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Chapter 97

The Monks and Their Supporters Meet With Demonic Attack

The Sage Makes the Spirit Reappear to Save the Primal One

We will tell not of how the Tang Priest and the others endured a hard night in the dilapidated palace of Padmaprabha, but of a group of evil villains in Diling county in the prefecture of Brazentower who had squandered all their families' fortunes in whoring, drinking and gambling. Having nothing else left to live on they had formed a criminal gang of a dozen and more members and were discussing which family was the richest in the city and which the second richest. The idea was to rob them of their gold and silver and thus get some money to spend.

There's no need to go round making enquiries, one of them said, or work it out in detail. The Mr. Kou who saw the Tang monk off today is rolling in money. Let's strike tonight in the rain. There'll be nobody ready for us in the streets and the fire wardens won't be patrolling. When we've stolen his property we'll be able to go with the girls, gamble and have a good time again. That would be great, wouldn't it?

The other robbers were all delighted with the suggestion, and with one heart they all set out in the rain carrying daggers, spiked clubs, sticks, coshes, ropes and torches. Flinging open the main gates of the Kou house they charged inside, shouting and sending everyone inside, young and old, male and female, scurrying into hiding. The old woman hid under the bed and the old man slipped behind the gates, while Kou Liang, Kou Dong and their families fled for their lives in all directions. Holding their knives in their hands and lighting torches, the bandits opened up all the chests in the house and grabbed as much of the gold, silver, jewelry, hair ornaments, clothing, vessels and other household goods as they wanted. Mr. Kou could not bear to lose all this, so taking his life in his hands he come out from behind the gate to plead with the robbers.

Take as much as you want, great kings, he said, but please leave me a few clothes to be buried in. The robbers were in no mood for argument. They rushed up to him, tripped and kicked him to the ground. Alas,

His three souls vanished to the underworld;

His seven spirits left the world of men.

The successful robbers left the Kou house, put up a rope ladder from the foot of the city wall, took it in turns to cross and fled Westwards in the rain. Only when they saw that the robbers had gone did the servants of the Kou family dare show their heads again. When they looked for old Mr. Kou and found him lying dead on the floor they started weeping aloud. Heavens! The master's been murdered! they all said as they wept, embracing the body and sobbing in misery.

When it was almost the fourth watch the resentful Mrs. Kou, who was angry with the Tang Priest and his followers for rejecting their hospitality, and also because the extravagance of their send-off had provoked this disaster, decided to ruin the four of them. Helping Kou Liang to his feet, she said, Don't cry, my son. Your father fed monks day in and day out. Who ever would have thought that he would complete the number by feeding a gang of monks who'd murder him?

Mother, the brothers asked, how did those monks murder him?

Those bandits were so bold and vicious that when they charged in I hid under the bed, she replied. Although I was trembling I made sure to take a very good look at them by the light of the torches. Do you know who they were? The Tang Priest was lighting torches, Pig was holding a knife, Friar Sand was taking the gold and silver, and Monkey killed your father. The two sons believed all this.

If you saw all that clearly, mother, they said, you must be right. They spent a fortnight in our house, so they knew all the doors, walls, windows and passageways. They must have been tempted by our wealth and come back here under cover of rain and darkness. How evil! They've stolen our property and murdered our father. Once it's light we'll go to the local government and report them as wanted men.

What sort of wanted notice should we write? Kou Dong asked.

We'll write what our mother said, Kou Liang replied, and he wrote:

The Tang Priest lit the torches, Pig incited to murder, Friar Sand stole the gold and silver and Sun the Novice murdered our father.

The whole household was in such a hubbub that before they noticed it day had dawned. While invitations were sent out to their relatives and a coffin was ordered Kou Liang and his brother went to the local government offices to deposit their complaint. Now the prefect of Brazentower:

Had always been upright,

Was good by nature.

As a boy he had studied by the light of the snow;

When young he had taken the palace examinations.

His heart was always set on loyalty and justice,

And filled with thoughts of kindness and benevolence.

His name would be transmitted in annals for a thousand years,

Like a Gong Sui or Huang Ba come back to life;

His fame would resound for ten thousand ages in the balls of office,

Zhuo Mao and Lu Gong reborn.

When he had taken his seat in the hall and declared that all matters could be dealt with, he ordered that the placard asking for plaints should be carried outside. Kou Liang and his brother then came in holding the placard, knelt down and called aloud, Your Honour, we have come to denounce some bandits as thieves and murderers. The prefect accepted their complaint and read what it had to say.

