Sun Wu Kung: Sun Wu Kung Gets His Name

Here you will see the monkey-king receive his name: "Wukong" means "awakened to Buddha-Nature (emptiness)." You can find out more about the monkey-king's many names 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).

Sun Wu Kung Gets His Name

There he met a wood-chopper at work. The Ape King bowed to him and said: “Venerable, divine master, I fall down and worship at your feet!”

Said the wood-chopper: “I am only a workman; why do you call me divine master?”

“Then, if you are no blessed god, how comes it you sing that divine song?”

The wood-chopper laughed and said: “You are at home in music. The song I was singing was really taught me by a saint.”

“If you are acquainted with a saint,” said the Ape King, “he surely cannot live far from here. I beg of you to show me the way to his dwelling.”

The wood-chopper replied: “It is not far from here. This mountain is known as the Mountain of the Heart.

“In it is a cave where dwells a saint who is called ‘The Discerner.’ The number of his disciples who have attained blessedness is countless. He still has some thirty to forty disciples gathered about him. You need only follow this path which leads to the South, and you cannot miss his dwelling.”

The Ape King thanked the wood-chopper and, sure enough, he came to the cave which the latter had described to him. The gate was locked and he did not venture to knock. So he leaped up into a pine tree, picked pine-cones, and devoured the seed.

Before long one of the saint’s disciples came and opened the door and said: “What sort of a beast is it that is making such a noise?”

The Ape King leaped down from his tree, bowed, and said: “I have come in search of truth. I did not venture to knock.”

Then the disciple had to laugh and said: “Our master was seated lost in meditation when he told me to lead in the seeker after truth who stood without the gate, and here you really are. Well, you may come along with me!”

The Ape King smoothed his clothes, put his hat on straight, and stepped in. A long passage led past magnificent buildings and quiet hidden huts to the place where the master was sitting upright on a seat of white marble. At his right and left stood his disciples, ready to serve him.

The Ape King flung himself down on the ground and greeted the master humbly. In answer to his questions he told him how he had found his way to him. And when he was asked his name, he said: “I have no name. I am the ape who came out of the stone.”

So the master said: “Then I will give you a name. I name you Sun Wu Kung.”

The Ape King thanked him, full of joy, and thereafter he was called Sun Wu Kung.

The master ordered his oldest disciple to instruct Sun Wu Kung in sweeping and cleaning, in going in and out, in good manners, how to labor in the field and how to water the gardens. In the course of time he learned to write, to burn incense and read the sutras. And in this way some six or seven years went by.

One day the master ascended the seat from which he taught and began to speak regarding the great truth. Sun Wu Kung understood the hidden meaning of his words, and commenced to jerk about and dance in his joy.

The master reproved him: “Sun Wu Kung, you have still not laid aside your wild nature! What do you mean by carrying on in such an unfitting manner?”

Next: The Master

(600 words)

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