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Chapter 86

The Mother of Wood Lends His Might in Defeating the Ogre

The Metal Lord Uses His Magic to Wipe Out the Monster

The story tells how the Great Sage Monkey was leading the horse and carrying the baggage while he searched the whole mountain top, calling out for his master. Suddenly Pig came running up to him, puffing and panting, to ask, “Why are you shouting like that, brother?”

“The master's disappeared,” Brother Monkey replied. “Have you seen him?”

“Why did you have to play that trick on me when I was being a good monk with the Tang Priest?” Pig asked. “What was all that about me being commander of the vanguard? I had to fight for my life before I could beat that evil spirit and come back in one piece. You and Friar Sand were looking after the master, so why ask me about it?”

“I don't blame you, brother,” said Monkey. “Somehow or other your eyes must have gone blurred-you let the evil spirit get away and come back to catch the master again. When I went off to fight it I told Friar Sand to look after the master, and he's disappeared too.”

“I expect he's taken the master somewhere for a crap,” said Pig with a grin, but before he had finished speaking Friar Sand turned up.

“Where's the master, Friar Sand?” Monkey asked.

“You two must both be blind,” retorted Friar Sand, “letting the evil spirit escape to come back for the master. When I went to fight the evil spirit the master was left in the horse by himself.”

At this Monkey leapt with rage, shouting, “He's fooled me! He's fooled me!”

“How's he fooled you?” Friar Sand asked.

“It was a 'dividing the petals of the plum blossom' trick,” Monkey replied, “to draw us three off so that he could make a blow for the heart and carry off the master. Whatever in the name of Heaven are we to do?”

He could not stop the tears from streaming down his cheeks, at which Pig said, “Don't cry. If you cry you're a pustule. He can't be far away. He must be on this mountain. Let's look for him.” The three of them had no better plan than to look for him on the mountain. When they had covered some six or seven miles they saw a cave palace at the foot of a beetling precipice:


Clean-cut pinnacles blocking the light,

Towering and grotesque-shaped rocks.

The fragrance of rate and wonderful flowers,

The beauty of red apricots and green peaches.

The ancient trees in front of the precipice,

Forty spans round, and with bark scarred by frost and rain;

The azure pines standing outside the gates,

Two thousand feet of green blue reaching up to the sky.

Pairs of wild cranes

That dance in the breeze at the mouth of the cave;

Mountain birds in couples

Chirping by day at the ends of the branches.

Clumps of yellow creepers like ropes,

Rows of misty willows with leaves like hanging gold.

Water fills the pools that are square;

All over the mountain are caves that are deep.

In the pools that are square

Dragons lie hidden with scales unchanged.

In the mountain's deep caves

Dwell ogres that long have been eaters of humans.

This can be matched with the lands of immortals,

A den where the winds and the vapors are stored.


When Monkey saw this he took two or three paces forward, sprang towards the gates and saw that they were shut tight. Above them was a horizontal stone tablet on which was written in large letters


LINKED RING CAVE:

BROKEN RIDGE:

HIDDEN MISTS MOUNTAIN.


“Strike, Pig,” said Monkey. “This is where the evil spirit lives. The master must be here.”

At this the idiot turned vicious, raised his rake, and brought it down on the gates with all his strength, smashing a big hole in them and shouting, “Ogre, send my master out at once if you don't want me to smash your gates down and finish the lot of you off.” At this the junior devils on the gates rushed back inside to report, “Disaster, Your Majesty.”

“What disaster?” the senior demon asked.

“Someone's smashed a hole in the front gates and is yelling that he wants his master,” the junior devils replied.

“I wonder which one's come looking for him,” said the demon king in a state of great alarm.

“Don't be frightened,” said the commander of the vanguard. “Let me go out and take a look.” He hurried straight to the front gates, twisted his head to one side and craned to look through the hole that had been smashed in them. He saw someone with a long snout and big ears.

“Don't worry, Your Majesty,” he turned round and shouted at the top of his voice, “it's Zhu Bajie. He's not up to much and he won't dare try any nonsense on us. If he does we can open the gates and drag him inside to put in the steamer too. The only one to worry about is that hairy-cheeked monk with a face like a thunder god.”