I was told yesterday that your family completed your vow of feeding monks, the prefect said, by feeding four distinguished ones, arhats from the Tang Dynasty in the East. You made a great display of sending them off with drums and music. So how could such a thing as this have possibly happened?

Your Honour, said Kou Liang, kowtowing, our father Kou Hong had been feeding monks for twenty-four years. These four monks who had come from afar just happened to make up the ten thousand, which was why he held a service to mark the completion and kept them there for a fortnight. They got to know all the passageways, doors and windows. They were seen off during the day and came back yesterday evening. During the dark and stormy night they charged into the house with torches and weapons to steal our gold, silver, jewelry, clothes and hair ornaments. They beat our father to death and left him lying on the ground. We beg you to be our protector. On hearing this the prefect mustered infantry, cavalry and able-bodied civilian conscripts, 150 men in all, who rushed straight out of the Western gate carrying sharp weapons in pursuit of the Tang Priest and his three disciples.

The story now tells how master and disciples stayed in the ruins of the minor palace of padmaprabha until dawn, when they went out and started hurrying Westwards. The bandits, who had gone along the main road West all night till daybreak after robbing the Kou family and leaving the city, had passed the palace of Padmaprabha and hidden in the mountains some six or seven miles to the West. Here they were just dividing up the gold and silver when the Tang Priest and his three followers came into view, also heading West along the road.

The bandits, whose greed was not yet sated, pointed at the Tang Priest and said, Look! Aren't they the monks who were seen off yesterday?

And a very welcome arrival too, said the other bandits, laughing, Let's do a bit more of our dirty business. Those monks coming along the road spent a long time in the Kou house. Goodness only knows how much stuff they're carrying. Let's hold them up, take their travel money and white horse, and share it all out. That'll suit us very nicely. The robbers then rushed to the road, brandishing their weapons and yelling their war cry as they formed a line.

Stay where you are, monks, they shouted. Leave some toll money and we'll spare your lives. If so much as half a 'no' comes out through your teeth you'll all be cut down without mercy. The Tang Priest was shaking with terror as he sat on his horse.

What are we to do? Pig and Friar Sand asked Brother Monkey with alarm. What are we to do? We had a miserable night in the rain, and after starting out again this morning we're being robbed by bandits. How true is it that troubles never come singly.

Don't be frightened, Master, said Monkey with a smile, and stop worrying, brothers. Wait while I go and ask them a few questions.

The splendid Great Sage put on his tigerskin kilt, straightened up his brocade and cotton tunic, went up to them, put his hands together in front of his chest and asked, What are you gentlemen doing?

Don't you care whether you live or die, you swine? the robbers yelled back at him. How dare you question us! Have you got no eyes in your head? Don't you realize who we great kings are? Hand your toll money over at once and we'll let you go on your way.

When he heard this, Monkey wreathed his face in smiles and replied, So you're bandits who hold people up on the road.

Kill him! the bandits yelled with fury.

Your Majesties, said Monkey with feigned terror, Your Majesties, I'm only a monk from the country. I don't know the right things to say. Please don't be angry if I've offended you, please don't. If what you want is toll money all you have to do is to ask me: no need to ask the other three. I'm the bookkeeper. All the money we get for chanting sutras and as alms, all we beg and all we're given, goes into the bundles, and I'm in charge of spending it. The man on the horse is my master. All he can do is recite sutras. He doesn't care about anything else. He's forgotten all about wealth and sex, and he's got nothing at all. The black-faced one is a junior I collected on our journey. All he can do is look after the horse. And the one with a long snout is a laborer I hired. He's only good for carrying a pole. Let those three go while I fetch our travel money, cassocks and begging bowls. I'll give you all you want.

You seem to be an honest chap, monk, the robbers said, so we'll spare your life. Tell the other three to leave their luggage, and we'll let them go. Monkey turned back and gave them a look. Friar Sand put down the carrying-pole with the luggage, and led the master's horse as they carried on Westwards. Monkey bowed down to undo the bundle, took a pinch of dust from the ground, and scattered it on the bundle as he said the words of a spell.

It was body-fixing magic, so the moment he shouted, Stop! the thirty and more bandits all stood stock still, grinding their teeth, staring, their hands apart. None of them could speak or move.

Come back, Master, shouted Monkey, come back!

