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Practice English Speaking&Listening with: Legends Summarized: The Monkey King (Journey To The West Part 1)

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The Journey to the West is one of China's four great classical novels.

It's an ancient allegory for enlightenment,

and it's approximately 2000 pages long.

As such, it's not exactly a text I could easily summarize in a single video of a rational length.

Anyway, the Journey to the West is packed full of symbolism, dense literary context, and some majorly influential characters.

And it's widely agreed upon that the most memorable of these characters

is Sun Wukong, the mischievous monkey king.

Sun Wukong's most famous mark on the modern world is probably Dragonball's Son Goku,

a character specifically designed to emulate the abilities, appearance, and overall impulsive goofiness of the original Monkey King.

But Sun Wukong's influence is far from being restricted to anime.

Stories based on the character's exploits have appeared in almost every form of media.

Which is why it might come as a surprise to learn that he isn't the main character in the Journey to the West.

That honor belongs to the monk, Xuanzang,

a character so vital to the plot that we don't even know he exists for the first seven chapters.

Which are instead devoted exclusively to the life of Sun Wukong

and how he made it his mission to singlehandedly piss of every deity in all three of China's major religions.

Now, I am nothing if not faithful to my source material.

So in keeping with the structure of the text,

this first video will be covering the history of Sun Wukong and then

in later videos, we'll see about actually getting to the rest of the not inconsiderable length of this text.

So our story begins on Flower Fruit Mountain, an island paradise full of dragons,

magic birds,

immortal peach trees,

and one really big rock.

Allow me to direct your attention to this rock, as it is about to perform a magic trick.


The rock splits in half, revealing: another rock!

But this rock is special. It's actually a rock egg (no not that one), and it appears to have inherited

the magic prowess of its daddy rock, at it scarcely existed for more than a minute before it abruptly

transforms into a stone monkey.

Now, this monkey may have spontaneously generated barely three seconds prior, but he already knows his manners,

so he bows to the four cardinal directions, and in the process inadvertently activates his laser eyes,

which cause quite a disturbance when they shoot all the way into the palace of the Jade Emperor,

the head honcho of heaven himself.

So the stone monkey hangs out with the friendly population of not-stone monkeys

who one day decide to follow their favorite river up to its source.

Whereupon they find that it comes, unsurprisingly, from a big fancy waterfall.

So all the monkeys are like "Oh, man! If only one of us were impulsive enough to jump into the waterfall

and see what happens, we'd make him the Monkey King!"

And the stone monkey is like, "Did somebody say impulsive?" and dives in.

So on the other side of the waterfall, he finds a gorgeous cavern, decked out with

an iron bridge and an enormous stone mansion, fully furnished with all the necessities of life.

The monkeys are understandably impressed, and they all pile in to live in this newly discovered cavernous paradise.

And for his achievement, the stone monkey is now officially crowned the monkey king.

So the monkey population of Flower Fruit Mountain live in peace and security for several hundred years.

But one day, Monkey King has an existential crisis, pulls a Gilgamesh, and goes on a quest for immortality.

Nine years and two continents later,

he finally finds an immortal T/Daoist sage, who lives on top of the Mountain of Heart and Mind

in the Cave of the Slanting Moon and Three Stars.

Man, these names are a mouthful.

So the immortal sage Subodhi takes on the Monkey King as one of his disciples

and he gives him a new name, derived from a large number of increasingly complex character traits,

and long story short, his name is now Sun Wukong.

So after a seven year training montage, Subodhi finally teaches Sun Wukong a way to become immortal,

which Wukong starts practicing.

Another three years go by,

and Sun Wukong is feeling pretty good about life.

He's practicing the Dao, he's functionally immortal, and life is good.

But Subodhi warns him that he's not out of the woods yet.

Turns out, the court of Heaven doesn't actually approve of this method of immortality,

and will send down three calamities in an effort to kill him, one every 500 years.

First, they'll strike him with lighting.

Then later, if that didn't work, they'll set him on fire.

And finally, if neither of those do the trick, they'll straight up disintegrate him.

This understandably wigs out Sun Wukong, but Subodhi offers to teach him

the art of the Earthly Multitude, which'll let him transform into 72 different things.

