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Ji-li's Books - The Magical Monkey King - Excerpt

Excerpt from
The Magical Monkey King:
Mischief in Heaven

Adopted From the Classic Chinese Tale Retold by Ji-li Jiang
llustrated by Youshan Tang

1: Stone Monkey is Born

Thousands of years ago in China , in the province of Ao-lai , there stood a towering mountain—the Mountain of Flowers and Fruits. At the very top of this mountain, perfectly balanced on its peak, was a rock as big as a castle. It was half hidden by a mysterious mist.

One night a furious storm exploded over the mountain. Never had there been such a storm! Bolts of lightning streaked across the sky. Thunder crashed and howled. Torrents of rain pelted the mountainside, and the animals living there fled in terror.


Suddenly, there was an earth-shattering blast. Craaaack!

The huge rock on the mountaintop split apart and fell to pieces thousands of feet below. All that was left on the peak was a black stone egg.

Strangely enough, as soon as the stone egg appeared, the storm ended. The air became calm and peaceful.

The sun rose and set. The rains fell, and the skies cleared. Ninety-nine days passed. And the stone egg remained motionless upon the mountaintop.

On the ninety-ninth night a gust of wind in the shape of a dragon descended upon the mountain. Whoosh! The dragon breathed fire onto the stone egg. At once it erupted into flame. Howling and roaring, the fireball grew until it was the size of an elephant.

For nine days and nine nights, the egg burned and burned. On the tenth day the fire died out. The egg, too, was gone. In its place—on the very top of the mountain—stood a small stone monkey.

The next day, a gentle breeze came and tickled the stone monkey. And when it did, the monkey's eyes began to twinkle! Then a soft rain came and washed him, and his stone skin changed into silky, golden fur. The sun came out and shone its warmth upon the monkey, and he began to breathe. Slowly he turned his head from side to side. He stretched his arms and legs and wiggled his fingers and toes. And then, suddenly, he jumped into the air, rolled into a perfect somersault—and landed on his feet!

Monkey knelt down and bowed his head to the ground four times: to the east, to the south, to the west, and finally to the north. At last he lifted his head up toward the sky -- and laughed! It was a long, mischievous laugh, loud enough to shake the tall trees to their roots and cause the earth to tremble.

And most amazing of all, as Monkey laughed, a beam of light shot out from his eyes and went straight up to Heaven.

Far above the sky, near the North Star, Jade Emperor, Ruler of Heaven and Earth, sat on his throne in the Cloud Palace . He was busy meeting with his ministers about the state of the universe when he was rudely interrupted. A shaft of light burst out of nowhere and filled the throne room. Neither Jade Emperor nor his ministers had ever seen such a thing before, not in Heaven nor on Earth.

Jade Emperor did not like mysteries. After all, he was the ruler of the universe! He turned to his two captains, Thousand-League Eye, who could see as far as a thousand leagues, and Thousand-League Ear, who could hear anything as far as a thousand leagues.

“Go find out what this strange light is and where it comes from,” Jade Emperor commanded.

The two captains dashed away to the southern gate of Heaven, where they could look down on earth. In the blink of an eye, they returned.

“Your Majesty,” said Thousand-League Eye, “the light is coming from the tallest mountain in the province of Ao-lai . And when I looked more closely at it I saw… a little monkey.”

“A little monkey?” exclaimed Jade Emperor. “Nonsense! How could a little monkey send a beam of light all the way to Heaven?”

Thousand-League Ear bowed. “We can't explain it, Your Majesty,” he said, “but when I listened I could hear that monkey all the way up here. And he was laughing.”

Jade Emperor leaned back in his throne and stroked his long gray beard. “Well, well,” he said at last, “if it is just a little monkey, there is nothing for us to worry about.”

Which only goes to show that even Jade Emperor can be wrong.


