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Chapter 59

Sanzang's Way Is Blocked at the Fiery Mountains

Monkey First Tries to Borrow the Plantain Fan

The many species are at root the same;

All flows into the boundless sea.

Every thought and worry is in vain;

All types and forms together blend.

When the achievement is complete

Great will be the full and shining dharma.

Do not allow your differences to divide:

Keep everything together.

Gather all into the elixir furnace,

Refine it till it is red as darkest gold.

Then in its brilliance and beauty

On dragons it may ride at will.

The story tells how Sanzang took back Brother Monkey as the Bodhisattva had instructed him and headed towards the Western Heaven, united in heart with Pig and Friar Sand. They were no longer in two minds, and the ape and the horse were firmly under control. Time shot by like an arrow; days and nights alternated with the speed of a shuttle. After the scorching heat of summer they were now in the frosts of late autumn. What they saw was:

The sparse clouds blown away by the wild West wind,

Cranes calling in the distant hills amid the frosty woods.

This is a chilly time

When mountain rivers seem longer than ever.

The swan returns through the Northern frontier passes;

Migrating birds go back to their Southern fields.

The traveler feels lonely on the road;

Monastic robes do not keep out the cold.

As master and disciples pressed ahead they began to feel hotter and hotter in the warm air. It is autumn now, so why is it getting hotter again? Sanzang asked, reining in his horse.

Don't know, said Pig. There's a country in the West, Sihali, where the sun sets. People call it 'the end of the sky'. At about six o'clock every evening the king sends people on the city walls to band drums and blow bugles to cover the sound of the sea boiling. That's because when the fire of the sun falls into the Western Ocean there's a great seething noise like something burning being plunged into water. If they didn't cover the noise with their drums and bugles the shock would kill all the little children in the city. That's where I think we are-the place where the sun sets. When the Great Sage heard this he could not help laughing.

Don't talk such nonsense, you idiot. We're a long way from Sihali yet. The way our master keeps dithering and changing his mind we won't get there in three lifetimes, even if we go on from childhood to old age, then to childhood again, and then to another old age and a third childhood.

Tell me then, brother, said Pig, if this isn't where the sun sets why's it so scorching hot?

The seasons must be out of joint, said Friar Sand. I expect they're following summer rituals here although it's autumn. Just as the three disciples were arguing they saw a farm by the side of the road. It had a red tiled roof, red brick walls, and red painted doors, windows and furniture. It was red everywhere.

Wukong, said Sanzang, dismounting, go to that house and find out why it's so burning hot.

The Great Sage put his gold-banded cudgel away, neatened his clothes, and swaggered along the road like a fine gentleman. When he reached the gate to have a look an old man suddenly appeared from inside. This is what he looked like:

He wore a robe of hemp-cloth,

Not quite brown or red,

A sunhat of woven bamboo,

In between black and green.

The knobby stick in his hand

Was neither crooked nor straight.

His long boots of leather

Were not new, but not yet old.

His face was the color of copper,

His beard bleached white like yarn.

Long eyebrows shaded his jade-blue eyes

And his smile showed golden teeth.

The old man had a shock when he looked up to see Monkey. Where are you from, you freak? he asked, steadying himself on his stick. What are you doing at my gate?

Venerable patron, replied Monkey with a bow, don't be afraid. I'm no freak. My master and we three disciples have been sent by the Great Tang emperor in the East to fetch the scriptures from the West. As we've now reached your residence I have come to ask you why it's so boiling hot here and what this place is called.

Only then did the old man stop feeling worried and reply with a smile, Please don't take offence, reverend sir. My old eyes are rather dim and I failed to recognize your distinguished self.

There's no need to be so polite, said Monkey. Which road is your master on? the old man asked.

That's him, standing on the main road due South, Monkey replied.

Ask him over, ask him over, the old man replied, to Monkey's pleasure. Monkey waved to them, and Sanzang came over with Pig and Friar Sand leading the white horse and carrying the luggage. They all bowed to the old man.

The old man was at the same time delighted by Sanzang's fine appearance and alarmed by Pig's and Friar Sand's remarkable ugliness. Inviting them in, he told the younger members of the family to bring tea and cook a meal. Hearing all this Sanzang rose to his feet to thank the old man and ask, Could you tell me, sir, why it has turned so hot again although it is autumn now?

These are the Fiery Mountains, the old man replied. We don't have springs or autumns here. It's hot all the year round.

