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Chapter 68

In the Land of Purpuria the Tang Priest Discusses History

Sun the Pilgrim in His Charity Offers to Be a Doctor


When good is right all causes disappear;

Its fame is spread through all four continents.

In the light of wisdom they climb the other shore;

Soughing dark clouds are blown from the edge of the sky.

All the Buddhas give them help,

Sitting for ever on their thrones of jade.

Smash the illusions of the human world,

Cease!

Cleanse the dirt; provoke no misery.


The story tells how Sanzang and his disciples cleaned the lane of its filth and pressed far ahead along the road. Time passed quickly and the weather was scorching again. Indeed:


The begonias spread their globes of brocade;

Lotus leaves split their own green dishes.

Fledgling swallows hide in the roadside willows;

Travelers wave their silken fans for relief from the heat.


As they carried on their way a walled and moated city appeared before them. Reining in his horse, Sanzang, said, Disciples, can you see where this is?

You can't read, Master, Monkey exclaimed. How ever did you get the Tang Emperor to send you on this mission?

I have been a monk since I was a boy and read classics and scriptures by the thousand, Sanzang replied. How could you say I can't read?

Well, Monkey replied, if you can, why ask where we are instead of reading the big clear writing on the apricot-yellow flag over the city wall?

Wretched ape, Sanzang shouted, you're talking nonsense. The flag is flapping much too hard in the wind for anyone to read what, if anything, is on it.

Then how could I read it? Monkey asked.

Don't rise to his bait, Master, Pig and Friar Sand said. From this distance we can't even see the walls and moat clearly, never mind words in a banner.

But doesn't it say Purpuria? Monkey asked.

Purpuria must be a Western kingdom, Sanzang said. We shall have to present our passport.

Goes without saying, Monkey observed.

They were soon outside the city gates, where the master dismounted, crossed the bridge, and went in through the triple gates. It was indeed a splendid metropolis. This is what could be seen:


Lofty gate-towers,

Regular battlements,

Living waters flowing around,

Mountains facing to North and South.

Many are the goods in the streets and markets,

And all the citizens do thriving business.

This is a city fit for a monarch.

A capital endowed by heaven.

To this distant realm come travelers by land and water;

Jade and silk abound in this remoteness.

It is more beautiful than the distant ranges;

The palace rises to the purity of space.

Closely barred are the passes leading here,

When peace and prosperity have lasted for ever.


As master and disciples walked along the highways and through the markets they saw that the people were tall, neatly dressed and well spoken. Indeed, they were not inferior to those of the Great Tang. When the traders who stood on either side of the road saw how ugly Pig was, how tall and dark-featured Friar Sand was, and how hairy and wide-browed Monkey was they all dropped their business and came over to see them.

Don't provoke trouble, Sanzang called to them. Hold your heads down. Pig obediently tucked his snout into his chest and Friar Sand did not dare look up. Monkey, however, stared all around him as he kept close to the Tang Priest. The more sensible people went away again after taking a look, but the idlers, the curious and the naughty children among the spectators jeered, threw bricks and tiles at the strangers, and mocked Pig.

Whatever you do, don't get into a row, Sanzang said again in great anxiety. The idiot kept his head down.

Before long they turned a corner and saw a gate in a wall over which was written HOSTEL OF MEETING in large letters. We are going into this government office, Sanzang said.

Why? Monkey asked.

The Hostel of Meeting is a place where people from all over the world are received, so we can go and disturb them, said Sanzang. Let's rest there. When I have seen the king and presented our passport we can leave the city and be on our way again. When Pig heard this he brought his snout out, so terrifying the people following behind that dozens of them collapsed.

The master's right, said Pig, stepping forward. Let's shelter inside there and get away from these damned mockers. They went inside, after which the people began to disperse.

There were two commissioners in the hostel, a senior one and his assistant, and they were in the hall checking over their personnel before going to receive an official when, to their great consternation, the Tang Priest suddenly appeared.

Who are you? they asked together. Who are you? Where are you going?

I have been sent by His Majesty the Tang Emperor to fetch the scriptures from the Western Heaven, the Tang Priest replied, putting his hands together in front of his chest. Having reached your illustrious country I did not dare to try to sneak through. I would like to submit my passport for inspection so that we may be allowed to continue our way. Meanwhile we would like to rest in your splendid hostel.

