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  • The Thirteen Monks (A Chinese Fable)

There was once a general named Wang Shih-ch’ung who wanted to rule China. When the Sui dynasty collapsed, he saw this as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. When the first T’ang emperor struggled to exert his power to control the empire, General Wang captured Luoyang, in the Henan Province. He built up a conscripted army, and used forced labor to construct a walled outpost in Luoyang. Luoyang was already surrounded by a massive wall, so this compound was a fort within a fort. General Wang’s influence grew when his troops were able to capture a T’ang prince called Li Shih-Min.

There were thirteen monks working the fields at the Shaolin temple on the outskirts of the city at the time. When they heard about Li Shih-Min’s capture, they wanted to rescue him.

The monks, disguised as wood carriers, arrived at the city gates. However, they couldn’t get through the crowd. A monk named Chi Shou pretended to fall over and dropped his bundle of wood. He quickly struck the vital points of some of the people in the crowd, and they fell down unconscious. This let the thirteen monks slip through the gates.

Shaolin Monks

The monks were able to make their way through the city to the General’s compound in the darkness. The monks removed their heavy equipment (which were weights all around their body). They removed these weights from their wrists, chests, and ankles and scaled the wall easily. They jumped from the top of the wall into the compound quietly.

The monks snuck into the heavily guarded prison gates. They couldn’t move past them stealthily, so they attacked the guards. They used different techniques like Wild Tiger Leaps the Ravine and Golden Hook Hangs on the Wall to beat them. A monk named Shan Hu then went to steal horses, while the others went to release the T’ang prince. 

Li Shih-Min was found imprisoned with a heavy cangue. The monks opened his cell and released him from the cangue. They then met up with Shan Hu.

While he was stealing horses, Shan Hu learned that the general was out on a raid, leaving his nephew and heir Wang Ren-Tse in charge of the city. The five monks Shan Hu, T’an Tsung, Shan Hui, Tao Kwang, and Ming Yueh all decided to give General Wang Shih-Ch’ung a taste of his own medicine and decided to kidnap the young heir who was celebrating Li Shih-Min’s capture. Chi Ts’ao and the rest of the monks along with the prince went out to Luoyang Bridge.

The five monks began to search the city, looking for the heir’s banquet. They found a private home suspiciously surrounded by soldiers, so the monks decided to eavesdrop on them. By fate, they turned out to be Wang Ren-Tse’s personal guard. Wang Ren-Tse was inside rapping a woman he fancied on the way to the banquet hall. The monks attacked the soldiers and easily beat them with techniques like Sparrow Hawk Spins in the Air, and Thunder Good Flies Across the Heavens.

The woman’s scream filled the house, so the monks rushed in

They started searching the house room by room.

By the time T’an Tsung found him, Wang Ren-Tse was already finished with his victim and waiting for them. Wang Ren-Tse blew out the lamp and drew his sword. The two men fought in the darkness. T’an Tsung tried to fend him off with his Shaolin techniques, but Wang was also a very skilled swordsman. T’an Tsung would not be able to fight him off without a weapon. The monk bumped into a jar of pickled vegetables from a shelf during the fight, and hurled the jar at Wang with the White Snake Flicks Its Tongue. The enemy dropped his sword and slumped on the floor.

Dragging the unconscious Wang Ren-Tse, the five monks met up with their companions at Luoyang Bridge. The thirteen monks and Prince Li-Shih-Min rode the stolen horses out of the city.