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Chapter 56

The Spirit Goes Wild and Wipes Out the Bandits

The Way in Confusion Sends the Mind-Ape Away

As the poem goes,


The heart that is empty of all things is said to be pure,

In utter placidity not giving rise to a thought.

The ape and the horse must be tethered, not left to run wild;

The spirit must always be cautious, not seeking for glory.

Wake up to Three Vehicles, wipe out the Six Bandits,

And all human destinies then become clear.

Extinguish the evil of sex and rise to enjoy

The pleasures of paradise that can be found in the West.


The story tells how Tang Sanzang bit on the bullet, straggled with all his powers to preserve the purity of his body and was rescued from the Pipa Cave when Monkey and the others killed the scorpion spirit. There is nothing to tell about the next stage of their journey, and it was soon summer again. What they saw was


Fragrant winds carrying the scent of wild orchids,

New bamboo cool as the skies clear after rain;

No travelers to pick artemisia on the hillside,

And the fragrant flowers of cattails filling the streams.

Bees are bewitched by pomegranates' beauty,

While siskins delight in the willow trees' shade.

How can the wayfarers offer dumplings to Qu Yuan?

Dragon boats should be mourning his death in the river.


Master and disciples were just enjoying the early summer scenery as they spent the day of the Dragonboat Festival without being able to celebrate it when a high mountain rose in front of them to block their way forward. Sanzang reined in his horse and turned back to say, Be careful, Wukong: I'm worried that there may be demons on that mountain ahead.

Don't worry, Master, said Brother Monkey. We are all faithful believers. I'm not scared of demons. This reply pleased the venerable elder greatly, who


Whipped on his noble charger,

Gave the dragon steed his head.


Before long they were above a rock-face on the mountain, and when they raised their heads to look around this is what they saw:


Cypress and pine that touch the azure heavens,

Creepers climbing up hazels on the cliffs.

A hundred thousand feet high,

A thousand sheer-cut strata.

A hundred thousand feet high are the towering pinnacles;

A thousand sheer-cut strata of the chasm's sides.

Mosses and liverwort cover damp rocks,

Locust and juniper form a great forest.

Deep in the forest

Birds are heard unseen,

Singing their songs with beautiful voices.

The water in the brook is a torrent of jade;

The fallen blooms by the path are piles of gold.

The mountain is steep,

The going is hard,

And hardly a pace is on level ground.

Foxes and David's deer come in twos;

White stage and black gibbons greet one in pairs.

The bowl of the tiger fills one with terror;

The call of the crane resounds through the sky.

Plum and red apricot provide one with food;

No names can be put to the many wild flowers.


After climbing the mountain slowly for a long time the four of them crossed the summit, and on the Western slopes they saw a stretch of level sunlit ground. Pig put on a great show of energy, telling Friar Sand to carry the luggage while he raised his rake in both hands and tried to drive the horse ahead. But the horse was not afraid of him and carried on at the same slow pace despite all the noises he made to speed it up.

Why are you trying to make the horse go faster, brother? Monkey asked. Let it walk slowly at its own speed.

It's getting late, Pig replied, and I'm hungry after that day on the mountain. We'd better get a move on and find a house to beg some food from.

In that case let me speed him up, said Monkey waving his gold-banded cudgel and shouting, at which the horse slipped its halter and started to gallop along the track with the speed of an arrow. Do you wonder why the horse was afraid of Monkey but not of Pig? It was because five hundred years earlier Monkey had been given a post in the Imperial Stables in the Daluo Heaven as Protector of the Horses; the name has been passed on right till the present day, which is why all horses are still afraid of monkeys. The venerable elder could not keep hold of the reins: he simply held tight to the saddle and gave the horse its head as it galloped six or seven miles towards some farm land before slowing down to a walk.

As Sanzang was riding along he heard a gong being struck as over thirty men armed with spears, swords and staves emerged from both sides of the track to block his way and say, Where do you think you're going, monk? This made the Tang Priest shake with fright so badly that he lost his seat and fell off the horse.

Spare my life, Your Majesty, he pleaded as he squatted in the undergrowth by the path, Spare my life.

The two chiefs of the gang then said, We're not going to kill you. Just give us your money. Only then did the venerable elder realize that they were bandits. As he raised his head to look at them this is what he saw:


One's blue face and protruding fangs were worse than an evil god's:

The other's bulging eyes were like the Star of Death.

