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The Longest Now

Journey to the West : Wu Cheng-en’s Magnum Opus, from the Ming era
Sunday December 09th 2018, 3:22 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

In the spirit of winter cataloguing:  Journey to the West, an ancient novel by Wu Cheng-en, has some spectacular chapter titles, which give the sense of the work without spoiling its story.  If you have read the work they remind you of it, but if you have not it is hard to know what to make of the couplets.

The work has been translated and interpreted constantly over the past 4 centuries; most recently in a series of films; but the texture of the original and its chapter structure is my clearest memory of it.  The poetry of the original has been hard to capture in translation; seen too in the title translations.  This version is from Yu’s 2012 revised edition.

Journey to the West 

Volume 1  

1 The divine root conceives, its source revealed;
  Mind and nature nurtured, the Great Dao is born.

2 Fully awoke to Bodhi’s wondrous truths,
  He cuts off Māra, returns to the root, and joins Primal Spirit.

3 Four Seas and a Thousand Mountains all bow to submit;
  From Ninefold Darkness ten species’ names are removed.

4 Appointed a BanHorse, could he be content?
  Named Equal to Heaven, he’s still not appeased.

5 Disrupting the Peach Festival, the Great Sage steals elixir;
  With revolt in Heaven, many gods would seize the fiend.

6 Guanyin, attending the banquet, inquires into the cause;
  The Little Sage, exerting his power, subdues the Great Sage.

7 From the Eight Trigrams Brazier the Great Sage escapes;
  Beneath the Five Phases Mountain, Mind Monkey is still.

8 Our Buddha makes scriptures to impart ultimate bliss;
  Guanyin receives the decree to go up to Chang’an.

9 Chen Guangrui, going to his post, meets disaster;
  Monk River Float, avenging his parents, repays his roots.

10 The Old Dragon King’s schemes transgress Heaven’s decree;
  Prime Minister Wei seeks help from an official of the dead.

11 Having toured the Underworld, Taizong returns to life;
  Having presented melons and fruits, Liu Quan marries again.

12 The Tang emperor, firmly sincere, convenes a Grand Mass;
  Guanyin, in epiphany, converts Gold Cicada.

13 In the den of tigers, the Gold Star brings deliverance;
  At Double-Fork Ridge, Boqin detains the monk.

14 Mind Monkey returns to the Right;
  The Six Robbers vanish from sight.

15 At Serpent Coil Mountain, the gods give secret protection;
  At Eagle Grief Stream, the Horse of the Will is reined.

16 At Guanyin Hall the monks plot for the treasure;
  At Black Wind Mountain a monster steals the cassock.

17 Pilgrim Sun greatly disturbs Black Wind Mountain;
  Guanshiyin brings to submission the bear monster.

18 At Guanyin Hall the Tang Monk leaves his ordeal;
  At Gao Village the Great Sage casts out the monster.

19 At Cloudy Paths Cave, Wukong takes in Eight Rules;
  At Pagoda Mountain, Tripitaka receives the Heart Sūtra.

20 At Yellow Wind Ridge the Tang Monk meets adversity;
  In mid- mountain, Eight Rules strives to be first.

21 The Vihārapālas prepare lodging for the Great Sage;
  Lingji of Sumeru crushes the wind demon.

22 Eight Rules fights fiercely at Flowing-Sand River;
  Mokṣa by order receives Wujing’s submission.

23 Tripitaka does not forget his origin;
  The Four Sages test the priestly mind.

24 At Long Life Mountain the Great Immortal holds an old friend;
  At Five Villages Abbey, Pilgrim steals the ginseng fruit.

