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Chapter 73

The Emotions Bear a Grudge and Inflict Disaster

The Heart's Master Smashes the Light When He Meets the Demons

The story tells how the Great Sage Sun supported the Tang Priest as they hurried along the main road to the West together with Pig and Friar Sand. Within a few hours they were in sight of a compound with many tall towers and imposing buildings. Disciple, said Sanzang, reining in his horse, what's that place? Monkey looked up to gaze at it and this is what he saw.

Tall towers girdled by hills,

Streams winding round pavilions.

Dense grew the wood in front of the gates,

And outside the buildings the scent of flowers hung heavy.

White egrets perched among the willows,

Like flawless jades half hidden in a mist;

Golden orioles sang in the peach-trees,

Flashes of gold in the fiery blossom.

Wild deer in couples

Trod lost to the world across cushions of greenery;

Pairs of mountain birds

Sang as they flew among the red tree-tops.

It was like the Tiantai Cave of Liu and Ruan,

And rivaled the home of the immortals in fairyland.

Master, Brother Monkey reported, that's no princely palace or rich man's mansion. It looks like a Taoist temple or Buddhist monastery. We'll know for sure when we get there. On hearing this Sanzang whipped on his horse, and when master and disciples reached the gates to look there was a stone tablet set over the gateway on which was written YELLOW FLOWER TEMPLE. Sanzang dismounted.

Yellow Flower Temple means it's a Taoist place, said Pig, so it's all right for us to go in and see them. Although we wear different clothes we cultivate our conduct the same way.

You're right, said Friar Sand. We can go in and have a look round, and at the same time the horse can have a feed. If it looks suitable we can arrange a meal for the master.

The master accepted their suggestions and the four of them went inside. A couplet was pasted up on either side of the inner gates:

Palace of immortals: yellow shoots and white snow.

Home of men who can fly: rare and wonderful flowers.

So the Taoist here refines drugs, plays with a furnace and totes a crucible, said Monkey with a grin.

Watch your words, said Sanzang, giving him a pinch, watch your words. We don't know them and they are no relations of ours. This is only a passing encounter. Never mind what they are like. Before he had finished saying these words he went in through the inner gate, where he found the doors of the main hall shut tight and a Taoist master sitting under a covered walkway making elixir pills. Just look at how he was dressed:

On his head a bright red hat all set with gold,

On his body a jet-black Taoist robe.

On his feet a pair of deep green cloud-treading shoes,

Round his waist a brilliant yellow Lu Dongbin sash.

His face was round like a golden melon,

His eyes like bright stars.

His nose was as big and as high as a Muslim's,

And his lips turned back like a Tartar's.

His heart, set on the Way, was hidden thunder;

He was a true immortal, subduer of tigers and dragons.

As soon as he saw him Sanzang shouted at the top of his voice, My respectful greetings, venerable Taoist master. The Taoist looked up with a start and was so alarmed by what he saw that he dropped the elixir on which he was working.

Then he neatened his hair-pins and clothes, came down the steps and greeted Sanzang: Venerable sir, excuse me for failing to meet you. Please come inside and sit down. The venerable elder happily went up into the main hall. On pushing the doors open he saw the statues of the Three Pure Ones and an altar on which stood incense burners and incense, so he planted some joss-sticks in the burner and performed a triple set of obeisances to the Pure Ones before bowing to the Taoist master. He then went to the guest seats, where he sat down with his disciples. Immortal boys were told to bring tea at once, whereupon two boys went inside to fetch the tea-tray, wash the teacups, wipe the teaspoons and prepare some refreshments to eat with it. Their rushing about soon disturbed the pilgrims' enemies.

Now the seven devils from Gossamer Cave had been fellow-students of the Taoist master here, and it was here that they had hurried after putting on their old clothes and calling for their sons. They were making themselves new clothes at the back of the temple when they noticed the boys preparing the tea and asked, What visitors have arrived, boys? What are you in such a rush for?

Four Buddhist monks have just turned up, the boys replied, and the master has told us to prepare tea for them.

Is one of the monks pale and fat? the she-devils asked.


