When the Monk of Tang and his disciples journeyed to the Western Paradise to fetch the sacred books, in one autumn the pilgrims found themselves in the Ssu Ha Li Country, where everything was red–red walls, red tiles, red varnish on doors and furniture. Sixty li from this place was the Flaming Mountain, which lay on their road westward.
An old man they met told them that it was possible to cross the Flaming Mountain only if they had the Magic Iron Fan, which, waved once, quenched fire, waved a second time produced strong wind, and waved a third time produced rain. This magic fan was kept by the Iron-fan Princess in a cave on Ts’ui-yün Shan, 1500 li distant. On hearing this, Sun Wukong mounted a cloud, and in an instant was transported to the cave. The Iron-fan Princess was one of the lochas (wives and daughters of demons), and the mother of the Red Child Demon, who had become a disciple of Kuan Yin. On seeing the Monkey she was very angry, and determined to be revenged for the outwitting of her husband, King Ox-head, and for the carrying away of her son. Sun Wukong said: “If you lend me the Iron Fan I will bring your son to see you.” For answer she struck him with a sword. They then fell to fighting, the contest lasting a long while, until at length, feeling her strength failing, the Princess took out the Iron Fan and waved it. The wind it raised blew Sun Wukong to a distance of 84,000 li, and whirled him about like a leaf in a whirlwind. But he soon returned, reinforced by further magic power lent him by the Buddhist saints. The Princess, however, deceived him by giving him a fan which increased the flames of the mountain instead of quenching them. Sun Wukong and his friends had to retreat more than 20 li, or they would have been burned.
The local mountain-gods now appeared, bringing refreshments, and urging the pilgrims to get the Fan so as to enable them to proceed on their journey. Sun Wukong pointed to his fan and said: “Is not this the Fan?” They smiled and said: “No, this is a false one which the Princess has given you.” They added: “Originally there was no Flaming Mountain, but when you upset the furnace in Heaven five hundred years ago the fire fell here, and has been burning ever since. For not having taken more care in Heaven, we have been set to guard it. The Demon-king Ox-head, though he married the locha Princess, deserted her some two years ago for the only daughter of a fox-king. They live at Chi-lei Shan, some three thousand li from here. If you can get the true Iron Fan through his help you will be able to extinguish the flames, take your Master to the West, save the lives of many people round here, and enable us to return to Heaven once more.”
Sun Wukong at once mounted a cloud and was soon at Chi-lei Shan. There he met the Fox-princess, whom he upbraided and pursued back to her cave. The Ox-demon came out and became very angry with Sun Wukong for having frightened her. Sun Wukong asked him to return with him to the locha Princess and persuade her to give him the Magic Fan, This he refused to do. They then fought three battles, in all of which Sun Wukong was successful. He changed into the Ox-demon’s shape and visited the locha Princess. She, thinking he was the Ox-demon, gladly received him, and finally gave him the Magic Fan; he then set out to return to his Master.
The Power of the Magic Fan
The Ox-demon, following after Sun Wukong, saw him walking along, joyfully carrying the Magic Fan on his shoulder. Now Sun Wukong had forgotten to ask how to make it small, like an apricot leaf, as it was at first. The Ox-demon changed himself into the form of Pa-chieh, and going up to Sun Wukong he said: “Brother Sun, I am glad to see you back; I hope you have succeeded.” “Yes,” replied Sun Wukong, and described his fights, and how he had tricked the Ox-demon’s wife into giving him the Fan. The seeming Pa-chieh said: “You must be very tired after all your efforts; let me carry the Magic Fan for you.” As soon as he had got possession of it he appeared in his true form, and tried to use it to blow Sun Wukong away 84,000 li, for he did not know that the Great Holy One had swallowed a wind-resisting pill, and was therefore immovable. He then put the Magic Fan in his mouth and fought with his two swords. He was a match for Sun Wukong in all the magic arts, but through the aid of Pa-chieh and the help of the local gods sent by the Master the Monkey was able to prevail against him. The Ox-demon changed himself many times into a number of birds, but for each of these Sun Wukong changed himself into a swifter and stronger one. The Ox-demon then changed himself into many beasts, such as tigers, leopards, bears, elephants, and an ox 10,000 feet long. He then said to Sun Wukong, with a laugh: “What can you do to me now?” Sun Wukong seized his rod of iron, and cried: “Grow!” He immediately became 100,000 feet high, with eyes like the sun and moon. They fought till the heavens and the earth shook with their onslaughts.
Defeat of the Ox-demon
The Ox-demon being of so fierce and terrible a nature, both Buddha in Heaven and the Taoist Celestial Ruler sent down whole legions of celebrated warriors to help the Master’s servant. The Ox-demon tried to escape in every direction, one after the other, but his efforts were in vain. Finally defeated, he was made to promise for himself and his wife to give up their evil ways and to follow the holy precepts of the Buddhist doctrine.
The Magic Fan was given to Sun Wukong, who at once proceeded to test its powers. When he waved it once the fires on Flaming Mountain died out. When he waved it a second time a gentle breeze sprang up. When he waved it a third time refreshing rain fell everywhere, and the pilgrims proceeded on their way in comfort.