“Brother,” said Pig when he heard this from outside, “he's not scared of me but he is of you. The master's definitely inside. Come here quick.”

“Evil damned beast,” said Monkey abusively. “Your grandfather Monkey is here. Send my master out and I'll spare your life.”

“This is terrible, Your Majesty,” the commander of the vanguard reported. “Sun the Novice is here looking for him too.” At this the demon king started complaining, “It's all because of your 'petal-dividing' or whatever you called it. You've brought disaster on us. How is this going to end?”

“Don't worry, Your Majesty,” the commander of the vanguard replied, “and don't start grumbling yet. That Sun the Novice is a monkey of great breadth of spirit. Although he has such tremendous magical power he's partial to flattery. We'll take an imitation human head out to fool him with, say a few flattering things to him and tell him we've eaten his master already. If we can take him in, the Tang Priest will be ours to enjoy. If we can't we'll have to think again.”

“But where are we to get an imitation human head?” the demon king asked.

“I'll see if I can make one,” the commander of the vanguard replied.

The splendid ogre then cut a piece of willow root with an axe of pure steel into the shape of a human head, spurted some human blood on it from his mouth to make it all sticky, and told a junior devil to take it to the gates on a lacquer tray, calling, “My Lord Great Sage, please overcome your anger and allow me to address you.”

Brother Monkey really was partial to being flattered, and when he heard himself being addressed as “My Lord Great Sage” he grabbed hold of Pig and said, “Don't hit him. Let's hear what he has to say.”

To this the junior devil with the tray replied, “When my king took your master into the cave the junior devils were naughty and behaved very badly. They gobbled and gnawed and grabbed and bit, and ate the whole of your master up except his head, which I have here.”

“If you've eaten him up, that's that,” Monkey replied. “Bring the head out and let me see whether it's real or false.” The junior devil threw the head out through the hole in the gates, a sight that started Pig howling and saying, “This is terrible. The master went in looking one way and he's come out looking like this.”

“Idiot,” said Monkey, “have a look and find out if it's real before you start crying.”

“You're shameless,” said Pig, “how could there ever be such a thing as a fake human head?”

'This one's a fake,” Brother Monkey replied.

“How can you tell?” Pig asked. “When you throw a real human head it lands quietly,” Monkey explained, “but when you throw a fake it makes a loud noise like a pair of wooden clappers. If you don't believe me, I'll throw it for you. Listen!” He picked the head up and threw it against a rock, where it gave a hollow ring.

“It was loud, brother,” said Friar Sand.

“That means it's a fake,” said Monkey. “I'll make it turn back into its real self to show you.” Producing his gold-banded cudgel in a flash he hit the head open. When Pig looked he saw that it was a piece of willow root. This was too much for the idiot, who started talking abusively.

“I'll get you, you hairy lot,” he said, “you may have hidden my master in your cave and fooled your ancestor Pig with a piece of willow root, but don't imagine that my master is just a willow-tree spirit in disguise.”

The junior devil who was holding the tray was thrown into such a panic by this that he ran shaking with fear back to report, “It's terrible, terrible, terrible.”

“What's so terribly terrible then?' the senior demon asked.

“Zhu Bajie and Friar Sand were taken in, but Monkey's like an antique dealer-he really knows his stuff,” the junior demon replied. “He could tell it was an imitation head. If only we could give him a real human head he might go away.”

“But how are we to get one?” the senior demon wondered, then continued, “Fetch a human head we haven't eaten yet from the flaying shed.” The devils then went to the shed and choose a fresh head, after which they gnawed all the skin off it till it was quite smooth and carried it out on a tray.

“My lord Great Sage,” the messenger said, “I am afraid it was a fake head last time. But this really is Lord Tang's head. Our king had kept it so as to bring good fortune to our cave, but now he's making a special offering of it.” He then threw the head out through the hole in the gates, it landed with a thud and rolled on the ground, gory with blood.

Seeing that this human head was a real one Monkey could not help starting to wail, in which he was joined by Pig and Friar Sand.