Where are the mountains? Sanzang asked. Do they block the way to the West?

It's impossible to get to the West, the old man replied. The mountains are about twenty miles from here. You have to cross them to get to the West, but they're over 250 miles of flame. Not a blade of grass can grow anywhere around. Even if you had a skull of bronze and a body of iron you would melt trying to cross them. This answer made Sanzang turn pale with horror; he dared not to ask any more questions.

Just then a young man pushing a red barrow stopped by the gate, shouting, Cakes! Cakes! The Great Sage pulled out one of his hairs and turned it into a copper coin with which he bought a cake off the young man. The man accepted the money and without a worry he lifted the cover off his barrow to release a cloud of hot steam, took out a cake and passed it to Monkey. When Monkey took it in his hand it was as hot as a burning coal or a red-hot nail in a furnace.

Just look at him as he keeps tossing the cake from one hand to another shouting, It's hot, it's hot, I can't eat it.

If you can't stand heat don't come here, the young man replied. It's always this hot here.

You don't understand at all, my lad, said Monkey. As the saying goes,

If it's never too cold and it's never too hot

The five kinds of grain will be harvested not.

If it's so hot here how do you get the flour to make your cakes? To this the young man said,

You ask me where we can obtain the flour for the pan:

Politely we request it from Immortal Iron Fan.

What can you tell me about this immortal? Monkey asked.

The immortal has a plantain fan, the young man replied. If you ask it to, the fan puts out the fire at the first wave, makes a wind blow at the second wave, and brings rain at the third wave. That is how we can sow and reap the crops to support ourselves. Without it nothing would be able to grow.

On hearing this Monkey rushed back inside, gave the cakes to Sanzang, and said, Don't worry, Master: Don't get upset about what's going to happen the year after next. East these cakes up and I'll tell you all about it. Sanzang took the cakes and said to the old man, Please have a cake, sir.

I could not possibly eat one of your cakes before we've offered you any of our tea and food, the old man replied. Sir, Monkey replied, there's no need to give us food or tea. But could you tell me where the Iron Fan Immortal lives?

What do you want to know about the immortal for? the old man asked. The cake-seller told me just now that the immortal has a plantain fan, said Monkey. If you borrow it the first wave puts the fire out, the second raises a wind and the third brings rain. That's why you're able to sow and reap the crops to support yourselves. I want to go to ask the immortal to come so we can put out the flames on the Fiery Mountains and cross them. And you'll be able to sow, reap and live in peace.

It's a nice idea, said the old man, but as you have no presents the immortal wouldn't come.

What sort of presents would be wanted? Sanzang asked.

Every ten years, the old man replied, we go to visit the immortal. We take four pigs and four sheep, all decorated with flowers and red ribbons, delicious fruit in season, chickens, geese and the best wine. We bathe ourselves and go very reverently to pay a respectful visit to the mountain and ask the immortal to leave the cave and come here to perform magic.

Where is this mountain? Monkey asked. What's it called? How far is it from here? I'm going there to ask for the fan.

It lies Southwest of here, the old man said, and it's called Mount Turquoise Cloud. When we believers go to worship at the magic mountain the journey takes us a month as it's about 485 miles altogether.

No problem, said Monkey. I can be there and back in no time.

Wait a minute, said the old man. Have something to eat and drink first, and we'll get some provisions ready for the journey. You'll need two people to go with you. Nobody lives along the way and there are many wolves and tigers. It'll take you many a day to get there. You must be serious about it.

No need, said Monkey with a laugh, no need. I'm off. As soon as he had said that he disappeared.

My lord! the old man said in astonishment. He's a god who can ride clouds.

We shall say no more of how the family redoubled their offerings to the Tang Priest, but tell of Monkey, who arrived at Mount Turquoise Cloud in an instant, brought his auspicious light to a stop and started looking for the entrance to the cave. He heard the sound of an axe and saw a woodcutter felling a tree in the forest on the mountainside. Hurrying forward, Monkey heard him saying.

I recognize the ancient woods amid the clouds;

The path is overgrown; the hillside steep.

From Western hills I see the morning rain;

Returning to the South the ford's too deep.

Going closer to the woodman Monkey said, Greetings, woodman. Putting down his axe the woodcutter returned his courtesy and asked him where he was going. May I ask if this is Mount Turquoise Cloud? said Monkey.

