of his sockets, but similar bravado found little echo in the heart of the other. The Guardian of the Mountain was an excellent fighter, who in no way detracted from the impeccable technique of the king of wild animals. Man and beast fought for his life, knowing that whoever was careless would be the first to lose it. The meeting lasted approximately one hour. By then the tiger’s claws began to slow down and his body began to lose elasticity. That ended up losing him, because soon the Guardian of the Mountain finally managed to stick the trident into his chest. It was a sight worthy, indeed, of pity! The steel shattered the beast’s heart and the entire ground was immediately filled with blood. The Guardian of the Mountain then grabbed him by the ear and dragged him up the slope. What an enviable constitution that of that man! He was barely panting, when he reached Tripitaka’s height; His face had not changed color at all.

  • We have been lucky – he said, happily, to the monk -. This tiger will provide us with sustenance for at least one day.
  • You are truly a god of the mountain – Tripitaka stated, celebrating his triumph with enthusiasm.
  • I? – Puo-Chin exclaimed, surprised -. What have I done, ultimately, to deserve a title like that? It’s all been a product of good luck. Come on. It must be skinned as soon as possible, so that you can eat without delay. Because I guess

You will be hungry, won’t you?

With the trident in one hand and dragging the tiger with the other, he prepared to lead the way, followed by Tripitaka and his horse. Once they had crossed the steep slope, they arrived at a village lost in the mountains, whose streets were full of wild vines and the roots of ancient trees could be seen. The air was very fresh there, although all sensation disappeared before the beauty of the landscape in which it was located. The paths that led to her were covered with wildflowers with an aroma so intense that it remained forever impregnated in her body. The cane fields were not abundant, but the greenery of its bamboo was far superior to that of any other place. That village looked like something out of a painting with its grassy porches, its fenced yards, its stone bridges, and its whitewashed walls. What rare elegance of that humble place! The presence of autumn was noticeable in the energetic freshness of the wind, in the yellowish leaves that festooned the paths, in the whitish clouds that blurred the peaks of the mountains… In the distance of the forest the songs of wild birds could be heard, while Closer, in the very interior of the town, only the noisy barking of the dogs could be heard.

Upon reaching the door of his house, Puo-Chin dropped the dead tiger on the ground and,

Raising his voice, he asked:

– Is there someone at home?

Immediately three or four servants, of mean and unpleasant appearance, came out to meet him and took the beast into the house. Puo-Chin ordered them to dismember her and make a stew with her for her illustrious guest. She then turned to Tripitaka and invited him to stay at her home. The Master of the Law did not know how to reciprocate so much attention. Without knowing exactly what he was saying, he thanked her again for saving his life, to which Puo-Chin quickly replied:

  • You don’t need to thank me for anything. After all, we belong to the same nation, don’t we?

After sitting down to have a cup of tea, an old woman and a woman who had every trace of being his daughter-in-law came to welcome Tripitaka.

  • This – said Puo-Chin, pointing to the old woman – is my mother and that other my wife.
  • Allow me to give the place of honor to your respectable progeny – Tripitaka asked -. It is not right that I, a younger person, enjoy more consideration than her.
  • No way! – the old woman protested -. You are our guest and, furthermore, you come from very far away. Remain seated, please, and don’t be so polite.
  • This monk, mother – Puo-Chin explained – is heading towards the Western Paradise in search of the writings of Buddha at the express wish of the Emperor of the Tang. I found him in the mountain range and, since we both belong to the same nation, I invited him to come and rest at our house. Tomorrow, if he wants, he can continue on his way.
  • Excellent! – exclaimed the old woman, visibly pleased – You couldn’t have come up with a better idea. This monk comes to us from heaven. Tomorrow is the anniversary of your father’s death and I thought it wouldn’t hurt if I presided over some kind of service for him. I figure he won’t mind leaving the day after tomorrow.

Despite being a hunter, the Guardian of the Mountain had a high sense of filial piety and immediately accepted his mother’s suggestion. In the blink of an eye, he prepared the incense and paper money and explained the entire plan to Tripitaka. As they discussed the details, it began to get dark. The servants then brought chairs and a table, and began to serve different dishes made with tiger meat, some

of them steamed. Puo-Chin invited Tripitaka to sit at the table, promptly informing him that the rice would arrive soon.

  • My God! – Tripitaka exclaimed, joining his hands -. I have been a monk all my life and I have never tasted meat.
  • «That is a problem,» replied Puo-Chin, sadly, «because a vegetarian diet has never been followed in this house. I imagine that it wouldn’t be very difficult for us to find some bamboo and some other vegetables around, but they would necessarily have to be cooked with tiger or deer fat. Not to mention that all our casseroles are impregnated with animal fat to the core. What could we do? Sorry I was so careless.
  • Don’t worry – Tripitaka tried to console him -. Enjoy the food alone. I am able to resist hunger three or four days in a row. If I have to be honest, for me everything is preferable to skipping the vegetarian diet.
  • “Suppose you are dying of hunger,” Puo-Chin protested. What are people going to think of my hospitality?
  • You have been quite kind to me by saving me from the tigers and wolves – Tripitaka reassured him -. Starving to death is much better than ending up as food for a tiger.

Puo-Chin’s mother then heard the conversation and, addressing her son, said:

  • Stop talking nonsense, please. Right now I’m going to prepare a vegetarian dish for you.
  • Can you tell where you are going to get it from? – Puo-Chin exclaimed, surprised.
  • That doesn’t matter to you – the old woman replied -. It is exclusively my business.

He asked his daughter-in-law to bring down a pot and heated it until all the fat had melted. Then she washed it carefully, scrubbing it again and again, and she filled it with water, which she immediately put on the fire. She then threw in a few elm leaves and thus prepared a soup, to which she added a little rice, a few ears of corn, and two or three handfuls of dried vegetables.

  • Take this, master, and don’t worry – he said to Tripitaka, when it was time to serve it to him -. I assure you that this is the purest and most filth-free food that my daughter-in-law and I have ever prepared in our entire lives.

Tripitaka was so moved that he stood up to thank him. Puo-Chin, for his part, moved to another table and immediately his servants served him an incredible quantity of dishes of tiger meat, deer, snake, rabbit and cured venison. He took the chopsticks, but when he was about to put the first piece in his mouth, he saw that Tripitaka put his hands together and began to recite something that he could not completely understand. Embarrassed, he put the chopsticks back on the table and stood up respectfully. Seeing him, Tripitaka finished his prayer and said:

  • Eat before you get cold.
  • It’s obvious that you like to recite small passages from the scriptures – Puo-Chin commented, relieved.
  • Who told you that it was a fragment of the scriptures? – Tripitaka corrected him -. It was a simple prayer before eating.
  • Be careful you are monks! – Puo-Chin exclaimed -. Even to put food in your mouth you have to pray.

As soon as they had finished dinner, the servants cleared the table and Puo-Chin accompanied Tripitaka to the back of the house. It was already dark night and they headed towards a shed covered with straw. They entered it and found a few very heavy bows with their corresponding quivers hanging on the wall. Two splendid tiger skins hung from the rafters, smelly and full of blood, which seemed to shade a large number of spears, knives and tridents that had been stuck in the ground.

in one of the corners. In the middle you could see two seats, on which Puo-Chin invited Tripitaka to sit, but he was unable to stand the smell of blood and they went out again into the cool of the night. Just behind the shed was an immense garden filled with beds of golden chrysanthemums and striking crimson maples. Immediately there was a slight movement among the foliage and a few deer appeared, which were not at all frightened by his unexpected presence. Surprised, Tripitaka said to his companion:

  • I never suspected that you could domesticate so many animals.
  • In the city of Chang-An – Puo-Chin replied – people try to face an uncertain future by hoarding wealth, rice and any other type of grain. Here we hunters do the same, but with wild animals. This is all.

While they were talking, night fell and they decided to go back inside the house to rest. The next morning everyone got up very early. After preparing a vegetarian banquet for such an important guest, they asked him to begin the services. After washing his hands, the monk went to the hall of the ancestors, where he burned incense in the company of the Guardian of the Mountain. He then bowed before the family altar and, after striking his wooden fish, recited the formulas for the purification of the mouth, which were followed by those of the mind and body. He immediately embarked on the Sutra for the Salvation of the Dead, begging Puo-Chin, once he had finished it, to compose a particular prayer for his father, which he gladly agreed to do. With a sonorous voice and accurate tone he then chanted the Diamond Sutra and the Kwang-Ing Sutra. After a brief rest to regain his strength, he read several passages from the Lotus Sutra and the Amitaya Sutra, ending with the Peacock Sutra and the account of how the Buddha cured a mendicant monk. By then night had fallen again, the ideal time to burn, along with the incense, the effigies of several paper horses, the drawings of different deities and the prayer composed for such a solemn moment. Thus the Buddhist ceremony was finished and everyone gradually retired to their rooms.

Tripitaka’s prayers were so effective that that night Puo-Chin’s father, a condemned spirit who had wandered aimlessly through the Lower Realm since the moment of his death, appeared in dreams to all the members of his family and told them. said:

  • For a long time I have been subjected to terrible torments in the Region of Shadows, without being able to achieve salvation. Fortunately, that monk’s supplications have effectively contributed to the remission of all my sins and King Yama has decided to reincarnate me into a noble and rich family of the respectable Chinese nation. You should, therefore, thank him for everything he has done for me, showing yourselves generous with him. Now I am afraid I must abandon you – and he withdrew from sleep.

There is, in truth, no nobler goal in life than the liberation of a dead person from all his pains and sufferings. When the family woke up, it had already begun to dawn. Very excited, Puo-Chin’s wife grabbed him by the shoulder and shook him, saying:

  • Last night I dreamed that your father came home to tell us that for a long time he had been subjected to terrible torments in the Region of Shadows, without being able to achieve salvation. Fortunately, the monk’s prayers had effectively contributed to the remission of all his sins. So much so that King Yama had decided to reincarnate him into a noble and rich family of the respectable Chinese nation. He later asked me to thank him profusely for everything he had done for him and, although I begged him to stay, he hurried away from my dream. Distressed, I woke up immediately and only saw you by my side.
  • How weird! – Puo-Chin exclaimed, surprised -. I have also had the same

dream. Let’s go tell our mother.

But, as they were about to leave the room, they heard the old woman shout:

  • Puo-Chin, come quickly. I have something important to tell you. Alarmed, they entered her room and found her sitting on the bed.
  • “My son,” she said, elated, upon seeing them. Yesterday I dreamed that your father came home and ordered me to thank the monk for everything he had done for him, since, thanks to his mediating action, he had finally obtained the remission of his sins. He also informed me that he was about to be reincarnated into a rich family of the noble Chinese nation.

Upon hearing this, both the man and the woman burst out laughing at the old woman’s surprise.

  • “My wife and I have also had a dream like that,” Puo-Chin explained, when he could finally control his laughter. We were precisely here to tell you. What we least expected is that you would also have dreamed the same thing.

They called everyone who lived in the house and went to the monk’s chambers to thank him. As soon as he opened the door for them, they fell on their faces and said:

  • We will never reward you enough for having freed our father from the torments of hell.
  • What have I done to deserve so much attention? – Tripitaka protested, surprised, Puo-Chin then told him the dream the three of them had had and Tripitaka felt pleased. They immediately prepared a vegetarian meal for him and gave him a bag full of silver coins, which he firmly rejected at the desperate insistence of the entire family.
  • For me money has no value – he tried to make them understand -. Now, if you wish to accompany me during part of the trip, I will be eternally grateful. Puo-Chin, his wife and his mother therefore had no choice but to save the money and hastily prepare a few cakes of unsifted flour, which Tripitaka accepted with visible satisfaction. Puo-Chin then put on his boots and prepared to accompany him for as long as possible. Following the advice of his mother, he ordered several servants to take up their weapons and serve as their escort. Thus equipped, they went out onto the main road, contemplating, in amazement, the indescribable beauty of the mountains and peaks.

They continued like this for approximately half a day. When the sun seemed to be at its zenith, they came across a mountain so high and rugged that its summit was lost in the infinite blue of the sky. It didn’t take them long to reach his foot. The Guardian stopped for a moment, looked at the steepness of her skirt and began to ascend it, as if he were walking on completely level ground. Halfway up, however, he suddenly stopped, turned around and said to the monk:

  • I’m afraid I can only accompany you this far. From now on you will have to continue the path alone.

Hearing this, Tripitaka dismounted from his horse and begged him with obvious anxiety:

  • Continue a little more, please.
  • «I can’t do it,» Puo-Chin apologized. Don’t you understand that this is the Mountain of Two Borders? The eastern part is under the rule of the Tang, but the western part already belongs to the Tatars. I fear that the tigers and wolves that live there do not consider me their sovereign and therefore my protection can be of little use to you. Not to mention that I am not allowed to cross the border. I repeat it to you. You must continue alone.

A mortal fear fell upon Tripitaka. Without knowing what he was doing, he grabbed the hunter’s sleeves and began to cry shamelessly into them. The situation became tense due to

moments, but it was clear that the moment of separation had arrived. It was then that a voice was heard from the bottom of the mountain saying: – My teacher has just arrived! My teacher just arrived!

Tripitaka was speechless and even Puo-Chin himself began to tremble.

We don’t know who it was that was shouting that way. Anyone who wants to find out will have to listen to the explanations provided in the next chapter.

CHAPTER XIV

RETURN OF THE MONKEY OF THE MIND TO THE PATH OF TRUTH AND GOOD. THE DISAPPEARANCE OF THE SIX BANDITS 1

The Mind is Buddha and Buddha is the Mind; Both have the same importance. He who comes to understand that neither objects nor mind exist is in possession of the dharmakaya of authentic intelligence. The dharmakaya is formless and manifests itself in the appearance of the luster of a pearl, in which everything is contained. The authentic body is the one that lacks it and the truest form is the one that has none. There is neither form, nor emptiness, nor nothingness, nor going, nor returning, nor turning around, nor equality, nor the opposite, nor being, nor non-being, nor giving, neither the receiving, nor the desiring. The entire universe and the kingdom of Buddha fit into a single grain of sand; The entire cosmos is contained in the mind and body. To know all this in depth, one must submit to Sakyamuni and renounce all action.

We said that Tripitaka and Puo-Chin, bewildered and scared to death, heard a thunderous voice saying: – My teacher has just arrived! My teacher just arrived!

  • The most likely thing is that this is the monkey that has been locked inside the mountain for several centuries – the servants exclaimed, trembling.
  • Of course! – confirmed the Guardian of the Mountain -. It has to be him.
  • What monkey are you talking about? – Tripitaka asked. – Formerly this place was known as the Mountain of the Five Phases – explained the Guardian –, but it changed to its current name after the heroic campaigns, which, in order to secure the western part of his empire, carried out by the Emperor of the Tang. Years ago I heard that this mountain fell from the heavens with a monkey inside. Such a strange phenomenon happened at the time when Wang-Mang 2 usurped the throne of the Han. According to the elders, the animal survived hunger, cold and heat, always observed by the spirits of the land, who fed it with balls of iron and quenched their thirst with liquid bronze. I have no doubt that he is the one who is shouting like that. But don’t be afraid. It is totally harmless. Why don’t we go down to the foot of the mountain to take a look?

Tripitaka had no choice but to accept and, turning his back, he descended the steep slope on his horse’s back. After retracing a few kilometers, they came across a stone room, inside which, indeed, there was a monkey who did not stop waving his hands or saying in a state of extreme agitation:

  • Why did it take you so long to arrive, master? I’ve been waiting for you for what I know for centuries. Take me out of here and I swear that I will protect you from whatever dangers you encounter from here to the lands of Western Paradise.

The monk approached to see him better and saw that he had a protruding mouth, a completely flat face and two eyes so penetrating that they seemed to emit fire. He had been locked up for so long that lichen had grown on his head, weeds on his ears, moss on his temples and thistles on his chin, precisely in the place where he should have occupied a thick, bushy beard. His eyebrows and nose were also completely covered in mud and that gave him a condemned appearance that he has lost.

all the hope. His body was so dirty that it was difficult to distinguish his hands and feet from the steep rocks that surrounded him. Fortunately her eyes and his tongue did not seem to have suffered the slightest stagnation, something that could not be said of other less favored parts of his body. He who, five hundred years ago, had granted himself the title of Great Sage, had been reduced to such a lamentable state. His punishment was, however, about to end.

The Guardian of the Mountain gathered his courage and, approaching such a repellent creature, plucked a few thistles from his chin and a little moss from his temples and asked him:

  • Do you want to say something?
  • Yes, but not to you – answered the monkey -. It is the monk he would like to speak to. I have to ask you something.
  • What do you want to know? – Tripitaka immediately replied.
  • Has the Emperor of the Eastern Lands sent you in search of the sacred writings? – asked the monkey.
  • That’s right – Tripitaka admitted -. Do you want to tell me why you ask?
  • I – answered the monkey – am the Great Sage, Sosia of Heaven, and approximately five hundred years ago I sowed the Celestial Palace with confusion. That made Buddha punish me by locking me under this stone mass. Some time ago, however, Bodhisattva Kwang-Ing happened to pass by and informed me that she was heading to the Eastern Lands in search of a righteous man who was willing to follow the scriptures. I then asked her to help me and she made me promise that I would never again be involved in disorders like the ones I was involved in on her day. In this way, I accepted the laws of Buddha, committing myself, at the same time, to protect the future Pilgrim during the entire duration of his journey to the West. I have no doubt that then my offenses will be forgiven and I will receive a substantial reward. This explains why I have been waiting for you day and night, since only you can get me out of here. In exchange I will become your disciple and will provide you with all the protection you need.
  • How can I free you? – Tripitaka exclaimed, bewildered -. Despite your good intentions and what the Bodhisattva told you, I have nothing at hand to make holes, not even a simple axe.
  • Who is talking about instruments? – protested the monkey -. To free me you just need to really want it.
  • Of course I want it! – Tripitaka replied -. But can you tell me how to do it?
  • Very simple – answered the monkey -. At the top of this mountain there is a stone slab with a text that Buddha himself wrote in gold letters. Grab it and move it away from the summit. That will be enough for him to leave this dungeon.

Tripitaka immediately agreed to do what he asked. So he turned to Puo-Chin and begged him, saying:

  • Come with me to the top of this mountain, please. – Do you think he is telling the truth? – Puo-Chin asked, suspicious.
  • Of course! – the monkey protested vigorously -. How could he dare to lie to you in the situation I find myself in?

Puo-Chin had no choice but to call his servants and order them to grab the horses by the bridle. In this way they began their painful ascent to the top of the mountain, which they managed to reach by clinging to brambles and wild grasses. The summit was the highest peak of the entire mountain range, on which ten thousand rays of golden light converged. As the monkey had said, there stood a huge slab, on which

The following words had been written: «Om mani padme hum.» Tripitaka approached her, knelt down and looked at her carefully. He then touched the ground several times with his forehead and, turning towards the west, prayed, saying:

  • I, your unworthy disciple Chen Hsüan-Tsang, have been chosen to go in search of the sacred texts. If, in truth, that monkey has been predestined to be my follower, allow me that he can tear off those golden letters and thus he will be free to accompany me to the Mountain of the Spirit. On the other hand, if he is nothing more than a cruel monster who only seeks to deceive me and ruin the company to which I have committed myself, make sure that I cannot even move them from the place.

After touching the ground with his head again, he went towards the stone and with incredible ease tore off the gold letters that had been embedded in it. Instantly an aromatic wind arose, tore off the slab and raised it high, while a voice was heard saying:

  • I am the jailer of the Great Sage, whose sentence ends today. I return, therefore, to Tathagata’s side to give him the seal that he entrusted to me on his day.

Tripitaka, Puo-Chin, and the servants were so terrified that they fell to the ground, not daring to look up. When they finally descended from the mountain, they reached the stone dungeon and said to the monkey:

  • The slab has been lifted, so you can leave whenever you want.
  • If you don’t mind – replied the monkey, crazy with joy -, I would like you to move away a little. That way, when I come out, you won’t be so scared of what I look like.

Puo-Chin led Tripitaka and the servants to a distance of three or four kilometers to the east, but the monkey shouted:

  • Further away! A little further!

Tripitaka and his companions were forced to go so far away that they ended up

leaving the mountain. Then there was a tremor so strong that for a

moment it seemed as if the mountain had collapsed or the earth had

split in two. Everyone was overcome with fear. But before they could give

account, the monkey had already placed himself in front of Tripitaka’s horse and, kneeling

in the dust, he said, visibly moved:

– I’m free, teacher! Free!

He bowed four times before Tripitaka and, standing up, respectfully addressed Puo-Chin, saying:

  • I thank you for the trouble you have taken to accompany my teacher here and for the gesture you have taken in pulling the herbs from my face.

As soon as he had finished saying it, he went to secure his master’s luggage with a rope. But, upon seeing him, the horse became very nervous and was on the verge of rearing up. Since the monkey had been in charge of the dragon horses in the celestial stables, his authority among those animals was so great that they began to tremble as soon as they saw him. Tripitaka understood that this was someone with honest intentions, a true servant of the Buddhist cause, and calling him over, he asked:

  • What is your name, disciple?
  • Me – the monkey answered – my last name is Sun.
  • Allow me, in that case, to find a religious name for you. This way it will be easier for me to contact you.
  • Such a gesture honors you, teacher – replied the monkey – and I thank you with all my heart. However, I already have a religious name. In fact, my name is Sun Wu-Kung.
  • I have to admit that you like him very much – Tripitaka stated, pleased -. However, you look like a mendicant monk. What do you think if from today I call you the Pilgrim?

Sun?

– Excellent! – exclaimed Wu-Kung.

Seeing that Pilgrim Sun had finished preparations to continue the march,

Puo-Chin turned to Tripitaka and said respectfully:

  • You are fortunate to have found a disciple like this here. Congratulations. He seems like an excellent person and I’m sure he will be a good traveling companion. For my part, I’m afraid I have to return home as soon as possible.

I will never be able to thank you for what you have done for me – Tripitaka replied, bowing his head -. I apologize to your mother and your wife for the trouble they have taken with me and tell them that it will be an honor to greet them upon their return.

Puo-Chin nodded and walked away, followed by his servants. Pilgrim Sun then asked Tripitaka to mount the horse and they resumed their journey. The monkey was in front with the luggage on his back. Shortly after leaving the Mountain of the Two Borders behind, they saw a ferocious-looking tiger, which roared, threatening, – its eyes seemed to breathe fire. Nervous, Tripitaka pulled on the reins and began to tremble. The Pilgrim, for his part, stood aside and said to his teacher, joyful as if he had just found a treasure:

  • Do not fear. This is a gift that heaven has put in my path, because, as you understand, I cannot go around completely naked.

