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Chinese Popular Folk Tale : The Legend of The Monkey King (Sun Wu Kong)

Part 4: The Dragon King’s Gift

At the bottom of the Eastern Sea, before the green jade palace of the Dragon King, Monkey marched up to a cowrie shell gate where a Dragon Captain stood guard. The captain stared in amazement.

“I’m here to see the Dragon King,” declared Monkey. “Tell him it’s the Monkey King from the Mountain of Flowers and Fruit. And be quick about it!”

“Yes, sir!” said the captain, saluting smartly.

In a few minutes, the captain was ushering Monkey into the throne room.

“Welcome, brother,” said the Dragon King stiffly. “How kind of you to pay this most unexpected visit.”

“Don’t mention it,” said Monkey.

“Tell me, brother,” said the Dragon King, “how did you gain the art of living under water?”

“I’ve studied the magic arts of the Way for many years,” said Monkey. “In fact, that’s why I’m here! Now that I’m an Immortal, I need a magic weapon to match my abilities. Can you spare one?”

“An Immortal!” remarked the Dragon King. “Well now, perhaps I can find one for you. Captain, bring out the Scimitar of the Waning Moon.”

The captain fetched a large scimitar. Monkey took it and made a few passes at the air. “Too light! Too light!”

The Dragon King laughed. “Brother, you must be joking. That scimitar weighs nearly a hundred pounds!”

“It just doesn’t feel right,” said Monkey.

The Dragon King looked somewhat alarmed. “Captain, bring out the Battle-Ax of the Noonday Sun.”

The captain brought it out, and Monkey swung it a few times. “Still too light. Way too light!”

Now the Dragon King looked really frightened. “Brother, that weapon is over a thousand pounds!”

“I need more weight!” declared Monkey. “Don’t you have anything heavier?”

“I assure you,” said the Dragon King, “that’s the heaviest weapon in the palace!”

Just then, the Dragon Queen entered from a door behind the throne, bowed graciously to Monkey, then spoke low to the king. “This monkey is no ordinary fellow. Perhaps you should give him the giant stamping rod in your treasury.”

“That old piece of scrap?” whispered the Dragon King. “What could he do with it?”

“That’s his concern, not ours,” hissed the queen. “Just give it to him and get him out of the palace!”

The queen bowed graciously to Monkey and took her leave.

The Dragon King cleared his throat nervously. “I remember now that in my treasury is an iron rod once belonging to Yu the Great. He used it to pound down the beds of the rivers and seas in the time of the Great Flood. Perhaps it will meet your needs.”

“Bring it out and we’ll have a look,” said Monkey.

“I’m afraid that’s impossible,” said the Dragon King. “It weighs ten tons, and not one of us can lift it! We’ll have to go ourselves to see it.”

The Dragon King led Monkey across a courtyard and into the treasury, then pointed out a pillar of black iron. It was twenty feet high and as thick as a barrel, and both ends were tipped with gold. As Monkey approached, the pillar began to glow.

“It likes me!” said Monkey.

He examined the pillar closely and found characters inscribed near the bottom band.


Monkey put both hands on the pillar and lifted it. The Dragon King gasped.

“The weight seems right,” said Monkey. “If only it were smaller.”

At once, the staff shrank to 15 feet and became thinner too.

“Wonderful!” said Monkey. “It really is obedient! But even smaller would be nice.”

It shrank to 10 feet.

“Almost there,” said Monkey.

Five feet.

“Perfect!” said Monkey. He hefted the staff and declared, “It weighs the same as before!”

As they returned through the courtyard, Monkey tried some practice thrusts and parries. The Dragon King turned pale and jumped out of range. “Brother, please be careful!”

Monkey said, “I believe this little beauty will do anything I want.” He called out, “Grow!” Both Monkey and the staff shot up to over two hundred feet tall.

“Take this! And that!” he shouted, swinging at an imaginary foe. The water swirled so furiously, it nearly swept away the Dragon King.

Then Monkey called “Shrink!” Monkey and staff returned swiftly to normal height. “Smaller!”—and the staff alone became the size of a needle. Monkey lodged it safely in his ear.

He turned to the Dragon King, who was now trembling violently. “Thank you, brother! You’ve been a most gracious host!”

“Don’t mention it,” said the Dragon King.

And with a leap and a somersault, Monkey was gone.

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