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Chapter 51

In Vain Does the Mind-Ape Use a Thousand Tricks

Fire and Water Fail to Harm the Demon

The story tells how the Great Sage Equaling Heaven went empty-handed and beaten to sit down behind Mount Jindou, tears streaming from both eyes.

Master, he called out, I had hoped


As Lord Buddha graciously brought us together

To go on to live with you, Master, for ever,

With you to train and to learn to be free.

Of the favours received ever mindful I'd be.

Our hearts were both joined and our fates were entwined;

As we studied the Way we shared the same mind.

I never expected to be at my wit's end

Unable to win with no stick in my hand.


Just when he was in the depths of misery Monkey thought, That fiend knew who I was. I remember him saying something about the sort of skill that made havoc in Heaven when he was praising me during the fight. That means he can't be a common mortal monster: he must be an evil star from Heaven come down to earth for love of worldly things. I don't know where he come down from, so I'd better go up to Heaven to make some inquiries.

Only then did Monkey start using his mind and taking the initiative again. At once he somersaulted up on an auspicious cloud, going straight to the Southern Gate of Heaven, where he looked up to see the Broad-visioned Heavenly King Virupaksa bowing to him in greeting and saying, Where are you going, Great Sage?

There's something I must see the Jade Emperor about, said Monkey. What are you doing here?

It is my turn today to supervise the Southern Gate of Heaven, Virupaksa replied, and before he could finish the four marshals Ma, Zhao, Wen and Guan bowed and said, Great Sage, we failed to greet you. Will you have some tea?

I'm busy, Monkey replied, and taking his leave of Virupaksa and the four marshals he went in through the gate and headed straight for the Hall of Miraculous Mist, where the four Heavenly Teachers Zhang Daoling, Ge Xianweng, Xu Jingyang and Qiu Hongji, the Six Officers of the Southern Dipper and the Seven Originals of the Northern Dipper all raised their hands in greeting to him in front of the palace hall.

For what purpose are you here, Great Sage? they asked, adding. Have you yet finished escorting the Tang Priest?

It's too early to be talking like that yet, Monkey replied. It is a very long journey with many a demon along the way and we've only completed half of it. At present we are in trouble at the Jindou Gave in Mount Jindou, where a rhinoceros spirit has grabbed my master and taken him into the cave. When I went there and fought him he had such tremendous magic powers that he seized my gold-banded cudgel. It's impossible for me to capture him. That's why I've come to accuse the Jade Emperor of lax supervision.

You're as wild and wicked as ever, you ape, said Xu Jingyang with a smile.

No I'm not, Monkey replied. I've spoken bluntly all my life as it's the only way to get anywhere.

That's enough of this talking, said Heavenly Teacher Zhang Daoling. We will report your arrival.

Thank you very much, Monkey replied.

The four Heavenly Teachers reported all this to the Hall of Miraculous Mist and then took Monkey to the jade steps to the throne. Monkey make a loud re-e-er of respect then said, Well, old man, I'm here to bother you. I won't bore you with all the dangers of escorting the Tang Priest to fetch the scriptures from the Western Heaven, but we've now reached the Jindou Cave on Mount Jindou where a rhinoceros demon has captured the Tang Priest and taken him to his cave. I don't know whether the demon's planning to steam, boil or dry him. When I went to the cave and fought him he knew who I was, and he really does have miraculous powers. He's taken my gold-banded cudgel, so I can't capture him. I think he must be an evil star from Heaven gone down to earth for the love of worldly things, which is why I've come here to submit a request. I beg Your Celestial Majesty in your mercy and perception to order an inspection of the evil stars and to send troops to capture the demon. I'm shaking with fear of Your Majesty. He then made a deep bow and added, I beg to submit this report.

Ge Xianweng, who was standing at the side of the hall, smiled as he said, Why is it that you were recalcitrant before but are respectful now?

It's not that, said Monkey, not that at all. I haven't become respectful. It's just that I don't have my cudgel today.