Yes, the woodcutter replied.

Where is the Iron Fan Immortal's Plantain Cave? Monkey asked.

There's a Plantain Cave here, the woodcutter replied, but no Iron Fan Immortal, only a Princess Iron Fan. She's also called Raksasi.

They say the immortal has a plantain fan that can put out the flames of the Fiery Mountains. Is that her?

Yes, yes, the woodman said. She's a sage and she has this treasure that puts out fire. Because she protects the people who live over yonder they call her the Iron Fan Immortal. We have no need of her here, so we just call her Raksasi. She's the wife of the Bull Demon King.

Monkey went pale with shock at the news. Another person who's got it in for me, he thought. When I subdued the Red Boy the other year he said this bitch was his mother. When I met the Red Boy's uncle at Childfree Cave on Mount Offspring Dissolved he refused me the water and wanted revenge. Now I'm up against his parents. How am I ever going to borrow the fan?

Seeing Monkey deep in thought and sighing endlessly, the woodcutter said with a smile, Venerable sir, you're a man of religion. You shouldn't have any worries. Just follow this path East and you'll be at the Plantain Cave within a couple of miles.

I'll be frank with you, woodcutter, said Monkey. I'm the senior disciple of the Tang Priest who has been sent by the Tang emperor in the East to go to fetch the scriptures from the Western Heaven. The other year I had words with Raksasi's son Red Boy at the Fire-cloud Cave, and I'm afraid that Raksasi may refuse to let me have the fan because she's still nursing a grudge. That's why I'm worried.

A real man knows how to play it by ear, the woodcutter replied. Just ask for the fan. Forget about your old quarrel. I'm sure you'll be able to borrow it.

Monkey made a respectful chant and said, Thank you very much for your advice. I'm off.

Brother Monkey then took his leave of the woodcutter and went straight to the mouth of the Plantain Cave. Both doors were tightly shut, and the scenery outside was magnificent. It was a splendid place. Indeed:

The rocks were the hones of the mountain,

And also the spirit of the earth.

Clouds at sunset held night rain,

And mosses lent the freshness of their green.

The towering peaks outdid those of Penglai;

The fragrant calm was like a magic island's.

Wild cranes were perching in the lofty pines

While warblers sang in the weeping willows.

This was indeed an ancient site,

The home of immortals for ten thousand years.

The resplendent phoenix sang in the parasol trees

While azure dragons hid in the running waters.

Vines hung over the winding paths,

And creepers covered the steps of stone.

Apes on the cliffs screeched to welcome the rising moon;

In tall trees birds sang for joy at the clear blue sky.

The groves of bamboo were as cool as if it had rained;

The flowers along the path were embroidered velvet.

At times a cloud of white would blow from a distant peak;

It had no single form as it drifted in the wind.

Open up, Brother Bull, Monkey shouted as he went up to the doors. They opened with a creak, and out came a young girl carrying a flower basket in her hand and hoe over her shoulder. Indeed:

Though clad in rags and dressed in no fine array,

Her face was full of spirit, her heart set on the Way.

Monkey went up to her with his hands together in front of his chest and said, Would you kindly tell the princess that I'm a monk going to the West to fetch the scriptures. I'm here to beg the loan of her plantain fan as we can't get across the Fiery Mountains.

What monastery are you from, the girl asked, and what is your name? Please tell me so that I can announce you.

I'm from the East, Monkey replied, and my name is Sun Wukong.

The girl went back into the cave, knelt to the princess, and said, Your Highness, there's a monk from the East called Sun Wukong outside who would like to see you to ask for the loan of the plantain fan to cross the Fiery Mountains. The name Sun Wukong was like a pinch of salt thrown into a flame, or oil poured on a fire. Her face went bright red and evil anger flared up in her heart.

So that damned monkey's here at last, she said with hatred. Girl, she shouted, fetch me my armor and my weapons. She then put on her armor, tied her pair of blue-tipped swords at her waist, fastened it all firmly, and went out. Monkey slipped over to the entrance to see what she looked like and this is what he saw:

A flowered kerchief tied around her head,

A cloud-patterned robe of quilted brocade.

A belt of two tiger sinews round her waist,

Revealing a skirt of embroidered silk.

Her shoes like phoenix beaks were but three inches long;

Her trousers in dragon-beard style were adorned with gold.

