Illustration by Xiaojun Li, from The Monkey King
Prologue: From Out of Stone
Far across the Eastern Sea, on the island called the Mountain of Flowers and Fruit, a magic boulder had sat on the mountain’s peak since the creation of the world. Bathed in the energies of Earth and Heaven, quickened by the light of Sun and Moon, the stone became fertile, and at last cracked open to release its young.
From this stone egg emerged a full‑grown monkey. As it gazed about and above, golden light shot from its eyes to the farthest reaches of Heaven and Earth.
* * *
High above in Heaven, the Jade Emperor, Ruler of Heaven and Earth, was startled by the rays of light reaching his Celestial Throne.
“See what’s causing that,” he ordered his chief minister, the Spirit of the Great White Planet Venus.
The Great White Planet went to look out the East Gate of Heaven and soon returned with his report. “Your Majesty, a stone has given birth to a monkey. The rays of light came from its eyes. But now that the monkey has taken food, the light is fading.”
The Jade Emperor sighed. “Only a monkey, is it? Well, we have important business here. A monkey is no concern of ours.”
* * *
Elsewhere in Heaven, Lord Lao Tzu, Supreme Patriarch of the Way, was refining Elixir of Life, when just for a moment the golden rays penetrated his alchemy laboratory.
“Such a powerful beam!” murmured Lao Tzu in wonder. “The one who produced it will surely become an Immortal!”
* * *
Far off in the Western Paradise, the Buddha paused in his blessed discourse to his disciples as the rays of light shone into the temple hall. He closed his eyes a moment in silent meditation, then turned to Kwan Yin, Most Compassionate Bodhisattva and Goddess of Mercy.
“A remarkable creature has been born: a monkey, yet not an ordinary one. I see he is destined to become an enlightened being, a true Buddha. Yet before he does, he will offer us no end of mischief.”
And so saying, he resumed his blessed discourse.
—From The Monkey King, retold by Aaron Shepard
About the Mini‑Novel by Aaron Shepard
Tribute Site by Gene Yang
Retelling by Aaron Shepard
Notes by Aaron Shepard
Art by Xiaojun Li (PDF)
Illustrations by Wang Yuan (Yuan Dynasty)
Resource List by Aaron Shepard
The Monkey King in Chinese opera, Beijing, 2004
Photo by author M. T. Anderson, posted by permission
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