A tragic tale of doomed love, too soon forgotten. 38 and 58 triangle. Pseudo-academic rambling and vicious slander in very vile verse. And the characters you know and love are all dead.
AU as long as Minekura doesn't perversely decide to follow the timeline of the original Journey. Gratuitious abuse of Chinese pinyin in place of proper Japanese names (let's pretend it's due to language shift or a different dialect, or both).
Saiyuki: A Mao Dun Critical Edition
Edited by Tai Wu Liao and Mei Shi Zhuo
With authoritative text, contextual and source materials, and critical responses.
Niu Qiao Press
The original preface to Genjo Sanzo: The Legends and the Man, by Xia Yan Ren (617-706)
My Return to Chou'an*
Many are the songs and tales of the epic Journey undertaken by Genjo Sanzo and his faithful Disciples, and of their struggle against the foul Gyuumaoh and his wicked cronies, whose depredations irrevocably destroyed countless lives, tore loving families asunder and devastated the land. Who has not heard how the Fount of Wisdom did smite the masses of vile demons with the might of his righteous fury and the Exorcist Smith and Wesson, vanquishing so many that afterwards, all the demons that yet survive did slink away in shame to hide in their foul dens, never daring to show their faces again in the light of the sun?
Indeed, so infrequently do demons appear these days that they have become relegated to the roles of bogeymen with which parents menace their fractious children, and some of the more sceptical among the younger generation deem the tales of horror told by their parents to be exaggerations of such little worth that parts of this fearful history have gone unrecorded or even been expunged from the older accounts, whose authors are too decomposed to object.
Having spent much of my early life in the peaceful city of Chou'an, and later in remote Munin Village, both places which went largely unmolested by the ravening hordes of demons, I am shamed to admit that I, too, would have been accounted among these unbelieving children had I not had the misfortune in my childhood to fall afoul of a terrifying ravenous demon with burning yellow eyes, not unlike the hungry ghosts that are said to wander abroad during the seventh lunar month, that fell on me and devoured the lunch packed for me by my mother before it fled, to my vast relief. I had feared for my own life then, but I would later learn that it was only a pet demon, which the temple was keeping for some unknown reason, that had mistaken me for one of its keepers due to the shaved state of my pate, a fact I employed ruthlessly to keep my mother from cutting my hair, and often reminded my mother of thereafter whenever she complained of its length.
But I digress. I was speaking of the numerous legends that surround Holy Sanzo, for though his Journey took place at a comparatively recent time in our history, already it is so muddled by so many anecdotal and often fantastical accounts, some of which are obvious frauds, such as the one of an innkeeper who alleged that renegade deities in pursuit of the great man had destroyed his bar along with many valuable bottles of well-aged liquors in his insurance claim; along with others that have clearly been exaggerated in the retelling, like the one in which Holy Sanzo (or perhaps one of his Disciples, according to another similar tale) was said to have healed a grievously injured little girl after rescuing her from demons; and moreover, those conflicting accounts which would have him present in two distant locations at the same time. It is not entirely improbable that others might have tried to capitalise on his reputation, and indeed, there is another little-known account in which two Sanzos arrived in the same town nearly together, causing much consternation, especially after the false Sanzo, along with his Disciples, revealed themselves to be marauding demons of considerable power. All this but means we must further identify which accounts truly speak of him and which tell only of the impostors.
Therefore I set myself on the monumental task of sifting through the many, often contradictory stories for the thread of truth that would allow us to see truly the man at the heart of these legends, before the legends grow further in the telling and make it utterly impossible to discern fact from fiction. This, as you will see, is a more complicated matter than even I expected.
Hence my pilgrimage to my childhood home of Chou'an in the year 705, nine and forty summers to the day after Holy Sanzo's triumphant return with the lost Seiten Sutra, and forty-one years after his death at the age of sixty-two. By then, most of the official celebrations were done with, and the revellers would be at home nursing their hangovers, leaving the streets and the holy temple wherein resided many of the records I wished to peruse far more tranquil than they would have been at other times.
Having been away from Chou'an for nigh on fifty years, since before his return, imagine my surprise when the first sounds that greeted my humble ears was a crude little children's ditty in which Holy Sanzo acts nothing like the gentle paragon of virtue he is typically portrayed as in song and story:
Oh Sanzo you bouzu,
What have you done?
You've been spanking the monkey
and shooting poor kappa
Because it was fun!
I expect there was more, but at this point the children discovered me and ran away, no doubt expecting that one as venerable as myself would berate them for their disrespect. I hope at a future date to find someone who knows, or will admit to knowing, the entire song. At the very least, I would like to have some of the phrases explained to me, for I am not well acquainted with the modern language. 'Spanking the monkey' is common enough, but 'hitting' or 'shooting the kappa' crops up in more than one such ditty (see also the scandalous eighty-three stanza limerick 'Four men in a jeep' were heading West', found anonymously scrawled on an alley wall in a district of ill repute), yet no one seems quite certain of its significance, though suggestions have been made pertaining a possible relation to the activity of 'spanking the monkey'. Yet that would seem like unnecessary detail, even for one so apparently licentious as described -- But forgive my rambling, for I am old and easily distracted, so it seems.