He put his luggage on the ground and, putting his hand to his ear, took out a tiny needle, shook it against the wind, and it instantly became an iron rod as thick as a bowl of rice. He looked at her with satisfaction and exclaimed, smiling:

  • For more than five hundred years I have not made use of this treasure. Now he is going to provide me with warm and comfortable clothing.

In two strides he reached where the tiger was and shouted:

  • Damn beast! Where do you think you are going?

The tiger crouched down, as if it were a kitten, and remained crouched against the ground, not daring to move. Pilgrim Sun raised the iron bar and brought it down hard on the beast’s head. The skull shattered and the brain sprang out like ten thousand reddish peach blossom petals. At the same time, the teeth flew through the air, like countless white jade shards. Chen Hsüan-Tsang was so frightened that he fell off his horse and began to scream, biting his nails:

  • Holy cow, this is downright incredible! To reduce the tiger the other day, the Guardian of the Mountain was forced to fight with it for almost half a day. Sun Wu-Kung, on the other hand, has shattered it today with a single blow of his bar. Now I understand the saying he says: «No matter how strong you are, there is always someone stronger than you.»
  • Master – the Pilgrim suggested, dragging the tiger -, why don’t you sit for a while while I remove the skin? Do not worry. We will continue the journey as soon as I have made a suitable dress for me with it.
  • But it will take you a long time – Tripitaka protested -. Plus, you don’t have utensils on hand.
  • That’s why don’t worry – the Pilgrim reassured him -. I have my own means. You’ll see.

He plucked a few hairs and, blowing a breath of magical air on them, shouted:

  • Transform yourselves!

They immediately became a curved and extremely sharp knife, with which he cut the tiger to pieces. His expertise was so great that he got the whole skin. He then removed the claws and head and, in this way, obtained a rectangular piece. The

He raised it high and, after calculating its measurements by eye, concluded:

  • I think it’s a little big for me. It is best to cut it in half. He took the knife and divided it into two equal parts. He kept one and wrapped the other around her waist, securing it with a type of reed that grew on the side of the road.
  • That’s it, teacher – he said then, satisfied -. When we come across a house and have enough time, I’ll borrow some thread and sew it better. Now we can continue on our way.

He shook the iron bar again and it instantly transformed into a tiny needle, which he stuck into his ear again. After carrying the luggage, she helped the teacher mount the horse and they continued the journey.

  • Where did you put the rod with which you just killed the tiger? – the monk asked, surprised. You’re not going to tell me that he’s missing.
  • No, no – answered the Pilgrim, smiling -. You have no idea how powerful it is. I got it from the Eastern Ocean Dragon Palace. It is called the Guardian of the Milky Way, although it is also known as the Complacent Bar of the Golden Ends. When I rebelled against the sky, it was of great help to me, since it can become whatever I want, regardless of the form. or the size. I just transformed it into a tiny embroidery water and, thus, I was able to put it in her ear. I’ll take it out again when I need it.
  • Why did the tiger stay still when it saw you? – Tripitaka asked again -. How do you explain why he didn’t do anything to defend himself?
  • Even a dragon would have behaved the way that beast did – Wu-Kung answered -. Although you may not believe it, I have the power to dominate dragons, tame wild beasts, make rivers overflow and oceans break. I am also capable of discovering a person’s character just by looking at his face and finding out if what he is saying is true or not depending on the tone of his voice. If I want, I can become as big as the universe itself or as small as the most insignificant hair. In short, I have the power to transform myself into whatever I want and even to become invisible. What is so strange, then, that he has mastered the tiger with such ease? Wait until we find ourselves in real difficulties and then you will see with your own eyes what I am capable of doing.

Hearing this, Tripitaka felt calmer and urged his horse. They didn’t stop talking for a single second and, thus, the trip became more bearable. Soon the sun began to set in the west, dyeing the distant clouds a red that was gradually losing intensity. The birds sought shelter in the forests, filling the twilight with the nervous hubbub of their songs. The wild beasts returned to their lairs in pairs, although larger groups were also seen from time to time. The moon, a luminous hook surrounded by a halo, had already appeared in the sky, escorted by the ten thousand luminous points of the stars.

  • We must hurry, teacher – said the Pilgrim, looking up –, because it is getting very late. There you can see a dense group of trees and I imagine that a town or, at least, a farmhouse will be built. We’ll have to hurry if we want to find accommodation.

Tripitaka spurred the horse on and soon they reached a house. While the monk dismounted, the Pilgrim went to the door and began to pound on it, shouting:

  • Open up! Open up!

Soon an old man appeared, using a cane to walk. The door creaked pitifully and the man almost died of fright, seeing the Pilgrim with the tiger skin wrapped around his waist and an appearance so horrifying that he looked like a god of thunder. In panic, he began to scream:

  • Help! A ghost! A ghost! – and other such nonsense. Tripitaka immediately approached him and, grabbing his arm, said:
  • Do not be afraid. This is no ghost, but my disciple.

The old man looked up and, seeing the attractive and well-proportioned features of

Tripitaka finally came to his senses and asked:

  • To which monastery do you belong and why have you dared to come to my door with a character as sinister as this?
  • I, sir – answered Tripitaka – come from the court of the Tang and I am heading towards the Western Paradise in search of the writings of Buddha. As we passed through here, it became night and we decided to go to your house in search of shelter. I give you my word that we will not stay long. In fact, we plan to continue the march as soon as it has dawned. For whatever you want, don’t let us spend the night outdoors.
  • It is possible that you are a subject of the Tang – the old man replied – but I very much doubt that that sinister guy who comes with you is also one.
  • I don’t know what you have eyes for! – exclaimed Wu-Kung, raising his voice -. Even a blind man can realize that this, a citizen of the Tang Empire, is my teacher and I am his disciple. As for me, I will tell you that I care little about the distinctions you just made. After all, I am still the Great Sage, Sosia of Heaven. By the way, your family and yourself should remember me, since this is not the first time we have met.
  • Can we know where we have seen each other? – the old man asked, contemptuously.
  • Don’t you remember that, when you were young, you would throw vegetables in my face and put firewood in front of my eyes? – Wu-Kung answered.
  • Crap! – exclaimed the old man -. Where did you live and where was I to throw vegetables in your face and put firewood in front of your eyes?

The only one capable of talking nonsense here is you – Wu-Kung stated -. That shows you haven’t recognized me yet. Come closer and look at me carefully. I am the Great Sage who was imprisoned in the stone dungeon of the Mountain of Two Borders.

  • Now that you say it, you look a little like him – said the old man, trying to remember -. But how did you manage to escape from there?

Wu-Kung then explained to him how the Bodhisattva had converted him and had asked him to wait for the arrival of the monk Tang, who would release him, as had happened, from his confinement and then make him his disciple. The old man then bowed before them and begged them to come into his house. He next called his wife and his children and asked them to treat such respectable guests as best they could. When he told them what had happened, everyone was delighted. It wasn’t long before the tea was served, at which point the old man took the opportunity to ask Wu-Kung:

  • How old are you, Great Sage?
  • And you? – Wu-Kung replied.
  • So, like someone who doesn’t want it, I have been living in this world for one hundred and thirty years – answered the old man.
  • In that case – concluded the Pilgrim –, you are my great-great-grandson. If I have to be honest, I don’t remember when I was born. All I know is that I have spent more than five hundred years under that mountain.
  • Yes, yes, – confirmed the old man -. I remember that my great-great-grandfather once told me that that mountain suddenly fell from the sky and that a monkey of divine origin was locked inside. To think that you have had to wait so long to enjoy again!

freedom! I remember that, when I saw you the first time, you had weeds on your head and your face was completely covered in mud. However, I wasn’t scared in the least. By the way, now that you’ve taken them off, you look a little thinner, although with that tiger skin around your waist you are the spitting image of a demon.

Everyone started laughing when they heard it. The old man was, however, a decent man and he ordered that a vegetarian meal be prepared for them.

  • What family do you belong to? – asked Wu-Kung.
  • To the Chens – the old man answered.

Tripitaka left his seat and ran to pay his respects, saying:

  • Apparently we have the same ancestors.
  • How can that be, if your last name is Tang? – Wu-Kung protested.
  • No, no – Tripitaka denied -. My real surname is Chen and I am originally from Chü-Sien Village, Hung-Nung, Hai-Chou District. My religious name, in fact, is Chen Hsüan-Tsang. If I now use the surname Tang, it is because our Great Emperor Tang Tai-Chung made a pact of brotherhood with me. Hence some know me as Tripitaka or simply the monk Tang.

The old man was very happy that they both had the same last name.

  • Forgive me – said the Pilgrim, addressing him – but the truth is that I haven’t washed for five hundred years. Would you mind asking your servants to prepare some hot water for my master and I to bathe in? When we leave, we will know how to repay you in our own way.

Immediately the old man ordered the water to be put on the fire and had some jars and several hatchets brought. After bathing, they sat by the fire and the Pilgrim said again:

  • I’m afraid, old Chen, I still have one more favor to ask of you. Could you lend me a needle and some thread?
  • Of course! – The old man exclaimed and ordered one of his servants to immediately go after them.

The Pilgrim had very keen eyesight and was thus able to notice that Tripitaka had taken off a white serge shirt and had not put it back on after bathing. He appropriated it with indescribable joy and began patiently sewing the tiger skin. When he had finished, he wrapped it around his waist again and, pacing again and again in front of his teacher, asked her:

  • What do you think of the way I look today compared to yesterday?
  • Totally different – ​​Tripitaka answered -. Now you look like a real Pilgrim. If you think that shirt is not too worn, you can keep it.
  • Thank you for the gift, master – Wu-Kung replied respectfully and went out to get some hay for the horses. As soon as he had fed them, they all retired to rest. The next morning Wu-Kung woke up very early and prepared his luggage, while Tripitaka finished dressing. As they were about to leave, the old man brought them water to wash and some vegetarian food. As soon as he finished breakfast, Tripitaka mounted his horse and they resumed their journey. The Pilgrim was ahead, leading the way. A few days into the journey, winter arrived. Bare trees and frost-scorched maples were everywhere. Only occasionally could the unalterable greenery of the pines and cypresses be seen. At the beginning of the eleventh month, however, the days momentarily became as warm as spring 3 and the plum blossoms spread their scent across the landscape. But that didn’t last long. As they passed over a bridge made of tree branches, which joined the two banks of a torrent, they saw grayish clouds filled with snow floating above their heads. The wind was so cold and strong that it made you cry. At night the temperatures dropped so low that it was impossible to sleep in the clear.

The two walkers had covered a good part of their journey, when six men came out to meet them, shouting like crazy and armed with spears, swords and bows. They stopped right in the center of the path and, raising their voices, said:

  • Stand up, monk, and get off your horse. If you want to move forward, you will have to give us everything you carry.

Tripitaka was so terrified that he felt his spirit leave his body, falling off his horse, totally unable to speak a word. The Pilgrim ran towards him and, helping him up, said:

  • Don’t be scared, teacher. These people have come to offer us clothes and a little money for the trip.
  • Are you deaf or have you not heard what they said? – Tripitaka exclaimed -. They want us to give them the horse and everything we have on us! How can you say that they have come to our aid?
  • You stay here taking care of our things – the Pilgrim suggested -. I’m going to go up to them to see what’s happening.
  • Let’s see what happens? – Tripitaka repeated -. No matter how good a punch is, it will always be inferior in effectiveness to two fists, and these to four hands. You do not get it? We have six hustlers before us and you have a rather weak constitution. Do you want to tell me how you are going to deal with them?

Brave as he was, the Pilgrim did not agree to any further reasons. He walked towards them with his arms crossed and, after greeting them, asked them with unexpected self-confidence:

  • May I know, gentlemen, why you have blocked the way for a monk as poor as this?
  • We are the kings of the road and the lords of the Mountain of Human Relationship. We have always been very famous, although you seem unaware of it. Give us what you are carrying and we will let you pass. Otherwise, we will make mincemeat of you.
  • «I too have been king and lord of a mountain for centuries,» replied the Pilgrim. However, I must admit that in all that time I have not heard from you. Excuse me, but I don’t know what your names are.
  • What don’t you know? – repeated one of them -. Alright. I’m going to introduce you to everyone. One is the Eye-that-sees-and-takes-pleasure-in-it, another is the Ear-that-hears-and-records-it-in-the-memory, another is the Nose-that-smells-and-is -delights, another the Tongue-that-brings-taste-to-things-and-then-longs-for-them, another the Mind-that-perceives-and-covets-the-possession-of-what-perceived and another the Body-that-endures-and-suffers.
  • What you are – Wu-Kung replied, bursting out laughing – is bandits who don’t know how to recognize your master. How dare you block my way? Take out everything you have stolen and divide it into seven equal parts, if you want to stay alive.

Upon hearing this, some of the thieves began to laugh, others became furious, and even fewer began to tremble. Everyone, however, ultimately reacted in the same way, as they threw themselves at him, shouting:

  • Damn monk! You have nothing to offer us and on top of that you demand that we share our loot with you. Who have you thought you are?

Brandishing their spears and swords, they surrounded the Pilgrim and unleashed no less than seventy or eighty blows on his head. But Wu-Kung behaved as if nothing was happening.

  • Be careful, this monk has a hard head! – exclaimed, astonished, one of the bandits.
  • Not too much – the Pilgrim corrected him, laughing -. It seems to me that so much exercise is making you a little tired, isn’t it? It’s time for me to take out the needle and have some fun with you.
  • Don’t tell me you’re an acupuncturist! – another of the thieves mocked -. Why are you going to take out the needle, if none of us are sick?

The Pilgrim then put his hand to his ear and picked up his small embroidery needle. He shook it a little in the wind and it instantly turned into an iron rod the thickness of a rice bowl. He grabbed her tightly with both hands and shouted in a loud voice:

  • Don’t run, cowards! Give me the opportunity to try my bar on you!

The six thieves scattered in all directions, but he caught up with them in two strides, surrounding them with feline dexterity. Then he killed them one by one, took off their clothes and stripped them of everything valuable they had with them.

  • You can continue now, teacher – he said, turning smiling towards Tripitaka -. The bandits have been exterminated.
  • What you have done has been something terrible – Tripitaka scolded him -. They may have been robbers, but you had no right to judge them and condemn them to death the way you did. Why have you killed them all? You should have just made them run away. How can you consider yourself a monk, when you go around murdering people without rhyme or reason? Those of us who dedicate ourselves to the life of the spirit have the obligation to “make sure that there are no ants on the floor, when we sweep, so that no harm is suffered; We must even surround the candles with small screens, to prevent the moths from burning to death. How can you kill whoever you want, without stopping to distinguish white from black? It’s incredible that you show so little compassion for others! Thank goodness we are in an open field and here any investigation into the facts is ruled out. Imagine this had happened in a city. Do you think you would still be free after hitting whoever you wanted with your iron bar?
  • But, master – Wu-Kung protested, bewildered – if I hadn’t killed them, they would have finished us off.
  • We monks – Tripitaka stated – have the obligation to die rather than use violence. Furthermore, there is a big difference between losing one life and six being murdered. There is no justification for what you have done. Even if you were the judge, you would have to admit that your conduct was completely wrong.
  • When I was king of the Mountain of Flowers and Fruits, approximately five hundred years ago – the Pilgrim tried to defend himself –, I killed what I know of people; If it had not been for that, I would never have reached Great Sage, Sosia of Heaven.
  • But don’t you understand – Tripitaka replied – that you suffered that tremendous punishment, precisely because, by acting without any type of scruples or control, you attracted upon yourself the wrath of the Earth and the condemnation of Heaven? If, after embracing the Buddhist faith, you still insist on practicing violence and continuing to kill people as before, you are not worthy of being a monk or accompanying me to the Western Paradise, because you are simply evil.

The monkey was not used to anyone scolding him. At first he tried to control himself, but, as Tripitaka kept scolding him, he ended up losing patience and exclaimed, in a bad mood:

  • Okay, okay! If you consider that I do not deserve to be a monk or accompany you to the Western Paradise, I am leaving right now and that is the end of the matter. Enough of this reprimand!

Before Tripitaka had time to respond, the Pilgrim jumped and was lost in the sky, after shouting:

  • I’m going there!

Tripitaka raised his head, but the monkey had already disappeared. He just stayed floating

in the air a hissing sound, which moved like an exhalation towards the east. The monk then shook his head and sighed:

  • What a man! How little he likes to be indoctrinated! I don’t understand how he could have disappeared so quickly and all because I simply told him what he thought. Alright. It seems that my destiny is not to have any traveling companion, because I won’t make that one come back even if I call him. How can I do it if I don’t even know where he is? I have no choice but to continue forward alone – and he prepared to continue the path towards the West, even if he had to lose his life in the attempt or not speak to anyone again for a long time.

He had no choice, then, but to take the luggage and load it on the horse. The animal seemed so weak from the weight that she did not dare to mount it. With the reins in one hand and the staff in the other he continued his sad path towards the Western Lands. He had not gone far from her when he ran into an old woman wearing a silk robe and wearing a headdress with many flowers on her head. As soon as he saw her, Tripitaka deferentially stepped aside to let her pass.

  • Where do you come from and why are you traveling alone? – asked the old woman.
  • I, lady – answered Tripitaka, respectfully -, I am heading towards the Western Paradise to seek, on behalf of the great king of the Eastern Lands, the authentic writings of Buddha. The Great Buddha of the West – commented the old woman – lives in India, in the Temple of Thunder, a place that is approximately fifty thousand kilometers away. How do you plan to make such a long trip alone without anyone to accompany you?
  • A few days ago – Tripitaka responded – I found a disciple, but he had a very strong character and did not like anyone to interfere in his life. He precisely left me alone because I scolded him a little. It seems that he did not have much interest in learning.
  • A real shame – the woman exclaimed -. I bring with me a silk robe and a gold-inlaid crown, which belonged to my son. He was a monk only three days, after which he died of a sudden illness. Precisely now I come from the monastery in which he sought the path of perfection. The mourning has ended and his teacher has given me these things to help me keep the memory of him forever. As if I wouldn’t keep him eternally alive in my heart! In reality, they are of no use to me. Since you have a disciple, I give them to you for him.
  • I thank you very much – Tripitaka replied -, but I do not dare to accept it. As I just told you, he abandoned me a little before he found me with you.
  • Where did he go? – the old woman insisted.
  • I don’t know – Tripitaka answered -. The only thing I can tell you is that I heard a kind of whistling noise moving towards the east.
  • What a coincidence! – exclaimed the old woman -. My house is also at that address. Most likely she went there. I also know a spell to control the mind that you can learn without any difficulty. Memorize it and never show it to anyone. Now I’m going to see if I can catch up with him and convince him to come back to you. As soon as he returns, give him the tunic and the crown. If he persists in not obeying you, recite the spell in a low voice and I assure you that he will not dare to leave you alone anymore or give in to the temptation of violence.

In gratitude, Tripitaka bowed his head. The old woman then transformed into a beam of light that moved at full speed towards the east. In this way, Tripitaka realized that she was the Bodhisattva Kwang-Ing. Without wasting time he grabbed some sand and sprinkled it like incense, leaning toward the east. He then took the crown and the tunic and put them in the bag. He then sat down on the side of the road and repeated the incantation over and over again to

dominate the mind, until he ended up learning it by heart.

Wu-Kung, meanwhile, had traveled to the Eastern Ocean, where he cut a path in the water that led him directly to the Water Crystal Palace. Upon hearing of his arrival, the Dragon King personally came out to welcome him, saying:

  • The news of your release has reached my ears, something for which I am certainly pleased. Forgive me, Great Sage, for not having congratulated you on this yet. I suppose, in any case, that you have been very busy putting your mountain and the cave that you once inhabited in order.
  • «That’s what I would have liked to do,» Wu-Kung admitted. However, I have become a monk.
  • In a monk? – the Dragon King repeated, surprised -. What kind of monk?
  • Everything has been the work of the Bodhisattva of the South Seas, who convinced me to dedicate myself to the practice of good and the search for truth. I undertook, at the same time, to accompany the monk Tang to the Western Lands in search of the Buddha’s writings. As proof of that commitment, I am now known by the name of the Pilgrim.
  • That is, frankly, commendable! – exclaimed the Dragon King -. It is not easy at all to abandon the paths of evil to follow the path of good. However, if what you just told me is true, how come you are heading east now?
  • «That Tang monk is totally ignorant of human nature,» replied the Pilgrim, bursting out laughing. A few bandits came out to meet us with the intention of robbing us and I finished them off in no time. But, instead of thanking me, that bonze began to scold me and blame me for the supposed wrongness of my action. I couldn’t stand it and left him with the word in his mouth. He was precisely the one who was directing me towards my mountain, when I asked myself why didn’t he pay you a visit and have a cup of tea with you.
  • You can not imagine how much I thank you! – The Dragon King exclaimed again and instantly his children and grandchildren appeared with glasses of aromatic tea.

As soon as the Pilgrim had finished his, he turned around and, seeing a painting hanging on the wall that represented the incident of the shoes on Bridge I, asked, interested:

  • What does this drawing mean?
  • The scene that appears in it – answered the Dragon King – occurred some time after you were born. It is possible, therefore, that you do not remember it. Anyway, it’s strange that you haven’t heard about the triple delivery of shoes.
  • The triple delivery of shoes? – repeated the Pilgrim.
  • That’s it – the Dragon King agreed -. The immortal in the painting was called Hwang Shr-Kung and the young man kneeling before him was Chang-Liang 4. Shr-Kung was sitting on bridge I, when he suddenly dropped a shoe and asked Chang-Liang to went to pick it up. The young man did so, being forced to kneel to put it back on. This happened three times in a row, but Chang-Liang did not show the slightest sign of annoyance or impatience, which earned him the affection of Shr-Kung, who taught him in a single night the contents of the celestial book and asked him to support the house of Han. Chang-Liang «later carried out military projects, sitting comfortably in a tent, which made it possible to obtain victories several thousand kilometers away.» 5. When the Han dynasty was firmly established, it renounced his position and retired to the mountains, where he followed the teachings of the Red Pine Seed 6 Taoist, reaching the light of immortality. If you do not accompany the monk Tang now and do not submit to his advice and teachings, rest assured, Great Sage, that all your life you will be a rebellious immortal. Don’t think that at your age you have already achieved everything

the Fruits of Truth, because you still have much to learn.