Does one of them have a long snout and big ears? they asked again.


Then take the tea in as quickly as you can, the she-devils said, and tip your master a wink to come in here. We've got something urgent to say to him.

The boys took five cups of tea out to the Taoist master, who tucked back his sleeves and passed a cup with both hands first to Sanzang and then to Pig, Friar Sand and Brother Monkey. After the tea had been drunk the cups were collected and the boys gave their master a look, at which he bowed and said, Please sit down, gentlemen. Boys, put the tray down and keep them company. I have to go out. I'll be back. Sanzang and his disciples went out of the hall to look around, guided by one boy.

When the Taoist master went back to the abbot's lodgings the seven women all fell to their knees and said, Brother, brother, please listen to what we have to say.

The Taoist master helped them to their feet and said, When you came here this morning you wanted to tell me something, but because of the elixir pills I was making I couldn't see any women. That's why I had to refuse. I have visitors out there now, so you can tell me later.

We have to report, elder brother, the she-devils said, that it's because the strangers are here that we're talking to you. If the strangers go away there'll be no point in telling you.

What are you talking about, sisters? the Taoist master said. Why do you have to talk to me just now, when the strangers are here? Have you gone off your heads? I'm a man who lives in peace and quiet cultivating immortality, but even if I were a layman with wife and children and family responsibilities I'd wait till my visitor had left before attending to them. How can you be so ill-behaved and disgrace me? Now let me go.

All the she-devils grabbed him and said, Please don't lose your temper, elder brother. Tell us where the visitors come from. The Taoist master pulled a long face and ignored them. When the boys came in for the tea just now they told us the visitors are four Buddhist monks, the she-devils said.

They're monks, said the Taoist master angrily, what of it?

Does one of the four monks have a pale, fat face, the she-devils asked, and one of them a long snout and big ears? Did you ask them where they're from?

Yes, the Taoist said, there are two like that among them. How did you know? I suppose you've seen them somewhere.

You don't know the terrible things that have happened, brother, the devils said. That monk was sent by the Tang court to fetch the scriptures from the Western Heaven. He came to our cave this morning begging for food. We captured him because we'd heard of this Tang Priest.

Why did you capture him? the Taoist asked.

We've long known that the Tang Priest has a pure body because he has cultivated his conduct for ten successive incarnations, the devils replied. Anyone who eats a piece of his flesh will live for ever. That's why we captured him. Later the monk with a long snout and big ears kept us in the Filth-cleansing Spring. First he stole our clothes and then he used his magical powers to insist on bathing with us. He jumped into the water and turned himself into a catfish. From the way he kept swimming around between our thighs he obviously had very improper ideas. He was thoroughly disgraceful. Then he jumped out of the water and turned back into himself. As we weren't going to let him have his way he tried to kill us all with his nine-pronged rake. If we hadn't known a thing or two he'd have murdered the lot of us. We fled in fear and trembling and sent your nephews into battle. We don't know whether they are alive or dead. We have come here to fling ourselves on your mercy and beg you to avenge your fellow-students from long ago.

On hearing this the Taoist was furious, as could be seen from his changed expression. What outrageous monks! he exclaimed. What hooligans! Don't you worry: I'm going to sort them out.

If you're going to fight them, said the she-devils in gratitude, you must let us help you.

There'll be no need to fight, said the Taoist, no need. As the saying goes, you have to lower yourself to fight someone. Come with me.

The women went with him into his room, where he carried a ladder behind the bed, climbed up to the rafters and brought down a little leather box. It was eight inches high, a foot long, four inches wide and locked with a tiny brass lock. From his sleeve he produced a square handkerchief of goose-yellow silk, to the fringes of which a tiny key was tied. Unlocking the box he brought out a packet containing a drug. This drug was:

A thousand pounds of droppings

From all kinds of mountain birds,

Boiled in a copper cauldron,

Reduced on an even fire,

Till the thousand pounds were only a spoonful

That was then reduced to a third.

This was fried even longer,

Refined and smoked once again.

To make the poisonous drug,

More precious than treasures or jewels.