“Stop crying, brother,” said Pig, holding back his tears. “This is very hot weather, and the head will soon become putrid. I'm going to fetch and bury it while it's still fresh. We can cry for him afterwards.”

“You're right,” said Monkey, and the idiot cradled the head against his chest, not caring about the filth, as he hurried up the cliff till he found a South-facing spot where the winds and the natural forces were gathered. Here he hacked out a hole with his rake, buried the head, and piled a grave-mound over it. Only then did he say to Friar Sand, “You and big brother weep over him while I look for some offerings.”

Going down to the side of a gill, he broke off some willow branches and gathered a few pebbles. Taking them back up to the tomb, he planted the willow branches on either side and piled the pebbles in front of it. “What's all that about?” Monkey asked.

“The willow branches are used instead of cypresses to shade the master's tomb for the time being,” Pig answered, “and the pebbles are offerings to him instead of cakes.”

“Cretin!” Monkey shouted. “He's already dead. What do you want to go offering him stones for?”

“Just to show what the living feel,” Pig replied, “and out of mourning and respect.”

“You'd better cut that nonsense out,” Monkey replied. “Tell Friar Sand to come here. He can guard the tomb and keep an eye on the horse and the luggage while we two go and smash the cave palace up, capture the monster and break his body into ten thousand bits. Then we'll have avenged the master.”

“You're absolutely right, big brother,” said Friar Sand through his tears. “You two be careful. I'll keep watch here.”

The splendid Pig then took off his black brocade tunic, tied his undershirt tightly, picked up his rake and followed Monkey. The two of them rushed straight for the stone gates, and with no more ado they smashed them down and shouted with a yell that made the heavens shake, “Give us our Tang Priest back alive!” This sent the souls flying from all the devils old and young in the cave, who complained that the commander of the vanguard had wronged them. “How are we going to deal with these monks now they've fought their way in through the gates?” the demon king asked.

“The ancients used to say,” the commander of the vanguard replied, “'Put your hand in a basket of fish and it's bound to stink.' Now we're in this we've got to see it through. We'll just have to take our troops into battle with these monks.” When the demon heard this he had no alternative but to issue the order, “Stand together, my little ones. Bring your best weapons with you and come with me.” They then charged out through the entrance of the cave with a great war cry.

The Great Sage and Pig quickly fell back a few paces before they held the devilish onslaught on a piece of flat ground on the mountainside, shouting, “Who's your best-known boss? Who's the ogre who captured our master?”

The devils had now palisaded their position, over which a multicolored embroidered flag flew, and the demon king shouted straight back as he held the iron mace, “Damned monks! Don't you know who I am? I'm the Great King of the Southern Mountains, and I've been running wild here for hundreds of years. I've eaten your Tang Priest up. What are you going to do about it?”

“You've got a nerve, you hairy beast,” retorted Monkey abusively. “How old are you, daring to call yourself after the Southern Mountains? Lord Lao Zi was the ancestor who opened up heaven and earth, but even he sits on the right of the Supreme Pure One. The Tathagata Buddha is the Honoured One who rules the world, and he sits below the Great Roc. Confucius the Sage is the Honoured One of the Confucian School, and all he's called is Master. So how dare you call yourself Great King of the Southern Mountains and talk about running wild for several hundred years? Don't move, and take this from your grandfather's cudgel!”

The evil spirit twisted aside to avoid the cudgel, which he parried with his iron mace. “How dare you try to put me down like that, monkey-face,” said the monster, glaring furiously. “What kind of powers have you got, acting like a maniac at my gates.”

“I'll get you, you nameless beast,” replied Brother Monkey with a grin. “You evidently don't know who I am, so just stand there and make yourself brave while I tell you:


My ancestral home is in the Eastern Continent,

Where heaven and earth nourished me for thousands of years.

On the Mountain of Flowers and Fruit was a magic stone egg;

When the egg broke open my roots were inside.

My birth was not like that of an ordinary being:

My body was formed when sun and moon mated.

1 cultivated myself with formidable effect;

Heaven gave me a perceptive and cinnabar head.