Brandishing her swords she gave out angry shouts;

She looked as lethal as the goddess of the moon.

Where's Sun Wukong? Raksasi shouted as she came out of her cave.

Monkey stepped forward, bowed, and replied, Monkey offers his respectful greetings, sister-in-law.

I'm no sister-in-law of yours, she shouted angrily, and I'll have no greetings from you.

Your worthy husband the Bull Demon King was once my sworn brother, Monkey replied. There were seven of us altogether. As I learn that you are my brother Bull's good lady, of course I must call you sister-in-law.

Damned ape, said Raksasi, if you're my husband's sworn brother why did you have to do that terrible thing to our boy?

Who is your son? Monkey asked, as if he did not know.

He's the Red Boy, the Boy Sage King of the Fire-cloud Cave by Withered Pine Ravine on Mount Hao, Raksasi replied. You ruined him, and now you've come to our door to pay with your life. We've been longing to get our revenge on you but didn't know where to find you. You'll get no mercy from me.

Putting on the broadest of smiles, Monkey replied, You haven't gone into it thoroughly enough, sister-in-law. You've no reason to be so angry with me Your good son had captured my master and would have steamed or boiled him if the Bodhisattva hadn't taken the boy as his disciple and rescued my master. He's now the page Sudhana on the Bodhisattva's island and he's accepted the pursuit of the true reward from her. He is now beyond life and death and above filth and purity. He will live as long as heaven, earth, the sun and the moon. But far from thanking me for saving his life you're getting angry at me. That's wrong of you.

You smooth-tongued ape, Raksasi snapped back. My boy may be alive, but when is he ever going to come here? When am I going to see him again?

It'll be easy for you to see your son again, Monkey replied, still smiling. Just lend me the fan to put the fires out. When I've taken my master across the mountains I'll go to the Bodhisattava's place in the Southern Ocean and ask him to come here to see you and give your fan back. No problem. Then you'll be able to see that he's completely unharmed. If he'd been wounded at all you'd have had every right to be angry with me. But he's as handsome as ever. You ought to be thanking me.

To this Raksasi's reply was: Shut up, ape fiend! Stick your head out for me to hack with my sword. If you can stand the pain I'll lend you the plantain fan. If you can't you'll be going straight down to Hell to see King Yama.

Monkey then clasped his hands together in front of him and replied with a smile, Enough said, sister-in-law. I'll stretch my bald head out and you can take as many hacks as you like until you're exhausted. But you must lend me the fan. With no more argument Raksasi swung both of her swords around and brought them down with loud thunks a dozen or more times on Monkey's head. He was not bothered at all. Raksasi was so frightened by this that she turned to run away.

Where are you going, sister-in-law? Monkey said. Hurry up and lend me that fan.

My treasure isn't something to be lent out casually, Raksasi replied.

Well, said Monkey, if you refuse now you'll just have to try a taste of your brother-in-law's cudgel.

The splendid Monkey King held on to her with one hand while pulling his cudgel out from his ear with the other. With one wave it became as thick as a ricebowl. Raksasi broke free from his grip and raised her swords to strike back at him. Monkey started swinging his cudgel to hit her with and the fight began in front of Mount Turquoise Cloud. All talk of kinship was forgotten and their minds full of hatred alone. It was a fine battle:

The woman had worked hard to make herself a monster;

She loathed the ape and would avenge her son.

Although Monkey was seething with fury,

He would have made concessions for his master's sake.

First he had asked to borrow the plantain fan,

Being patient and gentle, not fierce.

In ignorance Raksasi hacked with her sword,

While Monkey decided to speak of kinship.

Women should never fight with men,

For men are harder and can crush them.

Terrible was the gold-banded cudgel,

Fine were the movements of the blue frost-bladed sword,

With blows to face and head,

As both of them grimly refused to yield.

Blocking to left and right they used their martial skill;

Great was the cunning with which they stood or fell back.

Just when they both were beginning to enjoy themselves

The sun set in the Western sky before they noticed.

Raksasi made ghosts and deities feel small

With many a wave of her true magic fan.

Raksasi and Monkey fought it out till evening. As Monkey's cudgel struck so hard and his technique was so flawless she realized that she would never be able to beat him. She brought out her plantain fan and with a single wave blew Monkey right out of sight. There was no way he could stand his ground. With that she went back to her cave in triumph.