Within even the temple library itself, I found scribbled into the margins of assorted biographies and histories more libellous doggerel, claiming that Holy Sanzo "smoked like a chimney, more than a ham ", and "his liver was pickled with all the beer that he drank", among others. Yet in the same hand are there notes familiarly addressing some question of detail or fact to another that I am led to believe was the Disciple Cho Hakkai, and these were answered with utmost courtesy, even affection, in a manner suggesting that if the composer was not himself a Disciple, he was at least more than casually acquainted with one of Holy Sanzo's Disciples.
My curiosity thus piqued, I took myself back into the street, seeking more brash children in hopes of finding more verses of that ditty of which I spoke before, but none would admit to any knowledge of it, though I managed to find an incomplete line having to do with 'punk' and 'drunk', a counting song with Sanzo downing fifty shots of vodka and going up in flames on lighting a cigarette, and a few darkly muttered rumours that the great man might have had engaged in improper relations with one, more, or even all three of his Disciples over the course of the Journey.
Finally, one of the children took pity and guided me to her grandfather, who claimed to have known Holy Sanzo personally, though he would not say how. He was a man much advanced in years, older even than myself, with wispy white hair and pink eyes like those rare people born with no colour in their hair or eyes, though his wrinkled brown skin belied that guess.
The old pilgrim was much more forthcoming on the subject of obscure tales on the life of Sanzo and his Disciples, though I suspect he may have composed some of the cruder verses himself. What I found especially significant, however, was an epic poem he recited for me which, though incredible, does include the names of the two less famed Disciples and fit in with the chronology of several other independent accounts. It purported to tell the tale of a doomed romance between the two Disciples, with Cho Hakkai rebuffing the advances of Sha Gojyo, and ending with Hakkai's accepting Sanzo out of pity. I include here a stanza in which Hakkai cruelly turns down the love of the faithful Gojyo, and one in which Sanzo's unworthiness as a suitor was underlined by a Hakkai reproaching his ingratitude for washing his robes.
Dear Gojyo, I swear to you
I would be your love and true
Yet was I named for eight precepts**
Which I would fain keep all except
Kill we must on this long road
And lies are quite my usual mode
Still I must keep no less than five
Such are the terms by which I live.
To break one more among the rest
I'd rather have a bed than you, I do confess
So say no more, leave me be
And seek a better mate than me.
Then cried Hakkai, at his wits' end
I've done my best and all I can!
I know your robes were once so white
But you never change them, now they're a sight
I've soaked and rinsed them all for you
I've washed and scrubbed and bleached them too -
I'm sorry if they make you look sallow
I can't make them aught but yellow.
All day and night I serve your needs
And bear without a grouse your cruel deeds.
I work my fingers to the bone
And bear my sorrows all alone.
Then what say you? This is not clean!
A fairer thanks I have not seen!
Another point I found of peculiar interest was the little-known fact that after his return, Genjo Sanzo did enter into quiet retirement with the Disciple Cho Hakkai, who returned to the temple to live out his remaining days upon his Master's death. A fortunate coincidence or disguised truth? This I cannot tell.
I believe the old pilgrim would have told me more, but at this point, he was called away to dinner by his grand-daughter, and choked to death on a fishbone that same night, so I never heard the story's end.
I am a very old man, and this great project I fear will not be completed within my lifetime, or even soon after my death. Nevertheless, I feel quite satisfied that I leave it in capable hands, and trust that future generations will be able to gain from it at last a true account of the great man, Genjo Sanzo, rather than the mere archetype of the perfect man he is commonly regarded as today.
* the city known today as Xi'an
** Hakkai - Eight precepts of Buddhism:
1 - Do not kill
2 - Do not steal
3 - Do not lie
4 - Do not engage in sexual activity
5 - Do not consume toxicants/intoxicants
6 - Eat moderately, and only at the appropriate time
7 - Do not adorn the body or indulge in entertainments eg singing and dancing
8 - Do not lie in a high or luxurious bed
All eight are followed only on holy days, otherwise strict Buddhists try to keep three or five.
Though a noted historian and compiler of obscure folklore in his prime, in his declining years Xia Yan Ren developed regrettable tendencies towards salacious speculations on his subjects. As the initiator and sponsor for this great project, and one who has devoted many years to gathering and studying the accounts of the Journey, he was naturally asked to write a preface for the book, which contribution caused much embarrassment among his fellows, and was dropped from the collection as soon as decently possible after his death, such that no suggestion of even its existence tainted the final work. We have included this heretofore unpublished preface as a curiosity so that the reader may have some idea of the many wild tales of gods and demons that circulated during Xia's time, besides which no other records surviving make mention of the false Sanzo and his entourage, who might well have been the origin of those profane ditties he included, also largely lost to time.
Glossary of puerile puns for the hopelessly anal
Mao Dun - Spear Shield, ie self-contradictory.
Tai Wu Liao - Too idle.
Mei Shi Zhuo - Nothing to do.
Niu Qiao - Ox Bridge. Duh.
Xia Yan Ren - Blind Person.
Munin Village -> No Person Village, ie Uninhabited Village.