The red hair at their temples seemed ablaze;

Their brownish bristles were as sharp as needles.

Both wore berets of tiger skin.

And kilts of marten fur.

One carried a cudgel with wolf-tooth spikes,

The other a rope of knotted rattan.

They were no less terrible than mountain tigers,

And just as frightening as dragons from the waters.


On seeing how murderous they looked Sanzang could only rise to his feet, put his hands together before his chest, and say, Your Majesties, I have been sent by the Tang emperor in the East to fetch the scriptures from the Western Heaven. It has been many years since I left Chang'an and all my travelling money was finished long ago. We monks may only support ourselves by begging-we don't have any money. I beg you, Your Majesties, to show charity and allow me to pass. The two bandit chiefs led their men forward and said, We here are tigers. The only reason we stop travelers on the main roads is to get rich. Charity doesn't come into it. If you've got no money, take your clothes off and give us that white horse, then we'll let you go on your way.

Amitabha Buddha! said Sanzang. This habit of mine was begged piece by piece, a bit of cloth from one family and a needle from another. If you take it you will be killing me. If you act as tough guys in this life you'll be reborn as animals in the next.

One of the bandit chiefs was so infuriated by this remark that he started to wave his cudgel about and went up to Sanzang to strike him. Unable to speak, Sanzang could only think, Poor man, you may think you've got a cudgel: wait till you find out about my disciple's. The bandit was in no mood for argument as he raised his cudgel and started to lay about Sanzang. Sanzang, who in all his life had never told a lie, in this desperate crisis had to make one up now: Don't hit me, Your Majesties. I have a young disciple following behind me who'll be here soon. He has several ounces of silver that he'll give to you.

Don't hurt the monk, said one of the bandit chiefs. Tie him up. The crowd of bandits then fell upon him, roped him up, and suspended him high from a tree.


The three disaster-bringing spirits were still following behind. Pig was chuckling aloud as he said, The master's been going very fast. I don't know where he's waiting for us. Then he saw Sanzang in the tree and said, Just look at the master, He could have just waited if he'd wanted to, but he was in such high spirits he had to climb a tree and make a swing out of creepers.

Stop talking nonsense, said Monkey when he saw what had happened. The master's been hung up there, hasn't he? You two wait for a moment while I go up and look around.

The splendid Great Sage then rushed up the slope to look around and saw the bandits. I'm in luck, he thought with glee, I'm in luck. Business has brought itself to my front door. With that he turned round, shook himself, and turned into a trim little novice of only sixteen wearing a black habit and carrying a bundle wrapped in blue cotton cloth on his shoulder. Then he stepped out until he was by the master and called, Master, what's been happening? Who are these wicked people?

Rescue me, disciple, said Sanzang, and stop asking so many questions.

What's it all about? Monkey asked.

These highwaymen blocked my way and demanded money, Sanzang replied. As I don't have any they hung me up here. I'm waiting for you to work something out. If you can't you'll just have to give them the horse.

You're hopeless, Master, laughed Monkey. Of all the monks in the world there can be few as soft as you. When the Tang Emperor Taizong sent you to worship the Buddha in the Western Heaven he never told you to give that dragon horse away.

Whatever was I to do when they hung me up here and were hitting me as they demanded things? said Sanzang.

What did you say to them? Monkey asked.

I was so desperate when they beat me that I had no choice: I had to tell them about you, Sanzang replied.

Master, said Monkey, you're useless. Why ever did you squeal on me?

I told them that you were carrying some money, said Sanzang. I only did it in desperation to stop them beating me.

Great, said Brother Monkey, great. Thanks for the recommendation. That just how to squeal on me. You can do that seventy or eighty times a month if you like, and I'll do more business than ever.

When the bandits saw Monkey talking to his master they spread out to surround them and said, Little monk, get out the money your master told us you're carrying inside your belt and we'll spare your life. But if you even try to say no, you're dead.

Don't shout, gentlemen, said Monkey, putting his bundle down. I've got some money in here, but not much-only twenty horseshoe ingots of gold and twenty or thirty ingots of frosted silver, not counting the smaller pieces. If you want it I'll get the whole packet out as long as you don't hit my master. As the ancient book has it, 'Virtue is the root, and wealth is only the tip of the branch'. This is just the tip of the branch. We men of religion can always find a place to beg. When we meet a benefactor who feeds monks there'll be plenty of money and clothes for us. We don't need much at all. As soon as you've let my master down I'll give you it all.

