Sun Wu Kung: Laotzse

The self-proclaimed Great Saint makes his way to the abode of Laotzse (Laozi), the founger of Taoism who is also regarded as a deity in China. You can find out more at Wikipedia.

[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).


Now it happened that the Great Saint, who had turned himself into a peach-worm, had just been taking his noon-day nap on this bough. When he was so rudely awakened, he appeared in his true form, seized his rod, and was about to strike the fairies.

But the fairies said: “We have been sent here by the Queen-Mother. Do not be angry, Great Saint!”

Said the Great Saint: “And who are all those whom the Queen-Mother has invited?”

They answered: “All the gods and saints in the Heavens, on the earth and under the earth.”

“Has she also invited me?” said the Saint.

“Not that we know of,” said the fairies.

Then the Saint grew angry, murmured a magic incantation and said: “Stay! Stay! Stay!”

With that the seven fairies were banned to the spot. The Saint then took a cloud and sailed away on it to the palace of the Queen-Mother.

On the way he met the Bare-Foot God and asked him: “Where are you going?”

“To the peach banquet,” was the answer.

Then the Saint lied to him, saying: “I have been commanded by the Lord of the Heavens to tell all the gods and saints that they are first to come to the Hall of Purity in order to practise the rites, and then go together to the Queen-Mother.”

Then the Great Saint changed himself into the semblance of the Bare-Foot God and sailed to the palace of the Queen-Mother. There he let his cloud sink down and entered quite unconcerned. The meal was ready, yet none of the gods had as yet appeared.

Suddenly the Great Saint caught the aroma of wine and saw well-nigh a hundred barrels of the precious nectar standing in a room to one side. His mouth watered. He tore a few hairs out and turned them into sleep-worms. These worms crept into the nostrils of the cup-bearers so that they all fell asleep. Thereupon he enjoyed the delicious viands to the full, opened the barrels, and drank until he was nearly stupefied.

Then he said to himself: “This whole affair is beginning to make me feel creepy. I had better go home first of all and sleep a bit.” And he stumbled out of the garden with uncertain steps.

Sure enough, he missed his way, and came to the dwelling of Laotzse. There he regained consciousness. He arranged his clothing and went in. There was no one to be seen in the place, for at the moment Laotzse was at the God of Light’s abode, talking to him, and with him were all his servants, listening.

Since he found no one at home, the Great Saint went as far as the inner chamber, where Laotzse was in the habit of brewing the elixir of life. Beside the stove stood five gourd containers full of the pills of life which had already been rolled. Said the Great Saint: “I had long since intended to prepare a couple of these pills. So it suits me very well to find them here.” He poured out the contents of the gourds, and ate up all the pills of life.

Since he had now had enough to eat and drink he thought to himself: “Bad, bad! The mischief I have done cannot well be repaired. If they catch me, my life will be in danger. I think I had better go down to earth again and remain a king!”

With that he made himself invisible, went out at the Western Gate of Heaven, and returned to the Mountain of Flowers and Fruits, where he told his people who received him the story of his adventures.

When he spoke of the wine-nectar of the peach garden, his apes said: “Can’t you go back once more and steal a few bottles of the wine so that we too may taste of it and gain eternal life?”

The Ape King was willing, turned a somersault, crept into the garden unobserved, and picked up four more barrels. Two of them he took under his arms and two he held in his hands. Then he disappeared with them, without leaving a trace, and brought them to his cave, where he enjoyed them together with his apes.

Next: Guan Yin

(700 words)

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