With this, the three calamities won't be able to touch him.

He also teaches Wukong how to fly, just because.

But, unsurprisingly,

giving awesome cosmic power to a suicidally impulsive magical monkey leads to some wacky hijinks,

and Master Subodhi has to kick him out, so he won't accidentally reveal his secret teachings.

So Sun Wukong, now immortal, 20 years older, and hypothetically wiser,

at last returns to the Water Curtain Cave on Flower Fruit Mountain,

and he returns just in time, since the monkey population has been being harassed by

a monster known only as the Monstrous King of Havoc,

who's been intermittently stopping by and kidnapping them to use as servants.

So Wukong goes and challenges the monster to a duel, and proceeds to absolutely kick his ass

with his newfound Daoist superpowers,

and then he rescues the captive monkeys and flies them all back home.

So all is well on Flower Fruit Mountain, but Wukong decides that his monkey kingdom

should probably have a monkey army, so stuff like the kidnapping thing doesn't happen anymore.

On that note, Wukong also takes a trip down to the Dragon Palace in the eastern ocean,

to see if the Dragon King has a weapon befitting his strength that he could borrow.

Long story short,

after dismissing every superpowered weapon the Dragon King offers him,

Wukong ends up taking an obscenely heavy magic size-changing iron pillar

out of the Palace Treasury and using it as a staff.

So Wukong's very happy with his new weapon, and asks the Dragon King for

some fancy new duds to go with his fancy new stick thing.

And by now, the Dragon King is so terrified of this super powerful monkey that he

gathers all of his dragon brothers and together they assemble a fancy outfit for Wukong

just to get him out of their house.

When he returns to Flower Fruit Mountain to show his mates his gear, he gets

so hyped up that he briefly turns into a huge demonic caricature of himself,

which terrifies the local demon population so much the demon kings show up at his front door to form an alliance with him.

So, life is going pretty well for the Monkey King, until one day, while taking a nap,

he's abruptly kidnapped by two emissaries of Yama, the king of Hell, who carry him off to the underworld.

Wukong is understandably pissed, seeing as this is technically death and violates the whole "immortality" deal.

And he starts bashing his way into the Palace of Darkness to lodge a complaint with the Ten Kings.

So the Ten Kings are like, "Whoa, there must've been some kind of mistake. I mean,

there must be a bunch of dudes named Sun Wukong. Right?"

And Wukong is like, "Yeah(schnyeah), right. Show me where that's written down."

So they sort through all the ledgers of the dead until they find the one about him and he

scribbles out his name, along with the names of as many monkeys as he can find, thus freeing them from the jurisdiction of the underworld gods.

Satisfied, Wukong bashes his way back out of the underworld, then wakes up and tells all the monkeys the good news.

But all is not well in the Kingdom of Heaven,

as the Jade Emperor finds himself inundated with complaints about this "Monkey King" who keeps causing trouble.

So at first, the Jade Emperor wants to have him arrested for his shenanigans,

but the spirit of Venus suggests instead that they offer the Monkey King a position in the bureaucracy of heaven.

Whereupon they'd be able to better control his actions and easily discipline him if need be.

The Jade Emperor gives the thumbs up,

and they send down the Gold Star of Venus to deliver the offer to Wukong, who eagerly accepts.

So the Gold Star takes him up to Heaven,

and takes him to meet the Jade Emperor, who appoints him the position of B/Pimawen

which makes him the head of the imperial stables.

So Wukong thinks that's pretty sweet,

and he's fairly chill with the whole situation, until he thinks to ask what exactly his rank is,

whereupon he is informed that Pimawen is actually the lowest possible position in the entire bureaucracy of Heaven.

Wukong, being a bit of a diva at this point, is understandably pissed.

And once again bashes his way out of Heaven and returns to Flower Fruit Mountain to sulk.

So Wukong decides to make himself feel better by calling himself the Great Sage Equal to Heaven.

And meanwhile, the Jade Emperor learns of his temper tantrum and sends down several celestial soldiers to capture him.

The first among these is the Mighty Spirit God, who challenges Wukong to a duel.

Wukong's like, "Dude, just tell your boss I want a better title."

