from Wu Ch’eng-en, ca. 1500 - ca. 1582, based on ancient Chinese folklore, and translated by Arthur Waley
King of the Mountain of Flowers & Fruit, Disciple Aware of Vacuity, Great Sage, Equal to Heaven; having been made King of the Monkeys for his brave curiosity; having been taught the way of immortality and flight, as well as the trick of the Earthly Conclusion, which involves seventy-two kinds of transformation; having demanded favours of the Dragons of Four Seas, and thus acquiring splendid armour and the iron cudgel of the ancients, once used to pound the Milky Way flat; having cleverly acquired the position of Peach Gardener of Heaven and subsequently failing his duties thereof and ruining the Peach Banquet of the Queen of Heaven; having stolen elixir from and insulted Lao Tzu, Supreme Patriarch of Tao; finally came face to face with Buddha, before whom he demanded offering of the seat of the Jade Emperor of Heaven.
“He may have begun young,” said Monkey, “but that is no reason why he should keep the throne forever. There is a proverb that says, ‘This year, the Jade Emperor’s turn; next year, mine.’”
Monkey had a knack for improvised proverbs.
“I’ll wager with you,” said Buddha. “If you are really so clever, jump off the palm of my right hand. If you succeed, I’ll tell the Jade Emperor to come and live with me in the Western Paradise, and you shall have his throne without more ado. But if you fail, you shall go back to earth and do penance there for many a kalpa before you come to me again with your talk.”
“This Buddha,” Monkey thought to himself, “is a perfect fool. I can jump a hundred and eight thousand leagues, while his palm cannot be as much as eight inches across. How could I fail to jump clear of it?” “You’re sure you are in a position to do this for me?” he asked.
“Of course I am,” said Buddha.
Monkey took a flying leap and zoomed so fast he became invisible. And he came to a stop in the middle of the air when he came to five giant pink pillars. He figured this to be the very End of the World, and therefore could jump no further. He just about turned around to jump back and collect on his wager when he realized he should leave record of his accomplishment, so he pulled some hairs from behind his shoulder and chewed them up and spat them out and yelled, “Change!” The hairs became a writing brush charged with heavy ink, with which Monkey wrote at the base of the center pillar, The Great Sage Equal to Heaven reached this place. And for added disrespect, he relieved nature at the base of the first pillar, and somersaulted back to where he had come from.
Standing on the Buddha’s palm, he said, “Well, I’ve gone and come back. You can go and tell the Jade Emperor to hand over the Palaces of Heaven.”
“You stinking ape,” said Buddha, “you’ve been on the palm of my hand all the time.”
Monkey resisted. He explained that he had jumped clear to the End of the World; and, on top of that, he had left a record, and he politely invited the Buddha to join him and go see for himself. The Buddha assured Monkey there was no need. “Just look down.” Monkey looked down at the Buddha’s middle finger and saw, written there, in heavy black ink, The Great Sage Equal to Heaven reached this place. And from the fork between Buddha’s thumb and forefinger, came the rank stench of nasty monkey urine.