When the bandits heard this they were delighted, and they all said, The old monk is stingy, but this little monk is very generous. Let him down. Now that his life had been spared the venerable elder leapt on the horse and galloped back the way he had come, making good use of the whip and not giving Monkey another thought.

You've gone the wrong way, Monkey called out in alarm, then picked up his bundle and started to run after him, only to find his way blocked by the bandits.

Where do you think you're going? they asked. Give us your money or we'll have to torture you.

Now we're on that subject, said Monkey, we'll have to split the money three ways.

You're a bit of a rascal, aren't you, little monk? said one of the bandit chiefs. You want to keep something without letting your master know. All right then. Bring it all out and we'll have a look at it. If there's a lot we'll let you keep a bit to buy fruit with on the side.

That's not what I mean at all, brother, said Monkey. I haven't got any money. What I mean is that you've got to give me a cut of the gold and silver you two have stolen from other people.

This infuriated the bandit chief, who shouted abusively, You're asking for it, little monk. Wanting ours instead of giving us yours! Stay where you are and take this. He lifted his knotted rattan cane and brought it down on Monkey's head six or seven times.

Monkey pretended not to notice, and his face was wreathed in smiles as he said, Brother, if you can only hit me like that you could still be hitting me at the end of next spring and you wouldn't really have hit me at all.

You have a very hard head, exclaimed the shocked bandit.

No, no, you overpraise me: I just get by with it, Monkey replied. With that the discussion was cut short as two or three of the bandits rushed at Monkey and started lashing out at him.

Keep your tempers, gentlemen, said Monkey, while I get it out.

The splendid Great Sage then felt in his ear and pulled out an embroidery needle. Gentlemen, he said, we monks really don't carry money with us. All I can give you is this needle.

What lousy luck, said one of the bandits. We've let the rich monk go and kept this bald donkey who's not got a penny to his name. I suppose you do tailoring. A needle's no use to us. On hearing that they did not want it Monkey held the needle in his hand, waved it, and turned it into a cudgel as thick as a rice bowl.

Young you may be, little monk, said the terrified bandits, but you certainly have some magical powers.

Monkey then thrust the cudgel into the ground and said, If any of you gentlemen can move it it's yours. The two bandit chiefs rushed up to grab it, but they could no more move it than a dragonfly can move a stone pillar: it did not shift a fraction of an inch. How could those bandits have known that the gold-banded As-You-Will cudgel had been weighed on the scales of Heaven at 13,500 pounds? Then Monkey stepped forward, lifted it effortlessly, spun it in a writhing python movement, pointed it at the robbers and said, You're all out of luck: you've met Monkey.

The bandit chief rushed at him again and hit him another fifty or sixty times. Your hands must be getting tired, said Monkey. Let me hit you one now, but don't think this is the real thing. Watch him as he swings his cudgel, shakes it, and makes it as thick as the top of a well and seventy or eighty feet long. A single blow of it struck one bandit chief to the ground. He bit the dust and said no more.

You're pretty cheek there, baldy, said the other bandit chief abusively. You've got no money, and now you've killed one of us.

Just a moment, said Monkey with a smile. I'm going to kill every one of you and wipe you all out. With another swing of his cudgel he killed the other bandit chief, at which all their men threw down their spears and clubs and scattered in terror, fleeing for their lives.


The Tang Priest galloped Eastwards until Pig and Friar Sand stopped him and asked, Where are you going, Master? This is the wrong way.

Disciples, said Sanzang, reining in his horse, go back and tell your brother to be merciful with that cudgel of his and not kill all the bandits.

Stop here, Master, said Pig. I'll go. The idiot ran straight back along the path, shouting at the top of his voice, Brother, the master says you're not to kill them.

Have I killed anyone? Monkey asked.

Where have the bandits all gone? said Pig. They've all run away apart from the two chiefs. They're asleep here.

You pox-ridden pair, said Pig, addressing them, no doubt you had a hard night of it and were so exhausted that you had to choose this of all places to sleep. Walking closer to them he went on, You're like me: you sleep with your mouths open and dribble.