Wu-Kung listened carefully to these words and then reflected on them in complete silence. That encouraged the Dragon King to add:

  • This is something that is up to you alone to decide, Great Sage, but I think it is foolish to mortgage the future for a few moments of comfort.
  • You don’t need to say anything else – Wu-Kung cut him off decisively – Right now I’m going to return to my master’s side.
  • If that is your wish – the Dragon King concluded – I will not be the one to keep you with me for even a single second. What’s more, if you don’t take this the wrong way, I would ask you not to make him wait any longer and to return to him as soon as possible.

The Pilgrim immediately prepared to leave the ocean and, after saying goodbye to the Dragon King, mounted a cloud and rose into the air. Shortly afterwards he ran into the Bodhisattva of the South Seas, who reproached him sternly:

  • Why didn’t you listen to me and refuse to accompany Monk Tang? What are you doing here now?

Puzzled, the Pilgrim greeted her from the top of the clouds and responded:

  • You can’t imagine how grateful I am for everything you have done for me. As you said, a monk from the Tang court came to my prison and broke the spell and saved my life. In gratitude, I immediately became his disciple, but he later accused me of being too aggressive and I abandoned him. But only temporarily. You can believe me. In fact, now he turns me back to his side.
  • You better hurry up, before you change your mind again – the Bodhisattva mocked and they continued on their way.

It didn’t take long for the Pilgrim to see the monk Tang sitting, very dejected, on the side of the road and, approaching him, he asked:

  • May I know what you are doing here, master?

Why have you given up moving forward?

  • Where have you been? – Tripitaka replied, looking up -. When you disappeared so suddenly, I had no choice but to sit here and wait for you, not daring to move.
  • I only went to the Eastern Ocean to ask for some tea from my old friend the Dragon King – answered the Pilgrim.
  • Those who dedicate themselves to the practice of virtue should not lie – Tripitaka stated –

. You’ve been gone for about half an hour and you want me to believe you’ve been having tea at the Dragon King’s mansion? Come on! Who do you take me for?

  • I have to tell you – answered the Pilgrim, smiling – that I am capable of walking through the clouds and that just one of my jumps can take me to a distance of four or five hundred kilometers. That’s why I came and came back so soon.
  • You left in a rage, because I scolded you a little more than I should have – Tripitaka blamed him -. Alright. You went to ask for some tea. A person with your powers can do practically whatever they want. But have you stopped to think that I had no choice but to sit and starve? Does that seem nice to you?
  • Not at all – the Pilgrim acknowledged -. If what you are hungry, right now I am going to order some food for you.
  • There will be no need to beg for anything – Tripitaka reported – because I still have a little left in my bag of what the mother of the Guardian of the Mountain gave me. What I would appreciate is if you could give me a bowl of water. We can continue our journey as soon as I have eaten.

The Pilgrim untied the bag and found a few cookies made with unsieved flour. He took them and immediately handed them to the teacher. But he also saw the pale sheen of the silk robe and the gold-encrusted crown and asked her,

interested:

  • Have you brought this from the Eastern Lands?
  • “That crown and that tunic have always been mine,” Tripitaka answered without thinking about it. I wore them in my childhood and I can assure you that whoever wears them will be able to recite the scriptures, without ever having learned them, and practice all kinds of ceremonies, without ever having studied them.
  • If so – concluded the Pilgrim, enthusiastically –, allow me to put them on right away.
  • Most likely, they won’t fit you – Tripitaka commented -, but, if you want, you can try them on. I do not care.

Mad with joy, the Pilgrim took off his white serge tunic and immediately put on the silk one, which seemed to have been made especially for him. The same thing happened with the crown. When Tripitaka saw that he was carrying it on his head, he immediately stopped eating and began to quietly recite an incantation.

  • Oh my head! – the Pilgrim then complained – It hurts me a lot! I don’t know if I can handle it!

The monk continued repeating it over and over again and the pain became so intense that the Pilgrim threw himself on the ground, trying in vain to tear off the crown with his hands. Fearing that he was going to break it, Tripitaka stopped reciting the incantation and the pain stopped instantly. The Pilgrim put his hand to his head and saw that the thin layer of metal had embedded itself in it as if he had taken root. He tried to tear it off, but all his efforts were in vain. He then took the needle out of the ear, stuck it between the metal and the flesh and started prying like crazy. Fearing, once again, that he was going to break her, Tripitaka returned to his recitation and the Pilgrim began to be afflicted again with terrible headaches. They were so unbearable that he began to do somersaults and somersaults, his face and ears turned completely red, his eyes became bulging and a strange weakness took over his entire body. Seeing this, the monk was moved and stopped reciting the spell. The pain disappeared instantly and the Pilgrim commented, relieved:

  • You have bewitched me, master. There is not the slightest doubt.
  • Haunted? – Tripitaka repeated -. I was just repeating a sutra.
  • Recite it again, and see what happens – the Pilgrim suggested.

Tripitaka returned to his song and instantly the pain resumed.

    • Stop, please! Stop! – pleaded the Pilgrim -. Didn’t I tell you? As soon as you open your mouth, my head feels like it’s going to explode.
  • Do you promise to always obey me? – Tripitaka asked.
  • Yes Yes! – answered the Pilgrim -. I promise!
  • And that you will never do anything contrary to our rules? – Tripitaka insisted.
  • I promise, I promise! – The Pilgrim said again, but he was not willing to give in so easily.

He shook the needle and it instantly became the thickness of a bowl of rice. With it in his hands he turned against the monk Tang, but before he could strike, he recited the incantation two or three more times and he fell to the ground, prey to unbearable pain. It was so intense that he couldn’t even lift his hands. He only had the supplicating strength left in his body to say:

  • I have learned my lesson, teacher! Stop, for what you want most!
  • How can you be so evil? – Tripitaka bellowed -. I never imagined that you would be capable of trying to knock me down with your bar.
  • Who told you that I was thinking of doing such a thing? – replied the Pilgrim -. By the way, would you mind telling me who taught you that spell?
  • An old woman – Tripitaka answered.
  • You don’t need to tell me more – commented the Pilgrim, growling morosely -. That woman was Kwang Shr-Ing, I’m sure. What I don’t understand is why she wants her to suffer in this atrocious way. Right now I’m going to go to the South Seas to ask her to account.
  • Think a little – Tripitaka advised him -. She knows the effects of the spell. Don’t you understand that I can make you die by reciting it a few times in a row?

The Pilgrim had to admit that he was right and did not dare to move from the spot. Repentant, he knelt at Tripitaka’s feet and said:

  • I have no choice but to accompany you to the West. The method that the Bodhisattva has devised to control me is frankly extraordinary. I promise you that I won’t bother her, but please don’t say her spell again. I will follow you willingly and will never abandon you.
  • In that case – Tripitaka concluded, satisfied -, help me get on the horse and let’s continue our trip as soon as possible.

The Pilgrim forever rejected all attempts at rebellion. He rolled up his tunic, hoisted his luggage on his back, and they continued on their way to the Western Lands.

We do not know what happened to them next, so anyone who wants to know should listen carefully to the explanations offered in the next chapter.

CHAPTER XV

ON THE MOUNTAIN OF THE COILING SNAKE MANY GODS PROVIDE THEIR SECRET HELP.

THE HORSE OF WILL IS TAMED IN THE TORRENT OF THE AFFLICTED EAGLE

For several days the Pilgrim and the monk walked under a frozen mid-winter sky. An icy wind blew incessantly, and the needles of the icicles could be seen everywhere. Following a tortuous path drawn between precipices and gorges, they climbed, one after another, the very high peaks of a mountain range. Tripitaka, who was riding a horse, suddenly seemed to hear the distant sound of a torrent. He turned to the Pilgrim and asked:

  • Where is that noise coming from, Wu-Kung?
  • If I remember correctly – answered the Pilgrim –, this place is called the Mountain of the Coiled Serpent. In it is the Torrent of the Afflicted Eagle and I imagine that the murmur we are hearing is from its waters.

He had not finished saying it when they reached the edge of a stream. Tripitaka stopped his horse and began to enjoy the splendid beauty of the torrentera. The waters that flowed through it seemed to emerge from the clouds. His murmur was so intense that during the night he could be heard in the most distant valleys. The sun painted the stream red as it set and made it look like jade at dawn.

The monk and the monkey were looking attentively at the waters, when suddenly a dragon emerged from them, which launched itself like an arrow at Tripitaka; Fortunately, the Pilgrim acted quickly and, throwing his luggage to the ground, pounced on his teacher and dragged him up the slope. The dragon could not reach them, but swallowed the horse, harness included, and calmly returned to the waters. The Pilgrim left the monk in a safe place and returned in search of the horse and luggage. The packages lay scattered on the ground, but there was no sign of the animal.

  • There is no trace of that damned dragon – he said, when he returned to his master’s side -.

The bad thing is that he scared the horse away and I don’t see him anywhere.

  • To the horse you say? – Tripitaka exclaimed, alarmed -. We have to find him right away.
  • Calm down, please – replied the Pilgrim -. He can’t walk very far. I’m going to see if I can find it – and he rose into the air with a formidable leap.

Screening with his hand, he scanned the entire landscape with his fiery eyes, but he did not find the slightest trace of the animal. He descended from the clouds and informed the teacher about him, saying:

  • I haven’t been able to see our horse anywhere, from which I deduce that he must have been devoured by that dragon.
  • Do those beasts have that big mouth? – asked Tripitaka, incredulously. There’s no way he could have swallowed it with harnesses and all. No no! Most likely, he got scared and is now running like crazy through the valley. Why don’t you take another look?
  • You have no idea of ​​my powers – answered the Pilgrim -. My eyes are capable of distinguishing good from evil within a radius of a thousand kilometers. At that distance I can even see a dragonfly spread its wings. As far as I know, a horse is much bigger and I assure you that he is not in any valley.
  • How am I going to continue the journey without a horse? – Tripitaka lamented -. There are thousands of hills and streams between these mountains and the Western Lands. I’ll never be able to get there on foot! – And he started to cry.

Seeing his tears, the Pilgrim became furious and scolded him, saying:

  • Stop crying like you’re a child! Sit here and don’t move! I’m going to see if I can find that beast and ask him to give us the horse back. This way you will stop worrying once and for all and behave like what you really are.
  • Where are you going to go look for it? – Tripitaka exclaimed, clinging nervously to him -. Imagine that he appears anywhere, when you are gone. He would devour me without any mercy and I, apart from the horse, would also lose my life.

Hearing that, the Pilgrim became even more furious.

  • You are a coward! A real coward! – She bellowed with a voice of thunder. You want to travel by horse, but, at the same time, you don’t let me go in search of him. Wouldn’t you rather sit here and grow old taking care of our luggage?

As he shouted the loudest, he heard someone say to him from above:

  • Don’t be so angry, Great Sage, and stop yelling at the Tang Emperor’s brother like that. We are a group of gods sent by Bodhisattva Kwang-Ing to protect you in your endeavor to go in search of the scriptures.
  • Upon hearing this, the monk fell face to the ground, while the Pilgrim asked, without moving from his spot:
  • Would you mind telling me what your names are, so we know what to expect?
  • We – they answered instantly – are the Six Gods of Light and the Six Gods of Darkness, the Guardians of the Five Cardinal Points, the Four Sentinels and the Eighteen Protectors of the Monasteries. We take turns so that you do not suffer any harm.
  • Whose turn is it today? – the Pilgrim asked again.
  • To the Gods of Light and Darkness – they responded -. Then it will be up to the Sentinels and the Protectors. The Guardians of the Five Cardinal Points are always on duty, with the exception of the Guardian of the Golden Head.
  • In that case – concluded the Pilgrim – let the Six Gods of Darkness, the Sentinel of the Day and the Guardians remain protecting my master. The others can

backing out. For my part, I’m going to find that damned dragon and ask him to give us back the horse.

The gods accepted the suggestion and Tripitaka seemed to calm down at last. He sat on a rock and begged the Pilgrim to be careful.

  • Don’t worry – replied the King of the Monkeys and, rolling up his silk tunic and tiger skin, he headed towards the torrente with the iron bar in his hands.

As soon as he reached the shore, he mounted a cloud and began to shout, suspended above the water:

  • Lizard without faith or principles, give me back the horse as soon as possible!

The dragon was lying at the bottom of the stream cultivating his spirit, but when he heard someone demanding the return of the horse in such language, he could not control his self-love and immediately stood up. Like an arrow, he left his shelter of water and asked, sulkily:

  • Who dares to insult me ​​like that?
  • Give me the horse back immediately! – The Pilgrim demanded furiously, and unleashed a terrible blow from his iron bar on the beast’s head. The dragon stepped aside and responded with a no less ferocious blow of its claws and jaws.

Never had centuries seen a bloodier battle than the one that took place on the banks of the torrent. The dragon handled its claws with a mastery that found its just counterpart in the way the monkey used the iron bar. They were both formidable creatures. This was witnessed in one by his enormous mustaches, iron and beautiful like threads of jade, and in the other by his lively eyes, brilliant like lamps or the reflection of gold. The dragon blew out a kind of smoke of a thousand colors from its nostrils, which immediately dispersed the wind that the monkey raised with its rod. Despite everything, they looked alike like two drops of water, because this was a monster who had defied the gods and that was a cursed being who had brought dishonor on his parents. For this reason, both had suffered their punishment and were now determined to obtain victory, giving free rein to their indescribable power.

Attacking and retreating, they measured their weapons again and again, until finally the dragon gave in to fatigue and could no longer fight. Realizing that he had nothing to do, he turned around and launched himself like an arrow into the water, taking refuge at the bottom of the torrent. The Monkey King’s insults were of no use. The dragon was determined not to come out again and pretended to be deaf. The Pilgrim therefore had no choice but to return to Tripitaka’s side, saying:

  • I have done what I could, master. By dint of insults I dragged that monster from his hiding place, but, after fighting with me for a long time, he fled in terror, taking refuge in the torrent. I doubt he will come out again, because he knows that, if he does, he will find certain death.
  • Are you sure he ate the horse? – Tripitaka inquired.
  • Of course! – the Pilgrim stated decisively -. If he hadn’t done it, he wouldn’t have measured his weapons against me.
  • When you killed the tiger – commented Tripitaka, mockingly –, you said that you were capable of taming dragons and beasts. Why are you having such a hard time mastering this one?

The monkey was not used to having his powers doubted and, standing up, he exclaimed, offended:

  • Don’t say another word! Right now I’m going to show you what I’m capable of doing.

In two strides he reached the edge of the torrent and, using his magic to upset the rivers and seas, transformed the limpid waters of the Afflicted Eagle Torrent into the murky current of the Yellow River during high tide. That bothered

so much so that he could neither sit nor lie down in the mud at the bottom.

Disheartened, he sighed:

  • How much truth there is in that saying that «although good fortune is never repeated, misfortunes never come alone»! It has been barely a year since I took refuge here, escaping the execution decreed against me by Heaven, and now I am forced to face a damned monster that only seeks my ruin.

The more he thought about it, the more nervous he became. At last he could not bear it any longer and, gnashing his teeth menacingly, he jumped out of the water and asked, sullenly:

  • What kind of monster are you and where do you come from, that you are determined to simply seek my ruin?
  • That doesn’t matter to you – answered the Pilgrim -. All I want is for you to give me my horse back. If you do, I swear that I will spare your life.
  • That’s impossible! – replied the dragon -. I have swallowed him and he is already in my stomach. How am I going to return it to you? Even if I wanted to, I couldn’t do it.
  • If you don’t give me back the horse – the monkey repeated – you will have to deal with this iron bar. I figure you will be able to find a solution, since it is your life that is at stake.

They measured their weapons again, but after a few rounds the dragon could not withstand the attack. He shook his body and instantly turned into a small water snake, which was lost among the vegetation on the shore. The Monkey King separated the grass with the iron bar, but could not find any trace of the animal. This made him so angry that the Three Worms 1 in his body burst and a kind of smoke began to come out of the seven openings. He then recited an incantation beginning with the letter «om» and instantly the local spirit and the mountain god appeared. After greeting him respectfully, they said:

  • As soon as possible, we responded to your call.
  • «That’s true,» the Pilgrim admitted, «but I’m so furious that I would like to hit your palms five times with my bar.»
  • Since we have not done anything – they begged him – you should be more benign towards us. Also, Great Sage, we have something to tell you.
  • What is it about? – asked the Pilgrim.
  • Nothing really important – they answered -. Only we did not know that you had been released and that is precisely why we did not come sooner to welcome you. We beg you, therefore, to forgive such discourtesy.
  • It’s okay, it’s okay. This time I will not punish you – concluded the Pilgrim -. But I would like to ask you something. Do you know where the dragon of the Afflicted Eagle Torrent came from and why it swallowed my master’s horse?
  • What do you mean by your master’s horse? – asked the two gods, surprised -. You have always been an immortal of enviable position and you have never submitted to anyone from heaven or earth. How come you bring out a teacher now?
  • From what we see, you are not aware of what happened – answered the Pilgrim -. During these last five hundred years I have had to suffer the punishment of heaven for my proud and haughty way of being. Fortunately, Bodhisattva Kwang-Ing brought me back to the right path and she promised to free me through a monk from the Tang court, whom I had to accompany, as a disciple, to the Western Paradise to obtain the authentic writings of Buddha. Precisely, when passing through here, my teacher was left without a horse.
  • «That explains everything,» the two gods exclaimed together. In any case, it is strange that

your master has lost his horse here, because this torrent is not bewitched. The only thing wrong with it is that it is very wide and deep, and has such clear waters that you can see its bottom without any difficulty. So much so that eagles and other birds of considerable size do not dare to fly over it, since when they see themselves reflected in the water, they think they are other animals of the same species and launch themselves against the torrent. That’s precisely where the name comes from, since we assume that you are aware that this is the Torrentera del Águila Afflicida. A few years ago, however, Bodhisattva Kwang-Ing passed by here in search of a Pilgrim and, after saving a dragon from death, ordered him to await his arrival, at the same time forbidding him to harm anyone. He was only allowed to go to the shore and hunt the occasional bird or antelope when he was hungry. The rest of the time he had to spend meditating and doing penance. We are surprised that he has been rude to you, Great Sage.

  • At first – commented the Pilgrim – he measured his weapons against me, but he could only resist a couple of rounds or three. Then, realizing that he was clearly at a disadvantage, he hid in the torrent and did not dare to come out. To get him out of the bottom, I had to use magic to upset the rivers and seas, but after a little fight, from which, of course, I emerged victorious again, he turned into a water snake and got lost among Grass. I immediately tried to get my hands on him, but I couldn’t find any trace of him.
  • You should know, Great Sage – the local spirit informed him – that along these banks there are countless holes and small drains, through which the torrent communicates with many of its tributaries. Most likely, the dragon got into one of them. If you want to capture it, the best thing you can do, instead of getting angry uselessly, is to ask Kwang Shr – Ing to come and I assure you that the beast will surrender without having to fight anymore.

Hearing this, the Pilgrim led them to Tripitaka and told the monk what they had told him.

  • But, if you go in search of the Bodhisattva – replied Tripitaka, trembling with anxiety -, I will most likely die of hunger or cold. Because I imagine it will take you a while to get back, right?

He had not finished saying it, when the Guardian with the Golden Head raised his voice and said from above:

  • There is no need for you to leave, Great Sage. I’ll go look for the Bodhisattva.
  • Thank you for taking that trouble – shouted the Pilgrim, pleased -. Anyway, I’d appreciate it if you’d hurry up a little.

Without wasting any time, the Guardian mounted a cloud and headed straight towards the South Seas. The Pilgrim then asked the mountain god and the local spirit to protect his master while the Day Sentinel searched for some vegetarian food and he watched the bank of the stream.

The Guardian of the Golden Head soon arrived in the South Seas. After coming down from the cloud, he went directly to the red bamboo grotto in Potalaka Mountain and asked Moksa and the sentinels to immediately announce his arrival.

  • May I know why you have come? – the Bodhisattva asked him.
  • The monk Tang lost his horse in the Torrent of the Afflicted Eagle, which, as you well know, is located in the Mountain of the Coiled Serpent, and the Great Sage has been presented with a problem that is very difficult to solve – answered the Guardian -. On the one hand, he should punish the guilty. But the gods of the place have informed him that the dragon that devoured the horse is your messenger and he does not dare to give him what he deserves. He requests, therefore, your collaboration to be able to continue with the trip.
  • That dragon – commented the Bodhisattva – is one of the sons of Ao-Jun, the lord of the

Western Ocean. His own father accused him of treason for having set fire to the palace in which they lived and having destroyed all the pearls in it. A heavenly court sentenced him to death, but I got him pardoned by the Jade Emperor, so that he would help the Tang monk on his long journey westward. I don’t understand how she ate his horse instead. I think it’s best if I go see what’s happened.

The Bodhisattva descended from his lotus dais and left the grotto. She then rode on the same cloud as the Guardian and crossed the South Seas with him. We have a poem left from such an extraordinary feat, which says:

Buddha preached the Supreme Truth, which the Goddess later proclaimed in the fortunate city of Chang-An. Its content was so wonderful that Heaven and Earth began to tremble with joy. What other doctrine could, in fact, save the spirits of the damned? The Golden Cicada fell on the Wheel of Transmigration, but Hsüan-Tsang more than made amends for his past mistakes. As he passed through the Torrent of the Afflicted Eagle, the son of a dragon blocked his path. However, the beast turned into a horse and he found forgiveness for his past sins.

It didn’t take long for the Bodhisattva and the Guardian to reach Coiled Serpent Mountain. From the cloud they saw the Pilgrim shouting insults against the torrent. The Bodhisattva asked the Guardian to go look for him and he obeyed without question. She descended from the cloud and, standing right above him, she announced: – The Bodhisattva has just arrived!

