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Chapter 52

Monkey Makes Havoc in the Jindou Cave

The Buddha Gives a Hint About the Owner

The story tells how after recovering his gold-banded cudgel Monkey fought his way out of the cave and jumped up to the peak to see all the gods. He was very pleased with himself. How did it go this time? asked Heavenly King Li. I did a transformation and went into the cave, said Monkey, where I saw the devils dancing, singing and drinking to celebrate their victory. But I heard nothing about where the demon keeps his treasure. When I went round to the back I heard the horses and dragons whimpering and realized they must be the fire beasts. My gold-banded cudgel was leaning against the Eastern wall, so I took it and fought my way out of the cave.

You have your treasure now, said the gods, but how are we going to get ours back?

Easy, said Monkey, easy. With this iron cudgel I can beat him whatever he does. I'll recover your treasures. As they were talking there rose from the mountainside a concerted sound of gongs and drums as well as earth-shaking shouts: the Great Rhinoceros King was leading his host of spirits out in pursuit of Monkey, who called out at the sight of them, Great, great, Just what I want. Please sit down, gentlemen, while I go to capture him.

The splendid Great Sage raised his iron cudgel and struck at the demon's face with a shout, Where do you think you're going, damned demon? Take this! Warding the blow off with his spear, the demon insulted him back: Thieving ape! You're a disgrace. How dare you steal my property in broad daylight?

I'll get you, evil beast. Have the decency to die! All you can do is use your ring to steal our property in broad daylight. None of those things are really yours. Stay where you are, and take this! Once again the monster parried with his spear. It was a splendid fight.

The Great Sage was ferocious,

The demon was not gentle.

Both sides fought with courage;

Neither would give in.

The iron cudgel was a dragon's tail,

The long spear was a serpent's head.

Blows from the cudgel whistled like the wind,

The spear's moves flowed as smoothly as a stream.

The mountain darkened, wreathed in coloured mists;

Auspicious clouds hung heavy on the woods.

The birds in the air all stopped their flying;

The wild beasts of the field all hid away.

The demons on one side raised battle cries

While Monkey on the other was Ml of vigor.

An iron club that no one could withstand

Had fought its way along the long road West;

A long spear that was a worthy match,

And always held its power supreme on Mount Jindou.

Once they joined battle there could be no respite:

They swore to carry on until one conquered.

The demon king and the Great Sage had been fighting for six hours without either gaining the upper hand. As night was falling the evil spirit held out his spear and said, Stop, Wukong. It's too dark for fighting now. Let's have a night's sleep and I'll go on having it out with you tomorrow.

Shut up, damned demon, replied Monkey abusively. I've only just warmed up. I don't care how late it is: I'm going to carry on till one of us has won. The demon gave a shout, made a feint with his spear, and fled for his life, leading his host of devils in retreat back to the cave, where they shut the doors tight.

When Monkey returned to the mountain top with his cudgel the gods from Heaven all congratulated him. You really are strong and capable, Great Sage Equaling Heaven, they said, and your powers are boundless.

You're overdoing your praises, Monkey replied.

No, said Heavenly King Li, coming up to him, this is not empty praise. You really are a tough guy. The force you were up against today was as strong as the Heaven and Earth nets all those years age.

Let's not go into all that ancient history, said Monkey. That demon must be exhausted after his fight with me. I haven't been put to any trouble worth speaking of, so if you'll all sit here and relax I'll go back into the cave, find out where he keeps the ring, and steal it if I possibly can. Then I'll capture the monster, find your weapons, and return them to you to take back to Heaven.

It's late now, said Prince Nezha. You'd better have a good night's sleep and go tomorrow morning.

You don't understand life, my lad, replied Monkey. Who ever heard of a burglar liking to steal in broad daylight? This sort of groping about has to be done in secret under cover of darkness. That's the way the job's done.

