Monkey: A Folk Novel of China

Monkey: A Folk Novel of China Summary and Analysis of Chapters 1-7

The Story of Monkey

Summary and Analysis

Chapter 1 begins with the birth of Monkey from a rock on the Mountain of Flowers and Fruit, and witnessed by the Jade Emperor from Heaven. Monkey becomes king of the monkeys when he is the most courageous and leads them safely through a waterfall to their new home -- the Cave of the Water Curtain. He rules for hundreds of years very happily, until one day he becomes concerned with his own mortality. Monkey decides to go in search of the three creatures that can escape the inevitable Yama, King of Death: Buddhas, Immortals, and Sages. He sails across the water and overhears a woodsman quoting Immortals. The woodsman points him in the direction of the Immortal who taught him these words, as he lives nearby. Monkey meets the Immortal and asks to become his pupil. The Patriarch bestows the name of Aware-of-Vacuity on Monkey, since he has no parents but was born out of a stone.

Chapter 2 sees Monkey undertaking his studies in earnest, spending many years with the Patriarch and his other pupils. Monkey becomes the star pupil of the Patriarch after correctly interpreting his secret signs during one of their daily lectures. The Patriarch reveals many secrets to Monkey -- including the 72 transformations of the Earthly Conclusion and Cloud Trapeze, which the latter then reveals to a crowd of his peers by transforming into a pine-tree. This showing-off results in Monkey's expulsion from the Patriarch's home. Monkey returns home and discovers that the Demon of Havoc has been tormenting his subjects. Monkey goes to the Demon's lair and using his new skills (in this case, transforming his hairs into tiny replicas of himself), defeats the superiorly armored Demon and his imps.

In Chapter 3, having slain the Demon, Monkey decides to teach his monkeys how to fight properly, and brings them proper weapons too: swords, cutlasses, etc. Beasts and demon kings came to pay homage and help the monkeys in their fortification. Monkey goes in search of a weapon in the sea, suitable of his status as an Immortal after his Illumination. He tries out a few weapons at the eastern Dragon King's home, none of which suits him, until he finds the Golden Clasped Wishing Staff, which is also known as the iron that pounded the Milky Way. Having chosen a suitable weapon, Monkey now feels a little naked and requests some armor to complete his ensemble. The Dragon King, annoyed and irritated by Monkey's demands, summons his three brothers, who bestow a cap, chainmail, and shoes on Monkey before vowing to report him to the Jade Emperor for his poor behavior. After showing-off to his subjects, Monkey's dream body is taken away while he is sleeping by two men, who bring him to the Land of Darkness, where Yama, King of Death, resides. Monkey escapes and kills the messengers once he realizes where he is. He encounters the Ten Judges, who claim that he was taken by mistake, but Monkey demands to see their ledgers and finds himself still listed there, despite being an Immortal. He crosses out his name and all the names of his monkeys. The story then shifts back to the celestial court, where the Dragons of the sea and the Ten Judges lodge complaints with the Jade Emperor against Monkey. The Emperor decides to have Monkey work for him in an effort to keep an eye on him, and dispatches the Spirit of the Planet Venus to fetch Monkey.

Chapter 4 begins with Monkey's arrival in Heaven, where he does not perform the correct prostrating, but instead remains standing before the Emperor. The Jade Emperor forgives Monkey, as he has just recently learned human ways, and appoints him supervisor of the Imperial Stables. At first, Monkey is quite good at his job, and his employees throw a feast for him, at which he finds out he gets no salary and has no class rank in Heaven. Angry, Monkey returns to his earthly subjects and constructs a banner and new title for himself: "Great Sage, Equal of Heaven," demanding that he only be addressed this way from now on. The Jade Emperor sends people to arrest Monkey, but the beasts on his mountain forewarn Monkey, and he and arms himself. Monkey fights with the Mighty Magic Spirit Vaisravana and then his son Natha after demanding that the Jade Emperor acknowledge his new title. They go back for heavenly reinforcements but the Spirit of Venus suggests that the Jade Emperor grant the title as appeasement, with no power or rank behind it. Monkey is overjoyed by the news and builds an office in Heaven and throws a feast.

Monkey is right at home in Heaven and is quickly making friends, to the consternation of the Emperor, who proposes a new job for Monkey: to watch over the Peach Garden. Chapter 5 sees Monkey get into more trouble as he eats many of the large peaches that ripen once every 3000 years to gain more power. This becomes problematic when the Queen of Heaven decides to throw a peach banquet but her servants can only find one peach left. After gorging on the peaches, Monkey changed himself into a smaller size, only to be awoken from his gluttonous nap by the Queen's servant Blue Jacket, who was reaching for the last peach. Transforming back, Monkey speaks with the servants and finds out he is not invited to the banquet. He transfixes the servants in place, while he runs off and tricks a Red-legged Immortal into going to the wrong location and takes his place at the banquet. However, having arrived too early at the hall, Monkey gets drunk and then decides to sleep it off at home before returning. En route back, he stumbles into Lao Tzu's home, called Tushita Palace, where he eats a few pills of special elixir. Monkey runs home, suspecting that the Jade won't forgive him so easily this time, but returns to get his subjects superior wine from Heaven. The court, meanwhile, has pieced his escapades together and sends celestial armies after him. Through the many battles, Monkey emerges victorious at first, despite losing some of his people (but no monkeys) to the enemy.

In Chapter 6 Vaisravana sends his 2nd son Moksha (also known by his religious name Hui-Yen) to get news and do battle; he fares better, but still fails to defeat him. Next, Erh-lang, the nephew of Jade is sent. He is so fearsome that he and his followers frighten and capture the monkey subjects although Monkey evades capture by turning into a fish, wayside shrine, and even Erh-lang himself. While Erh-lang and Monkey fight at the former's home, Lao Tzu throws a Diamond Snare over Monkey, finally capturing him and placing him in a fire that turns his eyes permanently fiery red. The Jade Emperor then decides to have Monkey cut into small pieces.

All ordinary methods of cutting had no effect on Monkey in Chapter 7, and he escapes again. Monkey meets Buddha, who wagers him that he cannot jump off the palm of his right hand; but if Monkey should, then Buddha will personally tell the Emperor to relinquish his throne to Monkey. Ultimately, Monkey is unsuccessful and Buddha places him under the Mountain of the Five Elements.