Were you to try out its flavor,

One taste would send yon to Hell.

Sisters, said the Taoist master, any mortal who eats one grain of this treasure of mine will be dead when it reaches his stomach. Only three grains would be enough to kill a god or an immortal. As these monks may have mastered something of the Way they'll need three grains. Fetch my balance. One of the women brought a balance at once.

Weigh out twelve grains, he said, and divide that into four portions. Then he took twelve red jujubes, pinched holes in them, stuffed a grain of the drug in each, and put them into four teacups. These were then placed with a fifth cup containing two black jujubes on a tray.

Let me question them, he said. If they aren't from Tang that'll be the end of it; but if they are I'll ask for fresh tea and you can give this tea to the boys to bring in. Once they drink it they'll all die and you'll be avenged. That'll cheer you up. The seven women were beside themselves with gratitude.

The Taoist changed into another robe and walked out again with a great show of feigned courtesy. He urged the Tang Priest and the others to sit down in the guest seats again. Please excuse me, venerable sir, the Taoist said. The reason why I neglected you just now was because I was at the back telling my disciples to choose some greens and radishes to cook as a vegetarian meal for you.

We Buddhist monks came empty-handed, said Sanzang. We could not possibly trouble you for a meal.

We are all men of religion, replied the Taoist master with a smile. Whenever we go to a monastery or temple we are entitled to three pints of rice, so why talk of being empty-handed? May I ask you, reverend sir, what monastery you are from, and why you are here?

I have been sent by His Majesty the Great Tang emperor to fetch the scriptures from the Great Thunder Monastery in the Western Heaven, Sanzang replied. As we were passing your Taoist temple we came in to pay our respects.

At this news the Taoist's face was full of animation, as he said, It was only because I did not realize you were so faithful to the most virtuous Buddha that I failed to come out a long way to meet you. Please forgive me. Please forgive me. Then he told the boys to bring fresh tea at once and get a meal ready as soon as possible, at which the boys went straight inside to fetch the tea.

Here's some good tea that's all ready, the women called to them. Take this in. The boys did indeed take the five cups in, and the Taoist master hurriedly passed a cup of red jujube tea to the Tang Priest. As Pig was so big the Taoist took him for the senior disciple, and he thought Friar Sand was the next senior. Thinking that Monkey was the junior one the Taoist only handed him his cup fourth. By the time the sharp-eyed Brother Monkey took his cup he had already noticed that there were two black jujubes in the cup left on the tray.

Let's change cups, sir, he said. To be honest with you, the Taoist replied with a smile, as a poor Taoist living out here in the wilds I am rather short of tea and food at the moment. I was looking for fruit out at the back just now and I could only find these twelve red jujubes to put into four cups of tea to offer you. As I had to take something with you I made another cup with these inferior jujubes to keep you company. This is just a gesture of respect.

What nonsense, said Monkey with a smile. As the ancients said, 'You are never poor if you are at home; but poverty on a journey is killing.' You're at home here, so why all this talk about being poor? It's wandering monks like us who are really poor. I'll swap with you. I insist.

Wukong, said Sanzang when he heard this, this immortal gentleman is being very hospitable. You have yours. There is no need for a swap. Monkey had no choice. Taking the cup with his left hand he covered it with his right and watched them.

Pig, however, who apart from feeling hungry and thirsty had an enormous appetite at the best of times, picked the three red jujubes out of the cup as soon as he saw them and swallowed them noisily. The master ate his too, as did Friar Sand. In that very instant Pig's face changed color, tears started pouring from Friar Sand's eyes and the Tang Priest began to foam at the mouth. Unable to sit upright, all three of them fainted and fell to the floor.

Realizing that they had been poisoned, the Great Sage raised his teacup in his hands and threw it at the Taoist master's face. The Taoist stopped it with his sleeve and it shattered noisily as it fell to the floor. You lout, monk, said the Taoist in fury, how dare you smash my cup?

Animal, said Monkey abusively, just look what you've done to those three! What have I ever done to you for you to give my people poisoned tea?

