After Several Lives in the Sea of Suffering She Had Purified the Waves – Journey to the West, Part 2

Now that I am finished working on my Korean textbook, I can catch up on the Literati corner as well.  This post will cover volume 2 of Journey to the West in my edition, which includes chapters 16 through 33.  I apologize for being so late, but I had a couple of delays with my workload, and a few unexpected opportunities to develop my overflow blog came up that took more time than expected.

Picking up with chapter 16, we launch into some of my favorite parts of the novel.  Sanzang and Monkey arrive at the Chan Monastery of Guanyin and greet the crowd of monks coming out to the gate.  Sanzang explains his task in going to the east and asks if they can stay the night because it’s getting late.  The strange monsterly aspect of Monkey startles the monks as Sanzang hastily explains Monkey is his disciple.  While Sanzang goes in to pray to Guanyin, Monkey sees to the horse and luggage then acts in more inappropriate ways that upsets the monks further.

After dinner, Sanzang meets the elderly head monk and admires the lavish accommodations.  Monkey pipes up that they also have a special treasure, a cassock that they were taking with them to the east.  Eyeing Monkey greedily, they get him to agree to show it to them as they display their own collection of cassocks made with brocade and silk with gold embroidery.  Sanzang is appalled by the show:

Sanzang drew Monkey aside and whispered to him, “Disciple, never try to compete with other people’s wealth.  You and I are alone in this foreign land, and I’m afraid there may be trouble.” “What trouble can come from letting him look at the cassock?” Monkey asked.  “You don’t understand,” Sanzang replied.  “The ancients used to say, ‘Don’t let greedy and treacherous men see rare or amusing things.’ If he lays his eyes on it, his mind will be disturbed, and if his mind is disturbed, he’s bound to start scheming.  If you were cautious, you would only have let him see it if he’d insisted: but as it is, this is no trifling matter, and may well be the end of us.” (p. 541)

The description of the cassock Sanzang is carrying is indeed splendid, and it is purported to have supernatural powers:

If it is worn, all demons are extinguished;

When donned it sends all monsters down to hell.

It was made by the hands of heavenly Immortals,

And none but a true monk should dare put it on. (p. 543)


Chinese TV Version of Journey to the West

As Sanzang fears, the head monk covets the cassock and schemes to steal it, and his monks decide the best way to get it is to kill Sanzang and Monkey in their sleep.  One comes up with a plot to burn them to death by setting fire to the hall where they are sleeping so their deaths could be blamed on their own carelessness.

Although Sanzang and he had gone to bed, the magical Monkey’s spirit remained alert and his eyes half open even when he was asleep.  His suspicions were aroused by the sound of people moving around outside and the rustling of firewood in the breeze.  “Why can I hear footsteps in the still of the night?” he wondered.  “Perhaps bandits are planning to murder us.”…he used his miraculous powers to turn himself into a bee with a shake of his body. (pp. 547-8)

Monkey notices the monks’ activities and rushes to see a few denizens of Heaven whom he can appeal to for aid.  Borrowing a magical cloak, he rushes back to save Sanzang.  A monster, a Bear Spirit, living nearby is disturbed by the fire, but when he arrives to help put it out, he sees the cassock, is enthralled with it, and flees with it immediately.  The temple has burned to the ground by morning; only the few rooms around Sanzang remain intact.  The head monk kills himself, while his disciples are terrified of Sanzang and Monkey.

Meanwhile Monkey discovers the Bear Spirit monster in Black Wind Cave nearby is a potential culprit in the theft of the cassock.  Monkey goes to Black Wind Cave to retrieve it, and spying on the fiends who live there, he confirms that they have it.  Monkey immediately attacks them but doesn’t succeed against them in spite of his attempts to use his favorite magical tricks.  Frustrated, Monkey goes to seek out Guanyin herself where she resides in the Southern Sea to appeal to her directly.  The Bodhisattva is less than moved by his entreaties for help.