The Great Sage was thrown around in the air, unable to come down to earth or find any refuge. He was like a dead leaf in a whirlwind or a fallen blossom carried along by a torrent.

Only after a whole night's buffeting did he manage to land on a mountain the next morning and hold on hard to a rock by putting both arms round it. He needed a long time to calm himself and take a good look around before he realized that he was on Little Mount Sumeru.

What a terrible woman, he said to himself with a deep sigh. How ever did she get me here? I remember coming here once to ask the Bodhisattva Lingji to subdue the Yellow Wind Monster and rescue my master. The Yellow Wind Ridge is over a thousand miles South of here, so as I've been blown back from the West I must have come thousands and thousands of miles. I'll go down and find out some more from the Bodhisattva Lingji before I go back.

Just as he was making his mind up he heard a resounding gong, so he hurried down the mountain and straight to the dhyana monastery. The lay brother on the gate recognized Monkey and went in to announce, The hairy-faced Great Sage who asked the Bodhisattva to subdue the Yellow Wind Monster some years back is here again.

Realizing that this must be Sun Wukong, the Bodhisattva hurried down from his throne to greet him and lead him inside with the words, Allow me to congratulate you. I suppose you have fetched the scriptures now.

It'll be a long time yet, said Monkey, a long time.

But why are you visiting my mountain if you have yet to reach the Thunder Monastery? the Bodhisattva asked.

Since in your great kindness you subdued the Yellow Wind Monster for me some years ago, Monkey replied, goodness only knows how much we've suffered on our journey. Now we are at the Fiery Mountains, but we can't cross them. When I asked the local people they told me about an Iron Fan Immortal who had an iron fan that could put the fires out. I went to visit the immortal, only to discover that she's the wife of the Bull Demon King and the Red Boy's mother. I told her that her son is now Guanyin Bodhisattva's page, but she has it in for me because she can't see him. She refused to lend me her fan and fought me. When she realized that my cudgel was too much for her she waved her fan and sent me hurling through the air till I landed here. That's why I've come blundering into your monastery to ask the way back. How far is it from here to the Fiery Mountains?

The woman is called Raksasi, or Princess Iron Fan, replied Lingji with a smile. That plantain fan of hers is a miraculous treasure formed by heaven and earth behind Mount Kunlun ever since primal chaos was first separated. This leaf is the very essence of the negative Yin principle, which is why it can put out fire. If she fans somebody with it he'll be blown 27,000 miles before that negative wind drops. But this mountain of mine is only some 17,000 miles from the Fiery Mountains. You must have stopped here because you have the power to delay clouds, Great Sage. No ordinary mortal would have been able to stop.

She's terrible, said Monkey. How ever is my master going to get across those mountains?

Don't worry, Great Sage, Lingji replied. The Tang Priest is fated to succeed on this journey with you.

How can you tell? Monkey asked. Many years age when the Tathagata gave me his instructions, Lingji replied, he presented me with a Wind-fixing Pill and a Flying Dragon Staff. The Flying Dragon Staff was used to subdue the Yellow Wind Monster, but I haven't yet tried out the Wind-fixing Pill and I'll give it to you today. It'll stop the fan from being able to move you. You'll just have to ask to get it and put the fire out with it. You'll have an instant success.

Monkey bowed deeply and expressed profound thanks. The Bodhisattva then produced a brocade bag from his sleeve and took out of it the Wind-fixing Pill. This he gave to Monkey to sew up securely inside the lapel of his tunic. I won't detain you here any longer, Lingji said as he saw Monkey out through doors. Head Northwest and that will get you to Raksasi's mountain.

Taking his leave of Lingji Monkey rode his somersault cloud straight back to Mount Turquoise Cloud and was there in a moment. Open up, open up! he shouted, hammering on the doors with his iron cudgel. Monkey's here to borrow the fan.

This so alarmed the servant girl inside the doors that she ran back and reported, Your Highness, he's here to borrow the fan again. The news frightened Raksasi, who thought, That damned monkey really has got some powers. If I fan anyone else with my treasure they go 27,000 miles before stopping. How can he be back so soon after being blown away? This time I'll fan him two or three times and he'll never be able to find his way back here.

She sprang to her feet, tied all her armor firmly on, and went out of the cave with her swords in her hands shouting, Sun the Novice, aren't you afraid of me? Why have you come back here to get yourself killed?