Beast, said the Taoist master, you asked for it. Don't you realize that?

We've only just come here and talked about things like where we should sit and where we're from, said Monkey. We didn't talk big. How can you say we asked for this trouble?

Did you beg for food in Gossamer Cave? the Taoist master asked. Did you bathe in the Filth-cleansing Spring?

There were seven she-devils in the Filth-cleansing Spring, Monkey replied. From what you're saying you must be in cahoots with them. I'm sure you're an evil spirit yourself. Stay where you are and take this! The splendid Great Sage felt in his ear for his gold-banded cudgel, waved it to make it as thick as a rice-bowl, and struck at the Taoist master's face. The Taoist rapidly turned and dodged the blow, then produced a fine sword with which he fought back.

Their cursing and fighting had by now disturbed the seven she-devils inside, who all rushed out shouting, Spare yourself the trouble, elder brother. Let us catch him. At the sight of them Monkey became angrier than ever. Whirling his iron cudgel around with both hands he dropped his guard and tumbled in among them, lashing out wildly. The seven women then undid their clothes, revealing their white stomachs, and from their navels they produced by magic thick silken ropes that came reeling out in such abundance that they formed a canopy under which Brother Monkey was confined.

Seeing that things were going badly Monkey got up, said the words of a spell, did a somersault, smashed through the canopy and escaped. Then he stood gloomily in mid-air, controlling his temper and watching as the flashing silken ropes crisscrossed like the warp and weft of cloth on the loom. Within a moment the Yellow Flower Temple's towers and halls were all completely concealed. Terrible, said Monkey, they're terrible. I've never been up against anything like that before. No wonder Pig fell over so often. What am I to do now? The master and my brothers have been poisoned. This gang of devils are all hand in glove, and I know nothing about their background. I'll go back and question that local god.

The splendid Great Sage brought his cloud down to land, made a spell with his fingers, said the sacred syllable Om, and forced the old local god to come to him again. The old deity knelt beside the path, trembling with fear and kowtowing as he said, Great Sage, you went to rescue your master. Why are you back again?

I rescued him this morning, Monkey replied, and a little way ahead from there we reached a Yellow Flower Temple. When I went in with the master to look around, the head Taoist of the temple greeted us, and in the middle of our conversation he knocked out my master and the other two with poisoned tea. Luckily I didn't drink any, but when I was going to hit him with my cudgel he started talking about begging for food at Gossamer Cave and bathing at the Filth-cleansing Spring, so I knew he was a monster. No sooner had he raised his hand to fight back than the seven women came out and set off their silken ropes. It was a good thing I had the know-how to get away. I reckon that as you're a god who lives round here you're bound to know their background. What sort of evil spirit are they? Tell me the truth if you don't want to be hit.

It's less than ten years since those evil spirits came here, said the local deity, kowtowing. When I was making an inspection three years ago I saw what they really are: seven spider spirits. The silken ropes that come out of them are spiders' webs.

The news thoroughly delighted Monkey, who said, From what you tell me they're no problem. Very well then. You can go back while I use magic to subdue him. The local god kowtowed and went.

Monkey then went to the outside of the Yellow Flower Temple, pulled seventy hairs out of his tail, blew on them with magic breath and shouted, Change! The hairs turned into seventy little Monkeys. He then blew a magic breath on his gold-banded cudgel, called Change! and turned it into seventy two-pronged forks, one of which he gave to each of the little Monkeys. Monkey himself used one of the forks to twist the silken ropes as he stood outside, then they all attacked together to the rhythm of a tune, tearing the ropes to pieces, each of them tearing off over ten pounds of rope. They dragged seven spiders out from inside. Each was about the size of a wicker basket. All of them held their hands and feet together and had ropes round their necks.

Spare us, spare us, they said. The seventy little Monkeys then pressed the seven spiders to the ground, refusing to let them go.

Don't hit them, said Monkey. All we want is to make them give my master and my brothers back.

Elder Brother, shrieked the demons at the tops of their voices, give the Tang Priest back and save our lives.

The Taoist master rushed outside saying, Sisters, I'm going to eat the Tang Priest. I can't save you.

