Friday, June 20, 2014

Sun Wu Kung: The Nether World

Like so many great heroes of world mythology, Sun Wu Kung must make a journey into the land of the dead, as you will see 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 Nether World

One day he took a nap after dinner. Before he did so, he had let the bar shrink and had stuck it in his ear. While he was sleeping, he saw two men come along in his dream, who had a card on which was written “Sun Wu Kung.” They would not allow him to resist, but fettered him and led his spirit away. And when they reached a great city, the Ape King gradually came to himself. Over the city gate, he saw a tablet of iron on which was engraved in large letters: “The Nether World.”

Then all was suddenly clear to him and he said: “Why, this must be the dwelling-place of Death! But I have long since escaped from his power, and how dare he have me dragged here!” The more he reflected the wilder he grew. He drew out the golden rod from his ear, swung it, and let it grow large. Then he crushed the two constables to mush, burst his fetters, and rolled his bar before him into the city.

The ten Princes of the Dead were frightened, bowed before him and asked: “Who are you?”

Sun Wu Kung answered: “If you do not know me, then why did you send for me and have me dragged to this place? I am the heaven-born saint Sun Wu Kung of the Mountain of Flowers and Fruits. And now, who are you? Tell me your names quickly or I will strike you!”

The ten Princes of the Dead humbly gave him their names.

Sun Wu Kung said: “I, the Venerable Sun, have gained the power of eternal life! You have nothing to say to me! Quick, let me have the Book of Life!”

They did not dare defy him and had the scribe bring in the Book. Sun Wu Kung opened it. Under the head of “Apes,” No. 1350, he read: “Sun Wu Kung, the heaven-born stone ape. His years shall be three hundred and twenty-four. Then he shall die without illness.”

Sun Wu Kung took the brush from the table and struck out the whole ape family from the Book of Life, threw the Book down and said: “Now we are even! From this day on I will suffer no impertinences from you!”

With that, he cleared a way for himself out of the Nether World by means of his rod, and the ten Princes of the Dead did not venture to stay him but only complained of him afterward to the Lord of the Heavens.

When Sun Wu Kung had left the city, he slipped and fell to the ground. This caused him to wake, and he noticed he had been dreaming.

He called his four baboons to him and said: “Splendid, splendid! I was dragged to Death’s castle and I caused considerable uproar there. I had them give me the Book of Life, and I struck out the mortal hour of all the apes!”

And after that time, the apes on the Mountain no longer died because their names had been stricken out in the Nether World.







(500 words)








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