This is terrible, said Pig in alarm, this is terrible. Big brother's informed on us. He isn't carrying any money on him, and there's no gold or silver in the bundle. He must be calling the master back to ask him to give up his horse. He's going to get the clothes stripped off our backs.

Don't talk such rubbish, brother, said Friar Sand with a laugh. Big brother knows what he's doing. He's always been able to beat vicious monsters and demons up till now, so what do we have to fear from a few petty thieves? He must be calling us back because he's got something to say to us. Let's go straight there and find out.

When the venerable elder heard this he cheerfully turned his horse round and went back. Wukong, he called, why have you called us back?

Hear what these robbers have got to say for themselves, Brother Monkey said.

Pig went up to them, shoved them and asked, Why don't you move, bandits? The bandits remained completely unconscious and said nothing.

They're thick, and dumb too, said Pig.

I fixed them by magic, said Monkey with a laugh.

Even if you fixed them, said Pig, you didn't fix their mouths, so why aren't they making a sound?

Please dismount and sit down, Master, said Brother Monkey. As the saying goes, 'People only get arrested by mistake; they never get released by mistake.' Knock all the robbers over, brother, and tie them up. Then we'll force them to make statements. Find out if they're beginners or old hands.

Haven't got any rope, said Friar Sand. Monkey then pulled out some of his hairs, blew on them with magic breath and turned them into thirty lengths of rope. They all set to, knocked the robbers over, and tied their hands and feet together. Then Monkey said the words that ended the spell, whereupon the bandits gradually revived.

Monkey invited the Tang Priest to take the seat of honour while he and the other two shouted, holding their weapons, Hairy bandits! How many of you are there altogether, and how many years have you been in this line of business? How many things have you stolen? Have you murdered anyone? Is this your first offence? Or your second? Or your third?

Spare our lives, your lordships, pleaded the robbers.

Stop shouting, said Monkey, and come clean.

We aren't hardened robbers, your lordships, they said. We're all from good families. Because we're a bad lot we squandered all the wealth we'd inherited in drinking, gambling, whoring and living it up. We've never worked, and now we've got no money either. We found out that Mr. Kou's family was one of the richest in the prefecture of Brazentower, so last night we got together to rob it under cover of darkness and rain. We stole some gold, silver, clothing and jewelry, and were just dividing it up in a mountain hollow to the North of the track when we noticed you gentlemen coming. Some of us recognized you as the monks Mr. Kou saw off, so we were sure that you must have some goods on you. Then we saw how heavy your luggage was and how fast the white horse was going. It was our disgraceful greed that made us try to hold you up. Never did we imagine that you would have such divine powers and be able to tie us up. We beg you to be merciful to us. Take back what we stole and spare our lives.

Sanzang was violently shocked to hear that their booty had been stolen from the Kou household. He stood up at once and said, Mr. Kou was a very good man, Wukong, so how did he bring such a disaster on himself?

It was all because the coloured hangings and fancy parasols, and the huge numbers of drummers and musicians when we were seen off attracted too much attention, replied Monkey with a smile. That's why this gang of desperadoes attacked his house. Luckily they ran into us, and we've taken back all the gold, silver, clothing and jewelry.

We put Mr. Kou out for a whole fortnight, said Sanzang, so we owe him a huge debt of gratitude that we have not yet been able to repay. Would it not be a good deed to return this property to his house? Monkey agreed, and he went to the mountain hollow with Pig and Friar Sand to fetch the booty, which they packed up and loaded on the horse. He told Pig to carry the load of gold and silver while friar Sand carried their own luggage. Monkey was just on the point of killing all the bandits with his cudgel when he had the worrying thought that the Tang Priest might get angry with him for committing murder. So he could only shake himself and take back all the hairs. Now that their hands and feet had been untied the thieves all got up then fled for their lives into the undergrowth. The Tang Priest then turned back the way he had come to return the booty to Mr. Kou. In making this journey he was like a moth flying into a flame and coming to disaster. There is a poem about it that goes:

Kindness to others is rarely with kindness rewarded;

Kindness will often to hate and hostility lead.

Plunge in the water to rescue the drowning? You'll suffer.

Think before acting and spare yourself grief you don't need.

Sanzang and his disciples were just heading back with the gold, silver, clothing and jewelry when the crowd of men armed with spears and swords arrived. Disciples, said Sanzang with alarm, look at all those armed men coming here. What is happening?

