Sun Wu Kung: The Great Saint

Remember the magical expanding rod, the Ruyi Jingu Bang, that can grow large or small? You will see it again in this episode.

[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 Great Saint

While they were at table Sun Wu Kung asked accidentally: “Stablemaster? What sort of a title is that?”

“Why, that is an official title,” was the reply.

“What rank has this office?”

“It has no rank at all,” was the answer.

“Ah,” said the ape, “is it so high that it outranks all other dignities?”

 “No, it is not high, it is not high at all,” answered his friends. “It is not even set down in the official roster, but is quite a subordinate position. All you have to do is to attend to the steeds. If you see to it that they grow fat, you get a good mark, but if they grow thin or ill, or fall down, your punishment will be right at hand.”

Then the Ape King grew angry: “What, they treat me, the Venerable Sun, in such a shameful way!” and he started up. “On my Mountain I was a king, I was a father! What need was there for him to lure me into his heaven to feed horses? I’ll do it no longer! I’ll do it no longer!”

Lo, he had already overturned the table, drawn the rod with the golden clamps from his ear, let it grow large, and beat a way out for himself to the Southern gate of Heaven. And no one dared stop him.

Already he was back in his island Mountain, and his people surrounded him and said: “You have been gone for more than ten years, great king! How is it you do not return to us until now?”

The Ape King said: “I did not spend more than about ten days in Heaven. This Lord of the Heavens does not know how to treat his people. He made me his stablemaster, and I had to feed his horses. I am so ashamed that I am ready to die. But I did not put up with it, and now I am here once more!”

His apes eagerly prepared a banquet to comfort him.

While they sat at table, two horned devil-kings came and brought him a yellow imperial robe as a present. Filled with joy he slipped into it and appointed the two devil-kings leaders of the vanguard.

They thanked him and began to flatter him: “With your power and wisdom, great king, why should you have to serve the Lord of the Heavens? To call you the Great Saint who is Heaven’s Equal would be quite in order.”

The ape was pleased with this speech and said: “Good, good!” Then he ordered his four baboons to have a flag made quickly, on which was to be inscribed: “The Great Saint Who Is Heaven’s Equal.” And from that time on he had himself called by that title.

(500 words)

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