It's because I smashed the beancurd out of them with my cudgel, said Monkey.

But people don't have beancurd in their heads, said Pig.

I beat their brains out, said Monkey.

The moment he heard Monkey say that the idiot turned and rushed straight back to say to the Tang Priest, He's scattered them.

Splendid, splendid, said Sanzang. Which way did they go?

He hit them so hard he laid them out, Pig replied. They can't go anywhere.

Then what do you mean by scattering them? Sanzang asked.

He killed them, Pig replied. If that isn't scattering their band, what else is it?

How did he hit them? Sanzang asked.

He hit two big holes in their heads, said Pig.

Open the bundle, said Sanzang, Take out a few coins, and buy some ointment somewhere to put on their wounds.

You're not being at all sensible, Master, said Pig. There's only any point in putting ointment on the wounds of people who are still alive. Why put it on gaping holes in people who are already dead?

Has he really killed them? said Sanzang, losing his temper and beginning to mutter abusive remarks about monkeys and macaques as he turned the horse round and rode back with Friar Sand and Pig to where the dead men lay covered with gore, their heads pointing down the mountainside.

The sight was too much for the venerable elder. Dig a grave for them with your rake and bury them, he told Pig, while I say the Burial Sutra for them.

You're giving the job to the wrong man, Master, complained Pig. Monkey killed them, so Monkey ought to bury them. Why make me do the digging?

Brother Monkey, who was already in a very bad mood after being told off by the master, shouted at Pig, Hooligan! Moron! Bury them at once. I'll hit you if you waste any more time. This so alarmed the idiot that he started digging with his rake. When he was three feet down he came to a layer of stones that the prongs of his rake could not shift, so he threw the rake aside and rooted about with his snout. In the softer earth he could get two and a half feet down with one push and five feet with two. He then buried the two bodies and piled up a tombmound above them.

Wukong, said Sanzang, fetch some incense and candles so that I can pray for them and recite sutras.

You understand nothing, Monkey retorted, pouting. We're in the middle of the mountains with no village or inn for miles around. Where do you expect me to get candles and incense? There's nowhere I could buy them even if I had the money.

Out of my way, ape, said Sanzang with fury, I am going to scatter earth on the tomb, burn incense and pray.


Sanzang dismounted sadly by the tomb in the wild;

The holy monk prayed by the desolate grave.


These were the words of his invocation:


I bow to you tough guys and ask you to hear my prayer. I am from the land of Tang in the East. At the command of Emperor Taizong I was going to the West to fetch the scriptures when I met you gentlemen here. I do not know what province, prefecture and county you came from to form your band in the mountains here. I spoke to you kindly and pleaded earnestly, but you paid no heed as you repaid good with wrath. Then you encountered Sun the Novice, who killed you with his cudgel. Out of consideration for your bodies left lying in the open I had them buried and a mound piled over them. I broke off some bamboo to serve instead of incense and candles; although they give no light, they come from a sincere heart. Only stones can I offer in place of food: they have no flavor, but they are given in honest faith. When you reach the Underworld to lodge your complaint and look for the roots of your misfortune, remember that his surname is Sun and mine is Chen: they are different. Know who it was who wronged you, just as you would know a debtor, and do not bring a case against the monk who is going to fetch the scriptures.


You've shuffled off all the blame, said Pig with a laugh. We two weren't there either when Monkey killed them.

Sanzang then picked up another pinch of earth and prayed again. Tough guys, when you bring your case you must only indict Sun the Novice. It was nothing to do with Pig or Friar Sand.

When Monkey heard this he could not help laughing as he replied, Master, you've got no finer feelings at all. Goodness knows what efforts I've been to so that you can fetch your scriptures, but now that I've killed those two bandits you tell them to go and bring a case against me. It's true that I did kill them, but it was only for you. If you hadn't set out to fetch the scriptures and I hadn't become your disciple I'd never have come here and killed them. I'm damned if I don't invoke them, too.

