On the previous page you saw the Wikipedia synopsis of the plot of Journey to the West. Here is a different king of summary, but still very abbreviated form, of the final chapters of Journey to the West, as found in Myths and Legends of China by Edward T.C. Werner (1922). I hope that reading this admittedly brief summary of the end of the novel will give you a sense of just how Sun Wu Kung's own story come to a triumphant conclusion, while also giving you a feel for the adventures that make up the Journey to the West.
The Spiders and the Extinguisher
Sun Steals Clothing for His Master
Shaving a Whole City
This old lady was Kuan Yin, with Shên Tsai (Steward), who had come to give them warning. Sun thereupon changed himself into a candle-moth and flew into the city to examine for himself. He entered an inn, and heard the innkeeper warning his guests to look after their own clothes and belongings when they went to sleep. In order to travel safely through the city, Sun decided that they should all put on turbans and clothing resembling that of the citizens. Perceiving from the innkeeper’s warning that thieving was common, Sun stole some clothing and turbans for his Master and comrades. Then they all came to the inn at dusk, Sun representing himself as a horse-dealer.
Fearing that in their sleep their turbans would fall off, and their shaven heads be revealed, Sun arranged that they should sleep in a cupboard, which he asked the landlady to lock.
During the night robbers came and carried the cupboard away, thinking to find in it silver to buy horses. A watchman saw many men carrying this cupboard, and became suspicious, and called out the soldiers. The robbers ran away, leaving the cupboard in the open. The Master was very angry with Sun for getting him into this danger. He feared that at daylight they would be discovered and all be executed. But Sun said: “Do not be alarmed; I will save you yet!” He changed himself into an ant and escaped from the cupboard. Then he plucked out some hairs and changed them into a thousand monkeys like himself. To each he gave a razor and a charm for inducing sleep. When the King and all the officials and their wives had succumbed to this charm, the monkeys were to shave their heads. On the morrow there was a terrible commotion throughout the city, as all the leaders and their families found themselves shaved like Buddhists.
Thus the Master was saved again.
The Return to China
They were now returning upon a cloud which had been placed at their disposal, and which had been charged to bear them safely home. But alas! the cloud broke and precipitated them to the earth by the side of a wide river which they must cross. There were no ferry-boats or rafts to be seen, so they were glad to avail themselves of the kind offices of a turtle, who offered to take them across on his back. But in midstream the turtle reminded Hsüan Chuang of a promise he had made him when on his outward journey, namely, that he would intercede for him before the Ruler of the West, and ask his Majesty to forgive all past offences and allow him to resume his humanity again. The turtle asked him if he had remembered to keep his word. Hsüan Chuang replied: “I remember our conversation, but I am sorry to say that under great pressure I quite forgot to keep my promise.” “Then,” said the turtle, “you are at liberty to dispense with my services.” He then disappeared beneath the water, leaving the pilgrims floundering in the stream with their precious books. They swam the river, and with great difficulty managed to save a number of volumes, which they dried in the sun.
The Travellers Honoured
But the greatest honours were conferred upon the travellers at a meeting of the Immortals presided over by Mi-lo Fo, the Coming Buddha. Addressing Hsüan Chuang, the Buddha said, “In a previous existence you were one of my chief disciples. But for disobedience and for lightly esteeming the great teaching your soul was imprisoned in the Eastern Land. Now a memorial has been presented to me stating that you have obtained the True Classics of Salvation, thus, by your faithfulness, completing your meritorious labours. You are appointed to the high office of Controller of Sacrifices to his Supreme Majesty the Pearly Emperor.”
Turning to Sun, the Buddha said, “You, Sun, for creating a disturbance in the palace of Heaven, were imprisoned beneath the Mountain of the Five Elements, until the fullness of Heaven’s calamities had descended upon you, and you had repented and had joined the holy religion of Buddha. From that time you have endeavoured to suppress evil and cherish virtue. And on your journey to the West you have subjugated evil spirits, ghosts, and demons. For your services you are appointed God of Victorious Strife.”
For his repentance, and for his assistance to his Master, Chu Pa-chieh, the Pig Fairy, was appointed Head Altar-washer to the Gods. This was the highest office for which he was eligible, on account of his inherent greed.
Sha Ho-shang was elevated to the rank of Golden Body Perpetual Saint.
Pai Ma, the white horse who had patiently carried Hsüan Chuang and his burden of books, was led by a god down the Spirit Mountain to the banks of the Pool of Dragon-transformation. Pai Ma plunged in, when he changed at once into a four-footed dragon, with horns, scales, claws, and wings complete. From this time he became the chief of the celestial dragon tribe.
Sun’s first thought upon receiving his promotion was to get rid of the Head-splitting Helmet. Accordingly he said to his Master, “Now that I am, like yourself, a Buddha, I want you to relieve my head of the helmet you imposed upon me during the years of my waywardness.” Hsüan Chuang replied, “If you have really become a Buddha, your helmet should have disappeared of itself. Are you sure it is still upon your head?” Sun raised his hand, and lo! the helmet was gone.
After this the great assembly broke up, and each of the Immortals returned in peace to his own celestial abode.