Stop arguing, Your Highness, said the Star Lord of Fire and the two thunder gods, We don't know anything about that sort of thing, and the Great Sage is an old hand. Let him make the most of the nighttime, when the demon is exhausted and nobody is expecting anything to happen. Please go at once.

With a chuckle the splendid Great Sage tucked his iron cudgel away, jumped down from the peak and went to the mouth of the cave, where he shook himself and turned into a cricket. Indeed:

Hard mouth, black skin, and long antennae,

Bright eyes and legs that bend like branches.

In the clear wind and in moonlight he sings by the wall;

When the night is still he talks like a human.

As he weeps in the dew the scenery seems cold;

His marvellous voice now comes in fits and starts.

Just when the homesick traveler least wishes to hear him

He finds him lurking underneath the bed.

With a few bounds of his mighty legs Monkey was at the doors. Squeezing through the narrow gap between them he squatted at the foot of the wall, looking carefully at where the light was coming from. He saw all the big and little devils devouring their food like wolves or tigers. Monkey chirped for a while, and a little later the banquet was cleared away and the devils all went to bed. About two hours later, when Monkey had just reached the room at the back, he heard the demon king ordering, Little ones on the doors, stay awake! Sun Wukong may change himself into something and sneak in here to steal.

Those who were on watch duty that night were neatly turned out and sounding their clappers and bells. This made it even easier for the Great Sage, to go about his business. Creeping into the monster's bedroom he saw a stone bed on either side of which stood powdered and painted mountain and tree spirits. They were spreading out the bedding and waiting on the old demon, taking off his boots and clothes. When the old demon was undressed Monkey could see the ring gleaming white on his left arm. It looked like a bracelet made from a string of pearls. Instead of taking it off the demon pushed it up his arm a couple of times to jam it more firmly into place before going to sleep. Seeing this, Monkey changed himself again, this time into a brown-skinned flea that jumped up on the bed, burrowed into the bedding, climbed on the monster's arm, and bit him so hard that he sat up with a yell of, Bloody slaves, you need some more flogging. You didn't shake out the quilt or dust the bed, and I've just been bitten. He rubbed the ring twice more and went back to sleep. Monkey climbed on the ring and bit him again, so that the monster sat up again, unable to sleep. I'm itching to death, he complained.

Seeing that the security was so strict and that the demon kept the treasure on himself and was not going to take it off Monkey realized that he would be unable to steal it. So he jumped down from the bed, turned himself back into a cricket, left the bedroom, and went straight to the back, where he heard the groans and whimpers of the dragons and horses again, but now from behind tightly shut doors. Monkey turned back to his own form and went up to the doors to open the lock by magic. He said a spell and rubbed the lock, making its tongues both click open. He then pushed the doors open and rushed inside, where it was as bright as day in the light from all the fire instruments and creatures. He noticed some weapons leaning against the walls on either side: Prince Nezha's demon-hacking cutlass and other arms as well as the fire bows, arrows and the rest of the Star Lord of Fire's gear. Looking all around by the light of the fires he noticed to his delight a handful of hairs lying in a bamboo basket on a stone table behind the doors. Monkey picked them up, blew on them twice with warm breath, shouted Change! and turned them into three or four dozen little monkeys. He told them to take the cutlass, sword, pestle, rope, ball, wheel, bow, arrows, spear, carts, gourd, fire crows, fire rats, fire horses and everything else that had been caught in the ring; then he mounted the fire dragon and started a blaze burning from the inside outwards. There was a great roaring and loud cracks that sounded like thunder and cannons. All the big and little demons were thrown into such panic and confusion that they wrapped themselves in their quilts, covered their heads, shouted and wept. As they had nowhere to flee most of them were burnt to death. When the Handsome Monkey King returned in victory it was about midnight.