He took his iron cudgel, pounded the grave three times, and said, Listen to me, pox-ridden bandits. You hit me seven or eight times, then seven or eight times again; you didn't hurt me or even tickle me at all, but you did make me lose my temper. One misunderstanding led to another and I killed you. You can bring a case against me wherever you like-I'm not scared. The Jade Emperor knows me. The Heavenly Kings do as I say. The Twenty-eight Constellations are afraid of me. The Nine Bright Shiners, the star lords, are scared of me. The city gods of counties and prefectures kneel to me; the God of the Eastern Peak Who Is Equal to Heaven is terrified of me. The Ten Kings of the Underworld used to be my servants. The Five Fierce Gods were once my juniors. The five Commanders of the Three Worlds and the Officers of the Ten Directions are all my very good friends. So go and bring your case wherever you like.

Hearing Monkey speak in this most unpleasant way was another shock for Sanzang. Disciple, he said, my prayer was only intended to teach you to spare life and become good and kind. Why do you have to take this all so seriously?

This is not something to fool around with, Master, Monkey replied. We must find somewhere for the night as soon as we can. The master had no choice but to hold in his anger and remount.


With the Great Sage Sun feeling disgruntled and Pig and Friar Sand also suffering from jealousy, master and disciples were only getting on together on the surface: underneath there was hostility. As they carried along their road Westwards a farmhouse came into sight to the North of the track. Pointing at it with the whip Sanzang told them that this was the place where they would find somewhere to spend the night.

Very well, said Pig, and they went up to the farm to look at it. It was a fine sight:


Wild flowers on the paths,

Trees shading the doorways.

A mountain stream fell down a distant cliff;

Wheat and mallows grew in the fields.

The reeds moistened by dew were beds for the gulls;

Poplars in the wind were perches for weary birds.

Among blue cypress the pine's green was a rival;

Red rush competed with knotweed in fragrance.

Village dogs barked,

The cocks crowed at dusk,

Well-fed cattle and sheep were led back by boys.

Under clouds of smoke from the stoves the millet was cooked;

Now it was evening in the hill farm.


As the venerable elder went closer an old man came out through the gateway of the farm, noticed Sanzang, and greeted him. Where have you come from, monk? he asked, to which Sanzang replied, I have been sent from the Great Tang in the East to fetch the scriptures from the Western Heaven. As I am passing this way and it is getting late I have come to beg a night's lodging from you, benefactor.

It is a very long way indeed from your distinguished country to here, the old man replied with a smile, so how did you manage to cross so many rivers and climb so many mountains to get here by yourself?

I have three disciples who have come with me, Sanzang said. Where are they? the old man asked. There they are, standing by the road, said Sanzang.

The old man looked up and was so appalled by their hideous faces that on the instant he turned to run back inside, only to be held back by Sanzang, who said, Benefactor, I beg you in your mercy to let us spend the night here.

The old man was shivering, barely able to open his mouth, shaking his head and waving his arms around as he said, Thth ththey're not human. They're eeevil spirits.

Don't be afraid, benefactor, said Sanzang, putting on a smile. They just grew ugly. They're not evil spirits.

But my lord, said the old man, one's raksha demon, one's a horse-faced devil, and one's a thunder god.

When Monkey heard this last remark he shouted at the top of his voice, The thunder gods are my grandsons, the rakshas are my great-grandsons, and the horse-faced devils are my great-great-grandsons.

This sent the old man's souls flying as he paled and wanted to go in. Sanzang held him up as they went into the thatched main room of the house, and said with a forced smile, Don't be afraid of him. They are all rough like that. They don't know how to speak properly.

As he was making his explanations a woman came out from the back holding a child of four or five by the hand. What has given you such a fright, sir? she asked.

Bring some tea, wife, he said, and the woman let go of the child's hand and fetched two cups of tea from the inside. When the tea had been drunk Sanzang stepped down from his seat to greet her and explain, I have been sent by Great Tang in the East to fetch the scriptures from the Western Heaven. I had just arrived here and was asking for a night's lodging in your distinguished mansion when the sight of my three disciples' ugly faces gave the old gentleman rather a fright.

If the sight of ugly faces gives you such a scare how would you cope if you saw a tiger or a wolf? the woman said.

Their ugliness I could take, wife, the old man replied. What terrified me was the way they spoke. When I said they were like a raksha, a horse-faced devil and a thunder god one of them shouted that thunder gods were his grandsons, rakshas his great-grandsons, and horse-faced devils his great-great-grandsons. That was what really terrified me.