This infuriated Brother Monkey. If you won't give my master back just watch what happens to your sisters. The splendid Great Sage waved his fork, turned it back into an iron cudgel that he lifted with both hands and smashed the seven spider spirits to pulp. Then he shook his tail a couple of times, put the hairs back on it and charged inside alone, swinging his cudgel to fight the Taoist master.

When the Taoist master saw Monkey kill his seven fellow-students it was more than he could bear. Goaded to fury, he raised his sword to fight back. In this battle each of them was seething with anger and giving full play to his divine powers. It was a fine battle:

The evil spirit swung a fine sword;

The Great Sage raised his gold-banded cudgel.

Both were fighting for Sanzang of the Tang,

On whose account the seven women had been killed.

Now they were fighting with all-round skill,

Showing their mighty powers with their weapons.

Powerful was the Great Sage's aura,

And rough the courage of the evil immortal.

Their vigorous moves were as rich as brocade,

And both hands moved as fast as a windlass.

Noisily clanged the sword and cudgel,

And ominously pale were the floating clouds.

Few were the words they spoke

As they used their cunning,

Moving to and fro like brush-strokes in a painting.

The wind and dust they raised scared wolves and tigers;

The stars disappeared as heaven and earth went dark.

When the Taoist master had fought fifty or sixty rounds with the Great Sage he felt his hand weakening and his sinews getting slack, so he undid his belt and with a loud flapping noise took off his black robe. Well, my lad, said the Great Sage with a laugh, if you can't beat me you still won't be able to when you strip off. Once the Taoist master had stripped off his clothes he raised both hands to reveal under his ribs a thousand eyes flashing golden light. It was terrible:

Dense yellow smoke,

Brilliant golden light.

The dense yellow smoke

Gushed out as clouds from under his ribs;

The brilliant golden light

Came from a thousand eyes like fire.

To left and right they seemed like golden pails;

To East and West they resembled bells of bronze.

Thus an evil immortal used his magic power,

A Taoist master showed divine ability,

Dazzling the eyes, blotting out sun, moon and sky,

Blanketing people with acrid vapors.

The Great Sage Equaling Heaven

Was caught in the golden light and yellow smoke.

Monkey started lashing out desperately with his hands and feet, but could only spin around inside the golden light, unable to take a step either forwards or backwards. It was as if he were turning round and round in a bucket. It was hopeless. He was unbearably hot. In his anxiety he leapt into the air, smashing against the golden light, and crashing head first to the ground. His head ached where he had hit it, and felt anxiously to find that the top of his scalp was tender.

What lousy luck, he though, what lousy luck. This head's useless today. Usually swords and axes can't hurt it, so why has golden light bruised it now? After a while it's bound to go septic, and even if it does get better I might have tetanus. He was still feeling unbearably hot. I can't move forward or back, he thought, working out a plan, or to left or right, and I can't smash my way through by going up. Whatever shall I do? I'll damn well have to get out by going down.

The splendid Great Sage said the words of a spell, shook himself, and turned into one of those scaly diggers called pangolins. Indeed:

Four sets of iron claws

Dug through the mountain, smashing rocks like powder.

The scales covering his body

Carved through ridges and crags like slicing scallions.

His eyes were as bright

As two gleaming stars;

His mouth was sharper

Than a steel drill or brazen auger.

He was the scaly mountain-borer used in medicine,

The creature known as the pangolin.

Watch him as he burrows into the ground with his head, not coming out again till he has covered over six miles. The golden light could only enclose about three miles. When he emerged and turned back into himself he was exhausted. His muscles ached, his whole body was in pain, and he could not help weeping. Suddenly he burst out with, Master,

Since leaving the mountain and joining the faith

I've worked very hard on our way to the West.

The waves of the ocean are nothing to fear,

But in this dry gulch I've come out second best.