The Pilgrim jumped into the air and faced her, saying:

  • I don’t understand how they call you the Master of the Seven Buddhas and the source of Mercy. If you were, you would not have tried to ruin me by deception.
  • Be careful, you are ignorant and ungrateful! – exclaimed the Bodhisattva -. You are certainly no better than a common stable boy. With no small effort I selected the ideal man to go in search of the scriptures, whom I asked to save your life, and you, instead of thanking me, blame me for it, as if he had not done you any favors.
  • You saved my life. I recognize it – the Pilgrim admitted -. But, if you had really wanted to free me, you would have let me have my fun without needing to torture me like a criminal. Just the other day, when we were over the ocean, you could have advised me to serve Monk Tang with more dedication, and that would have been enough. Why did you have to give him this golden crown and force him to put it on me for the sole purpose of making me suffer? You knew he was going to take root in my head. But that didn’t seem enough to you, no! You taught my master a spell, so that he could torment me whenever he felt like it. If this isn’t looking for ruin for me, tell me what it is.
  • Careful you are! – exclaimed the Bodhisattva, bursting into laughter -. You neither listen to anyone nor are you interested in the fruits of the truth. If I had not devised that way to control you, surely by now you would have rebelled against Heaven again and no one would have been able to control you. Furthermore, pain will be of great help to you to enter the temple of Yoga.
  • Seeing things like this… – replied the Pilgrim -. There is no doubt that everything has its positive aspect. However, why did you have to bring that damned dragon here? Didn’t you know he could swallow my master’s horse? It’s your fault everything that happened. After all, he who collaborates with an evildoer is as worthy of punishment as he is.
  • I myself asked the Jade Emperor to pardon that dragon for the sole purpose of

to help the monk – the Bodhisattva defended herself -. Until now, as far as I know, no mortal horse has been able to ford ten thousand waterways and climb a thousand mountain ranges. How did you plan to get to the Mountain of the Spirit, to the very lands of Buddha, with a vulgar and ordinary nag? It is absolutely impossible! Only a dragon turned into a horse can do it. Do you understand now why I brought him here?

  • “All that is very good,” the Pilgrim admitted. But I have been so panicked that I don’t dare leave the hiding place in which I have taken refuge. Do you want to tell me what we can do to get it out?

The Bodhisattva turned to the Guardian and ordered him;

  • Go to the bank of the torrent and say simply this: “Come out, son of the Dragon Ao-Jun. The Bodhisattva of the South Seas is here and she wants to see you.

The Guardian did so and instantly the waters of the torrent seemed to come to life. In one leap the dragon reached the shore and took the form of a man. He then mounted a cloud and, coming to the Bodhisattva, greeted her, saying:

  • I thank you again for saving my life. However, the character you announced to me has not yet passed by.
  • You are wrong, dragon – the Bodhisattva corrected him -. That one you see there is her disciple, so he can’t be far away.
  • That? – exclaimed the dragon, incredulous -. That’s my enemy. Yesterday I was very hungry and I ate his horse. Upon seeing him, he became so furious that he determined to kill me. I defended myself as best I could, but his strength is extraordinary and he ended up defeating me. What else could he do to save my life than hide me? He didn’t know he was related to you. He never mentioned anything about the scriptures.
  • How could I do it, if you didn’t even ask me what is my name? – the Pilgrim said in his face.
  • That is not true! – the Dragon defended himself -. I did, but you told me that it was none of my business, that all you wanted was the horse back. As far as I remember, you never once uttered the word Tang.
  • This monkey only trusts himself! – exclaimed the Bodhisattva -. When will the time come when he starts to trust others a little? Remember – she added, turning to the Pilgrim – that along the way two or three more people will join you. So, if you want to avoid problems, it is best to bring up the scriptures as soon as they ask your name. OK?

The Pilgrim received the advice with good grace. The Bodhisattva then approached the dragon and tore off the necklace of shining pearls that he was wearing around his neck. She then put the willow twig that she always carried in her hand into her vase of dew, sweet as ambrosia, and sprinkled the body of the beast. He then breathed on her and ordered her:

  • Transform yourself!

The dragon instantly turned into a horse exactly like the one it had swallowed and ordered him sternly:

  • You must do everything you can to overcome all the obstacles you will encounter. Remember that if you spare no sacrifice, you will cease to be an ordinary dragon and your body will turn into gold, like the fruits of Truth.

In agreement, the dragon shook his head and bit his bridle. The Bodhisattva then asked Wu-Kung to take him to Tripitaka and bade him farewell, saying:

  • It seems to me that it is time for me to return to my ocean. But the Pilgrim clung to her and exclaimed, overwhelmed:
  • I can’t move on! I can not do it! The road that leads to the west is full of great dangers and that monk is so slow that I don’t know when we will arrive. Are

On the other hand, there are so many misfortunes that await us that it is most likely that he will lose his life in the attempt. And all for what? No! I don’t want to continue!

Many years ago – answered the Bodhisattva – when you had not yet acquired human form, you were eager to receive enlightenment. I don’t understand how you can show so little interest in the truth now that you have finally escaped divine punishment. You should know that the nirvana that we proclaim in our teachings cannot be obtained without faith and perseverance. If at any given moment during the trip your life is in danger, do not hesitate to go to paradise and I assure you that it will free you. Do not forget that even the Earth will come to your aid and, if this is not enough for you, I myself will run to rescue you. Come closer, I’m going to give you greater powers than you already have.

He tore three leaves from his willow twig and, placing them on the Pilgrim’s neck, shouted:

  • Transform yourselves! – and instantly they became three hairs endowed with the power to protect life.
  • When you find yourself in a desperate situation – she added, compassionately –, make use of them and I assure you that you will instantly be free.

The Pilgrim excitedly thanked such a valuable gift, but before he could utter a single word, a whirlwind of aromatic wind arose that transported the Bodhisattva to Potalaka.

When the Pilgrim had recovered from his surprise, he grabbed the horse by the reins and handed it to Tripitaka, saying:

  • Here is your horse, master.
  • Where have you found it? – asked Tripitaka -. Also, how is it possible that he is fatter and stronger than before?
  • Of course, you are not aware of what is happening around you! – exclaimed the Pilgrim -. Don’t you have eyes? Of course this is another horse! The Guardian of the Golden Head went in search of the Bodhisattva, who turned the dragon into this animal, in every way the same as what you had before except for the harnesses, which have been lost forever.
  • Where is the Bodhisattva? – Tripitaka asked again -. The least I can do is thank you.
  • Don’t worry about that – the Pilgrim advised him -. The most likely thing is that the Bodhisattva has already arrived at the South Seas by now.

Disappointed, Tripitaka took a handful of earth and, leaning towards the south, spread it on the ground as if it were incense. The Pilgrim, meanwhile, bid farewell to the mountain god and the local spirit and gave the Guardians and Sentinels the appropriate orders to continue the journey. He then tried to help the master mount, but Tripitaka protested, saying:

  • How am I going to ride a horse without harnesses? I think the most advisable thing is that we cross the torrent and then decide what we should do.
  • You are the least practical guy I have ever seen, master! – exclaimed the Pilgrim, mockingly -. Do you want to tell me how you are going to find a boat in a place like this? If you want to cross the torrent, the most normal thing is to do so on the back of your horse. He has lived here for a long time and knows these waters inside out. Don’t you think so? Tripitaka had to admit that he was right, and therefore had no choice but to ride the horse bareback. While he did so, the Pilgrim took his luggage and headed towards the bank of the torrent, where they saw an old fisherman paddling downstream on a raft of logs. Wu-Kung shook his hands and shouted:
  • Hey fisherman, come here! We are from the Eastern Lands and we are heading in search of the sacred writings. My master does not dare to cross the torrent, so I

I would appreciate it if you would take us to the other shore on your raft.

The fisherman drove the boat towards the shore and the Pilgrim helped his master get into it, after which he boarded the luggage and the horse. The old fisherman then batted hard and the raft was launched, like an arrow, across the Torrent of the Afflicted Eagle, landing soon on the other bank. Grateful, Tripitaka asked the Pilgrim to take a few coins from one of the packages and give them to the fisherman, but he rejected them, saying, as he put the pole back into the water:

  • I do not want money. Actually, I don’t need it – and she got lost downstream. Despite this, Tripitaka continued with his hands crossed in gratitude. The Pilgrim looked at him, surprised, and said:
  • There is no need to be so ceremonious, master. Or have you not recognized him? He is the god of this torrent and he was nervous that he had not come sooner to welcome us. The rascal was afraid that he was going to beat him up; That’s why he hasn’t accepted the money. It’s unfortunate, but in this world no one does anything selflessly.

Tripitaka didn’t know whether to believe him or not. He remounted the horse bareback and continued on his way, ready to reach the Spirit Mountain as soon as possible. The sun didn’t take long to set and little by little the shadows began to cover the entire landscape. The moon began to make its way through the veil of clouds, revealing a sky full of frost and cold. The howling of the wind was allied with the low temperatures, making bodies tremble. The birds returned to their nests, shivering as if they were dry leaves. In the distance the twilight dyed the mountains red, while the force of the wind tore groans from the branches in the nearby forests. From time to time the cries of a solitary monkey could be heard. Solitude seemed to have taken over, in fact, the entire earth. No traveler ventured to travel on the roads at that time and there were no boats left at sea.

Mounted on the horse, Tripitaka scanned the distance and managed to glimpse the unmistakable silhouette of a hamlet in the distance.

  • Wu-Kung – he said, enthusiastically –, a little further on there is a group of houses. We can go to them and ask for a lodging for tonight.
  • “Those are not ordinary houses,” commented the Pilgrim, looking up.
  • What makes you think such a thing? – Tripitaka asked.
  • If they were – answered the Pilgrim –, they would not have those decorations of flying fish and reclining beasts. I deduce, therefore, that it is a temple or a monastery.

Speaking in this way, it didn’t take them long to reach the main door of that harmonious complex. As Tripitaka dismounted, he saw that on the lintel they had written in large letters: «Li-She Shrine.» They entered it and soon came across an old man who was wearing a rosary hanging around his neck. The monk crossed his hands at chest level and welcomed them, saying:

  • Come in, master, and take a seat.

After returning the greeting, Tripitaka headed to the main hall to pay his respects to the gods. The old man, meanwhile, ordered a young man to serve the tea.

  • Why is this place called the Li-She Shrine? – Tripitaka asked, once his prayers were finished.
  • This region – answered the old man – is part of the Hamil Kingdom, which, as you well know, is ruled by Western barbarians. Behind the sanctuary there is a small town, to which it owes its existence, since its inhabitants are so pious that they sold everything they had to be able to build it. The character Li refers precisely to the earth

in which the town is located, and She is the name of the local god. Peasants sow in spring, plow in summer, gather in autumn and store in winter, but at the beginning of each season all families bring a cow, a sheep, a pig 2 and countless flowers and fruits and offer them to the gods. In this way, they manage to accumulate good luck and obtain abundant crops, along with splendid specimens of domestic animals 3.

Tripitaka nodded his approval and said:

  • The proverb is right when it states: «Three kilometers from your home, customs are totally different.» In the region where we come from, the families are not as pious as here.
  • Where are you from, teacher? – the old man asked.
  • We have been sent by the Great Emperor of the Tang to the Western Paradise in search of the Buddha’s writings – Tripitaka responded -. As we passed by your sanctuary, it became night and we decided to ask for accommodation in a place as sacred as this. As soon as it is day, we will continue our journey.
  • Be welcome to this humble venue! – exclaimed the old man, delighted. He then called the young man and ordered him to prepare something to eat, for which Tripitaka was extremely grateful.

The Pilgrim, practical to a fault, saw a clothesline next to the eaves. He took it without entrusting it to anyone, broke it in half and used one of the ropes to tie the horse.

  • Where did you steal that nag? – the old man asked again, bursting into laughter.
  • Be very careful with what you say, old man – the Pilgrim reprimanded him -. We are monks on our way to the lands of Buddha and we do not usually steal anything.
  • If you haven’t stolen it – the old man insisted – how come it doesn’t have harnesses? Besides, you can’t deny that you just took my clothesline.
  • This disciple of mine is always just as impulsive – Tripitaka tried to excuse him -. «If you wanted to tie the horse,» he added, turning to Wu-Kung, «why didn’t you ask this gentleman for a rope?» What need did you have to take the rope he used to hang his clothes?

After scolding the Pilgrim, he apologized to the old man, saying:

  • I hope you don’t take it the wrong way. Yesterday, upon arriving at Anguished Eagle Creek from the east, he had a fully equipped horse, but a dragon appeared and swallowed him, reins and all. Fortunately my disciple possesses special powers and managed to bring Bodhisattva Kwang-Ing and subdue the beast. It was precisely she who made it take the shape that my horse had had, otherwise it would have been practically impossible for me to continue the journey to the Western Paradise. Since the torrent I speak of is less than a day from your sanctuary, we have not yet had time to find other harnesses.
  • Don’t worry – answered the old man -. Old people like me like to tease people. Anyway, I had no idea that your disciple took everything seriously. When I was young I had some money and enjoyed the pleasure of riding as much as I could. Then misfortune came my way and, between deaths and fires, I was left with nothing. Thank goodness that now I am in charge of this sanctuary and I live off what the townspeople give me when they come to burn incense. By the way, I still have some harnesses, which I hold in high esteem and which I have never wanted to part with, despite the poverty. I wouldn’t sell them for the world. However, once I heard how the Bodhisattva freed you from the snares of that dragon and then turned it into a horse so that you could continue your journey, I believe that

The best I can do is give them to you. I hope you will do me the honor of accepting them.

Tomorrow I’ll get them out for you, because now it’s a little late.

Tripitaka did not know how to thank him. Soon the boy brought dinner and everyone sat down at the table. While they were eating the food, the young man lit torches and prepared the beds. The travelers were so tired that they soon went to bed. The next morning the Pilgrim said to his teacher as soon as he got up:

  • Don’t forget to ask the guard for the harnesses he promised you yesterday. It would be a shame to give them up.

He had not finished saying it, when the old man appeared with a saddle, some reins and everything necessary to ride. With no little care he put it on the ground and said:

  • Master, here is what I promised you. It’s all yours.

Tripitaka gladly accepted the gift and asked the Pilgrim to saddle the animal. Wu-Kung took the trappings and examined them one by one carefully. They were truly magnificent. The chair had been carefully carved and was studded with silver stars. Its upper portion shone in a very peculiar way, since it had been made with gold threads. The blankets were made of the finest wool and the reins were made of three thick cords of purple silk. The leather of the bridles, on the other hand, was in the shape of flowers, from which small gold figures representing dancing beasts hung. The steel of the rings and the brake were of the highest quality and were adorned with tassels of such a special fabric that they never got wet.

Although he said nothing, the Pilgrim felt deeply satisfied with such a splendid gift. He began to saddle the animal and noticed that the harnesses seemed to have been made to measure for him. Tripitaka had meanwhile bowed in gratitude to the old man, who hastened to force him to raise his head, saying:

  • You don’t need to thank me for anything. After all, what is this for a person like you?

The old man, in any case, did not insist that they stay in the monastery. On the contrary, he urged Tripitaka to mount as soon as possible. Not wanting to appear rude, the monk walked to the door and climbed onto the chair. The Pilgrim followed him with the luggage on his back. Unexpectedly the old man took out of his sleeve a riding crop with a leather-covered handle and a strap made of tiger ligaments, and, running towards the path, he offered it to Tripitaka, saying:

  • I had forgotten about the riding crop. I hope you don’t reject it.
  • Thank you for your gift – Tripitaka replied, accepting it -. Thank you so much.

He had not finished saying it when the old man disappeared. Surprised, the monk turned towards the Sanctuary of Li-She and saw only a flat and completely empty land.

  • Holy monk – he heard himself say from heaven –, I regret not having been able to give you a better welcome. I am the local spirit of Potalaka Mountain and I have been sent by the Bodhisattva to give you the harnesses. Be diligent in your efforts and continue your journey towards the West.

Tripitaka was so disconcerted that he immediately dismounted from his horse and, bowing towards the sky, apologized, saying:

  • Forgive me for not having recognized in you the countenance of divinity, but you must not forget that my eyes and my body are mortal. Excuse my blindness and thank the Bodhisattva for me – and she began to repeatedly hit the ground with her forehead.

Shortly after, the Great Sage burst out laughing and, approaching his teacher, helped him up, saying:

  • Can I know what you are doing? That god has already left

a long time. Why keep hitting the ground with your head? He can’t even hear you, so put aside all your reverence.

  • You’re right – Tripitaka admitted, when he had recovered from his surprise -. However, I would like you to explain to me why you have not bowed your head even once, while I was breaking my forehead against the stones.
  • Are you sure you don’t know the reason? – replied the Pilgrim -. That little god deserved a beating for playing with us the way he did. If I have not beaten him, he has been beaten by the Bodhisattva. So you should thank me, instead of complaining about whether I bowed or failed to bow to him. Furthermore, since I was young I have always been a hero and I have never bowed down to anyone. Even when I saw Lao-tzu and the Jade Emperor, I just greeted them and that was the end of the matter.
  • Stop talking nonsense, please! – Tripitaka scolded him -. We have a mission to fulfill and we cannot afford to waste any more time – he remounted the horse and continued the journey towards the West.

For approximately two months they enjoyed a peaceful path, since they only encountered barbarians, tigers, wolves and leopards. Time passed quickly and, without even realizing it, spring arrived. The mountain was covered in a green reminiscent of jade and grass began to sprout. The plum tree had long since lost its blossoms and the willows began to fill with fragile buds of green leaves. While master and disciple admired the wonderful resurgence of spring, the sun finished setting. Tripitaka reined in the horse and, straining his eyes, managed to glimpse the dark silhouette of a few buildings and towers in the distance.

  • Look at those buildings over there, Wu-Kung – he said to the monkey –. What place will that be?
  • It is neither a temple nor a monastery. «I’m sure of that,» answered the Pilgrim, craning his neck as much as he could to see better. We are going to get there to ask for accommodation.

Tripitaka gladly accepted the suggestion and urged the dragon-horse. We don’t know the kind of place they arrived at. Whoever wants to find out will have to listen to the explanations offered in the next chapter.

CHAPTER XVI

THE MONKS OF THE KWANG-ING MONASTERY TRY TO SEIZE THE TREASURE. A MONSTER STEALS THE TUNIC ON THE BLACK WIND MOUNTAIN

After spurring the horse, they soon arrived before the doors of the building, which, contrary to what they had calculated, was a monastery with towers and turrets. The silence was absolute. Above the temple door could be seen an extraordinary panoply of clouds of a thousand colors, which seemed to compete with the reddish mists that rotated incessantly around the Hall of Five Blessings. The entire enclosure was surrounded by bamboo and pine trees, which, with their unalterable greenery, symbolized the firmness of virtue. Inside you could see a grove of cypresses and junipers, which spoke of the beauty of purity with the language of their weak tones. The harmony of nature was in no way different from the bell tower, the serenity of the pagoda, the monks immersed in quiet meditation, or the mellifluous song of the birds. Everything seemed designed for an absolute retreat, which is authentic, in the same way that the inactivity of the Tao is total inactivity. A poem said about that place:

The temple, as in Jetavana, is nestled in a forest dominated by the greenery of jade. The beauty of its surroundings surpasses even that of Sadvarsa. couldn’t wait

less of a sacred place, in which monks continually dedicate themselves to the practice of perfection.

Astonished at such beauty, Tripitaka got off the horse and the Pilgrim left all the packages on the ground. As they were about to go through the door, a monk appeared with a straw hat and a strikingly clean robe. He wore a pair of brass teeth in his ears, his waist was girded with a silk sash, and he carried a wooden fish in his hand. His gestures were serene and calm, like the movement of his straw sandals, which seemed to set the rhythm of the litanies that he muttered without stopping. There was no doubt that he was a humble seeker of wisdom. Tripitaka greeted him by joining his hands and raising them to his forehead. The monk responded in the same way and exclaimed, smiling:

  • Excuse me, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen you. Would you mind telling me where you come from? Come in and have some tea.
  • We come from the Eastern Lands – Tripitaka answered – and we are heading towards the Temple of Thunder in search of the Buddha’s writings. It is getting late and we thought that perhaps you could allow us to spend the night in your temple.
  • Count on it – replied the monk -. Come in and take a seat.

Tripitaka then turned to the Pilgrim and asked him to bring in the horse. The monk had not noticed his face until that moment and exclaimed, frightened:

  • What is it that holds the reins of your horse?
  • Speak more quietly – Tripitaka suggested -. He has a very irascible character and, if he hears you treating him like a thing, he will most likely go into a rage. Wherever you see him, he is my disciple.
  • How could you take such a horrible disciple? – the monk asked again, nervously biting his nails.
  • She is certainly no beauty – Tripitaka admitted – but she is one of the most practical people I have ever seen in my life.

Although trembling, the monk had no choice but to accompany Tripitaka and the Pilgrim into the monastery. On the lintel of the main building could be read in large letters: «Kwang-Ing Zen Hall.» This greatly pleased Tripitaka, who said:

  • During the trip I have received multiple benefits from the Bodhisattva, but I have not had the opportunity to thank her as I should. It is fortunate, therefore, that I have ended up in a place like this. It is as if I had, in fact, met the Bodhisattva in person.

Hearing this, the monk ordered one of the Taoist servants to open the doors of the sacred precinct, so that Tripitaka could pray as much as he wanted. The Pilgrim tied the horse, left the luggage on the ground and accompanied his teacher into the temple. When they were before the golden image, Tripitaka fell on his face and began to beat the ground with his forehead, while the monk beat the drum and the Pilgrim rang the bell. Tripitaka prayed fervently for a long time. As soon as he had finished, the monk stopped playing the drum, but the Pilgrim continued ringing the bell, not caring that his teacher had finished the prayers. Sometimes he did it at a strikingly slow pace, only to immediately move on to another surprisingly fast pace. Without leaving him astonished, the monk asked him:

  • Why do you continue ringing the bell, when the service has ended a long time ago?
  • Do you really not know? – answered the Pilgrim -. I am obeying the proverb that says: «If you are a monk for a day, ring the bell for a whole day.»

By then all the monks in the monastery, regardless of age or rank, were

already nervous about those uncontrolled ringing and, leaving their rooms in unison, they asked, bad-tempered:

  • Can we know who the crazy person is who is punishing the bell in this way?
  • Your grandfather Sun! – answered the Pilgrim, leaving the temple -. Who else could it be?

Seeing him, all the monks felt such panic that they fell on their faces and murmured respectfully:

  • Oh, venerable god of thunder!
  • The one you are talking about is my grandson – the Pilgrim mocked -. Come on come on. Rise up and do not be afraid. We are just two monks from the Great Tang Nation. The monks did not dare to believe him, but as soon as they saw Tripitaka, they were convinced that this was true. The guardian of the monastery then stood out from all the others and said:

Kindly accompany us to the back, so we can treat you to tea.

