Sun Wu Kung: Yang Oerlang

The confrontation between Sun Wu Kung and Yang Oerlang is very dramatic! You can learn more about Yang Oerlang in the Chinese Fairy Tale unit.

[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).

Yang Oerlang

So they continued to fight in that form. But the ape’s baboons were much frightened. The beast and planet spirits of Yang Oerlang pressed the apes hard. They slew most of them and the others hid away.

When the ape saw this his heart grew uneasy. He drew the magic giant-likeness in again, took his rod, and fled. But Yang Oerlang followed hard on his heels. In his urgent need, the ape thrust the rod, which he had turned into a needle, into his ear, turned into a sparrow, and flew up into the crest of a tree.

Yang Oerlang, who was following in his tracks, suddenly lost sight of him. But his keen eyes soon recognized that he had turned himself into a sparrow. So he flung away spear and crossbow, turned himself into a sparrow-hawk, and darted down on the sparrow. But the latter soared high into the air as a cormorant. Yang Oerlang shook his plumage, turned into a great sea-crane, and shot up into the clouds to seize the cormorant. The latter dropped, flew into a valley, and dove beneath the waters of a brook in the guise of a fish.

When Yang Oerlang reached the edge of the valley and had lost his trail, he said to himself: “This ape has surely turned himself into a fish or a crab! I will change my form as well in order to catch him.” So he turned into a fish-hawk and floated above the surface of the water.

When the ape in the water caught sight of the fish-hawk, he saw that he was Yang Oerlang. He swiftly swung around and fled, Yang Oerlang in pursuit. When the latter was no further away than the length of a beak, the ape turned, crept ashore as a water-snake, and hid in the grass.

Yang Oerlang, when he saw the water-snake creep from the water, turned into an eagle, and spread his claws to seize the snake.


But the water-snake sprang up and turned into the lowest of all birds, a speckled buzzard, and perched on the steep edge of a cliff. When Yang Oerlang saw that the ape had turned himself into so contemptible a creature as a buzzard, he would no longer play the game of changing form with him. He reappeared in his original form, took up his crossbow and shot at the bird. The buzzard slipped and fell down the side of the cliff.

At its foot, the ape turned himself into the chapel of a field-god. He opened his mouth for a gate, his teeth became the two wings of the door, his tongue the image of the god, and his eyes the windows. His tail was the only thing he did not know what to do with. So he let it stand up stiffly behind him in the shape of a flagpole.

When Yang Oerlang reached the foot of the hill, he saw the chapel, whose flagpole stood in the rear. Then he laughed and said: “That ape is really a devil of an ape! He wants to lure me into the chapel in order to bite me. But I will not go in. First I will break his windows for him, and then I will stamp down the wings of his door!”

When the ape heard this he was much frightened. He made a bound like a tiger and disappeared without a trace in the air. With a single somersault he reached Yang Oerlang’s own temple. There he assumed Yang Oerlang’s own form and stepped in. The spirits who were on guard were unable to recognize him. They received him on their knees. So the ape then seated himself on the god’s throne and had the prayers which had come in submitted to him.

When Yang Oerlang no longer saw the ape, he rose in the air to Li Dsing and said: “I was vying with the ape in changing shape. Suddenly I could no longer find him. Take a look in the mirror!” Li Dsing took a look in the magic spirit mirror and then he laughed and said: “The ape has turned himself into your likeness, is sitting in your temple quite at home there, and making mischief.”

When Yang Oerlang heard this he took his three-tined spear, and hastened to his temple. The door-spirits were frightened and said: “But Father came in only this very minute! How is it that another one comes now?”

Yang Oerlang, without paying attention to them, entered the temple and aimed his spear at Sun Wu Kung. The latter resumed his own shape, laughed and said: “Young sir, you must not be angry! The god of this place is now Sun Wu Kung.”

Without uttering a word Yang Oerlang assailed him. Sun Wu Kung took up his rod and returned the blows. Thus they crowded out of the temple together, fighting, and wrapped in mists and clouds once more gained the Mountain of Flowers and Fruits.

Next: Buddha

(900 words)







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