Author: Wu Cheng-en (Collinson Fair edited).
About: China's best-loved work, in an edited, yet complete and wholly accurate translation for the Western reader.
Begins with Monkey's birth, his secret education in the ways of magic at the hands of the Patriarch, his dealings with the Cloud Emperor, the famous revolt in heaven, and the Great Sage's fall and punishment. Then, with a reprieve, Monkey joins the Tang Priest as his guide to India. Paired with the monster Pig and Friar Sand, the quartet embark on a quest at once dazzling and comic, with non-stop action.
The Handsome Monkey King's innocent high spirits could not, of
course, last three or four hundred years. One day he suddenly felt
depressed during a banquet with his monkey host, and he started to
weep. The startled monkeys crowded round, bowed to him and asked,
“What's the matter, Your Majesty?”
“Although I'm happy now,” the Monkey King replied, “I'm worried about
the future. That's what's getting me down.”
The other monkeys laughed and said, “Your Majesty is being greedy. We
have parties every day; we live in a mountain paradise, in an ancient
cave in a divine continent. We are spared the rule of unicorns, the
domination of phoenixes, and the restraints of human kings. We are free
to do just as we like—we are infinitely lucky. Why make yourself
miserable worrying about the future?”
To this the Monkey King replied, “Yes, we don't have to submit to the
laws and regulations of human kings, and we don't live in terror of the
power of birds and beasts. But the time will come when we are old and
weak, and the underworld is controlled by the King of Hell. When the
time comes for us to die, we won't be able to go on living among the
Blessed, and our lives will have been in vain.” All the monkeys covered
their faces and wept as everyone of them thought about death.
Suddenly a gibbon jumped out from their ranks and shrieked in a
piercing voice, “If Your Majesty is thinking so far ahead, this is the
beginning of enlightenment. Now of the Five Creatures, there are only
three that do not come under the jurisdiction of the King of Hell.”
“Do you know which they are?” asked the Monkey King.
“Yes,” the ape replied. “They are the Buddhas, the Immortals and the
Sages. They are free from the Wheel of Reincarnation. They are not born
and they do not die. They are as eternal as Heaven and Earth, as the
mountains and the rivers.”
“Where do they live?” the Monkey King asked.
“Only in the human world,” the ape replied, “in ancient caves on
magic mountains.” The Monkey King was delighted to hear this.
“I shall leave you all tomorrow,” he said, “and go down the mountain.
If I have to, I'll roam the corners of the oceans and go to the edge of
the sky to find these three kinds of beings and discover the secret of
eternal youth that will keep us out of the clutches of the King of Hell
for ever.” Goodness! Because of these words he was to learn how to be
free from the Wheel of Reincarnation and become the Great Sage Equaling
All the monkeys clapped with approval and said, “Great! Great!
Tomorrow we'll climb all over the mountain and get lots of fruit to
give Your Majesty a really big banquet to send you off.”