Just as the Handsome Monkey King was feeling miserable the sound of sobs could suddenly be heard from the other side of the mountain. Leaning forward and drying his tears he turned to look. A woman appeared, dressed in deep mourning and sobbing at every step as she came from the other side of the mountain. She was holding a dish of cold rice gruel in her left hand and several pieces of yellow paper money for burning to the dead in her right. Monkey sighed and nodded as he said to himself, This is a case of

Weeping eyes meeting weeping eyes,

One broken heart coming across another.

I wonder what this woman is crying about. I'll ask her. Before long the woman was coming along the path towards him.

Lady Bodhisattva, asked Brother Monkey with a bow, who are you weeping for?

Through her tears the woman replied, My husband was murdered by the master of the Yellow Flower Temple with poisoned tea because he got into a quarrel with him over the purchase of some bamboo poles. I'm going to burn this paper money as a mark of my love for him.

This made Monkey's tears flow. The sight made the woman say angrily, You ignorant fool. I'm grieving over my husband, but what business do you have to be weeping and looking so miserable? Are you mocking me?

Please don't be angry, Bodhisattva, said Monkey with a bow. I'm Sun Wukong the Novice, the senior disciple of Tang Sanzang, the younger brother of the Great Tang Emperor in the East. When we passed the Yellow Flower Temple on our way to the Western Heaven we stopped to rest, but the Taoist master there is some kind of evil spirit who's the sworn brother of seven spider spirits. When the spider spirits wanted to kill my master in Gossamer Cave I and my brother disciples Pig and Friar Sand managed to save him. The spider spirits fled to the Taoist's place and told him a pack of lies about us bullying them, so the Taoist knocked out my master and brothers. The three of them and the horse are now prisoners in his temple. I was the only one who didn't drink the tea. I smashed the cup and he attacked me. Because of the noise the seven spider spirits rushed outside to give out their silken ropes and catch me in the web they wove. I only got away by magic. After I'd found out who they really were I used my power of giving myself extra bodies to tear the silken ropes to pieces, drag the demons out and beat them to death. The Taoist master wanted revenge, so he went for me with his sword. When we'd gone sixty rounds he fled beaten, took off his clothes, and used the thousand eyes he has under his ribs to give off countless beams of golden light. I was caught under them, unable to move forwards or backwards, so I turned into a pangolin and burrowed my way out underground. It was when I was feeling thoroughly depressed that I heard you weeping, which was why I asked you those questions. When I saw that you had paper money to give your husband I felt wretched and miserable because I've got nothing for my master when he dies. Making fun of you was the last thing on my mind!

Putting down the gruel and the paper money the woman returned Brother Monkey's bow and said, Please forgive me. I didn't realize that you were a sufferer too. From what you've just said you don't know who that Taoist is. He's really the Demon King Hundred-eye, who's also known as the Many-eyed Monster. You must have tremendous magical powers to have escaped from the golden light and fought so long, but you couldn't get near him. I'll tell you about a sage you can send for who would be able to smash the golden light and defeat the Taoist.

Monkey's immediate response was to chant a na-a-aw of respect and say, If you know the sage's background, lady Bodhisattva, may I trouble you to tell me about it? If there is such a sage I'll fetch him to rescue my master and avenge your husband.

I'll tell you, the woman said, and you can fetch the sage, who will subdue the Taoist, but that will only bring revenge. I'm afraid the sage won't be able to rescue your master.

Why not? Monkey asked. His poison is truly lethal, the woman replied. When people are laid low by it the very marrow of their bones rots within three days. I'm afraid that by the time you've been to see the sage and come back again you'll be too late to save him.

I know how to travel, Monkey replied. However far it is I'll only take half a day.

If you can travel then listen to this, the woman said. About three hundred miles from here there's a mountain called Mount Purple Clouds, and in the mountain there's a Thousand Flower Cave where there lives a sage called Vairambha who will be able to defeat that demon.

Where's the mountain? Monkey asked. Which direction should I take?

It's due South of here, the woman replied, pointing; and by the time Brother Monkey looked back at her she had disappeared.

