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Monkey and the Stolen Peaches

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How Sun the Novice was Told to Reclaim the Peaches
and How Guanyin Decided the Punishment

The story tells how Monkey continued to lead his master Sanzang the Tang Priest and Pig and Friar Sand through deserts and wastes and across several wide rivers until one day they reached the top of a hill and saw before them a settled land with a walled city in the distance, set in between mountains. The land...

"Was green and fertile. Roads and streams divided it
Like shelves and baskets holding the bounty of a good housewife's larder
An air of peace hung over the land
While the cliffs behind formed a wall
That would make any robber pause."

Sanzang reined in his horse and gazed down at the land ahead. "This looks like a pleasant land. Let us go to the city and if there is a ruler there we will present our passport to them and perhaps rest a few days and obtain supplies."

"I see many rich fields and animals that must be fat," said Pig. "Let's go eat!"

"Moron! All you can think of is your stomach!" said Monkey.

"Still, let us go to the city," said Sanzang, "Our journey is long and we will be able to go on with renewed enthusiasm with a day or two of rest."

As they rode along Sanzang looked from side to side with pleasure at the well-ordered fields, the tidy ditches, and the snug cottages. Then he suddenly stopped his horse and called out to Monkey in a frightened tone. "Wukong! Look at that worker in the field! What do you see?"

Monkey stopped and looked. "Master, my eyes can see through all manner of disguises, but that worker is not pretending to be human, he is clearly a rat spirit." And he waved his arm at the spirit, who looked at the party and prostrated himself respectfully until they rode by.

Sanzang rode on, but his face clearly showed he was frightened. "What sort of place is this? Aren't these spirits dangerous?"

Monkey looked from side to side carelessly. "I can see rat spirits, frog spirits, and others, but they are all peaceful and busy with tasks in the fields. I can also see humans, working alongside them. You should pluck up your courage, Master, for even if I was not by your side these would be no threat to you."

"Yes, Master, let us hurry to the city and find an inn and order a feast!" Pig pleaded. "Seeing these peasants work up a sweat is making me hungry!"

"Everything makes you hungry, Pig!" said the Tang Priest sternly. "You should learn moderation!"

And the party rode on toward the city. As they approached it, they could see...

"The walls were tall and well-built
Made to defy a host and keep the city safe
Beyond the walls the white roofs spread
Like sheep crowded together in the fold.
A dark palace loomed above them like a watchful shepherd."

As they crossed a bridge over a stream a small distance from the city gate, an old fisherman on the bridge hailed the Tang Priest. "Priest, your ape servant looks to be a strong one who could serve me in a small matter! May I have a word with him?"

Glancing at him, Monkey came up to Sanzang and whispered in his ear. "This is no ordinary fisherman, Master. This is some messenger from the Bodhisattva Guanyin with some tiresome task for me. Let us ride on quickly."

"Let us do no such thing, Sun Wukong! You should listen to what the messenger has to say and do your duty, so long as that will not delay our mission too much. Now, go!" And Sanzang looked at him sternly.

So, the party stopped, and Monkey walked a little ways off with the fisherman, who was in fact a minor celestial functionary. When they stopped he spoke roughly to him and demanded to know his business.

The messenger lowered his head and spoke respectfully. "I was given this message for you from the Bodhisattva: 'Once you were put in charge of the Jade Emperor's Peach Orchard and abused your power to consume peaches of immortality that did not belong to you. Now, some of those peaches have been stolen by the ruler of this city, a snake demon. Punish her and recover them."

"It is one thing for myself, the Great Sage, to take a few extra peaches to test their quality. But a lowly snake demon? Such effrontery!" And Monkey turned to go. Behind him he found Pig, who had been eavesdropping.

"So, these peaches - how do they taste?" Pig asked.

"The taste is exquisite, and they extend your life," answered the celestial functionary politely. "But if you recover them, they are to be returned to the Jade Emperor."

"We can't take a share for ourselves as a recovery fee?" asked Pig.

