Friday, June 20, 2014

Sun Wu Kung: Learning the Art

The monkey-king carries on with his studies for years, and he gains some remarkable abilities; you will learn about some of those abilities 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).

Learning the Art

The Master flung on his clothes, sat up in bed and said harshly: “Accursed ape! Why are you not asleep? What are you doing here?”

Sun Wu Kung answered: “Yet you pointed out to me yesterday that I was to come to you at the third watch of the night, by the back door, in order to be instructed in the truth. Therefore I have ventured to come. If you will teach me in the fulness of your grace, I will be eternally grateful to you.”

Thought the Master to himself: “There is real intelligence in this ape’s head to have made him understand me so well.” Then he replied: “Sun Wu Kung, it shall be granted you! I will speak freely with you. Come quite close to me, and then I will show you the way to eternal life.”

With that he murmured into his ear a divine, magical incantation to further the concentration of his vital powers and explained the hidden knowledge word for word. Sun Wu Kung listened to him eagerly, and in a short time had learned it by heart. Then he thanked his teacher, went out again, and lay down to sleep.

From that time forward, he practised the right mode of breathing, kept guard over his soul and spirit, and tamed the natural instincts of his heart. And while he did so three more years passed by. Then the task was completed.

One day the Master said to him: “Three great dangers still threaten you. Every one who wishes to accomplish something out of the ordinary is exposed to them, for he is pursued by the envy of demons and spirits. And only those who can overcome these three great dangers live as long as the heavens.”

Then Sun Wu Kung was frightened and asked: “Is there any means of protection against these dangers?”

Then the Master again murmured a secret incantation into his ear, by means of which he gained the power to transform himself seventy-two times.

And when no more than a few days had passed Sun Wu Kung had learned the art.

One day the Master was walking before the cave in the company of his disciples. He called Sun Wu Kung up to him and asked: “What progress have you made with your art? Can you fly already?”

“Yes, indeed,” said the ape.

“Then let me see you do so.”

The ape leaped into the air to a distance of five or six feet from the ground. Clouds formed beneath his feet, and he was able to walk on them for several hundred yards. Then he was forced to drop down to earth again.




(500 words)








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