When Heavenly King Li and the other gods spotted the dazzling fire from the mountaintop they rushed forward to see Brother Monkey riding the dragon and driving the little monkeys straight up to the peak. Come and get your weapons, he shouted, come and get your weapons. The Star Lord of Fire and Nezha shouted greetings, whereupon Monkey shook himself and put all the hairs back on his body. Nezha recovered his six weapons, and the Star Lord told his subordinates to collect the fire dragon and the rest of the fire creatures and implements. They were all laughing with pleasure as they congratulated Monkey.

The blaze in the Jindou Cave gave the Great Rhinoceros King such a fright that his souls left his body. He sat up at once, threw open the doors of his bedroom, and held the ring out in both hands to the East and the West to put out the fire. Then he ran all around holding out his treasure, which extinguished all the flames and smoke that filled the air, and tried to rescue his demons, most of whom were dead. He could only muster a hundred or so, male and female; and when he looked at where the weapons were kept he found them all gone. Going round to the back he saw Pig, Friar Sand and the Tang Priest still tied up there, the white horse still tethered to the trough and the luggage still in the room.

I wonder which careless little devil started that fire, he said angrily. Look what it has done!

Your Majesty, said his attendants, the fire was nothing to do with anyone in our household. It was probably a burglar who let all the fire creatures go and stole the magic weapons.

Only then did the demon realize what had happened. I'm certain it was Sun Wukong, he said. It can't have been anyone else. No wonder I couldn't get to sleep. The thieving monkey must have turned himself into something to get in here and bite my arm twice. He must have been trying to steal my treasure but failed because I was wearing it too tightly. So he stole the weapons and released the fire dragon. What a vicious idea: he was trying to burn me to death. Evil monkey! Your cleverness will get you nowhere: you don't know my powers yet. As long as I have this treasure I can go into the ocean without drowning and into fire without being burnt. If I catch that bandit I'll chop him up into little bits and burn him as a torch. That's the only way I'll feel better about it.

After he had been talking to himself in his misery for a long time he did not notice the cocks crowing for the dawn. Up on the mountaintop Prince Nezha, who now had his six weapons back, said to Monkey, Great Sage, it's light now and we must lose no time. We should fight the demon while his morale is still low. We'll support you with all the fire forces while you take him on, and this time I think you'll be able to capture him.

You're right, said Monkey. We'll all pull together. Let's have some fun. Every one of them braced himself and displayed his martial prowess as they headed for the mouth of the cave. Come out, damned demon, shouted Monkey, and fight with me. The two stone doors had been reduced to ashes by the blaze, and the little devils inside were sweeping up and picking over the cinders. The approach of all the gods made them drop their brooms and their ash forks in panic as they rushed back inside to report, Sun Wukong is here with a host of gods from Heaven demanding battle again. The news caused the rhinoceros monster great alarm. He noisily ground his teeth of steel, his eyes bulged with fury, and he went out holding his spear and his treasure, pouring out insults: I'll get you, you thieving arsonist of an ape. What sort of powers do you have that give you the right to treat me with such contempt?

Damned devil, retorted Monkey with a smile on his face, if you want to know my powers I'll tell you:

Since I was little my powers have been great;

My fame has spread in heaven and in earth.

As a bright young thing I learned to be immortal,

Acquiring the traditions of eternal youth.

I determined to visit the land of the heart

And reverently went to the country of the sages.

I learned the magic of infinite changes

And roamed at will through cosmic space.

My hobby was subduing the tigers on the hills;

When bored I forced the ocean dragons to submit.

I was monarch of the Mountain of Flowers and of Fruit,

And showed off my power in the Water Curtain Cave.

Often I decided to go up to Heaven

And in my folly I occupied the place above.

I was called the Great Sage Equaling Heaven

And given the title of Handsome Monkey King.

When they held a banquet of their magic peaches

I was most angry at not being invited.

Secretly I went to steal jade liquor,

Drinking this rare wine in their elegant pavilions.

Liver of dragons, the marrow of the phoenix,

And many other delicacies did I steal that day.

I ate my fill of those immortal peaches,

And packed my stomach with pills of eternal life.

I then purloined all kinds of Heavenly marvel

And tucked away the treasures of that palace.

