Human Shall Learn Classical Novel Pilgrimage to the West

Chinese classical novel titled Journey to the West is well-known work in all the Chinese world. It has the other title Pilgrimage to the West. In the novel, the most attractive, most impressive and most lovable figure is Sun Wukong the Monkey King.

 Sun Wukong started as a little stone monkey, rushed into the Dragon Palace to get the Gold-Hooped Pole, rebelled against Heaven, raised a great turmoil from Heaven to earth, even to the extent of forcing God to grant him the title of “Qitian Dasheng” (Mahatma as High as Heaven). The great turn for him was his finding of a great master and acquirement of the matchless super ability. Why did Sun Wukong want to find a master to learn abilities? What super ability did he get?

 In the first chapter of Pilgrimage to the West, the story goes like this:

 While the Monkey King Sun Wukong was enjoying the feast with his monkey soldiers, he felt a spell of sorrow and shed tears suddenly.(Let’s see:What the hell worried this hero monkey so much as to make him shed tears?)

 The monkeys bowed hurriedly and said: “Why are you so worried, Your Majesty?”

The monkey king said: “I am merry and gay now, but when I take a long view, I cannot help worrying.” (What on earth did he worry about?)

 The monkeys said with a smile: “Our king is so insatiable! We gather happily everyday, living in godly mountains and the Elysium,with age-old caves and divine land. We are not ruled by the kylin, nor by the phoenix, nor are we trammeled by any throne in the human world, enjoying limitless freedom and boundless happiness! What long view can worry you?”

 The monkey king said: “Although we are neither controlled by the human law, nor threatened by fierce beasts, yet, with time passing, we shall get old, and King of Hell is governing us in the dark. Once we die, won’t everything of us be in vain?”

 Hearing the words, all the monkeys hid their faces and began to moan,conquered by the fear of death.(Even monkeys with a little intelligence could “moan”,let alone the lord of creation.)

 Sun Wukong is a provident monkey in deed: While enjoying the great ease,he can take account of the tragedy of “Once we die…”.But Sun Wukong is never someone who just sits back and waits for the doom. He took action at once: he wandered about the whole world to look for good masters, and spent about eight or nine years, just for “getting a way to live forever”. After so many painstaking efforts, he found his ideal master at last. Here, his dialogue with his master was very interesting. We might as well excerpt it as follows:
 The master said: “Let me teach you something in the branch of ‘shu(divination)’. OK?” Wukong said: “What is that?” The master said: “In this branch of learning, you will know how to practice divination, so you will be able to go towards a good luck and evade a bad luck.” Wukong said: “By this, can we live forever?” The master said: “No! No! We cannot.” Wukong said: “I won’t learn that! I won’t!”

 The master said: “Let me teach you something in the branch of ‘liu(schools of philosophy)’. OK?” Wukong asked: “What can I learn from that?” The master said: “In this branch of learning, there are Confucianism, Buddhism, Taoism, the science of Yin Yang, Mohist School, medical science and so on; You can study all kinds of philosophic thinking, or pray to Buddha and get help from gods.” Wukong said: “By this, can we live forever?” The master said: “It doesn’t look so.”…Wukong said: “In that case, it doesn’t have a long value, either. I won’t learn that! I won’t!”

 The master said: “Let me teach you something in the branch of ‘jing(silence)’. OK?” Wukong said: “What can I get from that?” The master said: “It is about quietism, about fasting, about sitting in meditation to understand the dhyana, about abstaining from speech and keeping indoors, doing all kinds of qigong exercise, such as qigong in sleep, qigong in standing, and so on.” Wukong said: “By this, can we live forever?” The master said: “It doesn’t seem so, either.”…Wukong said: “No eternal meaning, either. I won’t learn that! I won’t!”

 The master said: “Let me teach you something in the branch of ‘dong(motion)’. OK?” Wukong said: “What does that mean?” The master said: “It is about taking active actions in life, such as taking in the qi of yin to tonify yang,bending the bow and treading the crossbow, rubbing the navel for qigong, processing miraculous drugs, making ding (an ancient cooking vessel), swallowing red lead, smelting the autumn stone, and so on.” Wukong said: “By these, can we live forever?” The master said: “No that hope, either.”…Wukong said: “I won’t learn that, either! I won’t!”

 Sun Wukong refused all those marvelous arts, only being bent on the way to live forever. After getting the favor from his master, what he asked for was still the greatest wish of his:

 Sun Wukong is exceptionally clever indeed, extremely intelligent and farsighted. He knows which is the most precious, which ability is the most worthy and most worth seeking. Of all things in the world,what is the most precious? Life! Of all abilities in the world,which is the greatest?

 Greatness comes from comparison. Chernyshevsky said: “When we compare one thing with others, whatever seems much higher is the great one.” Of the educational thought of the great educationist Spencer, the most precious point is about the comparative value of knowledge: “The most important question does not lie in whether that knowledge has value or not, but lies in its comparative value.” In knowledge, there is comparative value,and in ability there is also comparative value. In Sun Wukong’s mind, there is a very solid concept on comparison of abilities. What he was seeking despite so many hardships and such a high price was the most valuable ability, the ability to live forever.

 Anybody is a prisoner sentenced to stay of execution, and the death sentence is bound to be executed sooner or later. (Hugo to be continued).

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