It's a disaster, said Pig, a disaster. They're the robbers we set free. They've found weapons and ganged up with some more people. Now they've come back and they're going to kill us.

They don't look like bandits, brother, said Friar Sand. Big brother, take a closer look.

The master's in bad trouble again, Monkey whispered to Friar Sand. These must be soldiers here to capture the bandits. Before he had finished saying this the soldiers were upon the master and his disciples, surrounding them.

You're a fine bunch of monks, they said, robbing a house then swaggering around here like this. They then rushed them, dragged the Tang Priest off his horse and tied him up. Next they tied up Brother Monkey and the others, and carried them off hanging from poles, two men to each of them. Driving the horse along and seizing the baggage, they went back to the prefectural city. This is what could be seen:

The Tang Priest,

Shivering and shaking,

Weeping and lost for words.

Zhu Bajie,

Muttering and grumbling,

Full of complaints.

Friar Sand,

Talking away,

While secretly feeling uncertain.

Sun the Novice,

Chuckling merrily,

Ready to use his powers.

Hustled and carried along by the soldiers, they were soon back in the city, where the soldiers escorted them straight to the prefect's court.

Your Honour, they reported, the constables have captured the robbers and brought them back. The prefect, sitting in his place in the court, rewarded the constables, inspected the booty and sent for the Kou family to collect it. Then he had Sanzang and the others brought into court.

You monks maintain that you come from a place far away to the East and are going to worship the Buddha in the Western Heaven, he said, interrogating them. But really you're housebreakers who used dirty tricks so that you could get to know your way around.

Your Honour, Sanzang replied, we are not robbers. I would not dare to deceive you. We carry a passport with us as proof. It was because we were so grateful to Mr. Kou's family for feeding us for a fortnight that when we ran into the robbers along our way we recovered the booty they had stolen from the Kou house. We were taking it back to the Kou house to pay our debt of gratitude when to our astonishment we were arrested as robbers by the constables. We really are not robbers, and I beg Your Honour to investigate closely.

You only made up that fancy talk about paying a debt of gratitude because you were arrested by the soldiers, the prefect replied. If you really met other robbers why didn't you show your gratitude by capturing them and turning them in? Why are only the four of you here? Look at the wanted notice Kou Liang submitted. He accuses you by name. How dare you still dispute it! When Sanzang heard this he felt like a storm-tossed boat on the ocean, and all his souls flew away.

Wukong, he said, why don't you come forward and argue in our defense?

The booty proves it, said Monkey. Arguing would do no good.

That's right, the prefect said. The booty is all here as proof. Do you still dare to deny it? Fetch the head-clamp, he instructed his underlings, and put it round the head of the bald robber. Then beat him again.

Monkey was now very anxious. Even though my master is fated to suffer this, he thought to himself, I mustn't let it be too tough for him. Seeing the yamen runners tightening the cord to fix the head-clamp in place he opened his mouth to speak.

Please don't squeeze that monk's head, Your Honour. When we robbed the Kou house last night I was the one who lit the torches, carried the sword, stole the goods and killed the man. I was the ringleader. If you want to torture anyone, torture me. It's nothing to do with them. The only thing is that you mustn't let me go.

On hearing this the prefect ordered, Put the clamp on him first. The underlings then all fell on Monkey, fixed the clamp on his head, and tightened it so hard that the cord snapped with a twang. The clamp was fastened, tightened and snapped with a twang again. They did this three or four times, and the skin on his head was not even creased.

When they changed the cord and were tightening it again someone was heard coming in to report, Your Honour, the Lord Assistant Protector Chen from the capital is coming. Will you please come to greet him outside the city?

The prefect then ordered the head torturer, Throw the bandits into gaol and keep a good eye on them. The torture and interrogation will continue after I have gone to greet my superior. The head torturer then marched the Tang Priest and the other three into the gaol. Pig and Friar Sand carried their luggage in with them.

Disciple, said Sanzang, what are we to do?

In you go, Master, said Monkey with a grin, in you go. There aren't any dogs barking in there. It'll be a lark. The four of them were then taken inside, and each of them was pushed on a torture rack, to which their bellies, heads and chests were tightly fastened. The warders then started beating them up again.

Finding the agony unbearable, Sanzang called out, Whatever shall I do, Wukong? Whatever shall I do?

They're beating us because they want money, Brother Monkey replied. As the saying goes,

Stay put when things are going well;

Spend cash when things are going ill.