Because the Jade Emperor had learned of my powers

Heavenly soldiers were sent into battle

The Nine Bright Shiners I sent on their way;

I wounded all five of the evil constellations.

The generals of Heaven were no match for me:

A hundred thousand soldiers all lost their nerve.

The Jade Emperor then was forced to summon

The Little Sage Erlang to join in the fight.

We both went through our seventy-two changes,

Each of us showing his spirit and strength.

The Bodhisattva Guanyin came to their aid

With her vase of pure water and her sprig of willow,

And Lao Zi used his Diamond Jade

To take me a prisoner back up to Heaven.

They led me in chains to the Jade Monarch's palace

Where legal officials determined my fate.

Strong soldiers were ordered to cut off my head,

But the hacks at my scalp only made sparks fly

When they tried all their tricks but nothing killed me.

I then was escorted to the palace of Lao Zi.

The Six Dings refined me with the fire of their furnace

And made my whole body as hard as steel.

After seven times seven days the furnace was opened,

And out I jumped, more terrible than ever.

The gods all shut their gates, unable to resist,

And the sages decided to ask the Buddha's help.

Great was the power of the Buddha's dharma,

Indeed his wisdom is infinitely mighty.

I wagered with a somersault to jump out of his hand,

But he crushed me with a mountain that rendered me powerless.

Then the Jade Emperor celebrated peace

And the West was proclaimed to be a land of bliss.

I was crushed by the mountain for five hundred years

Never tasting a mouthful of tea or of food.

When the Golden Cicada came down to earth

He was sent from the East to visit the Buddha.

He wants to bring the scriptures back to China,

So the Tang ruler could save his ancestors' souls.

Guanyin converted me to the side of goodness,

To hold to the teachings and keep myself in check.

Since I was released from the agonizing mountain

I have been heading West to fetch the true scriptures.

Do not try to use your evil cunning, devil:

Return to me my master to worship the Buddha.

When he had heard all this the demon pointed at Monkey and replied, So you're the thief who robbed Heaven. Stay where you are and take this! The Great Sage parried the spear whit his cudgel, and just as the two of them were starting to fight again Nezha and the Star Lord of Fire lost their tempers and flung all their magic weapons and fire-raising equipment at the demon king. Monkey was more ferocious than ever, while the thunder gods with their thunder splinters and the Heavenly King with his sword rushed into the fray together, not worrying about rank and seniority.

The demon king gave a mocking and majestic laugh, discreetly brought the ring out of his sleeve and threw it into the air with a shout of Catch them! It came whistling down, catching the six magic weapons, all the fire-raising equipment and creatures, the thunder gods' thunderbolt, the Heavenly King's sword and Monkey's cudgel. Once again the gods were all empty-handed and the Great Sage Sun disarmed. The triumphant demon turned round to say, Little ones, fetch rocks to make new doors, and start digging and building to refurbish all the rooms inside. When that's done I'll slaughter the Tang Priest and his disciples as a thanksgiving to the local god, and you'll all have a share. The little demons all set to as they had been instructed.

When Heavenly King Li led his troops back up the mountain the Star Lord of Fire was grumbling about Nezha's impatience and the thunder gods were angry with the Heavenly King for behaving badly. The only person keeping quiet was the Earl of the Yellow River. Seeing how they were all unwilling to look each other in the face and were worried, desperate, resentful and trying to make himself look cheerful, Brother Monkey said to them with a smile, Don't be upset. Victory and defeat are all part of the soldier's routine. The demon's only so-so in fighting skill. The only thing that makes him so dangerous is that ring which has caught all our weapons again. Don't worry. I'll go and make some more inquiries about who and what he is.

But last time you asked the Jade Emperor to have an inspection of the whole of Heaven you found no trace of him, said Prince Nezha. Where are you going to look for him now?