And the Mighty Spirit God is like, "Why don't you tell him yourself. In hell!"

and gets utterly destroyed for his troubles.

So then Prince Nada/Nezha confronts Wukong, who's like,

"What are you, 12?

Look, kid, just tell your boss I wanna be called 'Great Sage Equal to Heaven', alright?"

And Nada's like,

"I'll show you who's 12!"

and transforms into a big scary monster with a butt ton of weapons.

Wukong is, of course, unimpressed,

and matches his transformation with one of his own.

They fight for a while, until Wukong gets the drop on Nada with a duplicate

and smacks him with his stick thingy.

So they tell the Jade Emperor what happened, and the emperor is all like,

"How dare he resist arrest! Clearly, we must execute him!"

But the Gold Star of Venus, apparently the only voice of reason in the entire heavenly bureaucracy,

suggests that rather than risk their entire army on one super powerful immortal monkey,

they just give Wukong what he wants: an empty title.

So they do, and a department is set up in Heaven for him to lounge around in and not cause trouble.

Unsurprisingly, Wukong is completely down for spending his days languishing in Heaven and being

waited on hand and foot by celestial spirits determined not to give him a reason to go on a rampage.

But one of the resident Daoist immortals suggests that Wukong might end up getting bored,

which carries with it the terrifying possibility of the great Sun Wukong rampaging through Heaven looking for entertainment.

So the Jade Emperor assigns a relatively harmless, but time consuming duty to Wukong:

tending the garden of peaches of immortality.

Wukong's super down for that,

but quickly finds that having to maintain a garden full of

delicious, immortality-granting peaches without eating any of them is

impossible for his poor, impulsive brain to handle.

So, if you've been taking notes, this means he's now double immortal.

But this comes back to bite him on the butt

when the time comes for the Queen Mother of Heaven to hold her annual Peach Festival.

And her seven color coded immortal maidens enter the grove,

only to find that it is notably lacking in peaches.

They inadvertently wake Wukong up, who decides that he wants to go to the festival too!

So Wukong paralyzes the maidens,

impersonates a local immortal who was invited,

then scoots on into the banquet hall.

See, stuff like this? It's why you weren't invited in the first place.

So when he arrives, he's immediately distracted by the smell of wine,

and proceeds to make off with the entire supply of heavenly booze, which also makes you immortal.

So Wukong, now triply immortal and thoroughly drunk,

inadvertently stumbles into Lao Tzu's little slice of heaven while searching for a place to sleep it off.

And if you wanna know who this Lao Tzu person is-

b: "I'm working on it, goddammit."

"ninjas oh god"

So drunk Wukong stumbles into Lao Tzu's palace to say hello,

but he can't find the sage anywhere.

But he does find Lao Tzu's alchemical lab, in which he finds several gourds full of pills of immortality.

Three guesses as to what Wukong does next.

*think of the concept of "wrong" in noise form*

*"wrong" noise again*

*very enthusiastic noise*

So Wukong, now quadruply immortal and abruptly sober,

realizes that that might not have been the smartest move on his part,

and opts to flee back to Flower Fruit Mountain to escape the consequences of his actions.


the seven immortal maidens,

the wine carriers,

the people in charge of the banquet,

Lao Tzu,

the officials from Wukong's department,

and the immortal Wukong impersonated

all independently present their grievances to the Jade Emperor,

who quickly puts two and two together and dispatches

pretty much the entire army of Heaven to apprehend Sun Wukong.

Now, of course, because Wukong is absurdly powerful, this is ineffective.

And what was supposed to be a simple capture mission turns into a full scale battle between the forces of Heaven and Sun Wukong's army of demon monkeys.

Now while all that drama is happening,

who should arrive at the Heavenly Palace but the boddhisattva G/Kuanyin and her disciple Moksa,

who came for the Peach Festival and are understandably surprised to find the heavenly palace in complete disarray.

So Kuanyin asks what all the fuss is about, and upon being briefed,

she sends Moksa down to get a sense of what's going on.

So Moksa arrives at Flower Fruit Mountain just in time for Wukong,

who's been thoroughly kicking the collective asses of Heaven, to demand a fight with somebody.