“What nonsense, you ape,” the Bodhisattva retorted.  “Even if a bear spirit has stolen your cassock, what business have you to ask me to go and demand it for you?  It all happened because you wanted to show it off, you big-headed and evil baboon, in front of petty-minded people.  On top of that, in your wickedness you called up the wind to spread the fire that burnt down my monastery.  And now you have the nerve to try your tricks here.” (p. 595)

However, she agrees to go help Sanzang.  After some discussion, Guanyin disguises herself as an evil spirit with her powers to go ahead with their plan and trick the Bear Spirit.  It works, and Monkey returns to Sanzang with the cassock.

They next day they resume their journey and come upon a village Old Gao where they plan to look for lodging.  Monkey encounters a man there who explains the plight of his clan member whose daughter was forced to marry an evil spirit.  The spirit now has her in captivity.  Monkey offers to help.  Sanzang and Monkey pay the father a visit and hear the story of how his daughter Blue Orchid became the wife of a monster.


Monkey rescues Blue Orchid and uses his magic to disguise himself as her and waits for the monster to come home.  When their confrontation comes, the monster’s true heavenly identity is revealed, and he explains how he was punished as pig-monster Zhu Ganglie as a result.  He has been adding wealth to his in-laws, which Monkey cannot argue with in spite of what the Gao’s have said about him.  Monkey realizes the Gao just want to get rid of Zhu for the sake of appearances and that their position is unjust.

Finally, the situation is resolved when Pig reveals that Guanyin has converted him and asked him to wait for Sanzang to come along.  He is to accompany Sanzang on the way to fetch the scriptures in the West.  Sanzang formally accepts him as a disciple, and they move on, meeting a hermit and various monsters that the two disciples have to fight off. Monkey does more of his famous magic transformations:

As Monkey wanted to win glory he used an ‘extra body’ trick: plucking a hair out, he chewed it into little bits, blew them all out, and shouted, ‘Change!’ They turned into well over a hundred Monkeys, all dressed like him and wielding iron cudgels.  They surrounded the monster in mid-air, and in his fright he countered with a trick of his own.” (p. 699)

Monkey has to visit the Bodhisattva Lingji to get control over one of the monsters holding Sanzang in captivity.  When the company encounters an evil spirit in a very wide river they can’t figure out how to cross, they have to appeal to Guanyin for help, and they add another, final disciple to their group, Friar Sand.

Their next adventure is precipitated by Pig’s inability to forego any comfort when they try to find somewhere nice to sleep.  This leads them to a mansion where a widow lives with her three unmarried daughters, and the widow decides the four monks in their company would make good husbands for all of the women in the household!  As expected, Pig falls into their trap and discusses with the widow privately which of the daughters he should marry, and when he can’t decide, he offers to marry all of them!  This offer also emphasizes his greed, but before they settle the marriage question, Pig finds himself hog-tied in a trap!  However, it all proves to be an illusion, Guanyin’s test of their resolve in the religious vows they made.  The companions wake up to find the mansion gone, replaced by a grove of trees.  Alarmed, they go in search of Pig, and when they find him, they continue on to a Taoist temple in the mountains.

This temple is renown for its miraculous tree where manfruit grow and ripen every 10,000 years.  Shaped just like human newborns, the tree only produces a limited number at any time, and when the companions arrive, it only has 29.  The fruit bestows tens of thousands of years of immortality on anyone who eats or smells it.  However, Sanzang and his disciples are unsure what sort of temple this is at first, and the immortal who is its head is away.  He leaves his attendants instructions to serve Sanzang two of the manfruit, and when they try, Sanzang mistakes them for human babies and is outraged at the suggestion he should eat them.  The attendants take the manfruit back to their rooms to eat before the fruit goes bad, but Pig overhears them and suggests to Monkey they get some of the manfruit to try for themselves.  Given Monkey’s trouble-making past full of stolen magical fruit, he quickly comes up with a plan.

