[Notes by LKG]
This story is part of the The Monkey King unit. Story source: "The Ape Sun Wu Kung" in The Chinese Fairy Book, ed. by R. Wilhelm and translated by Frederick H. Martens (1921).
The Destiny of Sun Wu Kung
Buddha replied with a smile: “You are a beast which has gained magic powers. How can you expect to rule here as Lord of the Heavens? Be it known to you that the Lord of the Heavens has toiled for eons in perfecting his virtues. How many years would you have to pass before you could attain the dignity he has gained? And then I must ask you whether there is anything else you can do, aside from playing your tricks of transformation?”
Said Sun Wu Kung: “I can turn cloud somersaults. Each one carries me eighteen thousand miles ahead. Surely that is enough to entitle me to be the Lord of the Heavens?”
Buddha answered with a smile: “Let us make a wager. If you can so much as leave my hand with one of your somersaults, then I will beg the Lord of the Heavens to make way for you. But if you are not able to leave my hand, then you must yield yourself to my fetters.”
Sun Wu Kung suppressed his laughter, for he thought: “This Buddha is a crazy fellow! His hand is not a foot long; how could I help but leap out of it?” So he opened his mouth wide and said: “Agreed!”
Buddha then stretched out his right hand. It resembled a small lotus-leaf. Sun Wu Kung leaped up into it with one bound. Then he said: “Go!” And with that he turned one somersault after another, so that he flew along like a whirlwind. And while he was flying along he saw five tall, reddish columns towering to the skies.
Then he thought: “That is the end of the world! Now I will turn back and become Lord of the Heavens. But first I will write down my name to prove that I was there.” He pulled out a hair, turned it into a brush, and wrote with great letters on the middle column: “The Great Saint Who Is Heaven’s Equal.” Then he turned his somersaults again until he had reached the place whence he had come. He leaped down from the Buddha’s hand laughing and cried: “Now hurry, and see to it that the Lord of the Heavens clears his heavenly castle for me! I have been at the end of the world and have left a sign there!”
Buddha scolded: “Infamous ape! How dare you claim that you have left my hand? Take a look and see whether or not ‘The Great Saint Who Is Heaven’s Equal,’ is written on my middle finger!”
Sun Wu Kung was terribly frightened, for at the first glance he saw that this was the truth. Yet outwardly he pretended that he was not convinced, said he would take another look, and tried to make use of the opportunity to escape. But Buddha covered him with his hand, shoved him out of the gate of Heaven, and formed a mountain of water, fire, wood, earth and metal, which he softly set down on him to hold him fast. A magic incantation pasted on the mountain prevented his escape.
Here he was obliged to lie for hundreds of years until he finally reformed and was released in order to help the Monk of the Yangtze-kiang fetch the holy writings from out of the West. He honored the Monk as his master, and thenceforward was known as the Wanderer.
Guan Yin, who had released him, gave the Monk a golden circlet. Sun Wu Kung was induced to put it on, and it at once grew into his flesh so that he could not remove it. And Guan Yin gave the Monk a magic formula by means of which the ring could be tightened should the ape grow disobedient. But from that time on he was always polite and well-mannered.