Monkey quickly did a kowtow and said, Which Bodhisattva was that? After all that burrowing you disciple was feeling too stupid to recognize you. I beg you to tell me your name so that I can thank you. At this there came a shout from mid-air, Great Sage, it's me. Monkey quickly looked up to see that it was the Old Lady of Mount Li. Catching up with her in the sky he thanked her with the words, Where have you come from to give me these instructions?

On my way back from Dragon Flower Assembly I noticed that your master was in trouble, the Old Lady replied. It was to save his life that I pretended to be a woman in mourning for her husband. Hurry up and fetch the sage. But don't tell her I sent you: she is rather difficult.

Thanking her, Monkey took his leave and set off straight away on his somersault cloud. Once at Mount Purple Clouds he brought his cloud down and saw the Thousand Flower Cave. Outside the cave:

Blue pines masked the splendid view,

Turquoise cypresses surrounded the immortal's home.

Green willows were packed close along the mountain paths,

Rare flowers filled the watercourses.

Orchids grew all around stone buildings,

And scented blooms gave color to the crags.

Flowing water linked ravines with green,

While clouds enclosed the emptiness of trees.

Noisily sang wild birds.

Slowly strolled the deer,

Elegant grew the bamboo,

And all the red plums were open.

Rooks perched in ancient woods,

While spring birds chirped in the tree of heaven.

Summer wheat filled spreading acres,

And autumn millet grew all over the land.

No leaf fell in all four seasons.

And flowers bloomed throughout the year.

Auspicious rosy glows joined with the Milky Way,

And clouds of good omen were linked with the Great Emptiness.

The Great Sage was delighted as he went inside, seeing boundless beauty at every stage. He went straight on, but found it deserted and completely silent. Not even a chicken or a dog could be heard. I think that this sage must be out. Monkey thought. When he had gone a mile or two further on he saw a Taoist nun sitting on a couch. This is what she looked like:

She wore a five-flowered hat of brocade,

And a robe of golden silk.

Her cloud-treading shoes were patterned with phoenixes

And round her waist was a sash with double tassels.

Her face looked as old as autumn after a frost,

But her voice was as charming as swallows in the spring.

Long had she mastered the Dharma of Three Vehicles,

And she was ever mindful of the Four Truths.

She knew true achievement, that emptiness is empty,

And through her training had acquired great freedom.

She was the Buddha of the Thousand Flower Cave,

The illustrious Vairambha of great fame.

Monkey went straight up to her without stopping and said, Greetings, Bodhisattva Vairambha.

The Bodhisattva then came down from her couch, put her hands together to return his greeting and said, Great Sage, it was remiss of me not to come out to greet you. Where have you come from?

How do you know that I'm the Great Sage? Monkey asked.

When you made havoc in Heaven the other year, Vairambha replied, your picture was circulated everywhere. That's why everyone can recognize you.

How true it is, Monkey said, that

While good deeds stay at home

Bad deeds are known far and wide.

Take my conversion to Buddhism, for example. You didn't know about that.

Congratulations, said Vairambha. When did that happen?

Not long ago my life was spared to escort my master the Tang Priest on his journey to the Western Heaven to fetch the scriptures, Monkey replied. My master has been laid low with poisoned tea by the Taoist of the Yellow Flower Temple. When I was fighting with him he caught me in his golden light, and I had to use magic to escape. I have come here to pay you my respects, Bodhisattva, and ask your help because I've heard that you are able to destroy his golden light.

Who told you that? the Bodhisattva asked. I have not left here since the Ullambana assembly over three hundred years ago. I've lived in complete secrecy and nobody has heard of me, so how is it that you know of me?

I'm an underground devil, Monkey replied, and I can make my own enquiries anywhere at all.

Never mind, Vairambha said, never mind. I shouldn't really go, but as you have honoured me with a visit, Great Sage, and as the great cause of fetching the scriptures must not be allowed to fail I'll go with you.

Monkey thanked her and said, It's very ignorant of me to hurry you along in this way. I wonder what weapon you use.

I have an embroidery needle that will put an end to that damned creature, said the Bodhisattva.

This was too much for Monkey. Old Lady, you've been wasting my time, he said. Had I known it was an embroidery needle I wouldn't have had to trouble you. I could have provided a hundredweight of them.