As the Great Sage I dwelt in the palace in the clouds,

Using my strength in a fight against the Dipper and Bull Palace.

A hundred thousand heavenly troops could get nowhere near me;

All the stars in the sky were easily subdued.

My fame resounds throughout the cosmos;

I know all about everything between earth and sky.

Since my conversion to Sakyamuni's teachings

1 have been helping my master on his journey to the West.

When I clear a path through mountains no one can stop me;

My skill at bridging rivers causes demons distress.

In forests I use my power to seize tigers and leopards;

I capture wild beasts bare-handed before sheer cliffs.

For the sake of the East's true achievement I have come to the Western Regions;

What evil monster will dare to show itself?

I hate the wicked beasts who have murdered my master;

Their lives will all be ended at this moment.”


These remarks both shocked and infuriated the ogre, who ground his teeth, sprang forward and struck at Brother Monkey with his iron mace. Monkey blocked it effortlessly with his cudgel and would have said some more to him when Pig, unable to restrain himself any longer, started swinging wildly at the demon king's commander of the vanguard. The commander of the vanguard led his whole force into action, and a hectic and splendid battle was fought on that piece of level ground on the mountainside:


The monk from the great and superior country in the East

Was going to fetch true scriptures from the Western Paradise.

The great leopard of the Southern mountains breathed out wind and clouds

To block their way through the mountains and show off his prowess.

With tricks

And deception

He had foolishly captured the priest from Great Tang.

Then he met Monkey with his tremendous powers

As well as the famous Zhu Bajie.

While the demons fought on level ground in the mountains

Dust clouds arose and darkened the sky.

Above the fray rose the junior devils' roars

As they thrust out wildly with spear and with sword.

On the other side the monks shouted back,

Fighting with rake and with cudgel together.

The Great Sage was a matchless hero,

And Pig in his perfection reveled in his strength.

The ancient ogre of the South,

And his vanguard commander

For the sake of a piece of the Tang Priest's flesh

Were prepared to throw their own lives away.

These two hated them for killing their master:

The other two were set on murder because of the Tang Priest.

The struggle long swayed to and fro,

The clashes and charges yielding no victor.


When Monkey realized that the junior devils were fighting so hard that repeated attacks were failing to drive them back he used body-dividing magic, plucked out a bunch of hairs, chewed them up in his mouth, spat the pieces out, called “Change!” and turned them all into his own doubles, each wielding a gold-banded cudgel and fighting his way into the cave from the outside. The one or two hundred junior devils, unable to cope with their attacks from all sides, all fled for their lives back into the cave. Monkey and Pig then fought their way back out through the enemy ranks from the inside. The evil spirits who had no sense tried to stand up to the rake and found themselves bleeding from nine wounds, or resisted the cudgel and had their flesh and bones beaten to paste. The Great King of the Southern Mountains was so alarmed that he fled for his life on his clouds and wind. The commander of the vanguard, who did not know how to do transformations, had already fallen to Monkey's club and been revealed as what he really was: an iron-backed gray wolf ogre.

Pig went up to him, turned him over by his leg, and said, “Goodness only knows how many piglets and lambs this so-and-so has eaten.”

Monkey meanwhile shook himself, put the hair back on his body and said, “No time to lose, idiot. After the demon king! Make him pay for the master's life.” Pig turned back, but all the little Monkeys had disappeared.

“Your magic bodies have all gone, brother,” he exclaimed.

“I've taken them back,” Monkey replied.

“Splendid,” said Pig, “splendid.” The two of them went back in triumph, feeling very pleased.


When the senior demon escaped back to the cave he told his underlings to move rocks and earth to barricade the front gates. The surviving junior demons were all trembling with terror as they barricaded the entrance: they would not have dared to stick their heads out again now. Monkey led Pig to the gates and shouted without getting any response. Pig's rake made no impression when he struck them with it.

Realizing what had happened, Monkey said, “Don't waste your effort, Pig. They've barricaded the gates.”

“Then how are we going to avenge the master?” Pig asked.

