Journey to the West (Wu Cheng−en)

Adapted from the WJF Jenner translation (Beijing, 1955) by Collinson Fair. Copyright 2005, Silk Pagoda.




[Anjana Suta Academy Afterwords (rev. 2011 March 16): This is also known as Sun Wu Kong and Monkey. Whole text is available at in its Archives, in its Classical Bookshelf. ASA – ]



Chapter 22

Pig Fights a Great Battle in the Flowing Sands River.

Moksa Obeys the Dharma and Wins Friar Sand Over.


The story tells how the Tang Priest and his two disciples escaped from their troubles and pressed forward.

Before long they had crossed the Yellow Wind Ridge and were heading West across a plain. The time passed rapidly, and summer gave way to autumn. Cold cicadas sang in moulting willow trees, and the Great Fire Star sank below the Western horizon. As they were travelling one day they saw the mighty waves of a great river boiling and raging. "Disciple," called out Sanzang from his horse, "do you see that broad river in front of us? Why are there no boats on it, and how are we going to get across?

"Those are really terrible waves," said Pig when he saw the river, "and there aren't any boats to ferry us over.

Monkey sprang into the sky, shaded his eyes with his hand, and looked. "Master," he said with horror, "we're in big trouble here. I can cross a river like this with a twist of my waist, but I'm afraid you'll never be able to cross it in ten thousand years.

"How wide is it, then?" Sanzang asked. "I can't see the other bank from here.

"About three hundred miles," Monkey replied. "How can you be so sure of the distance, brother?" Pig asked.

"These eyes of mine can see what's happening three hundred and fifty miles away in daytime," Monkey replied. "When I took a look from up in the air just now I couldn't make out the length of the river, but I could see that it was a good three hundred and fifty miles wide."

Depressed and worried, Sanzang reined in his horse and noticed a stone tablet beside the river. The three of them went to look at it, and they saw the words FLOWING SANDS RIVER inscribed on it in the ancient curly style. On the base of the tablet were four lines in the standard script:


"Three hundred miles of flowing sands

        Three thousand fathoms of weak water

On which a goose feather will not float

And the flower of a reed will sink.”


As the three of them were looking at this tablet they heard the waves make a roar like a collapsing mountain as a most hideous evil spirit emerged from the water:


A head of matted hair, as red as fire

A pair of staring eyes, gleaming like lamps

An indigo face, neither black nor green

A dragon's voice like drums or thunder

On his body a cloak of yellow goose−down

Tied at the waist with white creeper

Nine skulls hung around his neck

And in his hands was an enormous staff


The monster came to the bank in a whirlwind and rushed straight at the Tang Priest. Monkey picked Sanzang [the Tang Priest] up at once, turned, and made off up the high bank. Pig dropped his carrying−pole, grabbed his rake, and struck at the evil spirit, who parried the blow with his staff. Each of them showed his prowess on the banks of the Flowing Sands River, and it was a fine battle:


The nine−pronged rake and the ogre−quelling staff:

Two men fighting on the banks of the river.

One was the great commander Tian Peng,

The other the banished Curtain−lifting General.

They used to meet in the Hall of Miraculous Mist,

But now they were locked in ferocious combat.

The rake had dug deep into clawed dragons.

The staff had defeated tusked elephants.

When either was held defensively, it was rock−solid;

In attack they cut into the wind.

While one clawed at head and face,

The other never panicked or left an opening.

One was the man−eating monster of the Flowing Sands River.

The other was a believer [in the Buddha’s Dharma], a general cultivating his conduct.


The pair of them battled on for twenty rounds, but neither emerged as the victor. The Great Sage [Monkey], who was holding on to the horse and looking after the luggage after carrying the Tang Priest to safety, became worked up into such a fury at the sight of Pig and the monster fighting that he ground his teeth and clenched his fists.

When he could hold himself back no longer, he pulled out his cudgel and said, "Master, you sit here and don't be afraid. I'm going to play with him." Ignoring Sanzang's pleas for him to stay, he whistled, jumped down to the side of the river, and found that the fight between Pig and the ogre was at its height. Brother Monkey swung his cudgel and aimed it at the ogre's head, but the ogre made a lightning turn and plunged straight into the river. Pig was hopping mad.

"Nobody asked you to come, elder brother," he said. "That ogre was tiring and he could hardly fend my rake off. With few more rounds I would have captured him, but you gave him such a fright that he ran away, damn it.

"Brother," said Monkey with a smile, "I must tell you frankly that the sight of you fighting so beautifully gave me an uncontrollable itch. I haven't used my cudgel for a whole month since we came down the mountain after dealing with the Yellow Wind Monster−−I just had to join in the fun. How was I to know that the monster wouldn't want to play and was going to run away?

The two of them then clasped hands and went back talking and laughing to see Sanzang, who asked, "Did you catch the ogre?

"No," Monkey said, "he couldn't take any more and dived back into the water.

"He has lived here for a long time, disciple," Sanzang said, "and must know the shallows and deeps here. We must have a . . .