They'll stop if you give them some money.

But where am I to get money from? Sanzang asked.

If you haven't any money, Monkey replied, clothes will do. Give them the cassock.

These words cut Sanzang to the heart, but realizing that the beating was more than he could take he could only say, Do as you will, Wukong.

Gentlemen, Monkey called out, there's no need to beat us any more. There's a brocade cassock in one of the two bundles we brought in with us that's worth a fortune. Open them up and take it. When the warders heard this they all set to together, opening the bundles up to search them. There were some cotton clothes and a document case, but none of these were worth anything. Seeing something glowing brightly inside several layers of oiled paper the warders realized that it must be a treasure. When they shook it open and looked at it, this is what it looked like:

Exquisitely decorated with shining pearls,

Set with some wonderful Buddha treasures.

Embroidered dragons curled around;

Flying phoenixes adorned brocade edges.

As they all struggled to look they disturbed the head gaoler, who came up to them and shouted, What are you all making this row about?

Falling to their knees, the warders replied, His Honour has just started a case against four monks and sent them here. When we roughed them up a bit they gave us these two bundles. After we opened them we saw this, and we don't know how to deal with it. It would be a real pity to tear it up to divide between us, but it would be hard on everyone else if just one of us had it. It's a good thing you've come, sir: you can give us a ruling. The head gaoler could see that it was a cassock. Then he inspected the other clothes and the document case, and on opening the case to read the passport he saw that it was covered with seals and signatures from many states.

It's a good thing I saw this in time, he said. If I hadn't, you people would have caused bad trouble. These monks aren't robbers. On no account touch their things. When His Honour questions them again tomorrow we'll find out the truth. The warders then gave the wrapping cloths back to the prisoners, who repacked them and handed them over to the head gaoler for safekeeping.

Evening was slowly drawing in. The drum could be heard from its tower, and the fire wardens began their patrols. By the third mark of the fourth watch Monkey could see that the others had stopped groaning and were fast asleep. The master was fated to meet with the hardship of a night in gaol, he thought. That was why I said nothing in our defense and didn't use my magic powers. But now the fourth watch is nearly over, and his suffering's almost done. I'd better start getting things sorted out if we're to leave this gaol at dawn.

Just watch as he uses his powers to make himself smaller, get off the rack, shake himself and turn into a midge who flies out of the prison through a gap between the tiles over the eaves. By the light of the stars and the moon in the still, silent night sky, he could see where he was going, and he flew quietly straight towards the gates of the Kou house. On the West side of the road was a house where a lamp was shining brightly, and as he flew closer for a better look he saw that it was a house of beancurd-makers. An old man could be seen looking after the fire while an old woman was squeezing out the bean juice.

Wife, the old man suddenly called out, Mr. Kou had wealth and sons, but he didn't live long. When we were boys we were both at school together. I was five years older than him. His father was called Kou Ming. In those days he had less than 150 acres. He couldn't even collect his overdue rents. Old Kou Ming died when his son was nineteen, and once the young man took charge of the household things went really well. He married the daughter of Zhang Wang-she used to be known as Threadneedle when she was a girl, but she made her husband a rich man. Once she came into his house his crops were good and the debts to him got paid. Whatever he bought showed a profit, and whatever he went in for made money. His family's worth a hundred thousand now. When he reached forty he turned pious and he fed ten thousand monks. Fancy him being kicked to death by robbers last night! Poor man. He was only sixty-four. Who would have thought so good a man would meet with so evil a reward and be murdered just when everything was going well for him? What a pity! What a pity!

By the time Monkey had listened to all this it was now at the first mark of the fifth watch. He then flew into the Kou house, where a coffin was placed in the main room. A lamp was burning at the head, and around the coffin was incense, candles and fruit. His wife was weeping beside him, and the two sons also came to kowtow and weep, while their wives brought two bowls of rice as an offering. Monkey landed at the head of the coffin and coughed. This gave the two daughters-in-law such a fright that they ran outside waving their arms about.

Kou Liang and his brother lay on the floor, too terrified to move, and crying out, Oh, father, oh! Their mother, being bolder, hit the head of the coffin and said, Have you come back to life, old man?

No, replied Monkey, imitating Mr. Kou's voice, to the great alarm of the two sons, who kept kowtowing, weeping, and repeating, Oh, Father, oh!

Their mother summoned up even more courage to ask, Husband, if you haven't come back to life why are you talking?