Don't be so stingy, sister-in-law, said Monkey with a smile. You've got to lend me it. I'll bring it back as soon as I've escorted the Tang Priest across the Fiery Mountains. I give you my word as a gentleman. I'm not the sort of low creature who borrows things but doesn't give them back.

Damned macaque, Raksasi shouted back. You're outrageous, and you understand nothing. I've got to avenge the loss of my son, so how could I possibly be prepared to lend you my fan? Clear off if you don't want a taste of my sword. The Great Sage, not at all afraid, struck back at her hands with his iron cudgel, and the two of them fought six or seven rounds. By then Raksasi's arms were becoming too tired to wield the swords, while Brother Monkey was feeling strong and fighting well. Seeing that the balance of the fight was tilting against her, Raksasi took out the fan and fanned it once in Monkey's direction.

He stood unmoved, put his iron cudgel away, and said with a chuckle, This time it's different. Fan as much as you like. If I move an inch I'm no man. She fanned twice more and still he did not move. By now she was so alarmed that she put her pride and joy away at once, went straight back into the cave, and shut the doors firmly.

When Monkey saw this he used magic. He tore the lapel of his tunic open, put the Wind-fixing Pill in his mouth, shook himself, turned into the tiniest of insects, and squeezed in through the crack between the doors, where he saw Raksasi shouting, I'm thirsty, I'm thirsty. Quick, bring me some tea. The servant girl who attended her fetched a pot of the best tea and poured a large cup of it so noisily that the surface was frothy. Monkey was delighted. With a quiet buzz of his wings he flew under the froth. Raksasi was so parched that she drained the tea in two gulps.

Once inside her stomach Monkey reverted to his own form and shouted at the top of his voice, Sister-in-law, lend me the fan.

Raksasi went pale with shock. Little ones, she called to her underlings, are the front doors shut?

Yes, they all said.

If the doors are shut then how can Sun the Novice be inside the cave and shouting? she asked.

He's shouting from inside you, the servant girl replied.

Where are you playing your conjuring tricks, Sun the Novice? Raksasi asked.

I've never been able to do conjuring tricks in all my life, Monkey replied. My magic and my powers are all real. I'm fooling around in your own in-sides, good sister-in-law. I've just seen your lungs and your liver. I know you're very hungry and thirsty, so I'll give you a bowlful to quench your thirst. With that he stamped his foot, giving Raksasi an unbearable cramp in her stomach that left her sitting groaning on the floor. Don't try to say no, sister-in-law, Monkey then said. I'm giving you a pastry in case you're hungry. He butted upwards, causing such a violent heart pain that she could only roll around on the ground, her face sallow and her lips white from agony.

Spare me, brother-in-law, spare me, was all she could say.

Only then did Monkey stop hitting and kicking. So you call me brother-in-law now, do you? he said. I'll spare your life for my brother Bull's sake. Get me the fan, and quick.

You shall have it, brother-in-law, you shall have it, she said. Come out and get it.

Fetch it and show it to me, Monkey said. She told the servant girl to fetch a plantain fan and stand holding it beside her. Monkey poked his head up her throat to see it and said, As I'm sparing your life, sister-in-law, I won't smash my way out under your ribs. I'll come out through your mouth. Open wide three times. With that Raksasi opened her mouth and Monkey turned back into the tiny insect to fly out and alight on the fan. Not realizing what had happened Raksasi went on to open her mouth twice more.

Come out, brother-in-law, she said.

Monkey turned back into himself, took the fan and said, Here I am. Thanks for the loan. With that he strode forward while the underlings opened the doors to let him out of the cave.

The Great Sage then turned his cloud around and headed back East. A moment later he had landed the cloud and was standing by the red brick wall. Pig was very pleased indeed to see him. Master, he said, Monkey's here! He's back! Sanzang went out with the old man of the farm and Friar Sand to greet him, and they all went back inside.

Propping the fan against the wall, Monkey asked, Tell me sir, is this the fan?

Yes, yes, the old man said.

This is a great achievement, disciple, said Sanzang. Fetching this treasure must have cost you a great deal of trouble.

