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The Monkey King (A Chinese Fable)

The tale of the Monkey King, Sun Hou Tzu, is noted in Wu Cheng An’s Journey To The West (Hsi Yu Chi). This epic narrative notes the roots and adventures of the Monkey King as he protects a monk named Hsuan Tsang on a pilgrimage to India in the 7th century. Here are some stories of the birth of the Monkey king adapted from Arthur Waley’s translation of Journey To The West titled Monkey.

Beyond the seas, in the Eastern continent, in the kingdom of Ao-lai, is the mountain Hua-Kuo Shan (Mountain of Flowers and Fruit)”, and here “there was a rock that since the creation of the world had been worked upon by the pure essences of Heaven and the fine savors of Earth, the vigor of sunshine and the grace of moonlight, till at last it became magically pregnant and one day split open, giving birth to a stone egg, about as big as a playing ball. Fructified by the wind, it developed into a stone monkey, complete with every organ and limb.

The Monkey King

The Stone Monkey quickly became the leader of the wild monkeys in the area. He found shelter, food, and water for them and soon became their king. The monkeys had everything and were content, but the Monkey King became troubled by the thought of death. He wanted to discover the secrets of immortality. In his journey for eternal life, he went to Holy Terrace Mountain, where the Immortal P’u Ti Tsu Shih taught him the formula of the 72 Transformations and the art of Cloud Soaring, enabling the Monkey King to travel 216,000 meters in a single jump. 

When the Monkey King returned to his kingdom, a demon named Hun Shih Mo Wang was terrorizing the other monkeys. Monkey confronted the demon. 

The two exchanged punches and kicks, and were evenly matched with one another. The Monkey King punched the demon from in the lower ribs, and sent a flurry of punches on his chest. The demon was staggered. He picked up a sword, and slashed at the Monkey King’s head. Monkey swiftly stepped aside. The demon was becoming more savage, and the Monkey King knew it. Monkey used the method called Body Outside the Body. He pulled out some of his hair, and then threw them in the air. 

“Change!” Monkey yelled.

The hair changed into a crowd of small monkeys. When anyone becomes immortal, they can make any kind of miracle. Monkey King could transform his hair into whatever he wanted them to be.

The little monkeys were so quick that they could not be touched. They surrounded the demon. They kicked him, punched him, pinched his nose, and poked his eyes. While the demon was distracted, the Monkey King snatched the demon’s sword. He ran through the group of monkeys, and slashed down at the demon’s skull and broke it.

The Monkey King realized he needed weapons for his subjects, but he could not find any to his liking. Seeing that he couldn’t find any weapons on land, he  wanted to get a weapon made in the sea. 

The Monkey visited Ao-Kuang, the Dragon King of the Eastern Sea and asked him for weapons. The Dragon King was not one to turn a request down. The Dragon King brought out a huge sword, but Monkey did not want it. The Dragon King brought out a nine pronged fork weighing 3,600 pounds, but Monkey thought it was too light. 

The Dragon mother and her daughter saw this exchange. They saw that the Monkey King is no ordinary warrior.  “Great King,” the Dragon mother said, “We can see that this Monkey Sage is no ordinary warrior. In the treasury, we have magic iron that shaped the bed of the galaxy. It has already been glowing for several days. Is this not a sign to give it to him?”

The Dragon King refused. “This,” he said, “was used by the Great Yu, when he fixed the rivers and seas. When he subdued the great flood. It’s just a piece of iron. What use is this to him?”

“Don’t worry about it. Just give it to him and see if he wants it.”

The Dragon King brought the Monkey King to the Treasury. The Monkey saw the glowing iron, which turned out to be a thick iron pillar. He took one end and then raised it. 

“It’s too long and too thick,” the Monkey complained. The pillar quickly became shorter and thinner. 

“Smaller.” The Monkey King said. The pillar shrunk again. The Monkey was delighted.

Bringing it out from the treasury, he saw the iron pillar in its glory. There were golden clasps at each end of the black iron. On the near end, there was an inscription saying “Golden Clasped Wishing Staff- 13,500 pounds”. 

This was only the beginning of the many adventures of the Monkey King. If you want to learn more about his stories, read Monkey by Arthur Waley.