Sun Wukong
The Journey to the Western Paradise

It was a snowy night in Tibet and Dorje the Monk was preparing to leave his monastery. He was going on pilgrimage to a holy mountain in the west.
His bags were all packed. His begging bowl was polished and his rosary was hung around his neck when the abbot called him down to the main prayer hall.

The Abbot floated in the darkness of the prayer hall. He waggled his fins in the chilly air.
Dorje the Monk approached reverantly. "Yes Master?" he asked.
"Have I ever told you," said the Abbot, "The story of Sun Wukong, Zhu Bajie, the Pilgrim Sanzang, and their journey to the Western Paradise?"
"No, I have never heard that story," replied Dorje the Monk.
"It is good that I tell it to you now," said the Abbot, "Because you are also going on a pilgrimage."

(Left to right )
The Pilgrim Sanzang, is a monk of the Tang Dynasty.
Yu Long the White Horse is his faithful steed.
Sha Heshang, the Sand Monk, wields a double-headed staff of the crescent moon.
Zhu Bajie, The Pig of the Eight Restrictions, is master of thirty-eight transformations and wields a Nine-Toothed Iron Rake.
Sun Wucong, the Monkey King, Stone Macaque, Great Sage Equal to Heaven, knows seventy-two transformations and wields the Will-Following Staff.
Together they are journeying towards Jiu Jin Mountain in the Western Paradise, on a great pilgrimage to retrieve the True Scriptures from the Boddhisatva Guanyin.

"Truly a formidable band of pilgrims," says Dorje the Monk.
"Yes," agrees the Abbot, "But as you shall see, the obstacles in their path were formidable as well.
He pauses for a while, in the dark of the Prayer Hall. "Their story is long and has many parts. I will tell you only one.

"It begins ... in Nevada. West of Salt Lake City."

The van blows a tire. Way out nowhere. Desert.

"Look!" says Sun Wukong. "Some asshole broke a bottle on the highway."
"Wow, man," says Sha Heshang. "What a bummer."

"I'll hop on my somersault cloud and go look for another wheel," says Sun Wukong. "You guys jack up the van."

Sun Wukong goes flying across the desert on his somersault cloud.

“He thinks he’s so cool” says Zhu Bajie. They light up a spliff.

A car comes down the road.
It hangs for a while over the heat mirage before touching down on the pavement.
It stops. Inside is Chou Long the Bandit.
“You guys need a lift?” says Chou Long.

“We are Pilgrims under the great Master Sanzang, journeying to the Western Paradise to retrieve the True Scriptures from the Boddhisatva Guanyin” says Zhu Bajie.
“We’re waiting for Sun Wukong the monkey to fetch us a new wheel.”
Chou Long looks at the van. “Gonna be cold out here at night,” he says.

Flying high above, Sun Wukong looks at the car with his fiery all-revealing eyes.
“That idiot Zhu Bajie!” he says to himself.
“He’s got into a car with an evil monster who wants to eat Master Sanzang. Well, I’ll teach him a lesson this time…!”
He follows the car from above.

They go to Chou Long's house in the hills.

Zhu Bajie takes a swig of Kingfisher. “I was saying,” he says, “I was sayin’, man, this Sun Wukong guy, I mean? He’s all, the Great Sage, fuckin’ of Heaven, man, and he defeated some fuckin’, the Lord Erlan Shan, or, or some shit. But what’s he done since then, man? I mean, seems like, s’fuckin’ nothin’, man. He’s a fuckin’ monkey, man. Y’know?” He takes another swig. “He’s all fuckin’ that, man. He’s a monkey, man. Haw. Shit!”
“Wow man, I completely agree,” says Sha Heshang, slowly. He coughs out a puff of smoke. “It’s totally, man. Totally.”
“He sounds horribly arrogant,” sympathizes Chou Long.

Sun Wukong, listening outside, thinks, “Those fools! If it weren’t for my duty to Master Sanzang I’d leave them all to be eaten!”

Meanwhile, Chou Long's Yaoguai henchmen are preparing their attack.


Chou Long excuses himself and goes into the kitchen.
“Remember!” he says to the Yaoguai Cook. “Put the peyote in all of the dishes except the one on the left!”

Sun Wukong is the Master of 72 Transformations.

Sun Wukong looks at dinner.
“Naw,” he says. “Put it in the one on the left, too.”

Zhu Bajie talks with his mouth full. “So the guy says, ‘Tuesday night, Tuesday night is DRUG night, man. We toke dope, shoot up heroin, do all kinds of, of psychadelic shit, and shit, but the first guy says, he says, ‘b’but yeah, but this is still, hell, HELL, n’all, I mean. It’s like, we’re in hell, an’…”
He takes another bite and waves his chopsticks for emphasis. “The second guy, this guy in hell, he says, ‘man, well, this’ll, this’ll cheer you up man, then, on, on Wednesday night, now, Wednesday night in hell is – is, oh wait, you’re not, you’re not, hah, STRAIGHT – are you?’ Hah!”

"Oh man," says Sha Heshang. "Oh man. Oh wow. Man."

“I am, I’m, I’m the G-Great Bandit!” says Chou Long. “I’m the Great B-Bandit, Chou Long! Now is, nows the time, for you t-to die!” He starts to giggle. “No, I’m, I’m totally serious.”

The Yaoguai Lieutenant whispers to Chou Long, “Master, should we seize them now?”
“Totally,” says Chou Long. “Totally.”


They flee into the desert.

It was nearing midnight. Dorje the Monk said:

“But Master, why did Chou Long and the Yaoguai want to eat Zhu Bajie and Sanzang the monk?”


The Abbot considered him in the shadows of the prayer room.

“You see, Dorje, Sanzang the Monk was no ordinary monk. He was chosen by the Boddhisatva Guanyin to retrieve the True Scriptures from the Western Paradise of Jiu Jin Shan. One bite of his flesh would make any monster immortal, and reveal to him the secrets of heaven and earth.”

Dorje thought about this. “So Chou Long, in fact, was a pious monster?”

“This is one interpretation,” said the Abbot. "Another interpretation is that Zhu Bajie is the pious one, since it is he who makes the parable of the man in hell, and the propitiation of hellfire."

"But Zhu Bajie is a glutton, a pig," said Dorje.

"And thus he understands best the hungers and exigencies which are inherent to the flesh," replied the Abbot. He rose up through the cold air of the prayer hall.



"A third interpretation is that the Monk Sanzang and Yulong the Horse are the only pious ones, since only they say nothing, because they are continually appalled by the transient nature of physical things. The counterargument is that horses can't talk and the Monk Sanzang is just zonked on methamphetamines."

"These are a few interpretations among many. First, hear the rest of the story."


In the desert, they dream.



There’s no one around in the morning. “Wow.” says Zhu Bajie, holding his head. “Fuck.”
“Unnnnng,” says Chou Long.
Sun Wucong is nowhere to be found.

They have no water. They smoke a little dope and then they start to walk.

At nightfall they find a stream. They smoke a little more.

They follow the stream for another day.

At dusk they come to a road. They light up and wait for a car.


"Officer," says Zhu Bajie, "That's our van you're towing."
"Your van?" says the policeman.
"Yes sir," Zhu Bajie says.
"Well ain't that a thing."

"Do you have any idea how much heroin is in that van?"


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art: Hannibal Taubes | web design: Rae Yan | last updated: July 18, 2009