Having heard Monkey's memorial the Jade Emperor sent an order straight to the star officer Kehan: Please inspect all the stars in all the heavens and find out if any of the divine kings of any of the constellations have gone down to earth out of love for worldly things. Report back afterwards. Having been given this command the True Lord Kehan went off with the Great Sage to make his inspection. First they went to see the divine kings and the officials at the four gates of Heaven. Then they inspected all the True Ones within the Three Little Enclosures; the Thunder Officers Tao, Zhang, Xin, Deng, Gou, Bi, Pang and Liu; and the Thirty-three Heavens, every one of which was in place. Next they checked the twenty-eight zodiacal constellations: Horn, Gullet, Base, Chamber, Orion, Tail, and Winnower in the East; Dipper, Ox, Woman, Barrens, Roof, House and Wall to the West; and the constellations of the North and South as well; but every constellation was peacefully in its place. They inspected the Seven Powers of Sun, Moon, Water, Fire, Wood, Metal, and Earth; and the Four Others-Rahu, Ketu, the Gases and the Comets. None of the stars in the sky had gone down to earth for love of worldly things.

In that case, said Monkey, my journey to the Hall of Miraculous Mist was for nothing. I've disturbed His Jade Majesty-it was most inconvenient of me. You had better go and report back. I'll be waiting here for your reply. The True Lord Kehan did as he had been told, and Monkey began a long wait. He made up a poem to record his feelings that went,


Pure winds, a cloudless sky, and blissful peace;

Calm gods, bright shining stars, and blessings clear.

Still is the Milky Way; Heaven's troubles cease;

Throughout the world no sounds of war we hear.


The True Lord Kehan reported back to the Jade Emperor on his thorough inspection: No star or constellation in the sky is missing. All the regional gods ad officers are present, and nobody has gone down to earth for love of worldly things. Having heard this report the Jade Emperor ordered that Sun Wukong was to select some heavenly generals to take down to earth to catch the demon.

When the four Heavenly Teachers had been given this order they left the Hall of Miraculous Mist and said to Monkey, Great Sage, the Jade Emperor in his generosity orders you to select some heavenly generals to take down to earth to catch the demon as none of the stars has gone down there for love of worldly things.

Monkey bowed down and thought, Most of the heavenly generals are not as good as I am: few are any better. When I made havoc in Heaven the Jade Emperor sent a hundred thousand of his heavenly soldiers who spread out heaven-and-earth nets, but not one of those commanders dared to fight it out with me. The only one who was a match for me was the Little Sage Erlang he sent later. That demon's powers are as good as mine, so how will I ever be able to beat him?

Times have changed, said the Heavenly Teacher Xu Jingyang. As the saying goes, everything can always be beaten by something. Would you dare to disobey an imperial edict? Choose some heavenly generals according to your illustrious judgement and don't waste time: it could be disastrous.

In that case, said Monkey, I am very grateful to His Majesty for his kindness, and I would not dare disobey his commands. Besides, I don't want to have made this journey for nothing. So please ask the Jade Emperor to send Heavenly King Li the Pagoda-carrier and Prince Nezha. They have demon-subduing weapons, so let's see what happens if they go down to earth and fight that fiend. If they can catch him I'll be in luck, and if they can't we'll have to think again.

The Heavenly Teacher reported this to the Jade Emperor, who ordered Heavenly King Li and his son Prince Nezha to take their heavenly troops to Help Monkey. The Heavenly King obediently went to see Monkey, who said to the Heavenly Teacher, I am extremely grateful to the Jade Emperor for sending the Heavenly King. There is another request I would like you to pass on. I would like two thunder gods to stand in the clouds while the Heavenly King is fighting the demon and kill him by throwing thunder splinters at his head. This would be a very good method.

Splendid, splendid, said the Heavenly Teacher, and he reported this request to the Jade Emperor, who then ordered the Office of the Nine Heavens to send the thunder gods Deng Hua and Zhang Fan to help Heavenly King Li capture the demon. They then went out through the Southern Gate of Heaven with the Heavenly King and the Great Sage.

They were soon there. This is Mount Jindou, said Monkey, and the Jindou Cave is in it. I would like you gentlemen to decide which of you is going to be the first to challenge the demon to battle. The Heavenly King brought his cloud to a stop and encamped his troops under the Southern slopes of the mountain.

As you know, Great Sage, he said, my boy Nezha has put down the demons in ninety-six different caves, is very good at transformation, and always carries his demon-subduing weapons around with him. He should go into battle first.

That's right, said Monkey. I'll take him with me.