As I recall, said Monkey, the Buddha's dharma is boundless. I'll go to the Western Heaven to ask the Tathagata Buddha to look at all four continents with his all-seeing eyes and find out where the demon was born, where his home is officially registered, and what his ring really is. Whatever happens we must capture him to avenge you gentlemen and allow you to return to Heaven happy.

In that case, said the gods, don't stay here a moment longer. Go at once.

Splendid Monkey said, Go! and with one bound of his somersault cloud he was soon at Vulture Peak. Bringing down his auspicious right he looked all around. It was a wonderful place:

Nobly tower the sacred peaks,

Pure is the beauty of the many crags,

Magical summits rise to touch the jade-blue sky,

This is what holds the Western Heaven in place,

Dominating China with its great might.

Its primal energy permeates earth and sky,

Covering all with splendor as its majesty spreads.

The sounds of bells and chimes reverberate for long

While voices can be heard reciting holy sutras.

Under blue pines the faithful preach

While arhats stroll among the cypresses.

White cranes come with purpose to the Vulture peak;

Phoenixes choose to perch on its empty pavilions.

Monkeys in twos pick immortal fruit;

Pairs of deer present milk vetch.

The songs of hidden birds seem to pour out their woes;

One cannot put names to the strange and brilliant flowers.

Ridge upon ridge enfold here many times over;

Smooth are the ancient paths that wind around.

This is a place of purity and magic,

The noble home of the enlightened Buddha.

As Monkey was admiring the mountain scenery someone called to him, Where have you come from, Sun Wukong, and where are you going? He turned round at once to see it was an honorable bhiksuni, or nun.

There is a matter on which I would like to see the Tathagata, said Monkey with a bow.

You're so naughty, said the bhiksuni. If you're here to see the Tathagata why don't you go straight up to his monastery instead of admiring the scenery?

I only had the effrontery to look because this is my first visit, Monkey replied.

Come with me at once, said the bhiksuni, and Monkey went with her to the gates of the Thunder Monastery, where their way was blocked by the eight vajrapanis, the ferocious guardian gods. Wait here for a while, Wukong, while I make a report on your behalf, said the bhiksuni. Monkey stood outside the gates while the bhiksuni went into the Buddha's presence, put her hands together, and said, Sun Wukong is here on a matter over which he wishes to see you, Tathagata. The Buddha sent for Monkey, and the vajrapanis then allowed him in.

When Monkey had made his kowtows the Buddha asked, Why are you here by yourself? I was told that you were converted to the faith after the honorable Guanyin released you, and that you were escorting the Tang Priest here to fetch the scriptures. What has happened?

I report to my Buddha, said Monkey, his head touching the ground, that your disciple has been escorting the Tang Priest Westwards ever since my conversion. At the Jindou Cave in Mount Jindou we're up against an evil demon called the Great Rhinoceros King who has tremendous magic powers. He is holding my master and fellow disciples as prisoners in his cave. I have asked the demon to return them, but his intentions are evil. When we fought he grabbed my iron cudgel with a gleaming white ring. I thought he might be some officer from Heaven with a yearning for earthly things so I went straight up there, but on inspection could not find any missing. The Jade Emperor kindly sent Heavenly King Li and his son Nezha to help me, but the demon took the prince's six weapons. Then I asked the Star Lord of Fire to burn him out, but he took all the fire-raising equipment and creatures. Next I asked the Star Lord of Water to drown him, but not a drop touched him. I went to a lot of effort to steal back the cudgel and all the rest of it, challenged him to another fight, and lost it all to him again. I have no way of subduing him. That is why I have come to ask my Buddha to show his disciple mercy and look to see where the monster is from. Then I'll be able to arrest his relations and neighbors, capture him and rescue the master. Then we'll all be able to seek the true achievement together reverently.

When the Buddha heard this his all-seeing eyes looked far away, and all was revealed to him at once. I know who that monster is, he said, but I must not tell you. You cannot keep your mouth shut, little monkey, and once you put it about that I told you he would stop fighting you and come to make a row here on Vulture Peak. I would only be asking for trouble for myself. Instead I will give you some dharma power to help you capture him.