So Moksa and Wukong battle for a while, but Moksa unfortunately

can't quite keep up with the Monkey King,

and has to return to Heaven in defeat.

But Kuanyin, now better briefed on the situation,

suggests a guy who could be sent to fight Wukong:

Erlang, a powerful loose cannon of a deity who don't play by the Jade Emperor's rules.

So they summon him,

and he goes to confront Wukong, who's like,

"Ah, hey, if you don't mind, could you sent out the devarajas to fight me? 'Cause I'm-I'm kinda getting bored over here."

And Erlang is like,

"Not as bored as you're gonna be!"

and they fight.

They both end up turning into Gozilla-scale monsters,

but Wukong inadvertently terrifies his own army into a rout with how scary he looks.

And in turn, the sight of his own fleeing army disheartens the Monkey King, who shrinks down and runs away.

But Erlang isn't gonna be evaded that easily, and he uses his magical third eye-

uh, he uh, has one of those

-to find Wukong, who's turned into an innocent looking sparrow.

Erlang responds by turning into a sparrow hawk,

in response to which Wukong transforms into a cormorant,

aaand this kind of goes on for a while. Shapeshifter duels are fun.

In the end, it's our buddy Lao Tzu who manages to capture the Monkey King by

entrapping him in a diamond snare.

Wukong, captured at last, is brought to the monster execution block, where apparently the Court of Heaven

forgot the meaning of the word "immortal", since nothing they throw at him hurts him in any way.

So the Jade Emperor is at a loss as to how to kill him,

but Lao Tzu has a suggestion.

If they stick him in his magic Brazer of Eight Trigrams and leave him there for 49 days,

they should be able to separate out the elixir of immortality from his body,

and as a happy consequence, leave the troublesome Monkey King about as dead as you can get.

So 49 days pass,

and they finally open the brazer to extract the elixir,

only to find that it's still firmly attached to Sun Wukong,

whose only issue with the experience is that the smoke gave him awesome looking red eyes.

So Wukong is 110% done with Heaven,

so he starts fighting his way through the entire Heavenly army.

The Jade Emperor, now completely out of options, finally calls on his last resort:

the Buddha himself.

So Buddha and his two best disciples, Ananda and Kasyapa,

go to deal with Wukong, who is at present fighting 36 thunder deities, because why not.

So Buddha asks Wukong what he wants, and Wukong's like,

"Y'know what? I'm kind of feeling like overthrowing the Jade Emperor today! Wouldn't that be fun?!"

And Buddha's like,

"Uhuh. Tell you what. I'll make a bet with you, ok?

If you can successfully jump out of the palm of my hands,

I'll believe that you're qualified to rule Heaven in his place."

Aaand, it's time for another exciting round of What Will Sun Wukong Do Next?

Let's hear it, ladies and gentlemen!

*wrong noise*

*wrong noise*

*enthusiastic noise*

Unsurprisingly, Sun Wukong takes that bet,

and blasts off from Buddha's hand until he reaches the very edge of the universe itself,

where he finds five pillars supporting the sky.

Wukong decides to leave a memento of himself there,

graffiti-ing one of the pillars,

and, for good measure, peeing on it.

I mean, he is a monkey.

So Wukong backflips all the way back to Buddha's palm like,

"Shows what you know, old man! I made it all the way to the pillars of the universe!"

And the Buddha is like,

"Is that so? Well, I have a little plot twist for ya.

See, one of the perks of enlightenment is that I'm one with everything,

and as it turns out, that's not just hyperbole."

Sure enough, written on one of Buddha's fingers is Wukong's graffiti, along with the faintest whiff of monkey pee.

Turns out, the whole universe *is* the palm of Budda's hand. Whoaaaa.

So Wukong freaks out and tries to skedaddle,

but the Buddha uses more of his Buddha magic to trap him under a mountain.

Which is also his hand. It's complicated.

Which Wukong would ordinarily be able to escape stupidly easily, but then they stick a magic seal on top of the mountain and that's that.

And it is here, under this beautiful and scenic locale, that Sun Wukong spends the next 500 years.

The Description of Legends Summarized: The Monkey King (Journey To The West Part 1)