When the two commissioners heard this they dismissed their subordinates, put on their full official dress and went down from the main hall to greet the visitors. They instructed that the guest rooms be tidied up for them to sleep in and ordered vegetarian provisions for them. Sanzang thanked them, and the two officials led their staff out of the hall. Some of their attendants invited the visitors to sleep in the guest rooms.

Sanzang went with them, but Monkey complained bitterly, Damned cheek. Why won't they let me stay in the main hall?

The people here don't come under the jurisdiction of our Great Tang and they have no connections with our country either. Besides, their superiors often come to stay. It is difficult for them to entertain us.

In that case. Monkey replied, I insist on them entertaining us properly.

As they were talking the manager brought their provisions: a dish each of white rice and wheat flour, two cabbages, four pieces of beancurd, two pieces of wheat gluten, a dish of dried bamboo shoots and a dish of tree-ear fungus. Sanzang told his disciples to receive the provisions and thanked the manager.

There's a clean cooking-stove in the Western room, the manager said, and it's easy to light the firewood in it. Would you please cook your own food?

May I ask you if the king is in the palace? Sanzang asked.

His Majesty has not attended court for a long time, the manager replied. But today is an auspicious one, and he is discussing the issue of a notice with his civil and military officials. You'd better hurry if you want to get there in time to submit your passport to him. Tomorrow will be too late to do it, and goodness knows how long you'll have to wait.

Wukong, said Sanzang, you three prepare the meal while I hurry there to have our passport inspected. After we have eaten we can be on our way. Pig quickly unpacked the cassock and passport for Sanzang, who dressed himself and set out for the palace, instructing his disciples not to leave the hostel or make trouble.

Before long the Tang Priest was outside the Tower of Five Phoenixes at the outer palace gate. The towering majesty of the halls and the splendor of the tall buildings and terraces beggared description. When he reached the main Southern gate he requested the reporting officer to announce to the court his wish to have his passport inspected.

The eunuch officer at the gate went to the steps of the throne, where he submitted the following memorial: There is a monk at the palace gate sent by the Great Tang in the East to worship the Buddha and fetch the scriptures at the Thunder Monastery in the Western Heaven. He wishes to submit his passport for approval. I await Your Majesty's command.

When the king heard this he replied happily, For a long time we have been too ill to sit on our throne. Today we are in the throne room to issue a notice sending for doctors, and now a distinguished monk has arrived in our country. He ordered that the monk be summoned to the steps of the throne. Sanzang abased himself in reverence. The king then summoned him into the throne room, invited him to sit down, and ordered the department of foreign relations to arrange a vegetarian meal. Sanzang thanked the king for his kindness and presented his passport.

When he had read it through the king said with great delight, Master of the Law, how many dynasties have ruled in your land of Great Tang? How many generations of wise ministers have there been? After what illness did the Tang emperor come back to life, so that he sent you on this long and difficult journey to fetch the scriptures?

On being asked all these questions the venerable elder bowed, put his hands together and said, In my country,


The Three Emperors ruled,

The Five Rulers established morality.

Yao and Shun took the throne,

Yu and Tang gave the people peace.

Many were the offspring of Chengzhou

Who each established their own states,

Bullying the weak with their own strength,

Dividing the realm and proclaiming themselves rulers.

Eighteen such lords of local states

Divided the territory up to the borders.

Later they became a dozen,

Bringing peace to the cosmic order.

But those who had no chariots of war

Were swallowed up by others.

When the seven great states contended

Six of them had to surrender to Qin.

Heaven gave birth to Liu Bang and Xiang Yu,

Each of whom cherished wicked ideas.

The empire then belonged to Han

According to the stipulations agreed between the two.

Power passed from Han to the Sima clan,

Till Jin in its turn fell into chaos.

Twelve states ruled in North and South,

Among them Song, Qi, Liang and Chen.

Emperors ruled in succession to each other

Till the Great Sui restored the true unity.

Then it indulged in evil and wickedness.

Inflicting misery on the common people.