25 The Zhenyuan Immortal gives chase to catch the scripture monk;
  Pilgrim Sun greatly disturbs Five Villages Abbey.


Volume 2

26 Amid the Three Islands Sun Wukong seeks a cure;
With sweet dew Guanshiyin revives a tree.
27 The cadaver demon three times mocks Tripitaka Tang;
The holy monk in spite banishes Handsome Monkey King.
28 At Flower-Fruit Mountain a pack of fiends hold assembly;
At Black Pine Forest Tripitaka meets demons.
29 Free of his peril, River Float arrives at the kingdom;
Receiving favor, Eight Rules invades the forest.
30 A deviant demon attacks the true Dharma;
The Horse of the Will recalls Mind Monkey.
31 Zhu Eight Rules provokes Monkey King to chivalry;
Pilgrim Sun with wisdom defeats the monster.
32 On Level-Top Mountain the sentinel brings a message;
At Lotus-Flower Cave Wood Mother meets disaster.
33 Heresy deludes the True Nature;
Primal Spirit helps the Native Mind.
34 The demon king’s plotting entraps Mind Monkey;
The Great Sage, ever adroit, wangles the treasures.
35 Heresy uses power to oppress the proper Nature;
Mind Monkey, bagging treasures, conquers deviate demons.
36 When Mind Monkey is rectified, the nidānas cease;
Smash through the side door to view the bright moon.
37 The ghost king visits Tripitaka Tang at night;
Wukong, through wondrous transformation, leads the child.
38 The child queries his mother to learn of deviancy and truth;
Metal and Wood, reaching the deep, see the false and the real.
39 One pellet of cinnabar elixir found in Heaven;
A king, dead three years, lives again on Earth.
40 The child’s playful transformations confuse the Chan Mind;
Ape, Horse, Spatula gone, Wood Mother, too, is lost.
41 Mind Monkey is defeated by fire;
Wood Mother is captured by demons.
42 The Great Sage diligently calls at South Sea;
Guanyin with compassion binds the Red Boy.
43 An evil demon at Black River captures the monk;
The Western Ocean’s dragon prince catches the iguana.
44 The dharma-body in primal cycle meets the force of the cart;
The mind, righting monstrous deviates, crosses the spine-ridge pass.
45 At the Three Pure Ones Abbey the Great Sage leaves his name;
At the Cart Slow Kingdom the Monkey King shows his power.
46 Heresy flaunts its strength to mock orthodoxy;
Mind Monkey in epiphany slays the deviates.
47 The holy monk’s blocked at night at Heaven-Reaching River;
Metal and Wood, in compassion, rescue little children.
48 The demon, raising a cold wind, sends a great snow fall;
The monk, intent on seeing Buddha, walks on layered ice.
49 Tripitaka meets disaster and sinks to a water home;
To bring salvation, Guanyin reveals a fish basket.
50 Nature follows confused feelings through lust and desire;
Spirit faints, mind moves—he meets a demon chief.


Volume 3

51 Mind Monkey in vain uses a thousand tricks;
Futile water and fire makes it hard to smelt demons.
52 Wukong greatly disturbs the Golden Helmet Cave;
Tathāgata reveals in secret the true master.
53 Imbibing, the Chan Lord conceives a ghostly child;
Yellow Dame brings water to end the weird fetus.
54 Dharma-nature, going west, reaches the Women's State;
Mind Monkey makes a plan to flee the fair sex.
55 Deviant form makes lustful play for Tripitaka Tang;
Upright nature safeguards the untainted self.
56 Wild Spirit slays brutish bandits;
Wayward Way sets Mind Monkey loose.
57 True Pilgrim lays bare his woes at Mount Potalaka;
False Monkey King transcribes texts at Water-Curtain Cave.
58 Two Minds cause disorder in the great cosmos;
It’s hard for one body to realize true Nirvāṇa.
59 Tripitaka Tang’s path is blocked at Mountain of Flames;
Pilgrim Sun baits for the first time the palm-leaf fan.
60 Bull Demon King stops fighting to attend a lavish feast;
Pilgrim Sun baits for the second time the palm-leaf fan.
61 Zhu Eight Rules assists in defeating the demon king;
Pilgrim Sun baits for the third time the palm-leaf fan.
62 To wash off filth, to bathe the mind, just sweep a pagoda;
To bind demons and return to the lord is self-cultivation.
63 Two monks, quelling fiends, disturb the dragon palace;
The sages, destroying deviates, acquire the treasures.
64 At Bramble Ridge Wuneng exerted great effort;
At Shrine of Sylvan Immortals Tripitaka discusses poetry.
65 Fiends set up falsely the Small Thunderclap;
The four pilgrims all meet a great ordeal.
66 Many gods meet injury;
Maitreya binds a fiend.
67 Having rescued Tuoluo, Chan Nature is secure;
Escaping filthiness, the Mind of Dao is pure.
68 In the Scarlet-Purple Kingdom the Tang monk speaks of past eras;
Pilgrim Sun performs on an arm broken in three places.
69 At night the Lord of the Mind refines medicines;
At a banquet the king speaks of the perverse fiend.
70 The monstrous demon’s treasures release smoke, sand, and fire;
Wukong uses a trick to steal the purple-gold bells.
71 By a false name Pilgrim defeats the fiendish wolf;
In epiphany Guanyin subdues the monster-king.
72 At Cobweb Cave Seven Passions delude the Origin;
At Purgation Spring Eight Rules forgets all manners.
73 Passions, because of old enmity, beget calamity ;
Demon-trapped, the Mind Lord with luck breaks the light.
74 Long Life reports how vicious the demons are;
Pilgrim displays his transformation power.
75 Mind Monkey drills through the yin-yang body;
Demon lords return to the true great Way.