“Let's go back to his grave and see Friar Sand,” Brother Monkey replied.

When they got back there they found Friar Sand still weeping, at which Pig became more miserable than ever, throwing down his rake, prostrating himself on the tomb mound and beating the ground with his hand as he howled, “Poor, poor Master. Master from so far away! I'll never see you again!”

“Don't distress yourself so, brother,” said Monkey. “The evil spirit may have barricaded his front gates, but he's bound to have a back entrance to go in and out through. You two wait here while I go and look for it.

“Do be careful, brother,” said Pig through his tears. “Don't get caught yourself too. We could never cope if we had to wail for the master then for you by turns. We'd make an awful mess of it.”

“No problem,” said Monkey. “I've got my ways of doing things.”

Putting his cudgel away the splendid Great Sage tightened his kilt, stepped out and went back over the mountain. On his way he heard the sound of flowing water. When he turned round to look he saw that there was a brook flowing down from above him, and beside the gill was a gate, to the left of which was a drainpipe from which red water was coming out.

“Goes without saying,” he thought. “That must be the back entrance. If I go as myself the junior demons may well recognize me when I open the door and see them. I'd better turn into a water snake to go in. No, hold on. If the master's spirit knows that I've turned into a water snake he'll be angry with me as a monk for turning into something so long drawn-out. I'd better turn into a little crab. No, that's no good either. The master would be cross with me for having too many legs for a monk.” So he turned into a water rat who slipped into the water with a soughing sound and went straight to the inner courtyard along the drainpipe. Here he thrust his head out for a look around and saw some junior devils setting out gobbets of human flesh to dry in a sunny spot.

“Heavens!” said Monkey. “That must be what they can't finish from the master's flesh. No doubt they're drying it to save for a rainy day. If I turned back into myself now, went up to them and wiped them out with one swing of my cudgel I'd be making myself look brave but stupid. I'll do another change, go in to look for the senior devil, and find out what's what.” With that he jumped out of the drain, shook himself, and turned himself into a winged ant. Indeed:


Weak and tiny and known as black colts,

They hide away for many a day till they have wings and can fly.

Casually crossing beside the bridge they draw up their ranks;

They enjoy battles of high strategy under the bed.

Because they know when rain is coming they block their holes

And build their mounds of dust that turn to ashes.

Light they are, and delicate and quick,

Rarely observed as they pass the wicker gate.


He spread his wings and flew straight into the inner hall, unseen and unheard. Here the senior demon could be seen sitting very angrily in the seat of honour, while a junior devil ran up from behind to report, “Many congratulations, Your Majesty.”

“What on?” the senior demon asked.

“I was on lookout by the gill outside the back door just now,” the junior devil replied, “when suddenly I heard some loud wails. I rushed up to the top of the mountain to take a look and saw Zhu Bajie, Sun the Novice and Friar Sand all bowing to a grave and weeping bitterly. I think they must have taken that head for the Tang Priest's and buried it, piled up a grave mound and mourned for it.”

When Monkey overheard this he said to himself with delight, “From what he's said they've still got the master here and haven't eaten him yet. I'll take a look around and find out if he's still alive, then have a word with him.”

The splendid Great Sage then flew into the main hall and looked all around until he saw a very tiny doorway on one side of it. It was very firmly shut, and when he squeezed through the narrow gap between the doors he found himself in a big garden in which he could vaguely make out the sound of sobbing. Flying further inside he saw a clump of tall trees at the foot of which were tied two men. One of these was the Tang Priest. As soon as Monkey saw him he felt an itch in his heart that he could not scratch.

He could not help turning back into himself, going up to Sanzang and calling, “Master.”

When the Tang Priest saw who it was he started crying and saying, “Is that you, Wukong? Save me as quickly as you can, Wukong.”

“Don't keep saying my name, Master,” Monkey replied. “There are people at the front and the secret may get out. As you're still alive I can rescue you. The ogres said they'd already eaten you and tricked me with an imitation human head. Now we're in a bitter struggle with them. There's no need to worry, Master. Just stick it out for a little longer till I've beaten the evil spirit, then I'll be able to rescue you.”