King Yama has sent demons to bring me here to talk to you, Monkey replied. He told me that Threadneedle Zhang had been lying and trying to frame the innocent.

In her surprise at hearing him call her by the name she had been known as a child, the old woman fell at once to her knees, kowtowed and said, You're a fine old man! Fancy calling me by my childhood name at this age! What lies have I been telling? Which innocent people have I framed?

Wasn't there something about 'The Tang Priest lit the torches, Pig incited to murder, Friar Sand stole the gold and silver, and Sun the Novice murdered our father?' Monkey replied. Your lies have landed those good men in terrible trouble. What really happened was that the Tang Priest and the other three teachers met some bandits and got our property back for us to show their thanks. How good of them! But you had to concoct a wanted notice and send our sons to denounce them to the authorities. The court threw them in gaol without making a careful investigation. The gaol god, the local deity and the city god were all so alarmed and uneasy that they reported it to King Yama, and he ordered demons to escort me back home. I'm to tell you to have them released as soon as possible. If you don't, I will have to make havoc here for a month. Nobody in the household, young or old-not even the dogs and the chickens-will be spared.

Kou Liang and his brother kowtowed again and begged, Please go back, Father, and don't harm us all. At dawn we'll submit a petition to the court for their release and withdraw our charge against them. We only want peace for both the living and the dead.

When Monkey heard this he called out, Burn sacrificial paper money. I am leaving. All his family started burning paper money. Monkey then rose up on his wings and flew straight to the prefect's residence. Bending low to look he saw that there was a light in the bedroom: the prefect was already up. When Monkey flew into the main room, he saw a scroll-painting hanging on the back wall. It showed an official riding a piebald horse with several servants holding a blue umbrella and carrying a folding chair. Monkey did not know what the picture was about, but landed in the middle of it. All of a sudden the prefect came out of the bedroom and bent low to comb and wash himself. Monkey gave a sharp cough, alarming the prefect and sending him hurrying back into his bedroom. When he had combed his hair, washed himself and put on his formal clothes the prefect came out to burn incense to the picture and pray to it.

Venerable uncle, divine Jiang Qianyi, your dutiful nephew Jiang Kunsan is now prefect of Brazentower, thanks to the hereditary privilege won for me by your ancestral virtue, and also to my success in the examinations. Morning and evening I offer incense without interruption. Why did you speak today? I beg you not to haunt us and terrify the household.

So this is a holy picture of his ancestor, Brother Monkey thought with a hidden smile, and making the most of this chance he called out, Nephew Kunsan, you have always been uncorrupt in the office you were given through ancestral privilege. How could you have been so stupid yesterday? You took four holy monks for thieves and threw them into prison without finding out why they had come. The prison god, the local deity and the city god were all so disturbed by this that they reported it to the king of Hell. He told demon envoys to bring me here to speak to you and advise you to consider the circumstances and find out the truth, and release them at once. Otherwise you'll have to come back to the Underworld with me for the case to be sorted out.

When the prefect heard this he replied in terror, Please go back now, sit. Your nephew will go straight into court and release them at once.

Very well then, Monkey said. Burn some sacrificial paper money. I am going to report back to King Yama. The prefect lit incense, burned paper money and bowed in thanks. When Monkey flew out again and looked around he saw that the East was already turning white. He then flew to the Diling county office, where all the county officials could be seen in the courtroom.

If I talk when I'm a midge, he thought, and someone spots me it'll give the game away. That wouldn't do. So he gave himself a giant magical body where he was in mid air, and stretched down one foot that filled the whole courtroom. Listen to me, you officials, he shouted. I am the Roving God Rambler, sent here by the Jade Emperor. He says that sons of the Buddha on their way to fetch the scriptures have been beaten up in the prefectural gaol here, which has disturbed the gods of the three worlds. He has asked me to tell you to release them at once. If anything goes wrong I'm to use my other foot to kick all you county and prefecture officials to death, then crush all the people around here and trample the whole city to dust and ashes. At this the county magistrate and the other officials all fell to their knees and kowtowed in worship.

Please go back now, superior sage, they pleaded. We are now going to the prefectural offices to request His Honour to release them immediately. We implore you not to move your feet and terrify us to death. Only then did Monkey put away that magical body, turn into a midge again and fly back into the gaol through a gap between the tiles at the eaves, climb into his rack and go to sleep.

