Art by: Saryth Chareonpanichkul
So this guy here is called Sun Wu Kong, and he’s got many many titles, but he’s most famous for being “The Great Sage Equal to Heaven,” because he was bad-ass enough to piss off the heavens and call himself that. And all of this takes place in Wu Cheng En’s epic, The Journey to the West. [You can find incomplete translations of this epic by Arthur Waley in your local library.]
Anyhow, he was cool right from the start. He was born out of stone, and you know something’s up when a monkey is born out of one. He lived in the Mountains of Flower and Fruit, also known as 花果山 (Hua Guo Shan) in Chinese, and he got the title of “Handsome Monkey King,” because all the monkeys there were really impressed with his kick-ass martial arts moves that protected them from stupid demons.
So Sun Wu Kong thought he was real great, and one of his followers said, “Dude, you should totally go up to the heavens and ask for a title, because all great immortals have a title,” and he was all, “That’s an awesome idea!” So he went. Up in the heavens, he met the Jade Emperor, and the Emperor was all, “K. You should be called Bi Ma Wen,” which meant minder of horses, and Monkey dearest took care of the horses [and cleaned their shit] for a while until he realized that the Jade Emperor was mocking him.
Damn this Monkey was pissed. He wreaked havoc in heaven, and was real powerful that no one could catch him, except the Emperor’s nephew, Li Er Lang [more on him later.] So he was caught, placed under the Five Finger Mountain, and had to wait for 500 years for his Master to arrive. As penance, he was supposed to escort this monk, Tripitaka, on a Journey to the West to get them holy Buddhist scriptures.
Talk about a long-ass lesson in humility.
Along the way he almost met Pigsy and Sandy, and together, they went through a 81 trials and tribulations till they finally got the scriptures.
Monkey also carries a golden cudgel, also known as ru yi jing gu bang which he stole from the Dragon King while he went there searching for a weapon that was as bad-ass as him. It was one of the pillars of the dragon palace, and he could make it grow as big as he wanted, or shrink it enough to put it behind his ear. Pretty convenient, ‘cause he wouldn’t lose the weapon that way. He can also use his hair – his hair! To create copies of himself [this was before the damn photocopier was invented,] to trick people and save his master.
I think I already mentioned his 72 transformations, but I could mention it again. He’s a shapeshifter, like most tricksters. Yes, you read right. Sun Wu Kong is a trickster, and it’s pretty obvious by now since he’s so good at subverting the order of the heavens, playing pranks on everyone, and getting revenge on people who’ve done him wrong, like the Jade Emperor.
Some of my favourite trials and tribulations include Monkey beating up the White Bone Demon, getting the Iron Fan from his former sworn brother’s wife, Princess Iron Fan, and playing tricks on phony Taoist priests. I could write out all the incidents here, but it’s like re-writing this epic, and I don’t know if I could survive it. Nuh-uh.
But if you ask me, the only thing that truly endangered this fella was himself. Each time he lost his temper, his master would chant a prayer and the gold hoop ‘round his head would tighten, majorly hurting his brain. All he had to do was to discipline himself, be less impulsive and bide his time, and maybe he wouldn’t have suffered as much.
Oh well. As the Buddhists would all agree, suffering is part of life, and you need it in order to become a better person.
Or an enlightened deity with even more kick-ass powers, in this case.
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