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  • The Thirteen Monks (A Chinese Fable)

In a time when chaos reigned, and the Sui dynasty crumbled to dust, there lived a general by the name of Wang Shih-ch'ung, who coveted the very realm of China itself. And as the first T'ang emperor struggled to tame his sprawling empire, General Wang seized the ancient city of Luoyang, nestled within the heart of Henan Province. There, he forced the people to build a fortress within the city's massive walls, and in so doing, his power swelled like a river after heavy rain. Fortune smiled upon him, and his soldiers captured a T'ang prince, the noble Li Shih-Min.

Shaolin Monks

Thirteen monks toiled in the fields near the Shaolin temple, their robes as dark as the shadows they would soon wear. Word reached their ears of the captured prince, and they resolved to set him free. And so, garbed as humble wood carriers, they journeyed to the gates of the besieged city.

But the throngs of people pressed close, like leaves in a forest, and passage seemed impossible. Until the monk Chi Shou, with cunning in his eyes, feigned a stumble and dropped his burden. With swift strikes, he rendered those around him unconscious, and the monks slipped through the gates like whispers in the night.

Cloaked in darkness, the Shaolin monks traversed the city to General Wang's stronghold. They cast off the weights that burdened them, and, as lightly as the wind, scaled the fortress walls. With the silence of the grave, they descended into the compound.

The prison gates loomed before them, heavily guarded and unyielding. Unable to slip past unseen, the monks chose confrontation. Employing techniques such as Wild Tiger Leaps the Ravine and Golden Hook Hangs on the Wall, they bested the guards. One monk, Shan Hu, set forth to procure horses, while the others sought the imprisoned prince.

Heavy with the cangue that held him captive, Li Shih-Min was found and freed. The monks and the prince rendezvoused with Shan Hu, who had learned of the general's absence and the rule of his nephew, Wang Ren-Tse. Five among them, Shan Hu, T'an Tsung, Shan Hui, Tao Kwang, and Ming Yueh, resolved to seize the young heir and deliver unto General Wang Shih-ch'ung a bitter draught of his own medicine.

Chi Ts'ao and the remaining monks escorted the prince to Luoyang Bridge while the five monks began their search for the heir's feast. Discovering a home swarming with soldiers, they eavesdropped upon the guards, who were, by fortune's grace, the personal protectors of Wang Ren-Tse himself. Inside, the heir forced himself upon an unwilling woman.

The monks sprang into action, vanquishing the soldiers with techniques such as Sparrow Hawk Spins in the Air and Thunder God Flies Across the Heavens. The woman's scream echoed through the house, and the monks hastened to search every chamber.

T'an Tsung found Wang Ren-Tse in the darkness, his vile deed complete, and a battle of shadows began. The heir, no stranger to the sword, matched the monk's Shaolin prowess. Desperate, T'an Tsung seized a jar of pickled vegetables and, with the White Snake Flicks Its Tongue, struck his foe. Wang Ren-Tse crumpled, unconscious.

Dragging the defeated heir, the five monks reunited with their brethren at Luoyang Bridge. Together, the thirteen monks and Prince Li Shih-Min rode the stolen horses into the night, triumphant in their daring rescue.