After untying the horse and taking the luggage, they headed to the rear pavilion of the monastery, where they took their seats following a strict order of dignity. As soon as they had finished tea, the guardian of the monastery ordered that a few vegetarian dishes be served to them, although it was still very early for dinner time. Tripitaka thanked him for so much attention. He had barely finished doing so when a monk appeared, so old that he could only walk supported by younger ones. He was wearing a Vairocana hat, crowned by a splendid topaz tunic covered in embroidery made with gold threads and kingfisher feathers. He walked leaning on a cane covered in precious stones, which in no way disdained the delicacy of his shoes, on which the Eight Treasures were represented. His face was completely covered in wrinkles, some so deep that they made him look like the Old Witch of Li Mountain. His eyes possessed such a vividness that they were reminiscent of those of the Dragon King of the Eastern Ocean, although it was clear that he could barely see anymore. His age, as witnessed by the hunch of his back and his complete lack of teeth, was extremely advanced. Seeing him appear, all the monks exclaimed with respect:

  • The patriarch has just arrived.
  • Venerable Master – Tripitaka greeted him, bowing before him.

The old man returned the gesture as best he could and sat down. Then he said, turning to his guests:

  • As soon as I heard that two monks had just arrived from the Tang court, I hurried to welcome them.
  • If we had known that we were going to cause you so much inconvenience – Tripitaka replied -, we would not have dared to set foot in your respectable temple. Please excuse us.
  • Please! – exclaimed the old monk -. May I ask you how far it is from the Land of the East, from which, as I understand it, you come, and this humble sanctuary?
  • After leaving the city of Chang-An – Tripitaka responded again -, I traveled approximately two thousand kilometers, thus reaching the Mountain of the Two Borders, where I found the disciple who now accompanies me. We then continued our journey through the Hamil kingdom of the western barbarians, covering another two thousand five hundred or two thousand six hundred kilometers in two months of travel before reaching your noble region.
  • That means – concluded the old monk – that you have covered a distance of,

more or less, five thousand kilometers. It can be said that I have never done anything of such merit in my entire life, since I have never managed to pass through the door of this monastery. I have limited myself, as the proverb states, to «sitting inside a well and looking at the sky from there.» No wonder I have now become a piece of dry firewood.

  • How old are you, if you allow me to be curious? – Tripitaka asked.
  • Thus, as if by no means wanting it – the old man answered -, I have turned no more and no less than two hundred and seventy years.
  • How few! – exclaimed the Pilgrim -. At that age you could be a ten-thousandth generation descendant of mine.
  • Be careful what you say – Tripitaka admonished him -. It is not okay to offend someone who treats us with respect with insolence.
  • And you – asked the old monk, addressing the Pilgrim -, how old are you?
  • I don’t dare tell you – answered the Pilgrim.

The old man thought it was a boast and paid no more attention to it. Instead of continuing to ask, he preferred to drink some tea and ordered a glass to be served. Instantly a young bonze appeared with a jade tray as white as milk, on which rested three enameled goblets rimmed with gold. Almost immediately another young man appeared with a copper teapot and filled them with an extremely aromatic tea, of a stronger color than camellia buds and more fragrant than cassia flowers. Tripitaka, seeing such luxury, was full of praise, saying:

  • Wonderful! I have never seen a finer thing or a more aromatic brew!
  • None of this deserves your praise – replied the old monk -. As you yourself have said, you come from the court of a great nation and I am sure that you have seen countless truly extraordinary treasures. Our humble possessions cannot be worthy of your respectable praise. By the way, have you brought anything valuable with you that you can show us?
  • What a pity! – Tripitaka exclaimed, shaking his head -. In the Eastern Lands I possess absolutely nothing of value. On the other hand, if he had had it, he couldn’t have brought it on such a trip either.
  • How not? – the Pilgrim immediately replied -. The other day I saw in your bag a splendid tunic, which has nothing to envy the best of treasures. Why don’t you show it to our host?

Upon hearing this, the other monks burst out laughing and the Pilgrim confronted them, saying, in a bad mood:

  • Can I know what you’re laughing at?
  • You cannot deny – answered the guardian – that it is funny to compare a tunic with a treasure. Furthermore, people like us have twenty or thirty clothes like the ones you just mentioned. Our patriarch, without going any further, owns around seven hundred, which is not unusual considering that he has been a monk for more than two hundred and fifty years – he then turned to the old man and suggested -: Would you mind taking them out for our friends to see? illustrious guests?

Pleased, the old man asked his Taoist brothers to open the warehouses and take out the chests. This is what they did, choosing twelve and taking them directly to one of the patios. The monks opened the padlocks and began to take out clothes. There were so many that, to hang them, ropes had to be stretched around the entire enclosure. They wanted Tripitaka to see them well and no effort was spared. The embroidery was truly magnificent. The Pilgrim examined them carefully one by one. He verified, in this way, that the silk was of the highest quality and that the embroidery did not

He had spared gold, but, despite this, he burst out laughing and exclaimed, contemptuously:

  • Very good very good! They have all been seen! You can save them, if you want. Now it’s our turn to show you what we do.
  • Please – Tripitaka begged him in a low voice, taking him aside -. It is not right to compete with the wealth of others. You and I, on the other hand, are nothing more than two travelers who are a long way from home. It is possible, therefore, that what you are suggesting is something that we will later have to regret.
  • What are we going to have to regret? – the Pilgrim protested -. Look at your tunic. There is no other like it under the stars.
  • Consider it from another point of view – Tripitaka insisted -. The ancients said, and very rightly so, that «valuable things should never be shown to a greedy person, because as soon as he sees them, he will be tempted to get hold of them and, once tempted, will wonder how to get them.» own them.» In cases like this it is advisable to be cautious, otherwise, it is most likely that one will lose one’s life, and that is something that no one should ever be exposed to.
  • You are worrying for no reason – the Pilgrim tried to reassure him -. I bear all the responsibility – and thus closed the discussion.

He lunged for the luggage and untied it with incredible ease. Instantly a glow was seen reminiscent of the first rays of the rising sun. He then unwrapped the tunic and shook it gently to remove the wrinkles caused by the folds. A reddish light then fell on the patio, while the entire monastery seemed to be immersed in a celestial atmosphere. The monks felt such admiration that their lips were unable to express what their hearts were experiencing. The robe was magnificent, indeed. The pearls that adorned it, unique in their kind, could only have come from Buddha’s own treasure. The silk from which it was made was of the highest quality, as was the gold with which all its embroidery had been made. The most astonishing thing, however, was the extraordinary powers with which she was endowed. Whoever wore it was capable of killing ghosts and throwing demons into hell, as if they were stones in a pond. It was not in vain that it had been made by gods as a gift to virtuous and just people.

When the old monk saw such perfection, he instantly wanted to make it his own and, kneeling before Tripitaka, said with feigned dejection:

  • What bad luck is mine, teacher!
  • Why do you say that? – Tripitaka asked, helping him up.
  • Because my eyes are already very weak and can barely see – answered the old monk on the verge of tears -. You’re not going to tell me that’s not bad luck. If it were day or there was a little more light…
  • «That’s easy to fix,» Tripitaka replied. Let them bring a few hatchets and this way you will be able to better appreciate the details.
  • I fear that that will not be an acceptable solution either – commented the elderly monk -. Your tunic is so full of precious stones that the light from the torches will reflect on them and I will not be able to bear such luminosity. Whatever I do, I will never be able to enjoy its beauty.
  • Is there no way for you to appreciate the perfection of its workmanship? – Tripitaka asked again, moved.
  • Yes, but I don’t dare suggest it to you – answered the old monk, immediately adding -: If you would allow me to take it to my chambers, I could spend the night studying it carefully. I would return it to you tomorrow, before you continued your journey towards the West. What do you think?

Not knowing what to do, Tripitaka turned to the Pilgrim and scolded him in a low voice,

saying:

  • This is all your fault!
  • What are you afraid of? – replied the Pilgrim -. Let me wrap it and lend it to the old man. I’ll take care of calling him to order if something goes wrong. Do not worry. Tripitaka could do little except hand her over to the old man.
  • It’s okay – he concluded well despite himself -. I lend it to you. But you must return it to me tomorrow morning just as I now entrust it to you. For whatever you want most, make sure that it does not suffer the slightest damage.

The old monk smiled, pleased, and ordered one of the bonzes to take her to his chambers. He then asked several monks to sweep the large hall of the monastery and left it in charge that the next day, very early, breakfast would be ready for the guests, so that they could continue their journey whenever they felt like it. Without further ado, they all retired to rest.

The old man returned to the back of the monastery, placed the robe under some torches and, sitting in front of it, began to cry out loud. The guard, thinking that something was wrong with him, did not dare to lie down on the bed. One of the young bonzes, on his side, ran excitedly to inform the other monks.

  • Our venerable patriarch – he said – has not stopped crying since we went to bed. You see. They have just given the second vigil and he is still immersed in tears.

Two of the old man’s favorite disciples approached him and asked him with great respect:

  • Can we know why you haven’t stopped crying all night?
  • Because I can’t look at Monk Tang’s treasure – he answered -. Only for that.
  • Our respectable patriarch is beginning to ramble – one of them said, sadly. He then turned to his teacher and added, «You don’t need to cry like that.» Do you not have the tunic before you? All you have to do, then, is take it out of its packaging and look at it as much as you want.
  • Yes, but I won’t be able to do it as long as I want – replied the old man -. I don’t need to remind you that I am already two hundred and seventy years old. What good has it done for me to collect all the robes I own, if none surpasses that of the Tang monk in beauty? Will I have to become him to take possession of such a wonder?
  • You don’t know what you’re saying – the disciples scolded him -. Tripitaka is a mendicant monk, who spends his life going from one place to another. You should be content with your luck and enjoy as much as you can of the peace of your later years. Why throw yourself into the discomforts of the road without further ado?
  • I cannot deny that it would be impossible for me to find the relaxed life I lead here elsewhere – the old man admitted -. But I long so much to possess that robe that, if I do not achieve it, it will seem to me that my time in this World of Light will have had no meaning.
  • Crap! – exclaimed one of the disciples -. If what you want is to wear that garment, we will ask our guests to stay one more day and you will be able to see your wish satisfied. In any case, if that’s not enough for you, we will make them stay by our side for a couple of weeks and you will show off that wonder for as long as you want. I don’t think we can find a more acceptable solution. Now, for whatever you want most, stop crying once and for all.
  • If we force them to stay here for a year – replied the old man, sadly –, I will only be able to enjoy that beauty for twelve months, a ridiculous amount of time indeed. Besides, as soon as they want to leave, I will have to return it to them without question and all our efforts will have been useless. What could we do to extend the loan period indefinitely?
  • There is nothing easier than that – declared a monk called Perfect Wisdom. Do you want to explain to us that plan you just came up with? – the other monks asked him, hopefully.
  • The Tang monk and his disciple – Perfect Wisdom responded, conspiratorially lowering his tone of voice – have expended quite a bit of energy throughout their journey. In fact, they are now sleeping soundly in the great hall. It will not be difficult for us, therefore, to put an end to them. For greater security, we can entrust the work to the strongest among us. We will all then seal a pact of silence, so that no one outside our group will ever know that they are buried in the back yard. For greater safety we will also get rid of the horse and luggage. As for the tunic, we will keep it as if it were a relic. Don’t you think this plan solves the problem definitively?
  • It is perfect! – exclaimed the old monk, hopefully wiping away his tears -. The work of a true genius! – And immediately he asked them to go get the spears and knives.
  • Despite what you say, it doesn’t seem like such a good plan to me – said another monk, called Great Designs, who was a fellow student of Perfect Wisdom -. If you want to get rid of them, you need to analyze the situation more carefully. I think it won’t be difficult at all to take down the one with the lighter skin, but I have my reservations regarding his disciple. If, for one reason or another, we do not manage to kill him with a single blow, it is most likely that we will be the ones who end up in the grave. I have devised a plan in which the use of swords and spears will not be necessary.
  • Do you want to explain to us what it is about? – the old monk asked him.
  • Of course yes – answered Great Designs -. We will summon all the monks and tell them that it is advisable, for the good of the entire community, to purify the east wing of the monastery. Consequently, each person will have to provide a bundle of firewood, which will be used to light the Zen room on fire. All its doors and windows will have previously been sealed and, in this way, even the horse will burn. Whoever is not aware of our purpose will think that it was an accident and we will continue with completely clean hands – What difference does it make if one of our brothers falls? The important thing is to get the tunic. Don’t you think so?
  • This plan is much better than the other one! – exclaimed, in chorus, the other monks -. It’s practically impossible to beat it! – and immediately set off in search of firewood. How irresponsible of those men! His perfidious plan caused the death of a venerable monk and the total destruction of the Kwang-Ing Zen Temple. The monastery had a total of seventy monasteries, in which about two hundred monks lived. Many of them rushed to get firewood, which they piled up around the Zen room, until there was no room for a single more bundle.

Oblivious to the monks’ irrational plan, Tripitaka and his disciple rested peacefully inside. The Pilgrim, however, was a monkey completely devoted to spiritual practices and, although he seemed to be sound asleep, he was, in reality, performing breathing exercises. He immediately noticed the tireless movement of the monks and the noise they made when splitting the wood.

  • How odd! – She said to herself, immediately abandoning her meditation. It’s their time to rest and yet there is an incredible flow of people out there. Could they be thieves planning something against our people?

He jumped out of bed and went to the window. But she realized that she could wake the master from him and, with a shake, she turned into a bee. She was so identical to the real ones that she had a mouth full of sweetness, a sting loaded with poison, a minimal waist and a strikingly light body. She was able to move between

flowers and willows at the speed of an arrow, searching for the precious treasure of pollen. Despite his weak body, she could carry a large amount of flower essence. No wonder her wings knew the secret of navigation on the wind.

Wu-Kung rose to the ceiling and pushed his way through the rafters to see what was happening. To his astonishment, he discovered that the monks were piling hay and firewood around the hall in which they were resting, in order to set it on fire.

  • So what my teacher feared has come true! – She said to herself again with bitterness. They want to finish us off to get the tunic. There is no doubt about it. He should pull out the bar and finish them all off in no time. But if I do, my teacher will be furious with me and he will accuse me of having given in to the temptation of violence. No no. It’s better that this time he acts a little more cunningly. The important thing, in any case, is that they backfire and have to go somewhere else.

In one leap we reached the South Gate of Heaven. The guardians Pang, Liu, Kou and Pi were so disconcerted by such an unexpected appearance that they fell on their faces and the illustrious Ma Chao, Wen and Kwan bowed their heads respectfully.

  • Heaven protect us! – they thought, frightened, to themselves -. Here again is the guy who sowed confusion in the kingdom above!
  • It is not necessary for you to be so ceremonious with me – said the Pilgrim -. I have only come to see Virupaksa, the Wide-Eyed Devaraja. So don’t be afraid.

He had not finished saying it when Devaraja himself appeared and exclaimed, after greeting the Pilgrim:

  • How long had it been since we saw each other! By the way, not long ago I heard that Bodhisattva Kwang-Ing had requested to the Jade Emperor that the Four Sentinels, the Six Gods of Light and Darkness, and the Twelve Guardians could be in charge of the protection of the monk Tang, while He went to the Western Paradise in search of the scriptures. Furthermore, she herself told me that she had taken you as her disciple. How are you feeling here today? Has your teacher given you vacation?
  • None of that – answered the Pilgrim -. The monk Tang has encountered some evil people, who are about to burn him alive. I’ve just come to ask you to borrow your fire blanket. So if you don’t mind, give it to me as soon as possible. I promise to return it to you when everything is finished.
  • You are wrong – commented the Devaraja -. If those evil ones want to burn your master, you should go in search of water, instead of coming here. Why do you want a fire blanket?
  • You haven’t caught my idea – answered the Pilgrim -. With water I could certainly solve everything, but that would benefit our enemies. If I want the blanket it is so that only the Tang monk is unharmed. I don’t care about the others at all. For me, let them all burn. Come on hurry up. If I delay a little longer, it will be too late.
  • Surely you are not planning anything good – replied the Devaraja, bursting out laughing -. It’s the first time, in fact, that I see you worry about others.
  • Stop the nonsense and hurry up – the Pilgrim urged him -. Otherwise, you will ruin my entire plan.

The Devaraja did not dare to deny him and handed him the blanket. The Pilgrim descended with her at full speed, entered the Zen hall and covered the monk, the horse and the luggage. Then he flew to the roof of the old monk’s chamber to protect the robe. When he saw that the other bonzes were setting fire to the bundles of wood, he made a magical sign,

crossing his fingers, and recited the appropriate incantation. He then turned towards the southwest and, filling his chest with air as much as he could, blew with all his might. Immediately a very strong wind arose that turned the bonfire into an uncontrollable fire. The flames rose majestically, while the smoke, black and dense, erased the stars from the mantle of night. The fire acquired such proportions that it was visible for several hundred kilometers. At first the tongues of fire looked like tiny golden shingles, but soon they transformed into horses filled with blood. The Three Forces and the God of Fire displayed all their irresistible power. Not even Sui-Ren 1 himself could ever suspect that his extraordinary discovery could one day reach such proportions. The flames were so intense that they seemed to come from Lao-tzu’s oven. No one could stop the wrath of the fire, increased by the perverse designs of those who originated it. The wind expanded it in all directions, reaching a height of eight thousand feet. The ashes rose to the Ninth Heaven, as if they were firecrackers from the New Year celebrations. The cracks of how much the fire was devouring recalled the roar of cannons on the battlefield. Even the image of Buddha fell prey to the flames; The Temple Guardians were, likewise, unable to find a place to hide. Such a destructive and voracious fire was reminiscent of that which occurred during the Red Cliff Campaign 2, and far surpassed that which destroyed the magnificent palace of O-Pang 3.

It is rightly said that «a small spark is capable of destroying ten thousand hectares of land.» In the blink of an eye, the strong wind fanned the flames so much that the Kwang-Ing Temple looked like a red gem. Terrified, the monks began to take out cabinets, trunks, tables and kitchen utensils. Screams of anguish immediately filled the entire courtyard. The Pilgrim observed the totally useless efforts of the bonzes to save what they could. With the exception of the Zen room, the rest had become a gigantic bonfire, which illuminated the sky and dyed the entire environment in a horrifying golden hue. No wonder it attracted the attention of a mountain monster.

Approximately seven kilometers south of the Kwanq-Ing Temple rose Black Wind Mountain, where the cavern of the same name was located. As the monster that inhabited her turned around in her bed, she saw a strange glow coming through the windows. At first he thought it was dawn, but after getting up, he realized that such disconcerting light came from a fire in the north.

  • My God! – He said to himself, alarmed. A fire must have broken out in the Kwang-Ing Temple. How little care those monks have! I think it’s best that I go see if I can give them a hand.

He mounted his cloud and immediately went to the place from which the smoke seemed to come. Horrified, he discovered that the fire was about to destroy the monastery. Immediately he prepared to go in search of water, but to his astonishment he found that the pavilion at the back remained completely intact. Also, on top of the roof there was someone fanning the flames. He approached to look more closely and saw that on a table in the old monk’s chambers was a robe that was emitting a multicolored light, despite being wrapped in a blue blanket. He carefully unwrapped it and discovered that it was a silk garment profusely decorated with embroidery. He had no doubt that he had before him a very valuable Buddhist treasure. Understanding the reality of what happened – how easily wealth corrupts the mind of man! -, he did not make the slightest attempt to put out the fire or go in search of water. He grabbed the tunic and, taking advantage of the prevailing confusion, climbed back onto the cloud and

He returned, unseen, to the mountain cavern.

The fire lasted until the fifth watch. Without stopping crying or howling like wolves, they began to dig through the ashes, desperately trying to save something valuable from the ruins. Some tried to erect a temporary shelter between the walls that were still standing, while others improvised open stoves to cook rice. Rare was the one who did not burst into tears over what had happened.

The Pilgrim, meanwhile, took the blanket against the fire and jumped before the South Gate of Heaven. Without any ceremony he returned it to the Wide-Eyed Devaraja, simply saying:

  • Thank you for lending it to me.
  • I see that you are more honest than I initially thought – answered the Devaraja -. I have to admit that I was worried about the possibility that you would not return such a precious treasure to me. I’m glad you kept your word.
  • I am not in the habit of stealing – the Pilgrim defended himself -. Furthermore, as the proverb says, «he who returns what he borrows has the possibility of asking for it again.»
  • It has been a long time since I have seen you and I would like to invite you to spend some time in my palace – said the Devaraja -. What do you think of the idea?
  • No, no – answered the Pilgrim -. If he did, he would go back to his old ways, wasting time on talks that lead to nothing. I also have the obligation to protect Monk Tang and I have no free time. It will be for the next time.

After bidding farewell to Devaraja, he mounted the cloud and began his return journey. He arrived at the Zen room when the sun was already pointing over the horizon. He shook his body and transformed back into a bee. That allowed him to sneak into the building without being noticed. When he found himself inside, he returned to his usual form, checking that his master was still asleep. He came up to him and urged him:

  • Get up. Don’t you see that it’s already day?

Tripitaka opened his eyes and, turning around, said:

– You’re right.

After hastily dressing, he opened the door and stepped out into the open air. The most absolute desolation reigned around them. Only a few isolated walls remained standing; The towers and the rest of the buildings had completely disappeared. Surprised by such a desolate vision, he jumped and exclaimed, terrified:

  • What happened? How come everything has collapsed and only blackened walls remain?
  • Do not think that you are dreaming – the Pilgrim advised him -. If everything is in such a sorry state, it is because a fire broke out last night.

How is it possible that I didn’t even know? – asked Tripitaka -. It is strange, on the other hand, that he has not suffered the slightest damage.