The story now tells that no sooner had the prefect entered his courtroom and ordered the notice inviting people to submit written requests to be carried outside than Kou Liang and his brother fell to their knees at the entrance, holding the notice in their arms. The prefect ordered them to come in, and when the prefect read the document that the two of them submitted he said in fury, Yesterday you handed me a wanted notice. The thieves were arrested and you had the booty back. So why are you asking for them to be released today?

Your Honour, the two brothers replied, tears streaming down, last night our father's spirit appeared to us and said 'the holy monks from Tang captured the bandits, took our property back from them, released them and were kindly bringing the goods back to us to show their gratitude. How could you have treated them as robbers, captured them and made them suffer in gaol? The local god in the gaol and the city god were so alarmed and uneasy that they reported it to King Yama. King Yama ordered demons to escort me back to tell you to go to the prefectural court and submit another plea for the Tang Priest's release and thus avoid disaster. Otherwise everybody in the household would be killed.' This is why we have come with this request for their release. We beg you to help us, Your Honour.

On hearing this the prefect thought, Their father is a new ghost whose body is still warm, so it's not surprising that he should have appeared to them after what happened. But my uncle has been dead for five or six years. Why did he appear to me early this morning and tell me to investigate and release them? It really does look as though an injustice has been done.

As the prefect was thinking things over the magistrate and other officials of Diling county came rushing into the courtroom to say in a wild panic, Disaster, Your Honour, disaster! The Jade Emperor has just sent the Roving God Rambler down to earth to tell you to release those good men from gaol this very moment. The monks captured yesterday weren't robbers: they are disciples of the Buddha going to fetch the scriptures. If there's any delay he's going to kick all us officials to death, then trample the whole city and all the people in it to dust and ashes. The prefect turned pale at this new shock, then told the head gaoler to write a release order and deliver them to the court. The prison doors were immediately opened and they were led out.

Goodness knows what sort of beating we're in for today, said Pig gloomily.

I can guarantee that they won't dare give you a single clout, said Monkey with a grin. I've fixed everything up. When you go into the courtroom you absolutely mustn't kneel. He'll come down into the court to invite us to take the best seats. Then we'll ask for our luggage and the horse back from him. If anything's missing I'll give him a beating for your entertainment.

Before he had finished speaking they reached the entrance to the courtroom, where the prefect, the county magistrate and all the other officials came out to welcome them with the words, When you holy monks arrived yesterday we were under urgent pressure to meet our superiors. In addition, we did see the stolen goods. That is why we did not find out the truth. The Tang Priest put his hands together in front of his chest, bowed and recounted in detail everything that had happened.

The officials were all voluble in admitting, We were wrong, we were wrong. Please, please don't be angry with us.

They then asked if the monks had lost anything in the prison. Monkey stepped forward, opened his eyes wide in a glare and yelled at the top of his voice, Our white horse was taken by the court officers, and the gaolers took our luggage. Give it back right now. It's our turn to torture and question you lot how. What should the punishment for wrongfully arresting innocent people as bandits be?

Seeing how ugly he was acting, the prefectural and county officials were all terrified. They told the people who had taken the horse to return the horse, and the men who had taken the luggage to return every single piece of it. Just look at how viciously the three disciples start acting, while the officials could only blame the Kou family to cover up their own blunder.

Disciples, said Sanzang, trying to calm them down. Let us go to the Kou house to question them and argue it out with them in order to make everything clear. Then we can find out who it was who took us for robbers.

Good idea, said Brother Monkey. I'll call the dead man back and ask him who killed him.

Friar Sand hoisted the Tang Priest up on the horse right there in the courtroom, then escorted him outside with much shouting. All the prefectural and county officials accompanied them to the Kou house, so alarming Kou Liang and his brother that they kowtowed repeatedly in front of the gateway then led them into the hall. This was where old Mr. Kou's coffin lay, and the whole family was to be seen weeping inside the mourning drapes around it.

Stop howling, you lying old woman, Monkey shouted. You tried to get innocent men killed. Wait till I call your husband back. We'll see what he has to say about who murdered him. That'll shame her. The officials all thought that Monkey was joking, but then he said, Please keep my master company for a moment, Your Honors, Pig, Friar Sand, protect him well. I'm off. I'll soon be back.

The splendid Great Sage bounded outside and rose up into the sky.

Coloured clouds were all around to cover up the house.

Auspicious auras filled the sky to protect the primal deity.