Our present rulers, the House of Li,

Have given the name of Tang to the state.

Since the High Ancestor passed on the throne

The reigning monarch has been Li Shimin.

The rivers have run clear and the seas been calm

Thanks to his great virtue and his benevolence.

North of the city of Chang'an

Lived a wicked river dragon

Who gave the timely rain in short measure,

For which he deserved to pay with his death.

One night he came in a dream to the emperor,

Asking the monarch to spare his life.

The emperor promised to grant a pardon

And sent for his wise minister early next day.

He kept him there inside the palace,

Filling his time with a long game of chess.

But at high noon the minister

Slept, and in a dream cut off the dragon's head.


On hearing this the king groaned and asked, Master of the Law, which country did that wise minister come from?

He was our emperor's prime minister Wei Zheng, astrologer, geographer, master of the Yin and Yang, and one of the great founders and stabilizers of our state, Sanzang explained. Because he beheaded the Dragon King of the Jing River in his dream, the dragon brought a case in the Underworld against our emperor for having him decapitated after granting a pardon. The emperor became very ill and his condition was critical. Wei Zhang wrote him a letter to take to the Underworld and give to Cui Jue, the judge of Fengdu. Soon after that the emperor died, only to come back to life on the third day. It was thanks to Wei Zheng that Judge Cui was persuaded to alter a document and give His Majesty an extra twenty years of life. He held a great Land and Water Mass and dispatched me on this long journey to visit many lands, worship the Buddha and fetch the Three Stores of Mahayana scriptures that will raise all the sufferers from evil up to Heaven.

At this the king groaned and sighed again. Yours is indeed a heavenly dynasty and a great nation, he said, with a just ruler and wise ministers. We have long been ill, but not one minister do we have who will save us. On hearing this the venerable elder stole a glance at the king and saw that his face was sallow and emaciated; his appearance was going to pieces and his spirits were very low. The venerable elder was going to ask him some questions when an official of the department of Foreign relations came to invite the Tang Priest to eat. The king ordered that his food should be set out with Sanzang's in the Hall of Fragrance so that he could eat with the Master of the Law. Thanking the king for his kindness Sanzang took his meal with him.


Meanwhile, back in the Hostel of Meeting, Brother Monkey told Friar Sand to prepare the tea, the grain and the vegetarian dishes. There's no problem about the tea and the rice, Friar Sand said, but the vegetable dishes will be difficult.

Why? Monkey asked.

There's no oil, salt, soya sauce or vinegar, Friar Sand replied.

I've got a few coins here, Monkey said, so we can send Pig out to buy them.

I wouldn't dare, said the idiot, who was feeling too lazy to go. My ugly mug could cause trouble, and then the master would blame me.

If you buy the stuff at a fair price and don't try to get it by asking for alms or theft there couldn't possibly by any trouble, said Brother Monkey.

Didn't you see the commotion just now? asked Pig. I only showed my snout outside the gate and about a dozen of them collapsed with fright. Goodness only knows how many I'd scare to death in a busy shopping street.

Well, said Monkey, as you know so much about the busy shopping streets did you notice what was being sold in them?

No, said Pig. The master told me to keep my head down and cause no trouble. Honest, I didn't see anything.

I won't need to tell you about the bars, grain merchants, mills, silk shops and grocers, said Monkey. But there are marvellous teahouses and noodle shops selling big sesame buns and steamed bread. You can buy terrific soup, rice, spices and vegetables in the restaurants. Then there are all the exotic cakes, yogurts, snacks, rolls, fries, and honey sweets. Any number of goodies. Shall I go out and buy you some?

This description had the idiot drooling; the saliva gurgled in his throat. Brother, he said, jumping to his feet, I'll let you pay this time. Next time I'm in the money I'll treat you.

Friar Sand, said Monkey, hiding his amusement, cook the rice while I go out to buy some other ingredients.

Realizing that Monkey was only fooling the idiot, Friar Sand agreed. Off you go, he said. Buy plenty and have a good feed. Grabbing a bowl and a dish the idiot went out with Monkey.

Where are you reverend gentlemen going? two officials asked him.

To buy some groceries, Monkey replied.