  • That’s because I was in charge of protecting the Zen room – explained the Pilgrim -. I saw that you were sleeping soundly and I did not dare to disturb you.
  • If you had the power to protect this hall – Tripitaka replied – – why didn’t you put out the fire in the other buildings?
  • So that you would discover the truth, which you yourself predicted last night – answered the Pilgrim -. They were infatuated with your tunic and planned to get you out of the way, using a fire. If I hadn’t remained alert, we would both be reduced to ashes by now.
  • Are you sure they were the ones who started the fire? – Tripitaka asked, alarmed.
  • Who else could have done it? – replied the Pilgrim.
  • Could it be that you did it, to get revenge for how badly they treated you last night? – Tripitaka insisted.
  • I am not one of those who commit atrocities like this – the Pilgrim defended himself -. You must accept once and for all that they were the ones who caused this catastrophe. When I saw the malice with which they acted, I gave up helping them put out the fire. What’s more, I fanned it by causing a little wind.
  • My God! – Tripitaka exclaimed, horrified -. The first thing to do, when a fire starts, is to go look for water. How did it occur to you to cause wind?
  • You must have heard what the ancients said – answered the Pilgrim -: «If the man does not harm the tiger, the tiger will not harm him either.» If they hadn’t played with fire, neither would I have played with the wind.
  • Where is the tunic? – Tripitaka exclaimed suddenly -. Has it burned too?
  • Not at all – answered the Pilgrim -. He has not suffered the slightest damage. I myself saw to it that the fire did not reach the old monk’s chambers. As you know, he was there.
  • It had better be that way – Tripitaka replied, giving in to resentment -. If you have suffered any harm, I assure you that I will recite what you know well and I will not stop until you have died.
  • Don’t do it, please! – the Pilgrim pleaded, worried -.

I will return your tunic to you immediately. As soon as I recover it, we will continue our journey.

Tripitaka grabbed the reins of the horse, while the Pilgrim carried the luggage. Together they left the Zen room and headed to the back chambers. Seeing them, the monks, who continued to lament like mourners, thought they were spirits and shouted in terror:

  • Those ghosts have taken revenge on us again!
  • Who said we are spirits? – replied the Pilgrim -. We are still alive and all we want is for our tunic back.
  • From unjust actions, enemies are born, and from a debt a creditor – they declared, turning their faces to the ground -. We have nothing to do with what happened. It was the old monk and Great Designs who planned all this. For whatever you want most, allow us to continue living! What are you going to gain by taking revenge on innocent people?
  • Damn beasts! – exclaimed the Pilgrim -. Where did you get that we want to take revenge? We only demand the return of what is ours. Where is the tunic?
  • “You were supposed to have died in the Zen hall fire,” said two of the most daring monks. How did you manage to escape unscathed? What do we end up with: are you men or spirits?
  • Damn bunch of idiots! – the Pilgrim exclaimed again, bursting out laughing -. Don’t you know where the fire broke out? Go take a look at the Zen room and you will be convinced that we are still alive.

The monks did so and found, astonished, that the fire had not touched even a bit of the large room in which they had spent the night. That convinced them that Tripitaka was a monk from heaven and the Pilgrim was his bodyguard. Immediately they turned towards them and, once again throwing their faces to the ground, said:

We certainly have eyes, but we seem blind. How is it possible that we have not recognized two celestial beings in you? Your robe is in the back, in the old Patriarch’s residence.

Tripitaka’s heart sank when he saw the state in which everything had been left.

But, as he approached the Patriarch’s chambers, he verified, relieved, that they had also been spared by the flames.

  • Venerable old man – the bonzes shouted – the Tang monk must necessarily be a god. The fire hasn’t even touched him, while we have lost everything we had. Give him back his robe, please.

Unfortunately the old monk could not find it. He was in such a dejected state that he barely knew what he was saying. He felt guilty for what happened. Seized with remorse, he doubled forward, gained momentum, and slammed his head against the wall. The blow was so strong that his skull broke and his blood flowed abundantly, falling dead to the ground, as if he were a bag of sand. What a regrettable ending! It was of little use to him to live so long. He insisted on possessing the robe, without realizing that it was a gift from the Buddha himself. What a disservice Great Designs and Perfect Wisdom did him! Whoever thinks that he can easily achieve the eternal is condemned to suffering and failure. Horrified, the monks exclaimed:

  • What can we do now that the Patriarch has committed suicide and we can’t find the robe?
  • Surely you have stolen it and then hidden it – the Pilgrim bellowed -. Get out of here immediately and give me a complete list of all your names. I’m going to check them one by one.

Without wasting time, the monks of highest authority made a list of everyone who lived in the monastery, including the bonzes, the dhutas, the aspirants and the practitioners of Taoism. In total there were two hundred and thirty names that were placed in the hands of the Pilgrim. After forcing the guard to sit in the middle, Wu-Kung called the roll, forcing each one to take off all their clothes, but the tunic did not appear. All the trunks that could have been saved from the fire were even searched; however, no results were obtained. Desperate, Tripitaka poured out all the frustration he felt on the Pilgrim and began to recite the spell. The monkey fell to the ground and, clutching his head with his hands, totally unable to bear the pain, he begged, shouting like a condemned man:

  • Stop, please! Don’t pronounce that formula anymore! I give you my word that I will find the tunic!

Panicked, the monks knelt before Tripitaka and asked him to stop the torment, which he gladly agreed to do. As soon as he was free of the pain, the Pilgrim jumped to his feet and took the bar out of his ear, with the intention of putting an end to all those bonzes once and for all. But Tripitaka stopped him in time, shouting:

  • Do you want a little more of my remedy? I don’t understand how you can be so irresponsible. Have you forgotten that there is nothing that disgusts me more than violence? Let me question them.

«Spare our lives,» the monks begged, trembling. You have to believe us: we have not even seen your tunic. The culprit of all this is that old demon who just died. As soon as he took your treasure last night, he began to cry, without anyone finding a way to console him. All he wanted was to take her away from you forever. That’s why he decided to burn you alive. However, a terrible wind arose and the flames turned against us. At that time the only thing we were worried about was putting out the fire as soon as possible and saving what we could. We have no idea where the tunic can be found.

  • The Pilgrim entered, furious, into the Patriarch’s chambers, grabbed the corpse and stripped it completely naked. But he found no trace of his teacher’s treasure. It was as if he

would have swallowed the earth. The Pilgrim, however, did not give up. After pondering for a few minutes, he asked:

  • Are there any monsters around here that have turned into spirits?
  • To the southeast of here – answered the guardian of the destroyed monastery – rises the Black Wind Mountain, in which the cavern of the same name is located. The Great Black King lives there, with whom one of our deceased companions used to discuss Taoism. It’s the only monster around here.
  • How far is the mountain? – the Pilgrim asked again.
  • Six or seven kilometers – the guard answered -. The summit of it can be seen from right here.
  • Don’t worry about your tunic anymore, teacher – the Pilgrim advised Tripitaka –

. It has most certainly been stolen by the black monster.

  • “That place is at least seven kilometers away,” Tripitaka replied. How can you be so sure it was him?
  • You didn’t see the fire last night – answered the Pilgrim -. It was so huge that it had to be seen from very far away. I estimate that it would be visible from the Third Heaven. Seven kilometers is a very short distance. I have no doubt that he saw the glow and took advantage of the opportunity to secretly come here. When he verified that your tunic was a real treasure, he took advantage of the confusion to get hold of it and flee in a hurry. Let me go look for him.
  • Who will take care of me while you are away? – Tripitaka exclaimed, worried.
  • Don’t worry about that – the Pilgrim reassured him -. You enjoy the protection of all the gods. I will see to it, in any case, that the monks take care of your safety.

After gathering them all, he ordered them:

  • Let some bury that old demon, while the others take care of my master and the horse – the monks obeyed without question and he added, threatening -: Those who take care of my master must be friendly and pleasant at all times. Those who take care of the horse will ensure that it does not lack water or food. The slightest negligence will make you taste my iron rod. So be careful what you do.

He had not finished saying it when he took out the bar, turned it against a brick wall and, with one blow, not only pulverized it, but knocked down six or seven other walls. When the monks saw it, they were terrified. They fell on their faces and, without ceasing to hit the ground with their foreheads, begged him:

  • Don’t be so harsh on us. Rest assured that we will spare no means to treat your master as he deserves. You can leave with complete peace of mind.

In a single leap the Pilgrim ended up at Black Wind Mountain in search of the tunic. There is a poem about all these events, which says:

The Golden Cicada left Chang-An 4 in search of the Truth. Loaded with gifts, he headed west, leaving behind him countless blue-green mountains. On his way he encountered wolves and tigers and the occasional merchant. Only the envy of a stupid monk dared to endanger his life. Fortunately, he enjoyed the protection of the Great Sage, who saved him from the terrible fire that destroyed the Temple of Zen. It was then that a black bear stole the embroidered robe.

We do not know if the Pilgrim found the tunic or not, nor if the result of his search was fruitful or not. It is necessary, therefore, to hear the application offered in the next chapter.

CHAPTER XVII

PILGRIM SUN BREAKS THE PEACE OF THE BLACK WIND MOUNTAIN. KWANG SHR-ING SUBJECTS THE BEAR

Seeing the Pilgrim rise upward, the monks, the dhutas, the novices and the scholars of Taoism were so terrified that, throwing their faces to the ground, they exclaimed:

  • Now we know that you are an incarnate god, capable of riding on the mist and sailing above the clouds! No wonder you did not suffer the slightest damage during the fire. How blind our old patriarch was! He used his intelligence to bring ruin upon our heads.
  • Get up immediately – Tripitaka urged them -. There is no time for regrets. If he can find the robe, everything will be fine. Otherwise, I’m afraid you’ll have to say goodbye to the world of the living. My disciple has a very irascible character and he will finish off all of you in the blink of an eye.

When the monks heard it, they fell into panic and begged Heaven to help them find the robe, so that everyone could stay alive.

The Great Sage Sun, meanwhile, after rising high and moving his body slightly, ended up in the Black Wind Mountain. He looked closely and saw that it was a truly splendid place, especially at that time of year. Countless streams flowed everywhere between cliffs of unfading beauty. The birds numbered in the thousands, but there was not the slightest trace of humans. Even the trees gave off a scent, as if they were flowers. When it rained, the atmosphere was covered with a blanket of bluish humidity, while the pine trees looked like jade screens shaken by the wind. Wherever he looked he saw life sprouting (wild flowers and herbs, trees covered in buds, views 1…) in a landscape in which plateaus and cliffs intermingled. It was impossible to imagine that there were no woodcutters around. The herons drank in pairs from the streams, while the monkeys never tired of playing on the rocks. Everywhere the branches of the trees spread their lush greenery above the luminous mist of the mountain.

The Pilgrim was enjoying the beauty of the landscape, when suddenly he heard voices that seemed to come from a nearby meadow. He quietly hid behind a rock and began to spy carefully. In this way, he discovered three monsters sitting on the ground: the one in the center was a very dark-skinned guy, the one on the left could not deny that he was a Taoist, and the one on the right was, clearly, a man of letters. The three of them were having a very animated conversation, discussing the purification of the objects used in alchemy 2, the refinement of mercury and the obtaining of white snow, favorite topics of heterodox Taoism. The dark-haired guy unexpectedly changed the subject and said:

  • As you know, the day after tomorrow is my birthday. Would you like to accompany me on such an important date?
  • Every year we have celebrated that date together – answered the writer -. How could we miss this one?
  • Yesterday – added the dark-skinned guy, visibly satisfied – I came across a treasure, which I do not hesitate to consider the embroidered robe of Buddha. It is extremely elegant and I plan to wear it on my birthday. I want to give a splendid banquet, to which I will invite all our Taoist friends from the different mountains. I think it wouldn’t be a bad idea to call this event the Buddha’s Robe Festival. What do you think of the idea?
  • Fantastic, downright fantastic! – exclaimed the Taoist -. It will be a splendid occasion for us all to come together.

The Pilgrim did not have to think much to realize that the tunic they were talking about could not be other than his master’s. Unable to control his anger, he left his hiding place and launched himself at the three bewildered friends, shouting, while threateningly brandishing the iron bar:

  • Damn monster! So it was you who stole my master’s treasure? I’ll give you a good Buddha’s Robe Festival! Return it to me as soon as possible, and don’t try to run away, because it won’t do you any good!

Before he had finished speaking, he brought down a tremendous blow on their heads. The dark-haired guy managed to escape, riding the wind; The Taoist did the same, riding on a cloud; Only the man of letters was unable to escape. The blow caught him squarely and he was killed instantly. When the Pilgrim turned him around, he found that he was nothing more than the spirit of a snake with white spots. After dismembering her, he went into the mountain in search of the dark-skinned guy. He climbed towering peaks that led him to an open cavern at the very edge of a precipice. A thick mist protected his mouth, camouflaged by the shady greenery of cypresses and pines. The cavern was located in a place that, in some way, recalled the beauty of Mount Peng-Lai 3.

The Pilgrim went to the door and found it firmly closed. A stone slab had been placed on the lintel that read: “Black Wind Mountain. Black Wind Cavern. Sun Wu-Kung hit the door with his bar, shouting:

  • Open immediately!
  • Who are you to dare call like that in our immortal cavern? – asked a small demon who seemed to be on guard.
  • Damned beast! – the Pilgrim insulted him -. What kind of place is this for you to simply arrogate to it the title of immortal? That’s a word you don’t even deserve to say! Go in right away and tell that dark guy to take out my master’s robe immediately. If you do, I will spare all of your lives.
  • Great king! – the little demon informed his lord -. I’m afraid you won’t be able to celebrate the Buddha Robe Festival. There is a monk out there with his face completely covered in hair and a thunderous voice demanding the immediate delivery of that garment.

The dark-haired guy had just arrived at the cave. He hadn’t even had time to sit down.

  • Where could that be from, he said to himself, to dare to appear before the «Door» with such arrogance?

He asked for his armor and, after adjusting it to his body, he left the cave with a black spear in his hands. The Pilgrim was waiting for him on one side of the door with his iron bar. The monster offered a truly martial appearance with its black helmet of burnished steel, its cuirass of black gold that shone like the sun itself, a black silk tunic with strikingly wide sleeves, and a sash with equally black fringes. In his hand he held a black spear and, if this were not enough, he wore black leather boots. Strangely, he had eyes with golden pupils that recalled the lash of lightning. Such was the being they called the King of the Black Wind.

  • This guy – the Pilgrim said to himself, about to burst into laughter – looks like a miner or someone who works in a furnace. He must be selling coal. Otherwise, I don’t understand how he can be so black.
  • What kind of monk are you to dare to be so insolent? – the monster rebuked him with a powerful voice.
  • Stop talking nonsense! – replied the Pilgrim, launching himself against him with his iron bar -. Less talk and immediately return my master’s robe to me.
  • What monastery are you from and where did you lose the tunic you speak of to come and demand its return? – asked the monster.
  • My robe was in the back chambers of the Kwang-Ing Temple, north of here. Taking advantage of the confusion created by the fire, you got hold of it and now want to organize a Buddha Robe Festival to celebrate your birthday. You can not deny it. Give it back to me and I will spare your life. Otherwise, I will raid Black Wind Mountain and destroy your cavern. I assure you that not a single one of your demons will remain.
  • What a bully you are! – replied the monster, laughing contemptuously -. You were the one who started the fire, fanning the wind from the top of the roof. I admit I took the tunic. And? What do you plan to do to get it back? I don’t even know where you’re from or what your name is. What powers do you possess, furthermore, to come and demand it from me with words as shameless as those you have just used?
  • So you don’t recognize me! – answered the Pilgrim -. I am a disciple of Master Tripitaka, brother of the ruler of the Great Tang Nation. My full name is Sun Wu-Kung and as far as my powers are concerned, I will tell you that they are enough to make you shake like a leaf.
  • In that case – the monster mocked – your deeds will be practically countless.
  • That’s right – said the Pilgrim -. Hold on, because right now I’m going to tell them to you. Since my earliest youth I have possessed magical abilities, being able to become something as ethereal as the wind. Not content with that, I began the study of the Tao and, thus, managed to escape the wheel of karma. My search for the Truth took me to Mount Ling-Tai, where an ancient immortal resided, who had just turned one hundred and eight thousand years old. He soon became my teacher. It is precisely to him that I owe the knowledge of the secret of longevity. He taught me that within ourselves is the answer to all mysteries, thus making me a participant in the science of the gods. If it hadn’t been for him, I wouldn’t have been able to move forward in my endeavor. It was he who made my inner light shine, making the sun and the moon 5 copulate inside my body. That freed me from all my thoughts and desires. Consequently, my body was strengthened and my six senses were purified 6. How close I was to the world of the wise! Three years without losing a single drop of my bodily essences granted me a semi-divine nature and placed me above the normal sufferings of a mortal. I moved freely between the Ten Islets and the Three Islands 7, even touching the Sky. Then, however, he had not yet ascended to the Ninth Paradise. He was a simple dragon tamer who managed to obtain the priceless treasure of a bar tipped with gold, Lord of the Mountain of Flowers and Fruits who managed to gather a large number of monsters around him in the Cavern of the Water Curtain. No wonder the Jade Emperor granted me the supreme title of Sosia of Heaven. On three occasions I plunged the Palace of Divine Mist into utter confusion. In one of them I got all of Wang-Mu’s peaches. That caused more than a hundred thousand celestial warriors armed to the teeth with spears and swords to be sent against me. Prince Nata suffered a shameful defeat and the Devaraja had to return without honor to Heaven. With Master Hsien-Shang 8 it was different. He also knew all the secrets of metamorphosis and our meeting was memorable. Lao-Tzu, Kwang-Ing, and the Jade Emperor watched, impatient for the outcome, from the South Gate. Seeing that things were not going according to his liking, Lao-Tzu decided to help Er-Lang and I found myself brought before the celestial court. The judge determined that I was tied to a pillar of dismembering monsters and my body reduced to small pieces. But the axes and knives could do nothing against me. They later ordered that he be exposed to the destructive power of

lightning, but the fire, equally, was unable to reduce me. I was then put into Lao-Tzu’s oven with identical results. As soon as they lifted the lid, I ran away and hit everyone who dared get in my way with my iron bar, without anyone being able to stop me. The Thirty-Six Heavens knew the destructive power of my anger. In the end, Tathagata managed to dominate me and imprisoned me under the Mountain of the Five Phases, where I remained for five hundred years, after which Tripitaka freed me and now I am heading with him towards the West to meet with the Jade Eyebrow 9 in the Thunder Palace. If you don’t believe me, ask the four points of the cosmos and they will tell you about my fame and my exploits.

  • So you’re the pi-ma who threw the heavens into total disarray? – exclaimed the monster, bursting out laughing.

There was nothing that irritated the Pilgrim more than that name. As soon as he heard it, he became furious and shouted, out of his mind:

  • Damn monster! You have the obligation to return the robe you stole and, instead of doing so, you start insulting a holy monk. Don’t run away, I want you to try the flavor of my bar!

The monster moved to the side and narrowly avoided the blow. He grabbed the spear tightly and rushed against his adversary, beginning a splendid combat. The two fighters displayed all their warrior flavor in front of the cave, multiplying the blows directed against the head and heart. Fortunately, their technique was perfect and they dodged again and again. While one spread its paw like a tiger climbing a mountain, the other thrashed around on the ground like a frolicking dragon. Not in vain were the Great Sage, Sosia of Heaven, and the Great Black King, two monsters with god-like powers facing each other to the death for the possession of a robe.

More than ten times they crossed arms without a clear winner emerging around midday. Using the spear to temporarily immobilize the iron bar, the monster took a breath and said:

  • Let’s put the weapons aside for the moment and go do something. Then we will continue the battle. OK?
  • Damn beast! – exclaimed the Pilgrim -. And do you want to be a hero? You should be ashamed. You’ve only been fighting for half a day and you already want to start eating. Think of me, who was a prisoner under a mountain for more than five hundred years and did not taste a single drop of water in all that time. So stop making excuses and don’t

you escape If you want me to let you go to eat, you’ll have to give me the tunic back first.

The monster half-heartedly stretched out his spear and ran into the cavern, opportunely closing the door behind him. Not caring about the Pilgrim’s protests, he called his servants and ordered them to prepare a banquet, personally taking charge of writing the invitations for the Monster Kings of the other mountains.

The Pilgrim, meanwhile, did his best to break down the door, but all his efforts were useless and he had to return to the Temple of Kwang-Ing. The bonzes had already buried the old monk and were gathered in one of the rear chambers, serving food to Tripitaka, who had recently finished breakfast. When they saw the Pilgrim, they stopped pouring the soup and bowed their heads respectfully, welcoming him.

  • “So you’re back, Wu-Kung,” Tripitaka exclaimed. What about my robe?
  • I have found the one who stole it from you – answered the Pilgrim -. Thank goodness I didn’t kill any of these monks, because, as we suspected, the thief was the monster from Black Wind Mountain. As you will remember, I went in search of him and found him in a very beautiful meadow, chatting animatedly with a man of letters dressed in white and a

Taoist elder. Without being tortured, he was making, in a sense, a confession. He said that in two days it was going to be his birthday and that he planned to invite all the monsters in the region. He also mentioned that last night he had found an embroidered Buddha robe, which was why he was going to give a splendid banquet, which he wanted to call the Buddha Robe Festival. Hearing that, I left my hiding place and unleashed a blow from my bar on them, but both the dark guy and the Taoist managed to escape. The writer dressed in white did not have the same luck, as he fell to the ground struck down, turning into a speckled snake. Without wasting time, I ran in pursuit of the monster, who managed to take refuge in his cave. I demanded that he go out to fight and, although he admitted having stolen the tunic, we engaged in a battle that lasted approximately half a day, with neither of us winning. Unexpectedly, the monster returned to his cave, claiming that he was hungry and wanted to eat. He slammed the doors shut and refused to fight any further, so I decided to come see how things were going and let you know what happened. Anyway, now that I know where the robe is, I’m not worried about whether he wants to give it back to me or not.

  • Blessed be Amitabha! – the monks exclaimed, relieved, some kneeling on the ground -. That means that our lives are no longer in danger. The whereabouts of the tunic have finally been found!
  • Do not claim victory so soon – the Pilgrim advised them -. Just because he knows where he is doesn’t mean he got her back. Besides, my teacher is still here. If you are lazy with him, remember that you will have to deal with me. Have you fed him the most exquisite delicacies? And what have you done with the horse? Have you provided him with all the hay he wanted?
  • Yes Yes Yes! – the monks hastened to answer -. We assure you that no one has lacked anything.
  • That’s true – Tripitaka confirmed -. You see, you’ve only been out for half a day and they’ve served me tea three times and given me vegetarian dishes to eat on two occasions. I assure you that they could not have been more diligent. You should hurry to get the tunic back, to avoid as much inconvenience as I am causing them.
  • There is no hurry – replied the Pilgrim -. Now that I know where it is, rest assured that I will return it to you. Be calm.

