Chen Guangrui Comes to Grief on His Way to His Post,
The Monk of the River Current Avenges His Parents
At that time in Chang’an city, Emperor Taizong holds an examination in accordance with the practice of the ancients. All the Confucian scholars on the civil or military rolls in every prefecture, district and county who have distinguished themselves in the three-stage examinations for their understanding of literature are to go to Chang’an for a final test. Chen Guangrui achieves the highest grade in the exam and the emperor rewards him with an appointment as prefect of Jiangzhou. After finding a wife, they depart for their new appointment. However, along the way a boatman who lusts after his wife, kills him and throws him overboard. The boatman takes Guangrui`s wife, pretends to be Guangrui, and assumes his job as prefect. Guangrui`s wife Miss Yin, wants to kill herself, but being pregnant with an unborn child, she forces herself to go with him.
After she has delivered the child she hears an invisible voice say, “Man-tang-qiao, you must do as I tell you. I am the Lord of the Southern Pole Star, and I have come to give you this son on the orders of the Bodhisattva Guanyin. One day he will be extraordinarily famous. When the villainous Liu comes back he will certainly want to kill this boy, so you must look after him with great care. Your husband has been rescued by the dragon king; one day you will be reunited with him and your son, and your sufferings will be at an end. Remember my words. Wake up, wake up!” Miss Yin decides to abandon her son in the river as soon as possible and let fate determine whether he is to live or to die. She ties the child to a board with her sash, and pushes him out into the stream to go where he will.
The boy floats downstream on the plank until he comes to a stop under the Jinshan Temple. The abbot of this temple, a monk called Faming, finds the child, gives him the milk-name Jiangliu, “River Current,” and arranges for him to be fostered. Time passes like an arrow, and the days and months move as fast as a shuttle. When Jiangliu reaches the age of seventeen the abbot tells him to have his head tonsured and enter the religious life. Giving him the Buddhist name Xuanzang he lays his hands upon his head and instructs him to observe the monastic discipline. Xuanzang is determined to cultivate the Way.
The story continues with the Dragon King of the River Jing, who visits a soothsayer, transformed as a scholar. The Dragon king is in charge of making rain and has a wager with the sooth-sayer that he can`t predict the right time of rain. The sooth-sayer gives him the time of the next rain and to his great surprise the Dragon king receives an Imperial Decree from Heaven to make rain at the exact same time. In order to win the wager the Dragon King flouts the degree from the Jade Emperor, which is a crime against heaven that will cost the Dragon King his life.
In a dream the Dragon King visits Emperor Taizong of Chang`An to ask him for help to spare his life. The dragon king takes human form, goes up to him, kneels and bows before him, crying, “Save me, Your Majesty, save me.” “Who are you, that we should save you?” asks Taizong. “Your Majesty is a true dragon,” replies the dragon king, “and I am a wicked dragon. As I have offended against the laws of Heaven, I am due to be beheaded by Your Majesty’s illustrious minister Wei Zheng, the official in charge of personnel, so I have come to beg you to save me.” “If you are supposed to be beheaded by Wei Zheng, we can save you, so set your mind at rest and go along now,” says the Tang Emperor. The dragon king, who is extremely happy, kowtows in thanks and leaves. The Tang Emperor sends a personal aide with a decree summoning Wei Zheng to court. Wei Zheng enters the emperor`s private quarters, where they discuss the policies to bring peace and stability to the country. At about noon he orders the palace ladies to bring a large weiqi chess set and says, “We shall now have a game of chess.”
Check back next week for Journey to the West Abridged: Chapter 10!
Journey to the West is one of the most famous novels in Chinese history. It was produced in the 16th century during the Ming dynasty. It has influenced countless other stories, works of art even in to the modern day, such as the anime Dragonball and the film The Forbidden Kingdom drawing inspiration from this classic.
The story follows the Tang Monk on his journey to India to obtain sacred Buddhist scriptures. Along the way he is joined by the magical Monkey King, a foolish Pig man, and the mighty Sand Monk. This article is part of a series by Walther Sell, summarizing the Chinese epic.
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