The prince summoned up his martial prowess, leapt to the mountaintop with the Great Sage, and went straight to the entrance to the cave, where they found the doors tightly closed and not an evil spirit to be seen by the rock-face. Vicious fiend, shouted Monkey, going up to the doors, open up at once and give me back my master.

When the little devils guarding the doors saw this they hurried back to report, Your Majesty, Sun the Novice has a little boy with him and he's challenging you to battle outside the doors.

I've got his gold-banded cudgel, the demon king said, and he'd find it hard to fight me empty-handed, so I suppose he must have found some reinforcements. Fetch my weapons! He then went outside to look, brandishing his spear. The little boy was a pure and remarkable sight, and full of strength and vigor. Indeed:


His face was like the moon when it is full,

Red lips, a square-cut mouth, and silver teeth.

His eye shot lightning from their fearsome pupils;

Over his broad and fine-hued brow were tufts of hair.

His sash danced in the wind like tongues of flame;

A silken gown gleamed golden in the sun.

Bright rings held a bronze mirror at his chest,

And precious armor set off well his warrior's boots.

Tiny in body, but mighty in his voice,

Terrible Nezha, protector of the faith.


You're Heavenly King Li's third son, Prince Nezha, said the demon with a smile. Why have you come shouting at my door?

Because you have made trouble, vicious fiend, by harming the holy monk from the East. I'm here to arrest you at the command of the Jade Emperor.

I'm sure Sun Wukong must have asked you here, said the demon king in a great fury. Yes, I'm the demon who's got the holy monk. I wonder what fighting skills you've got, little boy, if you dare to talk such nonsense. Stay where you are and see how you like my spear.

The prince met the thrust at once with his demon-beheading sword. Once the two of them had come to blows the battle began. Monkey rushed round the mountain shouting, Where are the thunder gods? Hurry up and strike the fiend with your thunder splinters to help the prince subdue him.

The thunder gods Deng and Zhang stepped at once on their clouds and were just about to strike when Prince Nezha used magic to give himself three heads and six arms that wielded six weapons with which he hacked at the monster. The demon king then gave himself three heads and six arms too, holding three long spears with which he parried them. The prince next used his demon-subduing dharma power and threw his six weapons up into the air. What were the six weapons? The demon-beheading sword, the demon-hacking cutlass, the demon-binding rope, the demon-quelling pestle, the embroidered ball and the fire-wheel.

Nezha shouted Change! and each one of them became ten, each ten a hundred, each hundred a thousand, and each thousand ten thousand of the same weapons that flew at the demon like a hailstorm. The demon king was not afraid in the least. Bringing out his gleaming white ring he threw it into the air with a shout of Catch them! and as it came whistling down it trapped all the six different kinds of weapons, so terrifying Nezha that he fled for his life empty-handed. The demon king returned to his cave in triumph.

When the two thunder gods saw this from up in the sky they smiled to themselves and said, It's a good thing we realized how things were going and didn't throw our thunder splinters. If he'd caught them too we'd never have dared report back to the Heavenly Honoured Ones. The pair of them landed their clouds and went with the prince to the Southern slope of the mountain.

The demon king really has got enormous powers, they told Heavenly King Li.

The wretched demon's magic powers are nothing much, said Monkey with a laugh, apart from that terrible ring. I wonder what sort of treasure it is and why it can catch everything when it's thrown into the air.

You don't have a shred of humanity in you, Great Sage, said Nezha angrily. We're thoroughly upset after being beaten, and all for your sake too. What have you got to laugh about?

You may be upset, but what makes you imagine I'm not? Monkey replied. I'm at my wit's end, and as I can't cry about it, laughing's the only thing I can do.

How are we going to bring all this to an end? the Heavenly King asked.

You lot can make whatever plans you like, said Monkey, but we can only capture him with what his ring can't catch.

The best things his ring can't catch are water and fire, said Heavenly King Li. As the saying goes, water and fire show no mercy.

You're right, Monkey replied. Sit still here while I go up to Heaven again.

What for? the two thunder gods asked.

This time I won't bother with a memorial to the Jade Emperor, said Brother Monkey. I'll go straight in through the Southern Gate of Heaven to the Palace of Crimson Splendor to ask Yinghuo, the Star Lord of Fire, to come here and start a fire that will burn the demon and perhaps even reduce his ring to ashes so that we can capture him. Then you can have your weapons back and return to Heaven and my master can be saved.