2: Monkey Accepts a Challenge

For many years, a great clan of monkeys lived on the Mountain of Flowers and Fruits. They enjoyed a carefree life, swinging from the tress and playing in the streams. Whenever they were hungry, they gathered delicious fruit from the trees. Whenever they were thirsty, they drank crystal water from the streams. Life was easy and wonderful.

But when that furious storm came to the Mountain of Flowers and Fruits, it destroyed all the trees on the mountain. Day after day, the monkeys crept among the broken trees, searching in vain for something to eat.

One hot morning the hungry monkeys were sitting forlornly by a stream. “I wonder,” said one monkey, who was more curious than the rest, “what would happen if we followed this stream up the mountain. We might find a place that was better than this one”

“Yes, yes,” the other monkeys agreed. “It certainly can't be worse.”

So they followed the stream as it wound through valleys and up steep cliffs. By late afternoon they had neared the top of the mountain and were feeling very tired. But they pushed on, past one more curve in the stream. As they came around the bend they found themselves at the bottom of a gigantic waterfall, an immense white curtain of rushing water casting down billions of water pearls, each one glittering in the sunlight.

“Ohhhh, how lovely!” said the monkeys, clapping their hands in delight.

The waterfall was so high that they could not see the top, so wide that all the monkeys holding hands could not reach from side to side, so dense that not even the sharpest-eyed monkey could see through it.

“If this waterfall is so beautiful on this side,” the curious monkey wondered, “what do you think lies on the other side?”

The monkeys looked at each other, but no one answered.

“Who will dare to go and look?” asked the curious monkey.

“Not me!” answered one monkey. “I'd get soaked!”

“Or crushed by the water!” said another.

“Worse! You'd drown and be swept away by the mighty current!” others cried.

All the monkeys whined and made excuses.

The curious monkey leaped upon a tree and shouted out, “I have an idea. Whoever is brave enough to go through the waterfall and discover what is on the other side will become our king ! What do you say to that?”

“Very good,” said an old gray-haired monkey who was grandmother to the clan. “But I don't think there is anyone foolish enough to accept the dare.”

“Who will go? Who will go?” the monkeys jabbered. Though they pushed and shoved each other, no one had the courage to step forward.

Suddenly, a loud voice boomed, “I will go!”

Standing on a rock hundreds of feet away was a monkey the clan had never seen before. He was small; his fur was silky and golden in color. And his eyes were shining with a strange light.

“Who are you? And where do you come from?” asked the curious monkey.

“I am Stone Monkey, born of Heaven and Earth,” Stone Monkey said. “I'm so brave, I'll do anything.”

“Bragging! Bragging!” the other monkeys jeered, making faces at this new monkey.

Monkey did not say a word. He just laughed. Then he jumped. He jumped higher than the highest tree in the forest, somersaulted, and landed on his feet right in front of the astonished monkeys.

“Did you say I was bragging?” he asked. “Well, then, if I go through the waterfall, will you truly make me you king?”

Grandmother Monkey walked out of the crowd and looked into Monkey's eyes. They were the strangest eyes she had ever seen. “Are you really so foolish as to try?” she asked.

Monkey craned his neck, pretending to search among the crowd. “Well, I don't see anyone else volunteering,” he said. He stretched out his arm and bowed deeply. “But if any one of you is brave enough, please be my guest.”

“Oh, you boastful monkey,” several monkeys cried out. “Shame on you!”

“Silence!” ordered Grandmother Monkey. She turned back to Monkey. “Very well,” she said. “Let's see if you really are as brave as you say.”

“If I succeed, don't forget what you have promised.” Monkey winked at the curious monkey.

“Go! Go!” the monkeys chanted. “You'll see. You'll never come out alive!”

Monkey scampered through the crowd until he reached the edge of the giant waterfall. The rushing water made a noise like thunder. Very slowly he stretched out his legs and his arms. He turned his neck back and forth and wiggled his tail.

In awed silence, the monkey clan watched.

Monkey crouched down, closed his eyes, took a deep breath—and leaped straight into the waterfall—and vanished.