Go West along this street, turn at the drum tower, and you'll be at Zheng's grocery, they said. You can buy as much oil, salt, soya sauce, vinegar, ginger, pepper and tea as you like there: they've got them all.

The two of them headed West along the road hand in hand. Monkey went past several teahouses and restaurants but did not buy any of the things on sale or eat any of the food. Brother, called Pig, why don't we make do with what we can buy here? This was the last thing that Monkey, who had only been fooling him, intended to do.

My dear brother, he said, you don't know how to get a good bargain. If we go a little further you can choose bigger ones. As the two of them were talking a lot of people followed jostling behind them. Before long they reached the drum tower, where a huge and noisy crowd was pushing and shoving and filling the whole road.

I'm not going any further, brother, said Pig when he saw this. From the way they're shouting they sound as though they're out to catch monks. And we're suspicious-looking strangers. What'll we do if they arrest us?

Stop talking such nonsense, said Monkey. We monks haven't broken the law, so monk-catchers would have no reason to arrest us. Let's carry on and buy the ingredients we need at Zheng's.

No, said Pig, never. I'm not going to ask for trouble. If I try to squeeze through that crowd and my ears get pulled out to their full length they'll collapse with fright. Several of them might get trampled to death, and it would cost me my life.

Very well then, said Monkey. You stand at the foot of this wall while I go and buy the things. I'll bring you back some wheaten cakes. The idiot handed the bowl and dish to Monkey then stood with his back to the crowd and his snout against the foot of the wall. He would not have moved for anything in the world.

When Monkey reached the drum tower he found that the crowds really were very dense. As he squeezed his way through them he heard people saying that a royal proclamation had been posted at the tower: this was what all the people were struggling to see. Monkey pushed forward till he was close to it, then opened wide his fiery eyes with golden pupils to read it carefully. This is what was written:


We, the King of Purpuria in the Western Continent of Cattle-gift, from the beginning of our reign gave peace to the four quarters and tranquillity to the people. Recently the state's misfortunes have confined us to our bed with a chronic illness that has continued for a very long time. Recovery has proved impossible, and the many excellent prescriptions of our country's Royal College of Medicine have not yet effected a cure. We hereby issue an invitation to all experts in medicine and pharmacy among the wise men of the world, whether from the North or the East, from China or from foreign countries, to ascend to the throne hall and heal our sickness, in the event of a recovery we will give half our kingdom. This is no empty promise. All those who can offer cures should come to this notice.

When Monkey had read this he exclaimed with delight, As they used to say in the old days, 'Make a move and your fortune's one third made.' I was wrong to stay put in the hostel. There's no need to buy groceries, and fetching the scriptures can wait for a day while I go and have a bit of fun as a doctor. The splendid Great Sage bent low, got rid of the bowl and dish, took a pinch of dust, threw it into the air, said the words of a spell and made himself invisible. He then went up to the notice, quietly took it down, and blew towards the Southeast with a magic breath.

Immediately a whirlwind arose that scattered all the people there. Monkey then went straight back to where Pig was standing, his nose propped against the foot of the wall as if he were fast asleep. Brother Monkey folded the notice up, slipped it inside the lapel of Pig's tunic without disturbing him, turned and went back to the hostel.

As soon as the whirlwind started blowing all the people in the crowd at the foot of the drum tower covered their heads and shut their eyes, never imagining that when the wind fell the royal proclamation would have disappeared. They were horrorstruck. That morning twelve palace eunuchs and twelve guards officers had come out to post it, and now it had been blown away after less than six hours. In fear and trembling the people searched all around for it until a piece of paper was spotted sticking out of Pig's lapel.

So you took the proclamation down, did you? they asked, going up to him.

Looking up with a start the idiot thrust his nose up at them, making the guards officers stagger about and collapse with terror. He turned to flee, only to be grabbed by several bold spirits who blocked his way.

You've taken down the royal proclamation inviting doctors, so you're coming to the palace to cure His Majesty, they said. Where else d'you think you're going?

I'm your son if I tore the poster down, said Pig in panic. I'd be your grandson if I could cure disease.

What's that sticking out of your tunic? one of the officers asked.