The Great Sage said the words of a spell, shook himself, turned into an ant again and flew back into the hall, where he landed on the main beam. From here he saw the surviving junior devils jostling and shouting. One of them sprang out from the crowd and said, “Your Majesty, now they know we've blocked the main gate and they won't be able to fight their way in they've given up hope. They've even made a tomb for the wrong head. They spent today mourning for him, and they'll do the same again tomorrow and the day after. I'm sure they'll go away after that. Once we find out that they've split up we can bring the Tang Priest out, chop him up into little bits, and fry him with aniseed. Then everyone will be able to eat a piece when he's steaming hot, and we'll all live forever.”

At this another junior devil clapped his hands together and said, “No, no, he'd taste much better steamed.”

“Boiling him would save some firewood,” another put in.

“He's such a rare and wonderful thing,” said someone else, “that we ought to salt him down and take our time over eating him.”

When Monkey heard all this from up among the beams he thought with fury, “What harm did my master ever do you? Why are you making these plans to eat him?” He pulled out a handful of hairs, chewed them up into little pieces, blew them lightly out of his mouth and silently recited the words of the spell that turned all the pieces into sleep insects. These he threw into the faces of all the devils, and the insects crawled up their noses, gradually making the devils feel sleepy. Before long the junior devils were all lying stretched out fast asleep. The demon king was the only one left fitfully awake as he kept rubbing his face and head, sneezing and pinching his nose.

“Perhaps he knows about how to cope with sleep insects,” Monkey thought. “I'd better give him a double dose.” He pulled out a hair, made two more sleep insects as before, and threw them into the demon's face to crawl up his nose, one up the left nostril and one up the right. The demon king jumped to his feet, stretched, yawned twice and fell fast asleep, breathing heavily.

Quietly delighted, Monkey then sprang down from the roof and turned back into himself. He produced his cudgel from his ear and waved it till it was the thickness of a duck egg, then with a loud bang broke down the side door, ran into the garden at the back and called out, “Master!”

“Untie me quick, disciple,” the venerable elder said. “Being roped up like this has been agony.”

“Be patient, Master,” said Monkey. “When I've killed the evil spirit I'll come and untie you.” He then hurried back into the hall, lifted his cudgel and was about to strike when he stopped and thought, “No, this is wrong. I ought to release the master before I kill the evil spirit.” He went back into the garden, where he changed his mind again: “No, I'll kill the monster first.” This happened two or three times till finally he came dancing back into the garden, where his master's grief turned to joy at the sight of him.

“You monkey,” he said, “I suppose it's because you're beside yourself with pleasure at seeing me still alive that you're dancing about like that.” Only then did Monkey go up to him, untie him, and help him walk away. The man tied to the other tree then called out, “Please save me too in your great mercy, my lord.”

The venerable elder stopped and said, “Untie him too, Wukong.”

“Who's he?” Monkey asked.

“He was captured and brought here a day before me,” Sanzang replied. “He's a woodcutter. He tells me his mother is very old and he is most worried about her. He is a very dutiful son. You must save him too.”

Doing as he was bid, Monkey untied the other man and took them both out through the back gate, up the scar and across the ravine. “Thank you for rescuing this man and me, worthy disciple,” said Sanzang. “Where are Wuneng and Wujing?”

“Mourning for you over there,” Monkey replied, “Give them a shout.”

Sanzang then shouted at the top of his voice, “Bajie! Bajie!” The idiot, who had been weeping so much that his head was spinning, wiped away the snot and tears to call, “Friar Sand, the master's come back as a ghost. That him calling, isn't it?”

“Idiot,” shouted Monkey, going up to him, “that's no ghost. It's the master himself.”

When Friar Sand looked up and saw who it was he fell to his knees in front of Sanzang and said “Master, you've suffered terribly. How did big brother rescue you?” Monkey then told them everything that had happened.

When Pig heard all this he gnashed his teeth, unable to restrain himself from knocking the tomb mound over with one blow of his rake, digging out the head and smashing it to pulp “Why are you hitting it?” the Tang Priest asked.