No trouble at all, said Monkey. Do you know who that Iron Fan Immortal is? She's Raksasi, the wife of the Bull Demon King and the Red Boy's mother. Her other name is Princess Iron Fan. I found her outside her cave and asked to borrow the fan, but all she could talk of were her old grudges. She took a few cuts at me with her swords, but when I gave her a bit of a scare with the cudgel she fanned me with the fan and blew me all the way to Little Mount Sumeru. I was lucky enough to be able to see the Bodhisattva Lingji who gave me a tablet that stops winds and showed me the way back to Mount Turquoise Cloud. Then I saw Raksasi again, but this time her fan did not move me an inch, so she went back into her cave and I turned into a tiny insect to fly back in after her. When the damned woman-asked for some tea I slipped in under the froth at the top, got inside her, and started giving her a few punches and kicks. She couldn't take the pain. She kept saying, 'Spare me, brother-in-law, spare me.' As she agreed to lend me the fan I spared her life and took the fan. I'll give it back to her after we've crossed the Fiery Mountains. When Sanzang heard this he was extremely grateful.

Master and disciples then took their leave of the old man and traveled about fifteen miles West. The heat was becoming unbearable. The soles of my feet are being roasted, Friar Sand complained.

My trotters are getting burnt and it hurts, said Pig. The horse was going much faster than usual too. The ground was so hot that they could not stop, but every step was painful.

Please dismount, Master, said Monkey, and brothers, stay here while I use the fan to put the fire out. When the wind and the rain come the ground will be a lot cooler and we'll be able to get across the mountains. He then raised the fan and fanned it hard once in the direction of the fire: tongues of flame rose above the mountains. He fanned again, and they were a hundred times as high. He fanned a third time, and now they were a couple of miles high and beginning to burn him. Monkey fled, but not before two patches of fur had been burnt away. He ran straight back to the Tang Priest and said, Hurry back, hurry back, the flames are coming.

The master remounted and headed back East with Pig and Friar Sand some seven miles before stopping and asking, What happened, Wukong?

It's the wrong one, Monkey said, flinging the fan down, it's the wrong one. The damned woman fooled me.

When Sanzang heard this he frowned and felt thoroughly depressed. What are we to do? he sobbed, the tears flowing freely down his cheeks.

Brother, said Pig, why did you come back in such a mad rush and send us back here?

The first time I fanned there were flames, Monkey replied, the second time the fire got fiercer, and the third time the flames were a couple of miles high. If I hadn't run fast all my fur would have been burnt off.

But you're always telling us that you can't be hurt by thunder and lightning and that fire can't burn you, said Pig with a laugh. How come you're afraid of fire now?

Idiot, said Monkey, you don't understand anything. The other times I was ready: that's why I wasn't hurt. Today I didn't make any flame-avoiding spells or use magic to defend myself. That's why two patches of my fur were singed.

If the fire's so fierce and there's no other way to the West what are we going to do? Friar Sand asked.

We'll just have to find somewhere where there isn't any fire, Pig replied.

Which way will that be? Sanzang asked.

East, North or South: there's no fire those ways, said Pig. But which way are the scriptures?

Only in the West, Pig replied.

I only want to go where the scriptures are, Sanzang said.

We're well and truly struck, said Friar Sand. Where there are scriptures there's fire, and where there's no fire there are no scriptures.

While master and disciples were talking this nonsense they heard someone call, Don't get upset, Great Sage. Come and have some vegetarian food before you take your discussions any further. The four of them looked round to see an old man wearing a cloak that floated in the wind and a hat the shape of a half moon. In his hand he held a dragon-headed stick, and on his legs were boots of iron. With him was a demon with the beak of an eagle and the cheeks of a fish carrying on his head a copper bowl full of steamed buns, millet cakes, cooked millet and rice.

The old man bowed to them on the road to the West and said, I am the local god of the Fiery Mountains. As I know that you are escorting this holy monk, Great Sage, and can't go any further I have brought this meal as an offering.

Eating doesn't matter, Monkey replied. When are these fires going to be put out so that my master can cross the mountains?

If you want to put the fires out you must first ask Raksasi to lend you the plantain fan, the local god said. Monkey went to the side of the path, picked the fan up, and said, This is it, isn't it? The more I fan the flames the more fiercely they burn. Why?

Because it's not the real one, said the local deity with a laugh when he looked at it. She fooled you.

Then how am I to get the real one? Monkey said.

The local god bowed again and had a slight smile on his face as he replied, If you want to borrow the real plantain fan you will have to ask the Strongarm King.

If you don't know all about the Strongarm King listen to the explanation in the next installment.

Chapter 58 | Journey to the West (vol. 2) | Chapter 60