What dharma power will the Tathagata give me? asked Monkey, kowtowing in thanks. The Tathagata Buddha then told his eighteen arhats to open their treasury and take eighteen grains of golden cinnabar sand with them.

What does golden cinnabar sand do? Monkey asked.

Go and have another contest with the demon outside the cave, the Buddha replied. Lure him out so that the arhats can drop their sand on him and fix him to the spot. He will not be able to move his body or lift a leg, and you will be able to beat him up as you see fit.

Splendid, said Monkey with a smile, splendid. Let's go straight away. Not daring to delay, the arhats fetched the golden cinnabar sand and set out, while Brother Monkey thanked the Buddha once more. When they were on their way Monkey found on counting that there were only sixteen arhats.

What sort of place is this if you let people bribe their way out of their duties? Monkey asked.

What do you mean, bribing their way out of their duties?

Eighteen of you were sent, Monkey replied, so why are there only sixteen of you now?

Before the words were out of his mouth the arhats Dragon-subduer and Tiger-queller came up to him and asked, Wukong, how can you be so wicked? We stayed behind to receive the Buddha's instructions.

You've too tricky, said Monkey, too tricky. If I'd called out any later I dare say you wouldn't have come at all. All the arhats were laughing as they mounted their auspicious clouds.

They were soon at Mount Jindou. When Heavenly King Li saw them he led his hosts out in greeting and started to tell them all that had happened. Spare us the details, the arhats said, Call him out as soon as you can.

The Great Sage made a spell with his hands, went to the mouth of the cave, and started shouting insults: Come out, you bloated fiend, come out and see if you can beat your grandfather Monkey.

The little devils flew in to report, and the demon king said in fury, Who's the thieving ape asked along to help him in his wickedness?

There are no soldiers with him, the little devils replied. He's there by himself.

How could he possibly dare to come back here alone? the demon king wondered. I've got his cudgel. Does he want another boxing match? Taking his ring and brandishing his spear the demon told the little devils to clear away the rocks blocking the entrance and leapt outside. Damned ape, he shouted insultingly, make yourself scarce. You've been beaten often enough. What are you here shouting for again?

Damned demon, said Monkey, you don't know what's good for you. The only way to stop me coming back is to surrender, apologize and give my master and my fellow disciples back. Do that and I'll spare you.

I've already had those three monks of yours cleaned up, the monster replied, and soon I'm going to slaughter them. Don't you realize that yet? Get lost!

At the word slaughter Monkey stamped his feet, and his cheeks reddened as he could not hold back his anger for a moment longer. Dropping his guard he took a sidestep and swung his fist at the monster's face. The monster struck back with his spear, and not realizing that Monkey was deliberately springing from side to side he allowed himself to be lured South further and further from the cave. Monkey then called on the arhats to throw their golden cinnabar sand at the demon all together. It was a marvellous display of divine power. Indeed:

At first it spread like mist or smoke

Drifting gently down from the sky.

A vast expanse of whiteness

In which nothing can be seen;

A blanket of obscurity

That hides one's way in an instant.

The woodcutter loses his mate when gathering firewood;

The young Taoist gathering herbs cannot see his home.

The fine grains blow in the wind like flour,

The coarse ones roll like sesame seeds.

The world is lost to sight, the mountain peaks are dark,

And sunshine from the sky is blotted out.

This is not the dust kicked up by horses

Nor like the softness of a fragrant carriage.

This cinnabar sand is a merciless thing

Covering heaven and earth and capturing all demons.

Only because the monster attacked the true Way

Were the arhats commanded to show off its splendor.

In their hands they were holding pearls of brilliance

To shine with dazzling brightness at the right time.