While they were talking, the guardian of the monastery brought some vegetarian meals for Sun Wu-Kung. The Pilgrim ate a little and, mounting the cloud, set off in search of the monster. As he was going through the air, he saw a demon with a pear wood box under his arm. Immediately he suspected that he might be carrying something important and, lifting the iron bar, he dropped it forcefully on the demon’s head, which was reduced to meat for pie. The Pilgrim opened the box and discovered that inside was an invitation that read:

Your disciple and servant, the Bear, addresses you with all due respect, the respectable dean of the Golden Pond. I am deeply grateful to you for the magnificent gifts that you have sent me on different occasions. I’m sorry I couldn’t help you last night, when you were visited by the God of Fire. I hope your eminence has not been affected by it in any way.

By pure chance, a Buddha’s robe came into my hands and I thought that such good luck deserved a celebration. I have therefore prepared some wine of the highest quality, which I wish to share with your respectable eminence. The act to which your disciple and servant refers will take place in two days.

When he finished reading it, the Pilgrim began to laugh and said:

– If finding death is not being affected, someone should come and explain to me what it is.

So the old man was friends with the monster? It does not surprise me that he reached the age of two hundred and seventy years. I figure that beast taught him a little magic and, thus, he was able to achieve longevity. I still remember what he was like. I will become him and go to the cave to see where the robe is. I will try to get hold of it without wasting energy foolishly.

After reciting an incantation and turning to face the wind, his features instantly changed into those of the elderly monk. He hid the iron rod and, staggering towards the cave, he shouted:

– Open the door.

As soon as the demon guarding the door saw him, he ran to inform his master:

  • The old man of the Golden Pool has arrived, sir.
  • How odd! – He exclaimed, surprised, the monster. I just sent you an invitation. He hasn’t even had time to receive it. How could a man as old as him come so quickly? Sun Wu-Kung most likely asked him to come get the robe. So hide it immediately and don’t let him see it.

Once through the main door, the Pilgrim saw the greenery of the pines and bamboos that grew in the inner courtyard, the peach and plum trees that seemed to compete with each other in beauty, and the thousand species of flowers that filled every corner of that courtyard. such a privileged place. The air was completely filled with the scent of orchids. It was, in truth, a cavern of celestial origin. On the jambs of a second door Sun Wu-Kung saw two strips of paper stuck on which he could read:

A retreat inside the mountain, where worldly concerns do not reach. A secluded divine cavern, where you can enjoy serenity.

  • It is clear that this monster – thought the Pilgrim – knows perfectly well the destiny of all living things and does everything it can to get away from the dirt and mud.

He crossed a third door and came across a construction with profusely decorated eaves and large windows covered with ornaments. The monster soon appeared. She was wearing a dark green silk tunic, a cap of the same color on her head, and a pair of leather boots. Seeing the Pilgrim enter, he adjusted his clothes and, going out to meet him, he said in welcome:

  • My dear friend, how long has it been since we saw each other! Sit down please!

The Pilgrim returned the greeting and the two sat down to drink tea. As soon as they had finished it, the monster bowed reverently and said:

  • I just sent you a note inviting you to come to my humble mansion the day after tomorrow. To what do I owe the honor of enjoying your company today?
  • I came to pay my respects to you, when I ran into your messenger – answered the Pilgrim -. When I found out that you are planning to celebrate the Buddha Robe Festival, I couldn’t hold back my impatience and I ran to see such a wonder.
  • You must be wrong, my dear friend – exclaimed the monster, bursting out laughing -. That robe belonged to the monk Tang, who, I understand, is your guest. Why have you come to see it, when most likely you have already been lucky enough to enjoy its beauty?
  • For that purpose I asked to borrow it – the Pilgrim admitted -, but I couldn’t do it, because you got hold of it first. Not to mention that the monastery and everything we kept in it has been consumed by flames. By the way, Monk Tang has been furious over the loss of his treasure. I myself thought it was lost in the fire, without suspecting that you had had the enormous fortune to find it. That is precisely the reason why I have come to visit you.

While they were talking, one of the demons who had gone out on patrol arrived and reported to his lord:

  • What a horrible misfortune, Great King! The officer you sent to deliver the invitations has been murdered by the Sun Pilgrim and his body lies lifeless on the side of the road. I suspect, therefore, that our enemy has taken the figure of the old man of the Golden Pool and is trying to steal the Buddha’s robe from you.
  • So is it him? – the monster said to himself, alarmed -. It already seemed to me that he had come too quickly.

Without wasting time, he grabbed his spear and threw it at the Pilgrim. Sun Wu-Kung fortunately stopped the blow with the iron bar and assumed his usual form. Without stopping fighting fiercely, they passed from the guest room to the patio, and from there, to the outside of the cavern. All the monsters that inhabited it, without distinction of position or age, began to tremble with fear. The combat was, in truth, the fiercest that had taken place in those mountains. It was not in vain that the Monkey King turned monk and the robe-stealing monster were two excellent fighters. Their reflexes would make them respond to blows with whispered precision. How valuable that priceless treasure was to them! If the patrol demon hadn’t spoken, neither of them would have displayed so much energy. The spear and the bar collided again and again, filling the entire space with the roar of war. They were rivals endowed with identical powers, because, although Wu-Kung mastered the art of transformations, the monster knew countless magical formulas. One was determined to return the tunic to his master, while the other wanted it to celebrate his birthday. How could they willingly give it up? No wonder this time the fight seemed endless. Not even Buddha himself would have been able to stop her.

Without stopping fighting for a single second, the two reached the peak of the mountain. But they did not stop there, but continued to raise their weapons above the clouds. Kicking up waves of wind, fog, and rocks, they fought endlessly until the sun set in the west. Neither, however, gained any appreciable advantage. At that moment, the monster suggested:

  • Hey, Sun, why don’t we leave it for tomorrow? It is getting very late and we cannot continue fighting. If it’s okay with you, as soon as dawn breaks, we will resume the fight. OK?
  • If you want to fight – replied the Pilgrim -, behave like a warrior and do not come to me with excuses that it is getting late.

He had not finished saying it when he let a rain of blows fall on his adversary’s head, but the monster transformed once again into a light breeze and took refuge in the cave. He then closed the stone doors tightly and refused to leave. The Pilgrim therefore had no choice but to return to the Temple of Kwang-Ing. Tripitaka was very happy to see him, but when he saw that he was not wearing the tunic, he feared the worst and asked him:

  • How come you don’t bring with you what you went looking for?
  • It just so happens, teacher – answered the Pilgrim, taking the invitation out of his sleeve and handing it to Tripitaka – that the monster and that old man were friends. In fact, he sent one of his little demons here with an invitation to attend the great Buddha Robe Festival. Fortunately I killed him and took the form of the old monk, so I could enter the cave. I managed to trick him, but when I asked him to show me your treasure, he flatly refused. While we were having tea, one of his patrols arrived and informed him of everything that had happened, after which we got into a violent fight. The battle lasted until recently and, as happened the first time, ended in

tie. When the monster saw that it was getting late, it slipped into the cave and firmly closed the stone doors, so I had no choice but to return to your side.

  • How much of a fighter are you, compared to him? – Tripitaka asked again.
  • I am afraid – answered the Pilgrim – that we are quite similar and that we are both excellently equipped for the fight.

Tripitaka read the invitation once again, then gave it to the guardian of the monastery and asked him:

  • What are the chances that your teacher was a spirit monster?
  • None – the guard immediately answered, falling to his knees -. In fact, he was fully human. Since the Black King reached the degree of humanity that he now possesses through meditation, he frequently came to the monastery to discuss the sacred writings with my teacher. In exchange, he taught her some magical practices, such as mastering breathing and cultivating one’s own essences. That’s how they became great friends.
  • These monks do not look like monsters – commented the Pilgrim -. They all have, in fact, a round head that points towards the sky and a pair of feet well planted on the ground. They may be a little taller and heavier than me, but they are certainly monsters. Have you noticed the signature on the invitation? «Your servant the Bear.» From this I deduce that this creature must be a black bear that has become a spirit.
  • I have heard the ancients say – Tripitaka stated – that the bear and the monkey belong to the same family. In other words: they are both beasts. How could he become a spirit?
  • I am also a beast – said the Pilgrim, laughing -, however, I became the Great Sage, Sosia of Heaven. What difference is there between animals and men? All beings in this world who possess the nine apertures can become immortal by practicing the Great Art.
  • You yourself have just recognized that you both have, more or less, the same abilities – Tripitaka reproached him -. How do you plan to defeat him and get my robe?
  • Don’t worry about that – the Pilgrim reassured him -. I know how to do it.

While they were discussing it, the monks served them dinner. Once the meal was over, Tripitaka asked for some axes and retired to rest in the Zen hall. Most of the monks spent the night under awnings that they supported on the battered walls, reserving the rooms at the back for the older bonzes. dignity. The hour was already very late. The Milky Way shone as if it were a silver stream, the air was pure and the sky was studded with glittering stars. All sounds had dissolved into the placidity of the night, as if the mountains had suddenly been emptied of birds. In the distant rivers the lights of the fishermen were going out, one by one, while the lamps of the pagodas became increasingly dimmer. The drums and bells had long since fallen silent, sometimes giving the impression of hearing distant sobs of unknown beasts.

Tripitaka spent the night very restless, thinking about his robe. How was he going to be able to sleep well? In one of his many turns in bed, he saw that the windows were gradually becoming brighter, and getting up instantly, he shouted to his disciple: – It’s already daytime, Wu-Kung, so go immediately to per tunic.

The Pilgrim jumped out of his rest and saw that the monks were bringing water for the morning ablutions.

– Take care of my master as he deserves – the Pilgrim ordered them -. I must go away and

I hope you don’t be reluctant with him.

  • Can I know where you are going? – Tripitaka asked him, clinging to him.
  • This whole matter clearly demonstrates the irresponsibility of Bodhisattva Kwang-Ing – answered the Pilgrim -. It is incomprehensible that she has enjoyed the offerings of the people of this place and, at the same time, she has allowed a monster to walk around nearby. I am going, then, to the South Seas to have a little conversation with her and ask her to come here and demand from the monster the immediate return of your tunic.
  • When will you be back? – Tripitaka asked again.
  • Probably after breakfast – answered the Pilgrim -. At the latest, I will return around noon, when everything is resolved. You – he repeated, addressing the monks – are in charge of taking care of my master.

He had barely finished saying it when he disappeared from sight. In the blink of an eye she reached the South Seas. He stopped the cloud in which he was traveling and, looking around, saw the immense expanse of the ocean, in whose distance the water and the sky seemed to merge. A dim light, pregnant with good auspices, seemed to envelop the entire earth, filling it with the brilliance of the holy. The waves, crowned with foam so white that it looked like snow, broke against the coast, rising steadily upward. The constant roar of the water reminded us of the roll of the storm. The mountain full of treasures in which the Bodhisattva lived seemed to be immersed in a rainbow, in which the vividness of red, yellow, green, purple and blue stood out. What a splendid place the Potalaka of the South Seas! The rocky spire of the mountain peak resembled a knife that cut cleanly through space. Thousands of exotic flowers and more than a hundred kinds of sacred herbs grew there. The wind shook the trees, while the sun reverberated on the golden lotuses. The Kwang-Ing Temple appeared covered in multicolored tiles. In front of the Tide Sound Cavern, countless turtle shells had been scattered. Inside, in the shade of the willows, the parrots sang; the peacocks responded to them, hidden among the bamboo. The warriors in charge of defending such a paradisiacal place were stationed behind the rocks. Among them stood out, solemn and heroic, Moksa, always attentive before a sea of ​​carnelian.

The Pilgrim could not take his eyes off such beauty. He managed, however, to descend from his cloud and head towards the bamboo grove. The different deities that were there immediately came out to welcome him, saying:

  • Some time ago the Bodhisattva informed us of your conversion, a fact for which we all congratulated ourselves. We understood, however, that you were accompanying the monk Tang. How did you end up abandoning your responsibilities to come here?
  • I haven’t done it – the Pilgrim defended himself -. If I have come to this holy place, it has been precisely because I have encountered a tremendous difficulty, which I hope the Bodhisattva can solve. So I would appreciate it if you would announce my arrival.

The deities did so and the Bodhisattva instantly agreed to meet with him. Without wasting time the Pilgrim knelt before the lotus covered with jewels.

  • May I know what you have come to do here? – asked Kwang-Ing.
  • Two days ago – the Pilgrim explained – my teacher arrived at one of your Zen temples. You know, one of those pagodas where people offer you sacrifices and incense. What I don’t understand is why you have allowed a Bear Spirit to live nearby. The result is that he has stolen my master’s robe and, although I have tried to recover it several times, all my efforts have been fruitless. So I hope you solve the problem.
  • Be careful you are insolent! – exclaimed the Bodhisattva -. Why have you come to ask for my help, when most likely that Bear has taken your master’s robe because of your obsession with showing it to everyone? Besides, it was your fault that my temple collapsed. Who would think of fanning the flames the way you did? It’s incredible that now you come to ask me for an account.

Hearing her speak in this way, the Pilgrim understood that the Bodhisattva possessed the knowledge of the past and the future. He bowed his head with unexpected humility and said:

  • I beg you to forgive my way of speaking. Everything happened as you just said. I must confess that it bothered me greatly that the monster refused to give me back the tunic. On the other hand, my teacher is always threatening me with reciting the spell. I can’t stand the terrible headache it gives! That’s why I behaved the way I did. Take pity on me and help me capture the monster, so I can recover the robe and we can continue our journey to the West.
  • “That monster possesses many magical powers,” said the Bodhisattva. In fact, he is as strong as you. You don’t deserve me to help you but I’m going to do it for Monk Tang. Grateful, the Pilgrim bowed his head even lower and asked the Bodhisattva not to delay. They rode on the sacred clouds and soon reached Black Wind Mountain, where they followed a path that led directly to the cavern. Soon they saw a Taoist coming down the mountainside with a glass tray, on which two magic pills could be seen. The Pilgrim ran towards him, brandished the iron bar and let it fall hard on the unfortunate man’s head. The blow destroyed his skull and caused terrible bleeding in his neck. Horrified, the Bodhisattva exclaimed:
  • You’re still as irrational as ever! Can we know why you killed him? He wasn’t the one who stole your tunic. Besides, she hadn’t done anything to you. Why did you have to end his life?
  • It is possible that you do not recognize him – answered the Pilgrim -. He is one of the Black Bear’s friends. Just yesterday I saw them chatting in the meadow with a writer dressed in white. They talked about the celebration of the Buddha’s Robe Festival and the birthday of the spirit that stole it from us. By the way, this Taoist said that he planned to spend today with his friend, away from the hustle and bustle that will undoubtedly be there tomorrow. That’s why I recognized him. Most likely he was heading to celebrate the monster’s birthday.
  • In that case – the Bodhisattva concluded – I have nothing to object to.

The Pilgrim went to the Taoist and discovered that it was a gray wolf. On the tray, which had fallen next to him, could be read an inscription, which read: «Made by Lin Hsü-Tse» 10.

  • Lucky! – exclaimed the Pilgrim, exhilarated -. This is going to save us a lot of difficulties and energy. Without being subjected to torture this monster has just made us a very valuable confession, which he can take to the grave today to his unsuspecting friend.
  • Can I know what you are talking about? – asked the Bodhisattva.
  • I often mention a proverb that says: «Every plan must be counteracted by another» – answered the Pilgrim -. I don’t know, however, if you are willing to accept my strategy.
  • Speak once and for all! – the Bodhisattva urged him.
  • As you can see – said the Pilgrim –, on this tray there are two magic pills, which we are going to give to the monster. It is fortunate that it is recorded that it has

been manufactured by Lin Hsü-Tse. If we do what I have in mind, we can do without weapons and even give up fighting. In the blink of an eye the monster will meet death and we will recover the Buddha’s robe. If, on the other hand, you refuse to follow my plan, we can consider that treasure lost and Tripitaka will have made such a long journey in vain.

  • It is obvious that you are not lacking in speech – exclaimed the Bodhisattva, laughing.
  • «I can’t complain,» the Pilgrim admitted, satisfied. In any case, it is just a plan without any importance.
  • Would you mind explaining it to me? – the Bodhisattva insisted.
  • With great pleasure – answered the Pilgrim -. Taking into account the inscription on this tray, I deduce that this Lin Hsü-Tse is none other than the Taoist whom I have just killed. If you have no objection, you could adopt his personality. I will eat one of the pills and transform into another one a little bigger than the one left. You will then put it on the tray and offer it to the Monster as a birthday gift. I will see to it that he returns the tunic to us as soon as he has swallowed it. If he refuses to do so, I am capable of weaving a new one from his own guts.

The Bodhisattva thought it was an excellent plan and nodded her head several times.

  • Good. What are you waiting for? – asked the Pilgrim, smiling.

The Bodhisattva wasted no time in showing his mercy and unlimited power. Making use of her infinite capacity for transformation, she attuned her mind to her will and instantly adopted the figure of the immortal Lin Hsü-Tse.

  • Fantastic! – exclaimed the Pilgrim when he saw him -. Frankly extraordinary! Is the monster the Bodhisattva, or is the Bodhisattva the monster?
  • Wu-Kung, the Bodhisattva and the monster fit into a simple thought, since at the beginning they were nothing – stated the Bodhisattva, smiling.

Enlightened by those words, the Pilgrim turned around and turned into a magic pill. No one knew her formula, although she was brilliant and as perfect as a pearl. Inside were hidden the hexagrams of three by three and six by six 11, as if it had been created with the help of Shao Wang 12 or had been formed in the mountains of Kou-Lou 13. It had the brilliance of the mosaic and the Yellow gold; Her light was that of the sun and seemed to emanate from her own interior. A layer of mercury protected her from outside attacks, although her power was so immense that she did not really need protection.

The pill that the Pilgrim transformed into was a little larger than the other. The Bodhisattva took good note of this and, taking the crystal tray, she headed to the monster’s cavern. Before arriving, she looked around her and saw an impressive series of precipices and cliffs. The clouds gathered, like flocks, on the top of the mountain. Everywhere you could see the greenery of pines and cypresses that the wind whipped mercilessly. This was, in truth, a place for monsters, not for men, although perhaps someone thought there could be no better place for an anchorite to seek the Way. A torrent rushed down the slopes of the mountain, whose waters recalled the serene murmur of a lute. No sound could be more suitable to purify the ears. A deer was resting on a rock, while in the distance, lost in the depths of the forest, the song of herons could be heard. It was so melodious that it immediately lifted the spirit, as if it were the very music of the spheres. The beauty of the landscape seemed to deeply please the Bodhisattva, who said to herself:

  • If that beast has been able to choose such an extraordinary place as its abode, it means that it is fully capable of receiving the illumination of the Tao – and that predisposed it favorably towards it.

As she approached the entrance to the cave, she was recognized by the demons riding

guard and who shouted, exultant, when they saw her:

– The immortal Lin Hsü – Tse has just arrived!

While some ran to announce his arrival, others greeted him with incomparable respect. It didn’t take long for the monster to appear.

– What a great honor you do with your presence to a humble place like this! – exclaimed the monster, welcoming him.

    • I have only come to bring you a magic pill as a birthday gift – replied the Bodhisattva.

They bowed respectfully and took their seats. The monster made several comments about what had happened the previous day, but the Bodhisattva said nothing. She simply took the tray and suggested to her host:

    • Accept, I beg you, this proof of recognition from an unimportant Taoist – he chose the largest pill and, offering it to the monster, added -: This small wonder will make you live for more than a thousand years.
    • In that case – concluded the monster, handing the other one to the Bodhisattva -, I would like to share this other one with you.

The monster put it in his mouth, but he didn’t have to make the slightest effort to swallow it, because it slid down his throat. The Pilgrim did not take long to do his thing inside the body of the beast. The monster fell to the ground, unable to bear the pain. The Bodhisattva then regained her usual form and snatched the Buddha’s robe from the monster. Immediately afterwards, the Pilgrim left her body by the nose, but, fearing that he might use some trick, the Bodhisattva threw a small iron crown at his head. As soon as she had stood up, the monster did, in fact, try to get hold of the spear and attack the Pilgrim from behind. Seeing him, the Bodhisattva rose into the air and recited an incantation. Instantly the monster felt unbearable pain and, throwing the spear aside, he rolled desperately on the ground. The King of the Monkeys jumped and almost died of laughter, seeing the suffering of the Black Bear.

    • Damn beast! – exclaimed the Bodhisattva -. Aren’t you going to give up?
    • I give up! – answered the monster, without thinking twice -. Deliver me from this pain as soon as possible!

Thinking about how much it had cost him to reduce him, the Pilgrim wanted to finish him off right there, but the Bodhisattva stopped him, saying: Don’t hurt him, because I plan to assign him a mission.

    • A mission? – the Pilgrim repeated -. This monster only serves to be food for worms.
    • The back of Potalaka Mountain is unguarded – the Bodhisattva explained
  • and I want him to be in charge of protecting it. I have no doubt that he would like to be named Guardian God of the Mountain.
    • Truly you are a saving goddess full of mercy – said the Pilgrim, smiling –, incapable of doing the slightest harm to any living being. If she knew a spell like that, she would recite it at least ten thousand more times. This would kill all the black bears around here.

It took a long time for the monster to regain consciousness. The pain had been so unbearable that, as soon as he came to, he fell on his face and said:

    • Forgive my life! I am willing to submit willingly to the Truth!

The Bodhisattva left the sacred luminosity of his cloud and, gently touching his head, made him her servant. In this way, the Black Bear abandoned his mad ambition for power, becoming a slave to virtue.

– You can leave now, Wu-Kung – the Bodhisattva ordered the Pilgrim -. Try not to

cause more trouble and see to it that Monk Tang doesn’t lack for anything.

  • “I thank you for coming from so far to help us,” replied the Pilgrim, respectfully. Therefore, I believe that it is my duty to accompany you back to your residence.
  • Believe me, it will not be necessary – answered the Bodhisattva.

The Pilgrim bowed before her and left. The Goddess of Mercy, for her part, soon returned to the Great Ocean, accompanied by the bear. A poem is about all of this, which states:

A light of a thousand colors surrounds his figure, which has the perfection of gold. She is the sweet helper of the human race, watching the progress of the world from her Golden Lotus. She came to the aid of the seeker of scriptures, retiring, chaste and pure, to her mansion, as soon as she had rescued him from danger. . She transformed the enemy into a disciple and returned to her abode of waters, once she had recovered Buddha’s embroidered robe.

We don’t know what happened next. Whoever wants to find out will have to listen carefully to what is said in the next chapter.