No need to be frightened, said Sanzang, no need. The one like a thunder god is my senior disciple Sun Wukong. The one like a horse-faced devil is my second disciple Zhu Wuneng, or Pig. And the one like a raksha is my third disciple Sha Wujing, or Friar Sand. Although they are ugly they are all faithful Buddhists who believe in the true achievement. They are not evil monsters or vicious demons. They are nothing to be afraid of.

When the old man and his wife heard who Sanzang was and were told that the disciples were all devout Buddhists their nerves were finally somewhat calmed, and they told Sanzang to invite them in. The venerable elder went to the door to call them over, then told them, The old gentleman was really appalled by the sight of you just now. When you go in to see him now you must all be on your best behavior and be very polite to him.

I'm handsome and cultured, said Pig, not rough and noisy like my brothers,

If it weren't for your long snout, big ears and ugly face you'd be a very good-looking man, laughed Monkey.

Stop quarrelling, said Friar Sand. This is hardly the place for a beauty contest. Get inside!

With that they carried the luggage and led the horse in, entered the main room, made a respectful call of greeting, and sat down. The good and able wife took the child out and gave orders for rice to be cooked and a vegetarian meal prepared. When master and disciples had eaten it the night was drawing in, so a lamp was fetched and they sat talking in the main room. Only then did Sanzang ask his host's surname.

Yang, the old man replied, and on being asked his age said he was seventy-three.

How many sons do you have? Sanzang asked.

Only one, the old man replied. It was my grandson that my wife brought in just now.

Won't you ask your son in? I would like to greet him, said Sanzang.

He's not worth your courtesy, the wretch, the old man replied. I was fated to raise a worthless son, and he isn't at home now.

Where does he make his living? Sanzang asked.

The old man nodded and sighed as he replied, It's sad story. I would be very happy if he were willing to make an honest living, but his mind is set on evil and he won't work at farming. All he wants to do is to rob houses, hold up travelers, burn and kill. His cronies are all worse than foxes and dogs. He went away five days ago and he hasn't come back.

Sanzang did not dare to breathe a word when he heard this, but he thought, Perhaps he was one of the ones Wukong killed. Feeling very uneasy, he bowed as he sat there. Oh dear, he said, oh dear. How could such good parents have so wicked a son?

Monkey went up to the old man and said, What do you want a rotten son like that for? He's a murderer and a rapist, and he'll get both of you into trouble too. Let me find him and kill him for you.

I wish I could be rid of him, said the old man, but if I did I have no other son. Evil though he is I'll need him to bury me.

Stop meddling in things that are none of your business, brother, said Friar Sand and Pig. We're not the government. What's it to us if his son's a bad lot? Benefactor, could you give us a bundle of straw to spread out and sleep on over there? We'll be on our way tomorrow morning. The old man rose to his feet and sent Friar Sand to take two bundles of rice straw to the yard at the back, where they were to spend the night in a thatched shed. Monkey led the horse and Pig carried the luggage as they took their master to the shed and slept the night there, where we shall leave them.


Now old Mr. Yang's son was indeed one of the bandits who had fled for their lives after Monkey killed their two chiefs on the mountainside the previous morning. Late that night, in the small hours, a group of them gathered together again and knocked at the front gate. Hearing the noise the old man pulled some clothes over his shoulders and said, Wife, those damned bandits are here.

Then open the gate and let them in, she replied. Only then did he open up, and what he saw was a crowd of bandits shouting, We're starving, we're staving. Old Mr. Yang's son rushed in, and made his wife get up to cook some rice. As there was no firewood in the kitchen he went into the yard to fetch some.

Back in the kitchen he asked his wife, Where did the white horse in the yard come from?

There are some monks from the East who are going to get scriptures, she replied. They asked to stay here last night. Your parents treated them to supper and put them up in the thatched shed.

The news made the bandit clap his hands with glee as he came out of the hall saying, What a piece of luck, brothers, what a piece of luck. Our enemies are right here in my own home.

What enemies? the others all asked.

:The monks who killed our chiefs came here for the night, he replied, and they're asleep in the shed.

Lovely, said the other bandits. Let's get those bald-headed donkeys. We can chop them all up and pickle them in soy sauce. We'll have their things and their horse and be avenging the chiefs into the bargain.

Take it easy, said Yang the bandit. You lot go and sharpen your swords while we cook the rice. Let's all have a good feed before we do them in. Whereupon the bandits sharpened their swords and their spears.