When the demon was being blinded by the flying sand he bent down to see that it was already three feet deep on the ground. In his alarm he sprang up at once to the level above it, but before he had steadied himself it was already over two feet deeper. Now desperate, he pulled his feet free, took out his ring, and threw it up in the air with a shout of Catch them! As it came whistling down it caught all eighteen grains of golden cinnabar sand. The monster went back into his cave.

The empty-handed arhats stopped their clouds. Why have you stopped dropping your sand, arhats? asked Monkey as he came towards them.

There was a noise just now and all our golden cinnabar sand disappeared, they replied.

That thing must have caught it too, said Monkey with a laugh.

If he's as invincible as this however are we going to capture him? the Heavenly King and the rest of them said. When will we ever go back to Heaven, and how will we be able to face the Jade Emperor?

Then the two arhats Dragon-subduer and Tiger-queller said to Monkey, Wukong, do you know why we two were late setting out?

I was cross because I thought you were skulking somewhere and not coming, said Monkey. I didn't know you were having a conversation.

The Tathagata Buddha gave us these instructions, the arhats replied. He said, 'That fiend has very great magic powers. If you lose your golden cinnabar sand tell Sun Wukong to go to Lord Lao Zi's Tushita Palace in the Lihen Heaven to find out about the fiend's background. If he does that he may be able to capture the monster easily.'

What a horrible thing to do, said Monkey. The Buddha's tricked me again. He should have told me before and spared you this long journey.

As those are the Buddha's clear instructions you should be on your way as soon as possible, said Heavenly King Li.

Splendid Monkey. Saying, I'm off! he sent his somersault cloud straight in through the Southern Gate of Heaven, where the four marshals raised their hands in greeting and asked how the capture of the demon was going. I haven't got him yet, said Monkey without stopping, but I now know where to find out about his background. Not daring to delay him, the four marshals let him pass through. He did not go to the Hall of Miraculous Mist or the Palace of the Dipper and the Bull, but went straight to the gates of the Tushita Palace in the Lihen Heaven that lies beyond the thirty-three heavens, where he saw two immortal boys standing in attendance. Monkey did not report his name but rushed straight in, to the consternation of the boys who grabbed him.

Who are you? they asked, and where are you going?

I am the Great Sage Equaling Heaven, Monkey replied, and I'm here to see Lord Lao Zi.

How could you be so ill-mannered? the boys said. Just wait there while we make a report. Allowing no further discussion Monkey shouted at them and went straight in, colliding with Lord Lao Zi who was coming out to meet him.

Haven't seen you for ages, old fellow, said Monkey after bowing and uttering a respectful re-e-er.

Why are you here, you little monkey, instead of going to fetch scriptures? asked Lord Lao Zi with a smile. To this Monkey replied,

To fetch the holy scriptures

I toil day and night,

And now that I'm in trouble

To see you would be right.

What have your troubles on the road to the Western Heaven to do with me? Lord Lao Zi asked. Monkey's answer was:

Of the Buddha's West Heaven

Please don't talk today.

It's to follow a trail

That I've come up this way.

But this is a Supreme Immortals' palace, Lord Lao Zi replied, so how can you be following anyone's trail up here?

Monkey went into the palace and looked about him with great concentration. When he had gone along a number of covered walkways he noticed a boy sleeping by the buffalo pen, from which the water-buffalo was missing. Old man, shouted Monkey, your buffalo's escaped, your buffalo's escaped.

When did that wicked beast get away? asked Lord Lao Zi with horror. The noise woke up the boy, who knelt before Lord Lao Zi and said, My lord, I was asleep. I don't know when it went.

When did you go to sleep, you little wretch? asked Lord Lao Zi angrily.

I picked up an elixir pill in the elixir laboratory and ate it, replied the boy with kowtows, then went to sleep here.

I suppose you ate one of the seven-fired elixir tablets that must have been dropped when I refined them the other day, damn you, said Lord Lao Zi. One of those tablets would make you sleep for seven days. The evil beast took the chance to escape and go down to the mortal world when you went to sleep and left it unguarded. That must have been seven days ago. He then ordered an inspection to find out if it had stolen any treasures.