Only then did the idiot look down and see that there really was a piece of paper there. Opening it he ground his teeth and swore, That macaque is trying to get me killed! He gave an angry roar and was just about to tear it up when they all stopped him.

You're a dead man, they said. That's a proclamation His Majesty issued today. How dare you tear it up? As you've put it in your tunic you're no doubt a brilliant doctor. Come with us at once!

You don't understand, shouted Pig. It wasn't me that took it down. It was my fellow disciple Sun Wukong. He sneaked it into my tunic then abandoned me. We'll all have to go and find him to get to the bottom of this.

Nonsense, they said. We've got a bell here-we're not going off to play one that's still being cast. You can say what you like. Drag him off to see His Majesty. Not bothering to get to the truth of the matter they pushed and pulled the idiot, who stood his ground as firmly as if he had taken root there. Over ten of them tried to move him without any success. You've got no respect, said Pig. If you go on pulling at me and make me lose my temper I'll go berserk, and don't blame me then.

It had not taken long for this commotion to stir up the whole neighbourhood, and Pig was now surrounded. Two elderly palace eunuchs in the crowd said, You look very odd and you sound wrong too. Where are you from, you ruffian?

We're pilgrims sent from the East to fetch the scriptures from the Western Heaven, Pig replied. My master is the younger brother of the Tang emperor and a Master of the Law. He's just gone to the palace to hand his passport over for inspection. I came here with my brother disciple to buy some groceries, but there were so many people by the tower that I was scared to go any further. He told me to wait here. When he saw the proclamation he made a whirlwind, took it down, sneaked it into my tunic and went away.

We did see a monk with a plump white face going in through the palace gates, one of the eunuchs said. Perhaps that was your master.

Yes, yes, said Pig.

Where did your fellow disciple go? the eunuch asked.

There are four of us altogether, said Pig. When the master went to present his passport the other three of us stayed with our luggage and our horse in the Hostel of Meeting. My brother's played a trick on me and gone back there ahead of me.

Let go of him, officers, the eunuch said. We'll all go to the hostel together and find out what's really happening.

You two ladies are very sensible, said Pig.

Monk, you don't know about anything, said the officers. How can you address gentlemen as ladies?

You're shameless, laughed Pig. You've made them change sex. Fancy calling these two old females gentlemen instead of women or ladies!

That's enough of your insolence, they all said. Find your fellow disciple at once.

The noisy crowd in the street, which was not to be numbered in mere hundreds, carried him to the hostel gates. Don't come any further, gentlemen, Pig said. My brother won't let you make a fool of him the way I do. He's a ferocious and serious character. When you meet him you'll have to bow deeply to him and call him 'Lord Sun,' then he'll look after you. If you don't he'll turn nasty and this business will fail.

To this the eunuchs and officers replied, If your brother really has the power to cure our king he'll be given half the country and we will all bow to him.

The idlers were still making a commotion outside the hostel gates as Pig led the eunuchs and officers straight inside, where Monkey could be heard laughing with pleasure as he told Friar Sand about how he had taken the proclamation down.

Pig went up to him, grabbed him and yelled, Why won't you act like a man? You said you'd buy me noodles, buns, and steamed bread to lure me out, but it was only an empty promise. Then you made a whirlwind, took down the royal proclamation, and sneakily put it in my tunic. You made a real idiot of me. What kind of brother are you?

Idiot, laughed Monkey, you must have got lost and gone the wrong way. I couldn't find you when I rushed back from buying the groceries the other side of the drum tower, so I came back ahead. Where did I tear any royal proclamations down?

The officials who were guarding it are here, said Pig.

Before he had finished speaking the eunuchs and officers came up, bowed low and said, Lord Sun, His Majesty is very fortunate today as Heaven has sent you down to us. We are sure that you will display your great skill and give him the benefit of your outstanding medical knowledge. If you cure our king you will receive half the country and half the state. On hearing this Monkey composed his face, took the proclamation from Pig and said, I suppose you are the officials who were guarding the notice.

We slaves are eunuchs in the Bureau of Ritual, said the eunuchs, kowtowing, and these gentlemen are officers in the royal guard.