The old man had heard all this, so he crept stealthily round to the back to tell the Tang Priest and his disciples, That evil son of mine has brought the gang here. They know you're here and they want to murder you. Knowing how far you've come I couldn't bear to see you murdered, so please pack your bags as fast as you can. I'll let you out through the back gate.

Sanzang, now shivering with fright, kowtowed to the old man in thanks then told Pig to lead the horse while Friar Sand shouldered the carrying pole and Monkey took the nine-ringed monastic staff. The old man opened the back gate to let them out then made his way quietly back to the front to go to bed.

By the time the bandits had sharpened their weapons and eaten a good meal it was the fifth watch and almost dawn. They crowded into the backyard to find their intended victims gone. Quickly lighting lamps and fires they made a long search but could find no traces of them anywhere except that the back gate was open. They've got away out the back, they all exclaimed. After them! Catch them!

They all rushed along as fast as arrows, and when the sun rose in the East they finally saw Sanzang, who looked back when he heard shouts and saw a crowd of twenty or thirty men armed with spears and swords coming after him.

Disciples, he called, the bandits have caught up with us. Whatever shall we do?

Don't worry, said Monkey. I'll finish them off.

Wukong, said Sanzang, reining in his horse, you're not to hurt them. Just scare them off.

Not a blind bit of notice did Monkey take of this as he swung his cudgel and turned to face them. Where do you gentlemen think you're going? he asked.

Bloody baldies, they shouted back abusively, ringing Monkey in a circle, give us back our chiefs. When they started thrusting and hacking at him with their spears and swords the Great Sage whirled his cudgel once around, made it as thick as a ricebowl, and scattered the lot of them. Those who took the full impact of it were killed outright; glancing blows broke bones, and even a touch left an open wound. A few of the nimbler ones managed a getaway, but the slower ones all had to pay their respects to King Yama in the Underworld.

At the sight of so many people being struck down a panic-stricken Sanzang made his horse gallop West as fast as it could, with Pig and Friar Sand rushing along beside. Which of you is old Yang's boy? Monkey asked the wounded bandits who were still alive.

The one in yellow, my lord, they groaned.

Monkey went over, took his sword from him, and sliced off his head. Holding the gory head in his hand he put his cudgel away and caught up with the Tang Priest by cloud. Master, he said, waving the head in front of the horse, here's the head of old Yang's wicked son.

Sanzang, pale with horror, fell out of the saddle. Evil macaque, he said, you will be the death of me, terrifying me like that. Take it away at once. Pig kicked the head to the side of the path and buried it with his rake.

Do get up, Master, said Friar Sand, putting down the carrying pole and supporting the Tang Priest. Pulling himself together as he sat there on the ground the venerable elder started to recite the Band-tightening Spell. Monkey's skull was squeezed so tight that his face and ears turned bright red, his eyes bulged and his head ached. Stop! Stop! he pleaded, rolling around in agony, but even when Sanzang had said it a dozen times or more he still carried on.

In his unbearable agony Monkey turned somersaults and stood on his head, screaming, Forgive me, Master. Say what you have to say. Stop, stop! Only then did Sanzang stop reciting the spell.

I've nothing to say to you, he replied. I don't want you with me any more. Go back. Kowtowing despite his pain, Monkey asked, Master, why are you sending me away?

Wicked ape, said Sanzang, you're too much of a murderer to fetch scriptures. I gave it to you yesterday for your cruelty in killing the two bandit chiefs on the mountainside. When we reached the old gentleman's house late yesterday evening he gave us a meal and a night's lodging, and we only got away with our lives because he helped us to escape through the back gate. Even though his son was a bad lot that was none of our business, and it was wrong of you to cut off his head, to say nothing of all the other lives you destroyed. Goodness knows how much you have damaged the harmony of heaven and earth. Despite my repeated advice there is not a shred of goodness in you. I do not need yon at all. Clear off at once if you don't want me to say the spell again.

Don't say it, don't say it, pleaded Monkey in terror, I'm going. No sooner had the words left his mouth than he disappeared without a trace on his somersault cloud. Alas!


When the mind is full of murder,

Cinnabar cannot be treated.

If the spirit is in disorder,

The Way stays uncompleted.


If you don't know where the Great Sage had gone listen to the explanation in the next installment.


Chapter 55 | Journey to the West (vol. 2) | Chapter 57