CHAPTER XVIII

TANG MONK ESCAPE FROM DANGER IN THE KWANG-ING TEMPLE. THE GREAT SAGE GET RID OF THE MONSTER IN THE VILLAGE OF GAO

After saying goodbye to the Bodhisattva, the Pilgrim descended from the cloud, hung his robe from a nearby cedar tree and entered the Black Wind Cavern. But he did not find a single demon. They had all fled, terrified, as soon as they saw who the Bodhisattva was and the tremendous punishment she was inflicting on her lord. That did not diminish the Pilgrim’s desire for revenge. He spread a large amount of firewood throughout the corridors of the cave and set it on fire. Soon the Black Wind Cavern was converted into the Red Breeze Cave. Once the work was finished, the Pilgrim took the tunic, mounted the cloud and headed north.

Tripitaka, meanwhile, anxiously awaited their return, impatiently wondering if the Bodhisattva had agreed to help them or if everything had been nothing more than a ploy by the Pilgrim to abandon him to his fate. Such thoughts were filling his spirit, when he saw a very bright red cloud approaching, from which the Pilgrim descended.

  • “Master,” he shouted, elated, throwing his face to the ground, “here is your tunic!” Tripitaka was delighted, as were the other monks, who kept saying enthusiastically:

Excellent! Our lives are no longer in the slightest danger.

  • When you left – Tripitaka nevertheless scolded his disciple, taking the tunic –, you said that you would be back after breakfast or, at most, around noon. Do you want to tell me why it took you so long? I imagine you must have noticed that the sun is already setting.

The Pilgrim then related how he had requested the Bodhisattva’s help and how the two of them had subdued the monster. Hearing this, Tripitaka took some incense and, turning towards the south, offered it to his benefactress as a sign of gratitude. Once the offering was finished, he turned to his disciple and ordered her:

  • Since we have already recovered the Buddha Robe, let’s gather our things and leave as soon as possible.
  • What’s the rush? – replied the Pilgrim -. It’s getting late. Why don’t we wait until tomorrow morning to continue our journey?
  • Elder Sun is right – all the monks said, getting down on their knees -. He is getting dark. Besides, we have a promise to keep. Now that we have been freed and you have recovered your treasure, we would like to share with your respectful reverences our humble table 1. Tomorrow you will be able to continue your march towards the West.
  • Fantastic! – exclaimed the Pilgrim -. A truly excellent idea!

The monks took out of their bags everything they had managed to save from the fire and gave it to such distinguished guests. They then prepared vegetarian offerings, burned paper money for the spirits and recited various fragments of the scriptures, appropriate to avoid misfortunes and the harassment of evil. The service lasted well into the night. The next morning they saddled the horse and loaded the luggage. The monks accompanied them for a long stretch of the way. The Pilgrim was leading the way. Spring had burst forth in all its brilliance and the horse’s hooves left a faint path of chopped plants in the grass. The branches of the willows appeared covered in dew and the peach trees repeated themselves with the insistence of a forest. Wild vines grew everywhere in delicate arabesques. Flocks of ducks sunbathed on the banks of the rivers, while the most aromatic flowers seemed to tame the butterflies. Autumn had passed, winter was over, and spring was just at its zenith. When could the authentic scriptures finally be obtained?

Master and disciple wandered in the bush for a week. One day, when it was beginning to get dark, they saw a village in the distance and Tripitaka exclaimed, joyfully:

  • Look. Wu-Kung, there is an inhabited place there! What do you think if we ask for accommodation and continue the trip tomorrow?
  • Before making a decision – answered the Pilgrim -, we must know if it is a good or bad place.

Tripitaka pulled the reins and the Pilgrim scanned the town with his powerful eyes. The houses stood in clusters, protected by bamboo fences. In front of each door he had planted a tree that was lost in the height. Its elegant shapes were reflected in a stream that crossed the town from one side to the other. The willows that lined the path proudly showed off their green crests, competing in softness with the aroma of the flowers that grew in each patio. Dusk was quickly giving way to shadows, while the birds did not stop fussing in their nests. A crest of white smoke rose from each home, while the cattle meekly returned to their stables. Pigs and chickens, shiny and well fed, slept peacefully in the shade of each house. From one of them came a song as melancholic as the night that was about to fall.

  • I think we can move on, master – said the Pilgrim after his quick inspection -. It seems like a town inhabited by good people. I think, therefore, that it is a good place to spend the night.

The monk spurred the horse and they soon reached the path that led directly to the village. There they met a young man wearing a cotton hat and a blue jacket. He carried an umbrella in his hand and a package, apparently very heavy, on his back. His pants were tied up, revealing a pair of straw sandals with three bows. When the Pilgrim took hold of him, he came walking with long strides, as if he were a person of great resolution.

Where are you going so fast? – Wu-Kung asked him -. If you don’t mind, I would like you to

Tell us what this place is called.

  • Is there no one else in this town? – the man complained, trying to get rid of him -. Why do you have to ask me precisely?
  • Don’t be angry – the Pilgrim advised him -. «He who helps another, in reality, helps himself.» Do you want to explain to me what’s wrong with telling me the name of this village? Maybe it just so happens that I can help you solve the problems you have.
  • This really is good! – exclaimed the man, out of his mind, trying to free himself from the Pilgrim by making some incredible jumps -. As if I didn’t have enough of my family’s headaches! I haven’t solved a single one and, to my dismay, I have to run into a bald guy like this.
  • I will let you go, if you can open your hand to me – said the Pilgrim, amused.

The man squirmed left and right, but to no avail. It was as if he was firmly held by a pair of iron tongs. He was so furious that he threw the bundle and umbrella to the ground and tried, without success, to hit and scratch the Pilgrim. Holding him with one hand and grabbing the luggage with the other, Wu-Kung kept him at enough distance to avoid any of the blows hitting him. The more he tried, the harder the Pilgrim squeezed. The man was breathing fire from his eyes.

  • Isn’t someone coming that way? – Tripitaka suddenly asked – Ask him and let this one go. I don’t understand why you have it on him.
  • Don’t you understand, teacher? – replied the Pilgrim, laughing -. If he let him go, my fun will be over.

Realizing that it was useless to continue fighting, the man finally responded:

  • This place is called Lord Gao’s village and is located within the Kingdom of Tibet. Most of the people who live in this village are surnamed Gao. Hence it has that name. Now, if you don’t mind, I’d like to continue on my way.
  • You are not dressed to take a walk around the area – replied the Pilgrim -. So tell me the truth: where are you going and for what purpose? If you do, I promise I’ll let you go.
  • “I belong to old Mr. Gao’s family,” the man explained, realizing that he had no choice but to do what was required of him. My name is, therefore, Gao Tse-Ai. Mr. Gao’s youngest daughter is twenty years old and has not yet been promised to anyone in marriage. There is nothing strange about this, since approximately three years ago she was kidnapped by a monster who took her as his wife. Mr. Gao was not very happy about having a monster for a son-in-law, because as he himself said, the reputation of his family has suffered a severe blow and there is no way to relate to that of his daughter’s husband. Who can be proud of being friends with a monster? All this time he has tried to get the marriage annulled, something the monster has firmly refused. What’s more, he has locked the girl in the back of her house and has not allowed her to see her family for almost half a year. Desperate, the old man gave me a few ounces of silver and asked me to go find someone capable of helping him capture the monster. Since then I have not rested a single day and the only thing I have managed to do is interview three or four monks without any power and many other Taoists of that type. No one has been able to dominate the beast. Naturally, I just received a good dressing down for my incompetence. The worst thing, however, is that I only have half an ounce of silver to continue searching. As you see, the only thing I was missing was to run into you, bird of bad omen. Because of you I will have to delay the trip. Anyway, this is all what I wanted to say when I told you that my family’s problems were practically insoluble. Now that I have told you the truth, I would like to continue on my way. By the way,

That trick of yours for grabbing people is, frankly, wonderful.

  • You were lucky that I used it on you – answered the Pilgrim -. Your problems and my powers complement each other like four and six in the game of dice. From now on you will not need to continue traveling or waste your money. Although it may be hard for you to believe, we are not worthless monks or powerless Taoists. We do, in fact, have some experience in capturing monsters. As the saying goes, «not only have you taken care of the doctor, but you have even cured his sight.» He returns to the head of your family and tells him that you have had the great fortune to come across two monks sent by the Lord of the Eastern Lands to the Western Paradise in search of the Buddha’s writings. I don’t need to remind you that we are specialized in catching monsters and demons.
  • Don’t make fun of me, please! – Gao Tse-Ai exclaimed -. I’m sick and tired of this thing. I hope you understand that if you deceive me and do not have any power to arrest beasts, you will only increase my problems, instead of solving them.
  • I guarantee you that everything will be fine – the Pilgrim reassured him -. Take us to your house, please.

Since he had nothing to lose by proving whether what he said was true or not, the man took the bundle and umbrella again and led the two travelers to the door of his home.

  • Wait here a moment, while I go to notify the owner of the house – said the man. The Pilgrim then released him and, putting his luggage on the ground, helped the teacher get off the horse. While they waited patiently at the door, Gao Tse-Ai entered the mansion and headed towards the main hall, which was located right in the center of the house. There he ran into Mr. Gao, who exclaimed, bad-tempered, upon seeing him:
  • Damn cheek! Can we know why you have returned? How come you haven’t gone looking for a monster tamer?
  • “Allow me to inform you of what has happened,” Gao Tse-Ai begged uncertainly, putting the bundle on the ground. Just at the end of the street I ran into two very strange monks. One was riding a horse and the other was carrying a bundle of clothes on his back. Before I could do anything, they grabbed me and refused to let me go until I told them where I was going. At first I flatly refused to please them, but they were extremely persuasive and, on the other hand, I couldn’t get rid of them. It was then that I told them about the misfortune that has befallen our family. The one who was holding me seemed very happy and said that he would be in charge of subduing the beast.
  • Where are those monks from? – Mr. Gao asked, interested.

One claims to be the brother of the Emperor of the Eastern Lands – answered Gao Tse-Ai – and they head towards the Western Paradise in order to pay their respects to Buddha and obtain his writings.

  • If they have come here from so far – Mr. Gao concluded – that means that they certainly have very special powers. Where are those men now?
  • Out there waiting – Gao Tse-Ai answered.

Mr. Gao hastily changed his clothes and came out, accompanied by Gao Tse-Ai, to welcome them, saying:

– What a pleasure to be able to enjoy the company of your reverences!

Tripitaka hurriedly turned around and found his effusive host right under his nose. He was an elderly man with a black silk cap, a richly embroidered Szchwang silk tunic, a dark green sash, and a pair of very crude boots made of oxhide. Still smiling kindly, he added:

– Accept my respects, venerable travelers.

Tripitaka returned the greeting, but the Pilgrim did not move a single muscle. When the old man in turn noticed his strange appearance, he did not dare to speak to him. The Pilgrim felt deeply offended and confronted him, saying:

  • May I know why you don’t greet me?
  • Alarmed, the old man turned to Gao Tse-Ai and scolded him, saying:
  • Why did you have to do this to me? Didn’t we have enough with one monster, that now you have to bring a spirit of thunder into my own house? Am I never going to be able to solve my problems?
  • What good has it done for you to reach such an advanced age if you are unable to distinguish good from bad? – the Pilgrim reproached him -. It is not wise to judge people by their appearance. I may be very ugly, but I have very special powers. I will capture the monster, then I will exorcise it and return your daughter to you. Does it seem enough to you? I don’t know what the point of focusing only on appearances is!

The old man began to tremble with fear, but he managed to muster enough courage and say:

  • Come in, please.

The Pilgrim then took the reins of the horse and asked Gao Tse-Ai to take charge of the luggage. Without any respect for the rules, he grabbed a chair with the painting up and invited his teacher to sit down. He himself brought another one and took a seat, without anyone asking him.

  • You seem to know how to make yourself comfortable, eh? – Mr. Gao exclaimed.
  • I only feel comfortable in a place when I spend at least half a year there – replied the Pilgrim.
  • “My relative has just informed me that your bows come from the Eastern Lands,” Mr. Gao began, once everyone had sat down.
  • That’s right – Tripitaka admitted -. The emperor has commissioned us to go to the Western Paradise in search of Buddha’s writings. We have not rested for several days and we would like to spend the night in this village. Our intention is to continue the trip tomorrow morning.
  • So you’re just looking for accommodation? – exclaimed, disappointed, Mr. Gao -. How did you say you are monster hunters?
  • Certainly we are looking for a place to spend the night – confirmed the Pilgrim -. But that doesn’t mean that, to have some fun, we won’t capture all the monsters that are necessary. By the way, how many do you have in your house?
  • My God! – Mr. Gao exclaimed, putting his hands to his head -. How many I have here! As if the one who is now my son-in-law hasn’t given me enough headaches! I have more than enough with him!
  • Tell me everything you know about him – the Pilgrim asked him –: how he came to this place, what kind of powers he has… well, things like that. Start at the beginning and don’t skip a single detail. It is essential to know him well to be able to capture him.
  • Since ancient times – Mr. Gao began explaining – this town has never had problems with ghosts, monsters or demons. My only misfortune has been not having a son. My three children have, unfortunately, been women. The largest is called Fragrant Orchid, the middle one, Jade Orchid, and the third, Green Orchid. Since their earliest childhood, the first two have been engaged to people from this same village, but I hoped that the third could marry a man who would agree to live under this roof and give her children my last name. In exchange he would become my heir and take care of me when my strength failed. Approximately three years ago a young man with a passably attractive appearance showed up. He said

He came from Fu-Ling Mountain and claimed to be called Chu. He explained that he had no parents or siblings and therefore wouldn’t mind taking my last name. I accepted him immediately, thinking that someone with no family ties was the most suitable person to carry out my plan. At first, I must admit, he was very courteous and diligent. He worked hard in the fields, even plowing them without the help of a carabao. When harvest time came, he gathered the harvest without using the sickle at all. He came home late at night and got up very early. No wonder we were all very happy with it. The only problem is that his appearance began to change.

  • Explain those changes to me – the Pilgrim urged him.
  • Well… – Mr. Gao continued –, at first he was dark and robust, but then he became a real idiot with very large ears, a strikingly protuberant snout and a tuft of very strong bristles behind his head. The bad thing is that his body has followed a similar evolution, becoming something heavy and totally unattractive. He looks, in fact, like a pig. No wonder he has an insatiable appetite. At each meal, between three and five arrobas of rice are taken; For him, a small snack consists of more than a hundred buns and as many cookies. Thank goodness he follows a vegetarian diet! If he were to devour meat and wine, I’m sure he would wipe out all my possessions in less than half a year.
  • Maybe he has such an appetite because, as you yourself have admitted, he works too much – commented Tripitaka.
  • That’s not the worst thing – Mr. Gao replied -. The most worrying thing is that he likes to ride on the wind and it is not unusual to see him disappear into the air on the back of a cloud. As if this were not enough, he does not stop piling up dirt and throwing stones, so peace has disappeared from my house and that of the other neighbors. To top it all off, he’s locked Green Orchid in the back and we haven’t seen her for over half a year, so we don’t know if she’s dead or still alive. We have no doubt that he is a monster. That’s why we have decided to exorcise him and kick him out of here.

There is nothing easier – the Pilgrim diagnosed -. Calm down. This very night I will lay my hands on him and demand that he sign the act of repudiation. This way, you can get your daughter back. OK?

  • If you accepted my conditions – said Mr. Gao, visibly pleased – it would be of no use, considering that you have ruined my good name and alienated many of my relatives from me. I am happy that you captured him. Who cares if you get him to resign? I just want to get rid of it!
  • «That’s very easy,» the Pilgrim repeated. As soon as night falls, you will see it.

The old man was overjoyed. Immediately he ordered that the table be set and a vegetarian banquet be served to them. Night had already fallen when they had finished eating.

  • What weapons and how many people will you need? – the old man asked then -. We better have everything ready.
  • I have my own weapons – answered the Pilgrim.
  • Really? – answered the old man, surprised -. I only see that you carry a cane. Don’t tell me you plan to confront the monster with that.

The Pilgrim took the needle out of his ear, took it carefully in his hands and, after shaking it once in the wind, it became a bar the thickness of a bowl of rice.

  • Look at this bar! – he ordered Mr. Gao -. Is there a better weapon than it? Do you think it will be enough to face that monster?
  • I guess so – Mr. Gao acknowledged -. Either way, you’ll need some reinforcements.
  • «I don’t need any,» said the Pilgrim. The only thing I want is for my teacher not to lack company. You can call someone virtuous enough to chat with him while I’m away. I will catch the monster and make him publicly promise to leave. This way you will be free of him forever.

The old man immediately sent one of his servants in search of some relatives and close friends, who soon appeared. After the presentations the Pilgrim said to his teacher:

  • Here you will be safe. Now I must go.
  • Take me to the back, where the monster has his abode, so I can take a look.

The old man led him to the same door and the Pilgrim added:

  • Take out the key.
  • Why don’t you just take a look? – replied the old man – – If I had the key to here, I wouldn’t need your help. Believe me.
  • Be careful you are stupid! – exclaimed the Pilgrim -. Despite your years, you are unable to distinguish when he is being serious and when he is not. He was teasing you and you took my words literally.

He immediately stepped forward and touched the lock. It had been soldered with molten copper and there was no way to open it. The Pilgrim broke down the door with the bar and found that the densest darkness reigned inside.

  • Old Gao – suggested the Pilgrim –, call your daughter, see if she is in there.
  • Third daughter! – the old man shouted, steeling himself.
  • !Father! – The girl answered weakly, recognizing her voice. I’m here.

The Pilgrim pierced the dense darkness with his red-gold pupils and saw that the woman’s hair looked like a storm cloud, so disheveled and dirty. Her face, which had possessed the sweetness of jade, appeared expressionless and covered in grime. Although it was still possible to appreciate a certain finesse in her, he looked tired and sad. Her lips, once red as a cherry, were now colorless. Her body was hunched over and curled into a ball. Because of her idleness and grief, her eyebrows, delicate like the wings of a butterfly, had a strange pallor. 2 She had also lost so much weight that her voice sounded extremely weak. With hesitant steps she reached the door and, seeing that it was her father, she hugged him and began to sob.

  • Stop crying! – the Pilgrim urged him -. Where is the monster?
  • «I don’t know where he went,» the girl replied. Lately she leaves in the morning and doesn’t return until late at night. He is always shrouded in mist and clouds and he never tells me what he plans to do during the day. The only thing certain is that, since he smelled that my father is trying to get rid of him, he has started to take many precautions. That is precisely why he returns at night and leaves as soon as it dawns.

I don’t need to know more – concluded the Pilgrim. He then turned to Mr. Gao and added, «Take your daughter to the front and enjoy her company as much as you like.» I’m going to stay here waiting. If the monster doesn’t appear, don’t blame me for anything. But if he comes, rest assured that I will root out all your problems.

Mad with joy, Mr. Gao took his daughter to the part of the house he lived in, while the Pilgrim shook the body and, using the power of his magic, transformed into the exact image of the girl. He then sat down to wait for the monster. Soon after

It raised a wind so strong that it tore away stones and produced suffocating clouds of dust. At first it was nothing more than a light and soft breeze, but soon it became a true cyclone, which no one could stop. The flowers and branches of the willow looked like birds torn from their nest, while the plants and trees yielded to their strength like freshly harvested crops. It was so hurricane-force that the sea became raging, filling gods and spirits with terror, and the rocks and mountains split in half, plunging Heaven and Earth into indescribable terror. The flower-eating deer were unable to find the path that led to their dens. The same thing happened to the fruit-picking monkeys, lost, like blind people, in the fury of the gale. The seven-story pagoda collapsed on Buddha’s head and the flags flying on its eight sides collapsed on the temple, causing irreparable damage. The golden beams and the jade columns fell to the ground, while the tiles flew everywhere, like flocks of sparrows. The boatmen were so frightened that they made a promise to sacrifice all their domestic animals. Even the local spirit itself abandoned its sanctuary. The Dragon Kings of the four seas presented their vows to heaven, upon verifying that Yaksa’s ship had run aground and more than half of the walls of the Great Wall had collapsed.

When, finally, the destructive wind subsided, the ugliest monster imaginable appeared flying. He had a face completely covered in black bristles, a very protruding snout, and enormous ears. He was wearing a greenish-blue cotton tunic, although it was difficult to determine exactly its color, and he had a kind of mottled cotton handkerchief tied around his head.

  • So this is the guy I have to face – the Pilgrim said to himself, smiling.

She didn’t say anything when she saw him enter, not even a word of greeting. He remained lying in bed, pretending to be sick and complaining non-stop. The monster didn’t seem to care. She approached him and, thinking that she was his wife, she demanded that he kiss her.

  • It looks like he wants to play with me a little – the Pilgrim said to himself again, about to burst out laughing.

Using one of his tricks, he grabbed him by the snout and twisted it violently, making him fall full length to the ground. After getting up as best he could, the monster leaned on the bed and asked:

  • Why are you so angry with me today? Is it because I arrived later than usual?
  • Who told you that I’m angry? – replied the Pilgrim.
  • If you are not, can I know why you hit me that way? – the monster asked again.
  • I don’t understand how you can be like this! – the Pilgrim complained -. You see that I’m not feeling very well today and you demand that I hug you and give you a kiss. If she hadn’t been sick, she would have waited up for you and opened the door for you myself. Get undressed and get into bed.

Without suspecting anything, the monster took off his clothes. The Pilgrim jumped out of bed and sat on the chamber pot just as the beast dropped onto the bed. He carefully felt around him, but, finding no one, he asked worriedly:

  • Where have you been, dear? Get undressed and come sleep with me.
  • You can go to sleep, if you want – the Pilgrim urged him -. I’m still going to take a while. I haven’t downloaded yet.

The monster stretched out and took over the bed. When he was about to fall asleep, the Pilgrim exclaimed with a sigh:

  • What bad luck is mine!
  • Can we know what is worrying you? – asked the monster, surprised -. What do you mean your luck is bad? It is true that, since I became part of your family, I have eaten and drunk a lot, but I have also worked my way, don’t believe it. If not, think about the things I have done for you: I have cleared the fields, I have dug ditches, I have baked bricks and tiles, I have planted walls and prepared the mortar, I have plowed and cleared the land, and I have planted wheat and rice. . In short, I have taken care of the running of the entire estate. And with great benefit, by the way. Otherwise, how were you going to wear lace and show off gold ornaments? Throughout the year you do not lack flowers or fruits and there are al