I did take the royal proclamation down, Monkey said, and I used my younger brother to bring you here. So your lord is ill. As the saying goes, 'Don't sell medicine carelessly, and don't send for any old doctor when you're ill.' Tell your king to come here and ask me himself to help him. I can get rid of his illness at a touch. This shocked all the eunuchs.

That is very big talk, so you must be a man of great breadth of spirit, the officers said. Half of us will remain here to press the invitation in silence while the other half go back to the palace to report.

Four of the eunuchs and six of the guards officers went straight into the palace without waiting to be summoned and said at the steps of the throne room, Congratulations, Your Majesty.

When the king, who was in the middle of a cultivated conversation with Sanzang after their meal together, heard this he asked, What on?

When we, your slaves, took out Your Majesty's proclamation sending for doctors this morning and posted it at the foot of the drum tower, a holy monk from Great Tang in the East took it down, they replied. He is now in the Hostel of Meeting and wants Your Majesty to go in person to ask his help. He can get rid of illness at a touch. That is why we have come to submit this report.

This news delighted the king. How many distinguished disciples do you have, Master of the Law? he asked.

Putting his hands together in front of his chest Sanzang replied, I have three stupid followers.

Which of them is a medical expert? the king asked.

To be frank with Your Majesty, Sanzang replied, they are all country bumpkins fit only for carrying baggage, leading the horse, finding their way along streams, or leading me over mountains and rivers. In dangerous places they can defeat monsters, capture demons, and subdue tigers and dragons. None of them knows anything about medicines.

Aren't you being too hard on them? the king asked. It was very fortunate that you came to court when we entered the throne hall this morning: this was surely destined by Heaven. If your disciple knows nothing about medicine why would he have taken down our proclamation and demanded that we go to greet him in person? He must surely be a great physician.

He then called, Civilian and military officers, we are much too weak to ride in our carriage. You must all leave the palace and go on our behalf to invite the Venerable Sun to treat our disease. When you meet him you must on no account show him any disrespect. You must address him as 'Holy monk, Venerable Sun' and treat him with the deference due to your own sovereign.

Having received these orders the officials went straight to the Hostel of Meeting with the eunuchs and guards officers responsible for the proclamation. There they arranged themselves in their companies to kowtow to Monkey. Pig was so frightened that he hid in the wing, while Friar Sand slipped behind the wall. Just look at the Great Sage sitting solemnly and unmoving in the middle of the room.

That macaque is really asking to have his head cut off, Pig thought resentfully. All those officials bowing to him, and he's not bowing back or standing up either.

Soon afterwards, when the rituals had been performed, the officials addressed Monkey as if he were their monarch: We report to the holy monk, the Venerable Sun, that we officials of the Kingdom of Purpuria have come at the command of our king to do respectful homage to the holy monk and invite him to the palace to treat our sick king.

Only then did Brother Monkey stand up and reply, Why hasn't your king come?

His Majesty is too weak to ride in his carriage, the officials all replied, which is why he ordered us to pay homage to you, holy monk, as if you were our sovereign, kowtow to you and invite you to come.

In that case, said Monkey, will you gentlemen please lead the way. I'll follow you. The officials then formed themselves into a column in accordance with their ranks and set out. Monkey tidied his clothes and got to his feet.

Brother, said Pig, whatever you do, don't drag us in.

I won't, Monkey replied, provided you two accept the medicine for me.

What medicine? Friar Sand asked.

You must accept all the medicine people send me, Monkey replied. I'll collect it when I come back. The two of them undertook this commission.


Monkey was soon at the palace with the officials, who went in first to inform the king. He raised high the curtains of pearls, flashed his dragon and phoenix eyes, opened his golden mouth and spoke majestically, Which gentleman is the holy monk, the Venerable Sun?

Taking a step forward, Monkey shouted at the top of his voice, I am.

The voice was so ugly and the face so hideous that the king fell back on his dragon throne. In their alarm the female officials and the palace eunuchs helped him to the inner quarters.

He's terrified His Majesty to death, they said.

Monk, all the officials said angrily to Monkey, how could you be so rough and crude? Why did you dare take the proclamation down?

When Brother Monkey heard this he replied with a smile, You shouldn't be angry with me. If you're going to be so rude to me your king won't get better in a thousand years.