Only then did everyone recognize that Monkey was an immortal who could ride clouds and mists, and a sage who could bring the dead back to life. We will not tell of how they all burned incense and worshipped.

The Great Sage went straight to the Underworld by somersault cloud and charged into the Senluo Palace, causing such alarm that:

The Ten Kings of the Underworld came out to raise their bands in greeting;

The demon judges of the five regions kowtowed in welcome.

A thousand trees of knives all leaned away;

Ten thousand hills of swords all leveled themselves.

In the City of the Unjustly Slain the fiends were converted;

Under the bridge over Punishment River the dead return to life.

The divine light was like the grace of Heaven,

And everywhere shone bright in the palaces of darkness.

The Ten Kings received the Great Sage, greeted him, and asked him why he had come. Who's got the ghost of Kou Hong who used to feed monks in Diling County in the prefecture of Brazentower? said Monkey. Find him and give him to me at once.

Kou Hong is a very good man, the Ten King replied. He came here himself. No demon had to envoys drag him here with their hooks. He met King Ksitigarbha's Goldenclad Boy, who took him to see Ksitigarbha. Monkey then took his leave of them and went straight to the Turquoise Cloud Palace, where he saw the Bodhisattva King Ksitigarbha. When the Bodhisattva had greeted him Monkey explained what had happened.

Liang Hong's allotted span had been completed, the Bodhisattva said with delight, and his life was over. That is why he left the world behind and came here without touching his bed. As he was such a good man who had fed monks I have made him a chief recorder in charge of the register of good deeds. But since you have come here to fetch him, Great Sage, I shall grant him a twelve-year extension of his life on earth. Let him leave with the Great Sage.

The Goldenclad Boy then led out Kou Hong, who on seeing Monkey kept saying, Teacher, save me! Teacher!

You were kicked to death by robbers, said Monkey, and now you're in the Bodhisattva King Ksitigarbha's place in the Under world. I've come to fetch you and take you to the world of the living to sort this matter out. The Bodhisattva will let you go back and has given you another twelve years of life, after which you'll come back here. The old gentleman kowtowed to him endlessly.

Having thanked and taken his leave of the Bodhisattva, Monkey blew on Kou Hong, turned him into vapor, tucked him into his sleeve and left the Underworld to go back to the world of the living. He rode his cloud back to the Kou house, told Pig to lever the lid off the coffin and pushed Kou Hong's spirit back into the body.

A moment later Kou Hong started breathing as he came back to life. Climbing out of his coffin, he kowtowed to the Tang Priest and his three disciples with the words, Teachers, teachers, I was wrongly killed, but my master went to the Underworld to bring me back to life. I owe him my recovery.

His thanks were unending. When he turned round and saw all the officials drawn up in line he kowtowed again and asked, Why are all your lordships in my house?

Your sons first submitted a wanted notice, the prefect replied, and accused the holy monks by name. I sent men to arrest them, not realizing that the holy monks had met the robbers who raided your house, taken the booty off them and were returning it to your house. I was wrong to have them arrested, and I had them thrown into gaol without making a detailed investigation. Last night your spirit appeared, my late uncle came to lodge a complaint with me, and the Roving God Rambler came down to earth in the county offices. After so many manifestations I released the holy monks, and they have brought you back to life.

Your Honour, said Mr. Kou on his knees, these four holy monks really have been wronged. That night over thirty bandits with torches and weapons robbed my house. Because I could not bear to lose all those things I tried to reason with the robbers, but to my horror they kicked me to death. What's it got to do with these four gentlemen?

He then called for his wife. Why did you people make that lying report about who had killed me? Will you please determine their punishments, Your Honour. Everyone in the family, young and old alike, kowtowed. In his magnanimity the prefect spared them from punishment. Kou Hong then ordered a banquet to thank the prefectural and county officials for their generosity. The officials all returned to their offices without sitting down at the banquet. The next day the sign announcing that monks would be fed was hung out again, and another attempt was made to keep Sanzang there. Sanzang refused absolutely to stay any longer. Once again Mr. Kou invited his friends and relations, arranged for flags and canopies and saw them off as before. Indeed:

However remote the place evil deeds can be done;

Heaven may be high, but it does not desert the good.

Steadily they plod along towards the Tathagata

Until they reach the gate of bliss on Vulture Peak.

If you do not know what happened when they met the Buddha, listen to the explanation in the next installment.

Chapter 96 | Journey to the West (vol. 3) | Chapter 98