Your embroidery needles are all made of iron, steel or gold, the Bodhisattva replied. They're no use. My treasure isn't iron and isn't steel and isn't gold. It was tempered by my son in the sun.

Who is he? asked Monkey. He is the Star Lord of the Mane, Vairambha replied.

This came as a shock to Monkey, who gazed at the golden light then turned to Vairambha and said, The Yellow Flower Temple is where that golden light is coming from. Vairambha then took from the lapel of her gown an embroidery needle about the thickness of an eyebrow hair and half an inch long. Holding it between her fingers she threw it into the air. A few moments later there was a loud noise and the golden light was shattered.

That's wonderful, Bodhisattva, wonderful! exclaimed a delighted Monkey. Let's find your needle now.

Isn't this it here? asked Vairambha, who was holding it in her hand. Brother Monkey brought his cloud down to land with hers and went into the temple, where he found the Taoist with his eyes shut, unable to move. Stop playing blind, damned demon, he said abusively, taking his cudgel from his ear ready to hit the Taoist with.

Don't hit him, Great Sage, said Vairambha. Go and see your master.

On going straight to the reception room at the back Monkey found the three of them bringing up mucus and spittle where they lay on the floor. What am I to do? wept Monkey. What am I to do?

Don't grieve, Great Sage, said Vairambha. As I've come out today I think I might as well accumulate some merit by giving you three of these pills that are an antidote to the poison. Monkey turned round to bow down and beg her for them, whereupon she produced a torn paper packet from her sleeve containing three red pills that she handed to Monkey, telling him to put one in each of their mouths. This he did, forcing their teeth apart. A few moments later they all started vomiting as the drug reached their stomachs, bringing up the poison and coming back to life. Pig was the first to scramble to his feet.

I feel suffocated, he said. Sanzang and Friar Sand both came round too, saying that they felt very dizzy.

Your tea was poisoned, Brother Monkey explained. It was the Bodhisattva Vairambha who saved you. Hurry up and bow to her in thanks. Sanzang bowed to her to show his gratitude as he straightened up his clothes.

Brother, said Pig, where's that Taoist? I've got some questions to ask him about why he tried to murder me. Monkey then told him all about the spider spirits.

If spider spirits are his sisters that damned creature must be an evil spirit too, said Pig with fury.

He's standing outside the main hall pretending to be blind, said Monkey, pointing.

Pig grabbed his rake and was about to hit the Taoist with it when Vairambha stopped him and said, Control your temper, Marshal Tian Peng. As the Great Sage knows, I have no servants in my cave. I am going to take him as my doorkeeper.

We are deeply indebted to your great power, Monkey replied, and we will of course obey. But we would like you to turn him back into his real self so that we can have a look at him.

Easily done, said Vairambha, stepping forward and pointing at the Taoist, who collapsed into the dust and reverted to his real form of a giant centipede spirit seven feet long. Picking him up with her little finger Vairambha rode her auspicious cloud straight back to the Thousand Flower Cave. That old lady's a real terror, said Pig, looking up. How did she manage to subdue that evil creature?

When I asked her what weapon she had to smash the golden light with, Monkey replied, she told me about a golden embroidery needle of hers that her son had tempered in the sun. When I asked her who her son was she told me he was the Star Lord of the Mane. As I remember, the Mane Star is a cock, so his mother must be a hen. Hens are very good at dealing with centipedes, which is why she could subdue him.

On hearing this Sanzang performed no end of kowtows. Disciples, he ordered, go and get things ready. Friar Sand then went inside to find some rice and prepare a vegetarian meal, so that they could all eat their fill. Then they led the horse up, shouldered the carrying-pole, and asked the master to set out. Monkey started a blaze in the kitchen that in an instant burnt the whole temple to ashes. He then set out on his way. Indeed:

The Tang Priest thanked Vairambha for saving his life;

The emotions were eliminated and the Many-eyed Monster removed.

As for what happened on the way ahead, listen to the explanations in the next installment.

Chapter 72 | Journey to the West (vol. 2) | Chapter 74