The prince was greatly cheered up to hear this. Please don't lose any time, Great Sage, he said, and get back as soon as you can. We'll wait here.


Monkey set his auspicious light going again and went straight back to the Southern Gate of Heaven, where Virupaksa and the four generals met him and asked, Why are you back again, Great Sage?

Heavenly King Li sent Prince Nezha into battle, Monkey replied, but in their first fight the demon king took all his six weapons. I now want to go to the Palace of Crimson Splendor to ask the Star Lord of Fire to help us in the fight. The four generals let him in, not daring to delay him any longer.

When he reached the Palace of Crimson Splendor the gods of fire all went in to report, Sun Wukong is here to see you, my lord.

The Star Lord of Fire of the South straightened up his clothes and came out to greet him with the words, Kehan was here to inspect us yesterday, and nobody here is longing for earthly things.

I know, Monkey replied. Heavenly King Li and Prince Nezha have been defeated in battle and lost their weapons, which is why I have come here to ask for your help.

Nezha is the God of the Third Altar, the Seas, who first made his name by subduing ninety-six caves of demons, the Star Lord of Fire replied. His magical powers are tremendous, so if he can't subdue the fiend what hope would I have of doing so?

I've discussed it with Heavenly King Li, Monkey replied. Water and fire are the most powerful things in heaven and earth. That fiend has a ring that can catch things. I don't know what treasure it is. As they say that fire can destroy everything I've come here to ask you, Star Lord, to lead your fire forces down to the mortal world to burn up that evil monster and rescue my master.

When the Star Lord of Fire heard this he mustered his divine troops and went with Monkey to the Southern slopes of Mount Jindou, where he exchanged greetings with the Heavenly King and the thunder gods. Great Sage Sun, said Heavenly King Li, call that demon out again and I'll start fighting him. When he throws his ring I'll get out of the way and the Star Lord can lead his forces to burn him up.

Yes, said Monkey. I'll go with you. The Fire Star Lord stood with Prince Nezha and two thunder gods on a high peak to challenge the demon to battle.

When the Great Sage reached the mouth of the Jindou Cave he shouted, Open up! Give me my master back at once.

Sun Wukong's back, the little devils reported with urgency, and the demon led his horde out of the cave to say to Monkey, Impudent ape, what soldiers have you brought here?

Heavenly King Li, the Pagoda-carrier, came forward to shout back, Vicious monster, do you know who I am

Heavenly King Li, replied the demon with a laugh, no doubt you want to avenge your distinguished son and get his weapons back.

I want my revenge and his weapons, replied the Heavenly King, and I'm also going to catch you and rescue the Tang Priest. Stay where you are while I get you with my sword. The demon dodged the cut and thrust back with his spear. The two of them fought a magnificent fight in front of the cave. Just watch:


The Heavenly King hacked with his sword,

The demon's spear parried.

The sword gleamed cold and breathed out fire,

The sharp spear belched out baleful clouds.

One was the monster who had grown up in Jindou Cave;

The other had been sent from the Hall of Miraculous Mist.

One wished to use his might to oppress the dharma nature;

One was employing his greatness to rescue the priest.

The Heavenly King's powers made sand and gravel fly,

The demon fighting back stirred up the dust.

The dust cast heaven and earth in darkness,

The sand and gravel made seas and livers turbid.

The two of them struggled hard for victory

Because the Tang Priest wanted to see the Buddha.


When Monkey saw the two of them starting to fight he jumped up to the highest peak and said to the Star Lord of Fire, Pay attention. Watch as the demon produces his ring again when the fight is at its fiercest. When Heavenly King Li saw this he set his auspicious light moving and fled in defeat. At once the Star Lord of Fire issued the order to his troops from his peak to release all their fire together. It was a terrifying sight:


The Classic says that in the South is the essence of fire.

Even a single spark

Can burn a hundred thousand acres.

The might of the Star Lord

Could create a hundred different kinds of fire.

He had fire spears, fire swords,

Fire bows and crossbows,

And all his gods used different weapons.

The sky was filled with cawing crows of fire.

Fire horses galloped on the mountaintops.