When he had crossed the vegetable garden he saw yet another gate, and when he opened it there was a huge tree in front of him with fragrant branches and shade-giving green leaves shaped rather like those of plantains.  The tree was about a thousand feet high, and its trunk was some seventy or eighty feet round.  Monkey leant against it and looked up, and on a branch that was pointing south he saw a manfruit, which really did look just like a newborn child. The stem came from its bottom, and as it hung from the branch its hands and feet waved wildly around and it shook its head.  Monkey was thoroughly delighted…”. (p.813)


Once he gets the knack of harvesting them, he brings down three and summons Friar Sand to join them.  Pig eats his too fast and causes such a commotion trying to get the fruit from the other two, the attendants overhear, and suspicious, they discover the theft and insult an oblivious Sanzang.  Monkey finally admits to the crime, but when the attendants get too abusive, he angrily goes out and destroys the tree, losing all of the manfruit remaining on it.  The attendants are terrified at the sight of the ruined tree.


The Intact Manfruit Tree

Sanzang and his disciples flee before they can be arrested by the attendants, but when the immortal returns and hears what happens, he pursues them and forces Monkey to try to make amends.  Monkey has three days to find a way to heal the tree or else Sanzang will be harmed.  As it is, the immortal has Monkey flogged and attempts to boil the disciples in oil.  Monkey appeals to Guanyin for help when his other immortal friends tell him they have no cure whatsoever for the tree.  After he admits he destroyed the tree in a fit of anger, she offers him her vase of dew that can knit the tree back together.  Arriving back at the temple, they go through a ritual and restore not only the tree but also the remaining manfruit.  Everyone is so happy that they have a banquet, eating more manfruit, including Sanzang who finally understands what they are.

The next story arc presents a conflict between Sanzang’s ethics and Monkey’s immortal perceptions.  As they attempt to cross another mountain, the local evil spirit decides to toy with them by appearing as a beautiful girl offering food to Sanzang, but Monkey sees through her to her true identity and kills her, but Sanzang is unconvinced she isn’t human.  As the spirit’s antics get him into more and more trouble with Sanzang, he is thrown out of the group and returns to his mountain to save his former monkey subjects from Erlang.

Meanwhile, Sanzang gets into a lot of trouble that Pig and Friar Sand can’t save him from.  The monster that holds him captive to eat has also kidnapped a princess from a nearby kingdom and forced her to be his wife.  She sends a letter with Sanzang when she helps him escape, and back at her father’s court, Sanzang gives him information that he can use to rescue his daughter.  Aggravated by his wife’s apparent betrayal, the monster gets the idea he should transform into a handsome man and present himself to his father-in-law to gain his acceptance.

Even though his father-in-law knows he is a demon, the monster confuses everyone by suggesting that a tiger demon has killed Sanzang and taken his place, and it is now at the court deceiving the king!  The king believes him, imprisoning Sanzang, but during a banquet, the demon loses him composure, gets drunk, and starts eating one of the female servants.  Pig and Friar Sand can’t help Sanzang, but the rumor about Sanzang being a demon reaches the White Horse tethered outside, who is actually the dragon prince.  Angered by this lie, seeing that the other disciples haven’t been able to save Sanzang, he transforms himself into a beautiful woman to confront the demon, which results in him becoming seriously wounded during the confrontation.  The White Dragon sends Pig to fetch Monkey since the three of them have failed.

The last few chapters in this volume shows Pig trying to convince Monkey to come back to serve Sanzang, save Sanzang from the monster, and continue along their journey.  The final chapter shows Monkey trapped again under a mountain, waiting for Prince Nezha to rescue him.

Part two of a six part series.




About Lady Xiansa

Lady Xiansa is a writer, linguist, artist, and dancer. She has been a core volunteer for the Silk Screen Asian Arts Organization from 2007 to 2018 and has provided content for Pitt JCS anime events since 2011. She has taught both ESL and Beginning Korean. Her gothic horror novel, The Haunting at Ice Pine Peak, won the Bronze Award for Young Adult Fiction E-book in the 2016 Moonbeam Children's Book Awards and earned the 2018 Story Monsters Approved Seal in the Tween Category.
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