But how long does human life last? the officials asked. How is it that he won't get better even in a thousand years?

He's a sick ruler now, said Monkey. When he dies he'll be a sick ghost, and whenever he's reincarnated he'll be a sick man again. That's why he won't get better even in a thousand years.

You've got no sense of respect at all, the infuriated officials replied. How dare you talk such nonsense!

It's not nonsense, Monkey laughed. Listen and I'll explain:


Mysterious indeed are the principles of medicine;

Flexibility of mind is a quality required.

Use eyes and ears, ask questions, take the pulses:

Omit but one and the examination's incomplete.

First look for outward signs of the patient's vital energy.

Dried? Smooth? Fat? Thin? Active? Does he sleep well?

Secondly, listen to whether the voice is clear or harsh:

Determine if the words he speaks are true or crazed.

Third, you must ask how long the disease has lasted,

And how the patient eats, drinks and relieves himself.

Fourth, feel the pulses and be clear about the veins:

Are they deep, shallow, external or inside?

Should I not look and listen, ask questions, and take the pulses,

Never in all his days will the king be well again.


In the ranks of the civil and military officials there were some fellows of the Royal College of Medicine who when they heard these words praised Monkey publicly: The monk is right. Even a god or an immortal would have to look, listen, ask questions and take the pulses before treating a patient successfully with his divine gifts.

All the officials agreed with these remarks, then went up to the king and submitted: The reverend gentleman wishes to look, listen, ask questions and take the pulses before he can prescribe properly.

Send him away, the king said over and over again as he lay on his dragon bed. We cannot bear to see any strangers.

His attendants then came out from the inner quarters and announced, Monk, His Majesty commands that you go away. He cannot bear to see a stranger.

If he won't see a stranger, Monkey replied, I know the art of taking the pulses with hanging threads.

That is something of which we have only heard, exclaimed all the officials, concealing their delight, but that we have never seen with our own eyes. Please go back in and submit another report.

The personal attendants then went back into the inner quarters and reported, Your Majesty, the Venerable Sun can take your pulses with hanging threads: he does not need to see Your Majesty's face.

At this the king reflected, In the three years we have been ill we have never tried this technique. Send him in.

At once the courtiers in attendance announced, His Majesty has consented to pulse-taking by the hanging threads. Send the Venerable Sun to the inner quarters at once to make his diagnosis.

Monkey then entered the throne hall, where the Tang Priest met him with abuse: Wretched ape! You will be the death of me!

My good master, Monkey replied with a smile, I'm bringing you credit. How can you say I'll be the death of you?

In all the years you've been with me, Sanzang shouted, I have never seen you cure a single person. You know nothing about the nature of drugs, and you have never studied medical books. How can you be so reckless and bring this disaster on us?

You don't realize, Master, said Monkey with a smile, that I do know the odd herbal remedy and can treat serious illnesses. I guarantee I can cure him. Even if the treatment kills him I'll only be guilty of manslaughter through medical incompetence. That's not a capital offence. What are you afraid of? There's nothing to worry about, nothing. You sit here and see what my pulse diagnosis is like.

How can you talk all this rubbish, Sanzang asked, when you have never read the Plain Questions, the Classic of Difficulties, the Pharmacopoeia and the Mysteries of the Pulses, or studied the commentaries to them? How could you possibly diagnose his pulses by hanging threads?

I've got golden threads on me that you've never seen, Monkey replied, putting out his hand to pull three hairs from his tail, hold them in a bunch, call, Change! and turn them into three golden threads each twenty-four feet long to match the twenty-four periods of the solar year. Holding these in his hand he said to the Tang Priest, These are golden threads, aren't they?

Stop talking, reverend gentleman, said the eunuchs in attendance on the king. Please come inside and make your diagnosis. Taking his leave of the Tang Priest Monkey followed the attendants into the inner quarters to see his patient. Indeed:


The heart has a secret prescription that will save a country;

The hidden and wonderful spell gives eternal life.


If you do not know what illness was diagnosed or what medicines were used and wish to learn the truth listen to the explanation in the next installment.


Chapter 67 | Journey to the West (vol. 2) | Chapter 69