Fire rats came in twos,

Fire dragons in pairs.

The fire rats coming in twos breathed flame,

Making a thousand miles glow red;

The pairs of fire dragons belched thick smoke,

Casting a pall of darkness all around.

The fire carts were brought out,

The fire gourds opened up.

When fire banners waved the skies glowed sunset-red;

Fire cudgels made the whole earth blaze.

Compared with this the charge of burning oxen was nothing;

This beat Zhou Yu's fire ships attacking Red Crag.

It was a terrible heavenly conflagration,

A blazing burning storm of fire.


But the onslaught by the fire did not frighten the demon in the least. He threw his ring up into the air, and as it came whistling down it caught the fire dragons, fire horses, fire crows, fire rats, fire swords, fire spears, fire bows and fire arrows. The demon then led his troops back to his cave in victory.

The Fire Star Lord, holding a useless banner, called back his officers and went to sit with Heavenly King Li and the others on the Southern slope of the mountain. Great Sage, he said to Monkey, I've never seen so ferocious a demon before. Now I've lost all my fire-raising equipment what am I to do?

Stop complaining, said Monkey with a smile. Will you gentlemen please sit here for a while while I go off again?

Where are you going this time? Heavenly King Li asked.

If that fiend isn't bothered by fire I'm sure he must be vulnerable to water. As the saying goes, water defeats fire. I'm going to the Northern Gate of Heaven to ask the Star Lord of Water, the planet Mercury, to use the power of water to flood the cave and drown the demon king. Then I'll be able to return you all your things.

That's a very good idea, said the Heavenly King, except that I'm afraid your master might be drowned too.

No problem, said Monkey. Even if he is drowned I have a way that will bring him back to life. But I'm wasting your time, gentlemen, and that is quite wrong.

In that case, said the Star Lord of Fire, please be on your way.


The splendid Great Sage went straight to the Northern Gate of Heaven by his somersault cloud. He looked up to see the Heavenly King Vaisravana bowing to him and asking, Where are you going, Great Sage Sun?

There is something about which I must see the Star Lord of Water in his Palace of Dark Vastness, said Monkey. What are you doing here?

It is my turn to patrol today. Vaisravana replied. As he was speaking the four heavenly generals Pang, Liu, Gou and Bi greeted him courteously and offered him tea.

As I'm in such a hurry I won't trouble you, said Monkey, and taking his leave of them he went straight to the Palace of Dark Vastness, where he sent all the gods of Water in to announce him.

Sun Wukong, the Great Sage Equaling Heaven, is here, they reported. As soon as he learned this the Star Lord of Water dismissed the gods of the Four Seas, the Five Lakes, the Eight Rivers, the Four Streams, the Three Great Watercourses and the Nine Tributaries, as well as all the dragon kings, then straightened his hat, tightened his belt, and went out through the gates of the palace to greet him and lead him inside.

Yesterday Kehan came here on his inspection, the Star Lord said. He wondered if any of my Water gods had become demons because they longed for worldly things. We are checking all the gods of rivers, seas and streams but have not yet finished.

That demon king's no river god, said Monkey, He's a much more powerful spirit. The Jade Emperor sent Heavenly King Li, Prince Nezha and two thunder gods down to the lower world to capture him, but he caught Nezha's six magic weapons with a ring. So I had to go up to the Palace of Crimson Splendor to ask the Star Lord of Fire to take all his fire gods to start fires, but the fiend caught the fire dragons, fire horses and everything else with his ring. I reckon that as he isn't bothered by fire he must be vulnerable to water, which is why I've come here to ask you to deploy your water, capture the fiend for me, return the heavenly generals' weapons, and rescue my master too.

When the Star Lord of Water heard this he ordered the Earl of the Yellow River to go with the Great Sage to help him. I can carry water in this, said the river earl, taking a white jade bowl from his sleeve.

But that can't hold very much, said Monkey. How could it possibly drown the fiend?

I'm not lying when I tell you that this bowl can hold the waters of the Yellow River, the earl replied. Half a bowlful is half the river, and the whole bowlful is the whole river.

Half a bowlful will be all we need, replied a delighted Monkey, who then took his leave of the Star God of Water and hurried out through the gates of Heaven with the Earl of the Yellow River.

