wu-cheng'en

The Monkey King (Sun Wukong)

Born from a mythical stone, Sun Wukong is a skilled fighter known for his shapeshifting abilities, which consists of 72 different transformations. He is able to transform his hair into objects and living beings, including cloning himself. He created havoc in heaven, where the Jade Emperor sought the help of Buddha, who imprisoned the Monkey King for five centuries. Eventually, a monk named Xuanzang freed Sun Wukong in exchange for the Monkey King’s services throughout the monk’s epic Journey to the West.

This is an abridged translation of Journey to the West, one of China’s four classic novels, formerly immortalised in a Japanese martial arts TV show and an opera by Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett. The book is extremely entertaining. It’s episodic and fantastical; Monkey himself is utterly irreverent and always just on the edge of learning his lesson. I’d love to read the whole thing one day (it’s very long). This is highly recommended – it’s a very fluid 20th century translation. Chinese friends have explained to me that as well as a fun fable it’s a smart satire on the structure of the government at the time, reflected in the foibles of the gods in the story.

Journey to the West

I recently started reading a book entitled Journey to the West. Journey to the West is a classical Chinese novel written during the Ming Dynasty. Thus far I have thoroughly enjoyed this book, and so have decided to share with you a brief summary of the first seven chapters of this story.

Okay. The story starts with a stone egg on a mountain. This stone egg hatches into a stone monkey, we’ll call him Monkey. So, Monkey kicks around his mountain for a little while and eventually creates a large troop with a bunch of other monkeys and becomes their king.

So, these monkeys fuck around for a while under the rule of Monkey until one day, Monkey says to his subjects, “Hey, you know what would be bitchin’? being immortal!” and immediately sets out to learn the secret to eternal youth.

Monkey eventually finds a master to teach him “the Way” and he not only becomes immortal, but a powerful warrior and sorcerer as well.

Monkey returns home to his monkey kingdom and their monkey parties resume as usual. However, Monkey’s new abilities go to his head. It’s like Spiderman’s uncle once said; “With great power comes great douche-bag (or something like that)”. Monkey uses his immense magical powers to terrorize his neighbors. First he forces the sea dragons to make him a weapon and some armor, then he beats the shit out of the judges of the dead.

After this, the sea dragons and the judges of the dead head on up to Heaven and complain to the Jade Emperor, the king of Heaven.

The Jade Emperor wants to put Monkey in his place but the planet Venus steps up with a different idea. Venus brings Monkey up to Heaven and puts him in charge of the “Heaven Horses”

Monkey takes care of the “Heaven Horses” for a while, but soon realizes “Wait a second, this fucking sucks!” and runs back to his monkey kingdom on Earth saying; “Hey Jade Emperor, go suck a dick!”

Now, you may not know this, but telling the king of Heaven to “go suck a dick” is a really bad idea. The Jade Emperor sends an army down to Earth to capture Monkey. Unfortunately Monkey beats the shit out of the Heaven army. So the Jade Emperor makes a deal with Monkey, Monkey returns to Heaven and is given a better job, watching over the peaches of immortality..

Everything goes well for a little while, but eventually Monkey gets bored. He starts to eat the peaches of immortality. He eats all of them.Then Monkey finds out about a Heaven party that he was not invited to. Monkey crashes the party and drinks all their booze before stumbling away.

Monkey tries to find his way home, and seeing as he’s piss drunk, it’s really no surprise that he goes to the wrong house.

Now, the house that Monkey breaks into belongs to the god that makes the immortality pills. Basically, this guy is the gods’ drug dealer and Monkey just found the meth lab in his kitchen. So, Monkey steals all the meth and once again runs back to his monkey kingdom on Earth to share the meth with his subjects.

The next morning the Jade Emperor flips a shit. There’s no more peaches, there’s no more booze, and there’s no more meth. So, he decides, “Let’s fuck his shit up.”

The Jade Emperor calls in Erlang. Erlang is a Bad Ass Mother Fucker. He’s the Samuel L. Jackson of the gods. So, Erlang arrives and repeatedly shoves his dick up Monkey’s butt.

Monkey, utterly defeated, and with a very sore tushie, is dragged back to Heaven and thrown into Meth God’s furnace for 49 days.

After 49 days, Monkey manages to escape the meth furnace. In a butt-hurt rage, Monkey storms the Jade Emperor’s palace, intent on taking over Heaven.

Now the Buddha shows up. The Buddha is a real nifty guy. He says to Monkey; “Hey, get in my hand. If you can jump out of my hand then you can rule Heaven. But if you can’t, then Erlang’s dick is going back up your butt.

It turns out that Monkey can’t jump out of the Buddha’s hand and he once again has his ass invaded by Erlang’s giant cock. Actually he gets a mountain thrown on top of him, but that’s beside the point.

That brings us to the end of chapter seven. Now you know what I know.

I can tell you in all truthfulness, master, that not just tigers but even dragons have to be on their best behavior when they meet me. I know a few tricks for putting them in their place and have the power to make rivers run backwards and stir up the seas. I can tell what things are really like from appearances alone, and sort out the truth behind what is said. When I want to make myself big I measure myself against the universe, and when I shrink I can be held on a downy hair. There’s no limit to the transformations I can perform, and nobody can tell when I’m going to vanish or when I’m going to reappear. There was nothing wonderful about skinning that tiger. Wait till I show you a thing or two.
—  Sun Wukong (Journey to the West)

Monkey King is coming to life. Slowly.

Emerald moss piled up in heaps of blue,
White clouds like drifting jade,
While the light flickered among wisps of coloured mist.
A quiet house with peaceful windows,
Flowers growing on the smooth bench;
Dragon pearls hanging in niches,
Exotic blooms all around.

Tripitaka: Monkey, how far is it to the Western Heaven, the abode of Buddha?
Wu-kong: You can walk from the time of your youth till the time you grow old, and after that, till you become young again; and even after going through such a cycle a thousand times, you may still find it difficult to reach the place where you want to go. But when you perceive, by the resoluteness of your will, the Buddha-nature in all things, and when every one of your thoughts goes back to that fountain in your memory, that will be the time you arrive at Spirit Mountain.
—  The Journey to the West by Wu Cheng'en
10 Influential Texts That Inspire Me

1. Journey to the West by Wú Chéng'ēn

2. Romance of the Three Kingdoms by Luó Guànzhōng

3. The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan

4. The Adventures of Tintin by Hergé

5. Dracula by Bram Stoker

6. In a Glass Darkly by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu

7. The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Andersen

8. The Adventures of Asterix by René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo

9. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

10. Legend of the Condor Heroes by Jin Yong