"No, you glutton! These treasures are not to be devoured lightly by your kind!" Monkey said haughtily. "And anyways, who asked you to butt in? This is my job!" And he stalked back to where the Tang Priest was waiting.

At the main gate to the city the frog spirit who seemed to be in charge directed them to a guesthouse for foreign visitors. As they walked through the city streets they saw humans and spirits of all types, mostly dressed in rich clothing. The streets were clean and the houses were in good repair. At the guest house the human proprietor showed them to comfortable rooms and told them that they should present themselves at the palace in the morning to obtain permission to remain.

"Who is the ruler of this city?" Sanzang asked the proprietor. "It seems like a fine place."

The proprietor looked around carefully and then spoke in a low voice. "We are ruled by Lady Suiren. She is beautiful, but she is a snake demon and a sorcereress. There are rumors that she has devoured men whole. But, still, she rules well, so the people have few complaints, and she treats visitors fairly as well."

After breakfast in the morning, the Tang Priest said, "I can't say I slept well. Sun Wukong, we should prepare to leave immediately rather than asking for permission to stay."

"But, Master," said Monkey, "We have come far without a rest. And do you not wish to rest your eyes on the beautiful Lady Suiren?"

"The beauty of women is not a proper subject for a monk!" said Sanzang. "And, anyways, this food may be fine, but it could upset my stomach. I prefer simpler fare."

"Well, I hear that the food is even better at the palace!" said Pig. "I'm not stirring from here until we find out if that's true!"

"Master, you are just concerned about this demon! You should have no fear. I will protect you," said Monkey. "A mere snake demon is nothing to me."

And so, ignoring his protests, Monkey and Pig took Sanzang and travelled to the palace that loomed above the city. They saw...

"An imposing gate which towered above the road
Watchful guards in red uniforms scanned each visitor
Beyond the gate a seven-tiered pagoda rose, wide as a river
Its walls were black and lined with gold
Truly this place proclaimed itself the seat of a mighty ruler."

At the gate a guard had them wait while a message was sent to the palace, but after a short time they were allowed to enter. Leaving the gate, they were crossing a wide stone plaza when they saw a very tall woman seemingly awaiting their arrival. A row of soldiers with weapons in hand stood well behind her.

"Her hair was twilight, snared in combs and draped about
Her neck was as porcelain, a wonder to see
Her purple dress of finest silk did not conceal the womanly curves
of her breasts and hips. Her eyes, red and slitted, watched with menace."

As they approached, she called out to them. "Monk! I am Lady Surien, the ruler of this peaceable land. What business do you have here with your band of poorly-disguised celestials?"

At this, the Tang Priest fell down to the ground and prostrated himself, but he was too frightened to speak. Monkey strode past him and walked closer to the woman.

"Snake spirit, this is the holy priest Sanzang from Great Tang in the east who has been sent by his emperor to fetch the scriptures from the Western Heaven. He simply wanted to rest in your city and resume his holy journey. However, I am his disciple Sun Wukong, the Great Sage Equaling Heaven, and I have business with you."

"And what would that business be, little monkey?" The woman drew herself up to her full height and fixed her gaze on him.

"I was given the task of retrieving some celestial peaches which you stole, you hussy!" Monkey replied boldly. "I was once in charge of that orchard, you know, and I know how valuable they are! Now cough them up or I shall have to beat them out of you!"

"Never! Now go!" Surien replied. And suddenly she vanished and there appeared an enormous white snake in her place.

"Each scale glowed as the white petals of the waterlily
Three men with arms outstretched could not surround each numberless coil
Its proud head looked down from far above
With red eyes that proclaimed their hostility."

When he saw this Monkey wasted no time in pulling out his gold-banded cudgel and a furious battle began.

"Again and again the mighty snake wrapped the Great Sage in its coils
And time after time he would burst free and strike like lightning
The Great Sage showed his skill and martial prowess
but the venom that ran from Lady Surien's fangs
caused a green mist to arise that choked and froze
Truly they fought each other like heroes."