Volume 4

76 Mind-Spirit dwells at home, and demons revert to nature;
Wood Mother together subdues the fiend’s true self.
77 A horde of demons affront native Nature;
The One Body bows to True Suchness.
78 At Bhikṣu he pities the infants and summons the night gods;
In the golden hall he knows the demon speaking on the way and virtue.
79 Searching the cave for the fiend he meets Long Life;
The proper lord of the court sees the babies.
80 The fair girl, nursing the yang, seeks a mate;
Mind Monkey, guarding his master, knows a monster.
81 At Sea-Pacifying Monastery Mind Monkey knows the fiend;
In the black pine forest three pupils search for their master.
82 The fair girl seeks the yang;
Primal spirit guards the Way.
83 Mind Monkey knows the elixir source;
Fair girl returns to her true nature.
84 “Priests are hard to destroy” completes great awakening;
The Dharma- king attains the right, his body’s naturalized.
85 Mind Monkey envies Wood Mother;
The demon lord plots to devour Chan.
86 Wood Mother, lending power, conquers the fiendish creature;
Metal Squire, using his magic, extirpates the deviates.
87 The Phoenix-Immortal Prefecture offends Heaven and suffers drought;
The Great Sage Sun advocates virtue and provides rain.
88 Reaching Jade-Flower, Chan convenes an assembly;
Mind Monkey, Wood, and Earth instruct disciples.
89 The yellow lion- spirit in vain gives the Muckrake Feast;
Gold, Wood, and Earth disturb with a scheme Mount Leopard’s-Head.
90 Masters and lions, teachers and pupils, all return to the One;
Thieves and the Dao, snares and Buddhism, quiet Ninefold-Numina.
91 At Gold-Level Prefecture they watch lanterns on the fifteenth night;
In Mysterious Flower Cave the Tang Monk makes a deposition.
92 Three priests fight fiercely at Green Dragon Mountain;
Four Stars help to capture rhinoceros fiends.
93 At Jetavana Park he asks the aged about the cause;
At the Kingdom of India he sees the king and meets his mate.
94 Four priests are feted at the royal garden;
One fiend vainly longs for sensual joys.
95 Falsely assuming true form, the jade hare’s caught;
True Yin returns to the right to join Numinous Source.
96 Squire Kou gladly receives a noble priest;
The elder Tang does not covet riches.
97 Gold-dispensing external aid meets demonic harm;
The sage reveals his soul to bring restoration.
98 Only when ape and horse are tamed will shells be cast;
With merit and work perfected, they see the Real.
99 Nine times nine ends the count and Māra’s all destroyed;
The work of three times three done, the Dao reverts to its root.
100 They return to the Land of the East;
Five sages become perfected.
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