Monkey Versus the Imposter King
On their epic Journey to the West to bring Buddhist scriptures back to China, the Tang Monk and his three disciples passed through many exotic lands and encountered uncanny incidents galore. In one episode, they arrive at the kingdom of Wuji, where an evil warlock has usurped the throne. Tang Monk urges his monster-exterminating disciples to help, but the situation proves more complicated than they realize.
From Drought to Drowned
The kingdom of Wuji is desperate. A drought has emptied the wells and dried the river. For three years, no vegetation has grown and the people are starving. The king has shared in the suffering of his subjects, fasting, burning incense, and praying to the heavens day and night. Alas, not a drop of rain would fall to relieve the parched land.
One day, a Taoist warlock appears. He claims the ability to summon rain. True enough, wherever he points his magic whisk, storm clouds gather, lightning streaks across the sky, and a torrential downpour would occur.
Seeing his wells brimming and river swelling, the king is beyond grateful and unsuspecting of any malicious intention. But as he leans over a well for a long-awaited drink, the warlock creeps up behind him and shoves him inside—assassination in cold blood. The fiend cackles with glee and transforms himself into the identical likeness of the king. Then unknown to all of Wuji, he takes the king’s place on the throne and revels in all the royal pleasures.
Our Heroes to the Rescue
Three years later, the Tang Monk and crew arrive at Wuji during their pilgrimage. After a long day’s march, Monkey props his feet up, Sandy rests himself against their luggage, and their master settles down to meditate. Pigsy, always on the lookout to pander to his desires, spots a well and scrambles over for a good gulp. But just as he lowers his snout, the water begins gurgling ominously. Spooked, he scurries back to his companions, but finds them deep asleep. Never one to worry though, Pigsy lies down and is snoring in seconds.
From the bubbling well, a silvery vapor rises and forms into a ghostly image of the drowned Wuji king. The sopping specter glides toward the meditating monk, and, prostrating himself, begs for help and justice. Then silently as he came, he returns to the depths of the well.
Morning comes. The Tang Monk recalls the strange vision from his meditations, and sends his disciples to investigate. Diving to the well’s bottom, they come upon the underwater Crystal Palace of the Dragon King of the Wells. Anything special he has to show them? How about the three-year-old drowned corpse of the Wuji king? Fortunately, the dragon thought to treat the Wuji king with a face-preserving pearl, and the disciples haul back a body in perfect condition. On seeing the deceased, their master insists that as monks they must have compassion for all. It is their duty to help: the king must be revived.
Luckily, Monkeys knows of a magic pill that can bring the dead back to life. The pill is made in the heavens by the Taoist deity the Supreme Lord Lao-Tzu. With a super-somersault, Monkey flies up to the paradisal palaces and bangs about the elixir furnaces until the Taoist rushes in. Recalling Monkey’s shenanigans from 500 years ago, he refuses him at once. But on second thought, wary that the ape will resort to hooliganisms, Lao-Tzu unplugs his gourd and grants him a solitary golden pill.
Monkey zooms back to Wuji and revives the king. Then determined to restore the throne, the pilgrims disguise His Majesty and head to the capital.
Upon entering the palace, they immediately confront the fake king. Panicked, he snatches a sword from a guard to take a hack at Monkey, and the skirmish is on. Warlock puts up a good fight and even has a few tricks up his sleeve, but he’s still no match.
Just as Monkey lifts his golden cudgel to finish him off, however, a splendid voice calls out: “Stay your hand! I’m here to collect the fiend for you.” Lo and behold, a Bodhisattva appears on a multicolored cloud, and everyone kneels in reverence. Then taking out a magical revealing mirror, she exposes the creature’s true form—a blue-haired lion from the Bodhisattva’s palace.
Baffled, Monkey begs for an explanation: Three years ago, Buddha had sent the Bodhisattva to confer arhatship to the benevolent Wuji king. Alas, the king did not recognize the divine in beggarly disguise, and ordered the Bodhisattva bound and thrown in the moat for three days. As retribution for the sacrilege, Buddha sent the lion to dethrone the king for three years. However, during the lion’s reign, the rains came regularly and ended the drought, the state remained strong, and the people enjoyed peace.
Acknowledging his terrible folly, the king kneels in repentance. Then the Bodhisattva reclaims her lion, and returns to the heavens. All is righted in the kingdom of Wuji, and the pilgrims, their work done, continue on their sacred journey to the west.