“Master,” said Pig, “goodness only knows what kind of wretch he was, but we all mourned for him.”

“It was thanks to him that I'm still alive,” Sanzang replied. “When you disciples attacked their gates and demanded me they took him out to fob you off with. Otherwise they would have killed me. I think we should bury him properly as a mark of our monastic respect.” When the idiot heard his master saying this he buried that bag of flesh and bone that had been beaten to a pulp and piled up a tomb mound over it.

“Master,” said Brother Monkey with a smile, “won't you sit here for a while while I go to wipe them out?” With that he leapt down the cliff, crossed the ravine, went into the cave and took the ropes with which the Tang Priest and the woodcutter had been hound into the hall, where he used them to truss together the arms and legs of the demon king, who was still asleep. He then lifted the demon up with his cudgel onto his shoulder and took him out by the back door.

“You like making things difficult for yourself, brother,” said Pig when he saw him coming from a distance. “Why don't you find another to balance him?”

Monkey then set the demon king down in front of Pig, who raised his rake and was just about to hit him when Monkey said, “Wait a moment. We haven't captured the junior devils in the cave yet.”

“If there are any left,” Pig said, “take me in with you to smash them.”

“Smashing them would be too much trouble,” Monkey replied. “The best thing would be to find some firewood and wipe them out that way.”

When the woodcutter heard this he led Pig to a hollow to the East to find some broken ends of bamboo, pines that had lost their needles, hollow stumps of willows, creepers broken off from their roots, withered artemisia, old reeds, rushes and dead mulberry. They carried a lot of this into the back entrance, where Monkey set it alight and Pig fanned the flames with both ears. Then the Great Sage sprang up, shook himself and put the sleep-insect hairs back on his body. When the junior devils woke up they were all already on fire. Poor things! None of them had the faintest chance of surviving. When the whole cave was burnt right out the disciples went back to see the master.

When Sanzang saw that the senior demon had woken up and was shouting he called, “Disciples, the evil spirit has come round.” Pig went up and killed him with one blow of his rake, whereupon the ogre turned back into his real form as a leopard spirit with a coat patterned like mugwort flowers.

“Leopards with flower-patterned coats can eat tigers,” Monkey observed, “and this one could turn into a human too. Killing him has prevented a lot of serious trouble in future.” The venerable elder could not express his gratitude strongly enough, and he then mounted the saddle. “My home isn't far from here to the Southwest, sirs,” said the woodcutter. “I invite you to come there to meet my mother and accept my kowtows of thanks for saving my life. Then I'll see you gentlemen along your way.”

Sanzang was happy to accept, and instead of riding he walked there with his three disciples and the woodcutter. After they had followed a winding path to the Southwest for a short distance this is what they saw.


Lichen growing across a stone-flagged path,

Wisteria joining across the wicker gate,

Chains of mountains on every side, And a wood full of singing birds.

A dense thicket of pine and bamboo,

Rare and wonderful flowers in profusion.

The place is remote and deep amid the clouds,

A thatched cottage with a bamboo fence.


While they were still some distance away they could make out an old woman leaning on the wicker gate with tears streaming from her eyes, weeping and calling to heaven and earth for her son.

As soon as the woodcutter saw his mother he left the Tang Priest behind as he rushed straight to the gate, knelt down and said, “Mother, I'm back.”

Throwing her arms around him the woman said, “My boy, when you didn't come home for days on end I thought the mountain lord must have caught you and killed you. I've suffered terrible heartache. If you weren't killed why didn't you come back before? Where are your carrying-pole, ropes and axe?”

The woodcutter kowtowed as he replied, “Mother, the mountain lord did capture me and tie me to a tree. I was lucky to escape with my life, thanks to these gentlemen. They are arhats sent by the Tang court in the East to fetch the scriptures from the Western Heaven. This gentleman was captured by the mountain lord and tied to a tree as well. His three disciples have enormous magic powers. They killed the mountain lord with a single blow: he was a leopard with mugwort flower spots who had become a spirit. They burnt all the junior devils to death, untied the senior gentleman and then untied me too. I owe them a tremendous debt of gratitude: but for them your son would certainly be dead. Now that the mountain is completely safe I'll be able to walk around at night without any danger.”