Meanwhile Pig had come closer and was watching the battle, looking for an opportunity to join in with his nine-tooth iron rake. As he was about to strike he heard a shout behind him and turned to see a young woman running towards him, pursued by several palace guards.

"Sir! Please do not strike my mistress! She is blameless! It was I who ate the peaches!" And she grabbed his sleeve and gazed up at him.

Pig lowered his weapon and looked down at her, seeing immediately that this girl was no ordinary palace servant.

"Her blue eyes sparkled like a mountain lake
Softly waving black hair concealed the secrets of her perfect nape
Her gown was plain but made of material rich and fine
And hinted at the figure of a young woman of refinement and grace
A subtle perfume hung about her that would make any head spin
And her flushed face was that of a lover."

"What have we here?" Pig said with a grin. "This is a fine welcome. I can leave Brother Monkey to fight this snake. Perhaps we should go a little further away and talk together?" And he brushed his hair back, straightened his shirt, and tried his best to look respectable.

At that moment in the battle Monkey was wrapped in Lady Surien's coils, and upon hearing Pig's words, the great snake's head turned and struck at Pig. As she did, Monkey performed a transformation and turned himself into a fly to escape from her coils. The young woman ran into the battle, pulling a small flask from her breast, and trapped Monkey inside. Quick as a flash, she tossed the flask to the snake, which transformed back into human form and caught the bottle. Pig, who had avoided Suiren's strike, ran forward and put his arm roughly around the neck of the young woman.

"Pig! Do not befoul my beloved Suzu with your dirty touch!" Suiren screamed.

"Ah, you know my name, then," said Pig with a smile. "Well, why don't you release Brother Monkey and we can talk?"

"Do not do that, Lady Suiren!" cried Suzu. "They are so strong, they will harm you! If you perish, I could not live!"

"It looks like we have reached something of an impasse," Pig said. "I've got this fine Suzu girl of yours, and you have Brother Monkey. What shall we do?"

Just at that moment a cloud rushed up at a furious speed and down from it stepped Guanyin. When they saw her radiant face, all present prostrated themselves and awaited her words.

The Bodhisattva sighed. "Monkey has made a fine mess of things here. Surien, do let him out and let us talk."

Lady Surien uncorked the flask and the fly flew out and turned into Monkey, who was furious at being confined. He raised his cudgel but then lowered it again at a look from Guanyin.

"Look, they have admitted they took the peaches," Monkey said. "I can't believe this little servant girl ate them, though. This Lady Suiren must have them hidden somewhere. Want me to beat them both until one of them tells us where they are?"

Suzu, who had been released by the prostrate Pig, raised her head and spoke. "It was wrong, but my lady stole the peaches solely due to the great love that she has for me, that she wished us to spend long lives together. I beg you to spare her. It was I who ate the peaches."

Guanyin turned her gaze to the snake woman. "Lady Suiren?"

Lady Suiren did not look up, but said in a low voice, "All the peaches were for Suzu. She had nothing to do with the stealing of them. I am the one who should be punished for the theft, for it was my selfish desire for her to live long that led me to it."

Suzu rose to her feet, ran over to Suiren, and cast herself on the ground so that they knelt side by side.

Guanyin straightened up and spoke in a loud voice. "Hear my words, all. Lady Suiren and Suzu, her beloved, have committed a serious crime. Here is their punishment. Lady Suiren, your guilt is the worse. So, for you, I demand that you rule this land wisely and well for all of your years and protect its people with your life. Also, that you welcome visitors from afar and treat them with respect and great hospitality. And, lastly, for both of you, that you cherish and serve each other all the years of your long lives so as to be an example of love for all the years that follow."

Lady Suiren lifted her head, and a smile was on her face. "Your words are wise, my lady. I accept this doom." And she placed an arm around Suzu and hugged her close to her side.

With shining eyes, Suzu chimed in eagerly, "As do I!" And then she hid her face in Lady Suiren's shoulder.

There was a long silence, which was eventually broken by Pig. "So, um... Does this mean we can eat now?"

And the laughter filled the courtyard.