It doesn't have any treasures, only a terrible ring, said Monkey.

When Lord Lao Zi made an urgent check he found that nothing was missing except a diamond jade bangle. The evil beast must have stolen my Diamond Jade Bangle, said Lord Lao Zi.

So that's what his treasure is, said Monkey, that's what he fought me with. Goodness only knows how many of our weapons he's caught with that now he's rampaging around in the mortal would.

Where is that wicked beast now? Lord Lao Zi asked.

In the Jindou Cave on Mount Jindou, where he's holding the Tang Priest and has captured my gold-banded cudgel. I asked for the help of heavenly soldiers, and he took Prince Nezha's magic weapons. When I invited the Star Lord of Fire to come his fire-raising equipment and creatures were taken. Although the Earl of the Yellow River couldn't drown him, at least his gear wasn't taken. Then when I asked the Buddha to send his arhats to scatter their golden cinnabar sand the demon took all that too. It looks as though you are guilty of a very serious crime in allowing a thieving and murderous monster to get away.

That Diamond Jade Bangle is a treasure I refined and created after I went out through the Han Pass to convert the foreigners. Nothing can get anywhere near it, not weapons, fire or water. But if my Plantain Fan had been stolen not even I would have been able to do anything about it

Monkey was feeling very pleased as he accompanied Lord Lao Zi, who was carrying his Plantain Fan, out of the palace by auspicious cloud. Once they were through the Southern Gate of Heaven they brought the cloud straight down to Mount Jindou, where Lord Lao Zi greeted the eighteen arhats, the thunder gods, the Earl of the Yellow River, the Star Lord of Fire, Heavenly King Li and Prince Nezha, who told him all about what had happened. For me to catch him Sun Wukong will have to go down to lure him out once more, Lord Lao Zi said.

Monkey jumped down from the peak and started yelling abuse once more. Bloated, evil beast, come out and be killed.

When the little devils reported once again the demon king said, I wonder who the evil monkey has fetched this time. He went out with his spear and his treasure to have Monkey cursing him once again.

Vicious demon, you're definitely going to die this time. Stay there, and take this! Monkey leapt straight at him, punched the demon on the ear with a swing of his fist, turned and fled. The demon was going after him, wielding his spear, when a shout came from the top of the mountain: Go home, buffalo. What are you waiting for?

When the demon looked up and saw Lord Lao Zi he trembled with fear. That thieving ape really is a devil. How did he ever persuade my master to come?

When Lord Lao Zi recited a spell and fanned his fan once, the monster surrendered the ring which the lord caught in his hand. When he fanned it again all the strength went out of the monster, who reverted to his true form as a water-buffalo. Lord Lao Zi then blew on the Diamond Bangle with magic breath, put it thorough the buffalo's nose, undid the sash at his own waist, threaded it through the ring and held it.

To this day water-buffaloes still have devices called pegs put through their noses through which a rope can be run: this does the same job.

Lord Lao Zi then took his leave of the gods, mounted the buffalo, and rode on his multicolored cloud up to the Tushita Heaven, taking the demon with him on its lead.

Only then could the Great Sage Sun, Heavenly King Li and all of the host charge into the cave, killing all the hundred and more big and little devils and recovering their weapons and equipment. Monkey thanked Heavenly King Li and Nezha, who went back to Heaven; the thunder gods, who returned to their residence; the Star Lord of Fire, who went to his palace; the Earl of the Yellow River who went to his river; and the arhats, who returned to the Western Heaven. Finally he released the Tang Priest, Pig and Friar Sand and took back his iron cudgel. When the three of them had thanked Monkey the horse and the luggage were got ready and master and disciples left the cave to find the main route to the West.

As they were walking along they heard a call of Holy Tang Priest, have a vegetarian meal, which startled the master. If you do not know who was calling, listen to the explanation in the next installment.

Chapter 51 | Journey to the West (vol. 2) | Chapter 53