After hearing this the old woman came forward to greet Sanzang and his disciples, kowtowing at every step. Then she led them in through the wicker gate to sit down in the thatched cottage. Mother and son next performed endless kowtows as expressions of their gratitude before hastily and in a fluster preparing them some vegetarian food as a mark of their thanks.

“Brother,” said Pig to the woodcutter, “I know you're hard up here. Just put something simple together for us. Don't go to a lot of trouble and effort.”

“Quite frankly, sir,” the woodcutter replied, “we're very poor here. We don't have any gill fungus, button mushrooms, peppers or aniseed. All we can offer you gentlemen are some wild vegetables.”

“We're putting you to a lot of trouble,” said Pig. “Be as quick as you can. We're starving.”

“It'll soon be ready,” the woodcutter replied, and before long a table and stools were set out and wiped clean, and several dishes of wild vegetables served:


Tender-scalded day lilies,

White lumps of pickled scallion,

Knotweed and purslane,

Shepherds purse and “goosegut blossom.”

The “swallows stay away” was delicious and tender;

The tiny fists of beansprouts were crisp and green.

Indigo heads boiled soft,

White-stewed “dog footprints,”

“Cat's ears,”

Wild turnips,

All with tender and tasty gray noodles.

“Scissor shafts,”

“Oxpool aid,”

Tipped in the pot with broom purslane.

Broken grain purslane,

And lettuce purslane,

All green, delicious and smooth.

“Birdflower” fried in oil,

Superb water-chestnuts,

Roots of reeds and wild-rice stems,

Four kinds of excellent water plants.

“Wheat-mother,”

Delicate and finely flavored;

“Raggedy patches”

You could never wear.

Under the bitter sesame bed runs a fence.

Sparrows wander around,

Macaques leave their footprints,

Eager to eat it all when fried and piping hot.

Sloping wormwood and green artemisia surround crown daisy chrysanthemums;

The moths fly around the buckwheat.

Bald “goat's ear,”

Wolfberry fruits,

That don't need oil when combined with dark indigo.

A meal of every kind of wild vegetable

As a mark of the woodcutter's reverent thanks.


When master and disciples had eaten their fill they packed up ready to start out again. Not daring to press them to stay, the woodcutter asked his mother to come out and bow to them in thanks again. He then kowtowed, fetched a club of jujube wood, fastened his clothes tight, and came out to see them on their way.

Friar Sand led the horse, Pig carried the shoulder-pole, and Monkey followed close behind them while the master put his hands together on the back of the horse and said, “Brother woodcutter, could you kindly lead us to the main track? We will take out leave of you there.” Together they then climbed high, went down slopes, skirted ravines and negotiated inclines. “Disciples,” said the venerable elder thoughtfully as he rode,


“Since leaving my monarch to come to the West

I have made a long journey across a great distance.

At each river and mountain I have met with disaster,

Barely escaping from monsters and fiends.

My heart has been set on the Three Stores of scriptures,

And my every thought is of Heaven above.

When will my toil and my labor be ended?

When will I go home, my journey completed?”


When the woodcutter heard Sanzang saying this he said, “Don't be so downhearted, sir. It's only some three hundred miles West along this road to India, the land of paradise.”

As soon as Sanzang heard this he dismounted and replied, “Thank you for bringing us so far. Now that we are on the main track, please go home now, brother woodcutter, and give our respects to your venerable mother. We poor monks have no way to reward you for the sumptuous meal you gave us just now except by reciting surras morning and evening to protect you and your mother and enable both of you to live to be a hundred.” The woodcutter took his leave of them and went back by the way he had came. Master and disciples then headed West together.

Indeed:


The ogre subdued and wrongs set to right, he escaped from his peril;

Having been shown this kindness he set out on his way with the greatest of care.


If you don't know how long it was till they reached the Western Heaven, listen to the explanation in the next installment.


Chapter 85 | Journey to the West (vol. 3) | Chapter 87







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