The earl half filled his bowl in the Yellow River then went with the Great Sage to Mount Jindou, where he greeted the Heavenly King, the prince, the two thunder gods and the Star Lord of Fire, who started telling him what had happened until Monkey said, Cut out the details. River earl, come with me. When I shout at the doors telling them to open up don't wait till the doors are open. Tip the water straight in and drown the whole den of demons. Then I'll fish out the master's body and bring him back to life.

The earl did as he was told, following Monkey round the mountain to the mouth of the cave.

Open up, devils, Monkey shouted, and when they recognized his voice the little devils hurried in to report that he was back, At this the demon king went out again, brandishing his spear and taking his treasure as the doors opened with a loud noise. The river god threw all the water in his white jade bowl into the cave. Seeing it coming, the demon threw down his spear and quickly took out his ring to seal the inner doors tightly. The water then all surged noisily out again, giving Sun Wukong such a fright that he had to give an immediate somersault and leap straight back up to the mountaintop with the river god. The Heavenly King and the rest of them then stood on their clouds in front of the peak looking at the great waves of the mighty flood. It was splendid water. Indeed:


A mere scoopful

Produces fathomless depths;

A divine achievement

Fills a hundred rivers for the general good.

Hear the great roaring shake the valley,

See the mighty waters flood the sky.

A sound like thunder fills the world with awe;

Fierce are the waves with curling crests like snow.

The towering waves now inundate the roads,

While countless billows wash against the mountains.

Cold they are as nephrite,

Rolling with the sound of strings.

As they crash against the rocks they scatter chips of jade;

The waters swirl in eddies as they ebb.

The current sweeps across all dips and hollows,

Filling ravines and joining all the streams.


The sight filled Brother Monkey with alarm. This is terrible, he said. The water's flooding the peasants' fields, and going everywhere except into the demon's cave. What are we to do? He asked the river god to put his water away at once.

I can only let it out, the earl replied. I can't put it away again. As the saying goes, spilt water can't be picked up. Oh dear! But as the mountain was both high and steep the water flowed down it fast and in a few moments had all gone away along gullies and ravines.

Some little devils leapt out from the cave and played around with great pleasure as before, shouting, yelling, shaking their fists, waving their sleeves, and brandishing their cudgels and spears. So the water never got inside the cave at all, said the Heavenly King. All that effort was for nothing. Unable to control the great anger that surged up him, Monkey charged the demon king's doors, lashing out with both fists, shouting, Where do you think you're going? I'll get you.

The terrified little devils dropped their spears and cudgels and fled back into the cave to report in fear and trembling, Your Majesty, he's attacking again.

The demon king went out through the doors, his spear at the ready, and said, Impudent ape, you're such a hooligan. You've tried and failed to beat me several times. Even fire and water have got nowhere near me. So why are you here again? To throw your life away?

You've got it the wrong way round, my boy, said Brother Monkey. It's not me throwing my life away, but you throwing yours away. Come here and I'll punch you one.

You're just trying to be awkward, ape, the demon king replied with a laugh. You can use your fists, but I'll use my spear. Your skinny little fist is no bigger than a walnut. It's not even the weight of a small hammer. Very well then. I'll put my spear down and we'll try some boxing.

Well spoken, said Monkey with a smile. Come on then.

The demon then hitched up his clothes and took up a stance with both of his fists raised. They were the size of the mallets used in oil-presses. The Great Sage spread his feet apart, summoned up his energy, and started to show his skill as he traded blows with the demon king in front of the doors of the cave, it was a splendid fight. Goodness!


They started with a foursquare stance,

Kicked with pairs of flying feet.

Each threw with menace at the other's chest

Hard blows that could cut out the heart.

The Immortal pointing the way

Lao Zi riding his crane.

Terrible as the tiger when he falls on his prey,

Vicious as the dragons sporting in the water.

The demon king did a dragon roll;

The Great Sage fought like a roebuck with his antlers.

They kicked up their heels like spitting dragons,

Twisting their wrists like sky-supporting camels.

The blue lion opened its jaws,

The carp leapt so high he risked breaking his back.

Flowers were scattered around their foreheads,

And ropes pulled tight around their waists.

The wind stayed close to the fan,

The driving rain made blossoms fall.

When the demon used a Guanyin hand

Monkey countered with an arhat's foot.

The longer punches were open and relaxed,

Not as intense as the short jabs to the body.

When they had fought for several dozen rounds

Their skills were equal; no winner had emerged.


While the two of them fought in front of the cave Heavenly King Li and the Star Lord of Fire were shouting and clapping in encouragement and admiration. The two thunder gods and Prince Nezha led the armies of the gods to leap down by where they were fighting to help Monkey, while on the other side the devilish horde all came forward to guard their master with banners, drums, swords and cutlasses. Seeing that things were going badly Monkey pulled out a handful of hairs, scattered them in the air, and with a shout of Change! turned them into three or four dozen little monkeys who rushed forward and held the demon still.

They put their arms round his legs, grabbed him by the waist, jabbed at his eyes, and pulled his hair. The demon in his alarm pulled out his ring. When Monkey arid the Heavenly King saw him doing this they turned their clouds away and fled back to the top of the mountain to keep out of the way of the fight. As soon as the demon threw the ring into the air it came whistling down, caught the three or four dozen little monkeys who were hairs transformed and turned them back into their original form. The demon took them into the cave when he led his troops back in triumph, shut the doors and celebrated.

Great Sage, said Prince Nezha, you really are a tough guy. That was a superb display of boxing, as skilful as putting embroidery on brocade. And by magically dividing yourself up you showed him how good you are.

You gentlemen were all watching from here, said Monkey with a smile. How did the demon's technique compare with mine?

His boxing was slack and his footwork slow, said Heavenly King Li, where you were neat and quick. When he saw us going he was worried, and when you used your self-dividing magic he was panicked, which was why he had to use his ring magic.

The demon king would be easy enough to deal with, said Monkey, if it weren't for his ring. That's hard one to beat.

If we're to beat him, said the Star Lord of Fire to the Earl of the Yellow River, we have to get that treasure. We'll be able to capture him then.

But how else are we to get it apart from by stealing it? Monkey asked.

The two thunder gods laughed at this and said, If we're going to do him the honour of stealing it there's nobody to compare with the Great Sage. When he made havoc in Heaven he stole imperial wine, magic peaches, dragon liver, phoenix bone-marrow and even Lord Lao Zi's elixir. That was some skill! Now he ought to be using it to get that ring.

You are flattering me, said Monkey, you are flattering me. You'd better sit here while I go and spy things out.

The splendid Great Sage sprang down from the peak and made his way stealthily to the mouth of the cave where he shook himself and turned into a most elegant fly. Look at him:


He had wings just as fine as membranes of bamboo,

A body as small as a plum blossom's heart,

His hands and his feet barely thicker than hairs,

And eyes full of lights that both sparkle and dart:

He follows his nose when he smells something good,

And rides on the wind as he flies at great speed.

The scales would not move if he come to be weighed,

And yet he's a lovable true friend in need.


He flew quietly to the doors and crawled in through the narrow gap between them to see all the devils young and old dancing or singing in ranks on either side while the demon king sat on a high dais. Before him were set snakemeat, deer jerky, bears' paws, camels' humps, wild vegetables from the mountain and fruit. He had a celadon jug of wine as well as some delicious-smelling koumiss and coconut toddy, all of which he was drinking freely by the large bowlful. Monkey landed among the little devils and turned himself into a badger spirit. He inched his way nearer to the throne, but even after taking a long look he could not make out at all where the treasure was hidden. He quickly withdrew and went round behind the throne, where he saw hanging high from the ceiling in the rear hall the fire dragons groaning and the fire horses whinnying. He looked up to spy his gold-banded cudgel leaning against the Eastern wall. This made him so happy that his heart had an itch he could not scratch, and forgetting his disguise he went over, picked the cudgel up, resumed his own appearance, tried out some movements with it, and started to fight his way straight out of the cave. All the devils shook with terror, and there was nothing the demon king could do about it as Monkey opened up a trail of blood, pushing three over here and pulling a couple down there as he went straight out through the front doors. Indeed:


The demon was unready in his pride;

The cudgel went back to its owner's side.


If you don't know whether all turned out for good or for ill, listen to the explanation in the next installment.


Wu Cheng-en Journey to the West (vol. 2) | Journey to the West (vol. 2) | Chapter 52