The Chinese King Kong
The Chinese King Kong
The tale “The White Ape” narrates the adventures of gigantic ape that resembles King Kong in many aspects: its gigantic size, its big strength and his liking for human women. Here is the story:
In the Liang Dynasty, troops were once sent to the barbarous south to subdue rebellions there. During that operation, Ouyang He, captain of a small detachment, led his men into the virgin mountains and successfully brought the cave- dwelling tribes to their knees.
When the aboriginals saw his pretty, fair-skinned wife in camp, they were very much disturbed. How can Your Excellency bring such a beauty into this region?» they muttered their concern. «This is a dangerous place for young women. There is a woman-chaser at large. He steals them from their homes, especially those with good looks. Your Excellency must look out.”
Half alarmed and half convinced, he intensified security, and at night had a special squad patrol the bungalow in which he hid his wife. As a further precaution he had her accompanied by a dozen slave girls.
It was a murky and wet night, yet it seemed to be passing peacefully for it was almost daybreak. Suddenly, the tired sentries were alerted by a slight stir. They checked and were surprised to find that the captain’s wife was already gone though the doors and windows were as tightly locked as as before. It was a mystery how anyone could have gotten through without being noticed. The morning fog was dense in that craggy area, obscuring everything. Search teams were withheld until there was light enough, and they didn’t even find a trace.
The extremely grieved captain vowed that he would not withdraw from that area until he found his wife. He stationed his troops there on the excuse of illness. Day after day he would go out in every direction and search high and low for his wife.
A month thus passed when one day he found an embroidered shoe in the bush some 30 miles from camp. Though it had been exposed to harsh weather, he had no difficulty in recognizing it was his wife’s. The shoe brought him renewed pain and yet made him more determined than ever. To penetrate deeper into the uninhabited mountains, he selected a team of 30 tough soldiers and carried provisions for longer trips.
Ten days later, they were about 60 miles from base when they saw a luxuriant peak to the south. Reaching its foot, they found it was moated by a rushing stream. They had to build a raft. Landing on the opposite bank, they spotted flickers of red among the verdant bamboo growth atop the looming cliffs and caught floating notes of light-hearted laughter. With the help of ropes and vines they climbed up. Different from the surrounding area, the trees atop seemed to have been planted by hand and there were many beautiful and rare flowers. The grass was as well kept as a lawn. It was a kind of exotic solitude. A stone gate faced east. Dozens of brightly dressed women moved in and out, singing and playing. They didn’t seem to be embarrassed by strangers, and when the captain approached them, they simply asked, «What brought you here?» Hearing his explanation, they glanced at each other and sighed. “Your wife has been here for more than a month”, they told him. «She is sick in bed.»
They led him through a wicker door into a cave. There were three large chambers with beds lining the walls and the bedding was either silk or wool. His wife was lying on layers of plushy mattresses on a stone bed. Delicious dishes were laid out within her reach. As he bent over her, she gave him a quick glance and urgently waved him away.
“This is the home of a superman,” the women put in. «We and your wife are all in his hands. Some of us were caught 10 years ago. He has enormous strength and can easily break a man’s neck. A hundred soldiers with all their weapons would not be his match. You’re lucky he’s not back yet, Better leave right away. If you want to rescue your wife, come again with two jars of the best wine, 10 fat dogs and several dozen pounds of hemp. Well help you kill him. But don’t be here too early. Noontime will be all right. Now you have 10 days to get things ready.” So saying, they hurried him away.
He went back to collect those things and returned on the 10th day.
“He loves good wine, and every time he drinks he gets drunk.» an older woman told him. «That makes his body go limp. Even so, if we try to tie his hands and feet to the bedposts with lengths of silk, he might still break it. We must twist it with hemp. Perhaps that is the only way we can tie him down. His body is as hard as cast iron. Knives cannot hurt him, but he often takes care to shield a spot several inches below the navel. That must be his soft spot.» She pointed to a rock and said, «That’s where he keeps his food. You can hide there and wait quietly until I call for you. We’ll place the wine by the flowers and set the dogs free in the
woods.» The captain held his breath and waited.
The sun declined toward the west. Suddenly, something white cascaded from the heights and flowed right into the cave. Presently, a man over six feet tall with a flowing beard emerged from the cave. He was clad in white, with a stick in one hand and the other hand on the shoulder of one of the women. The dogs gave him a pleasant surprise. He leapt and ribbed, tore off a leg, sank his teeth into the juicy meat and
sucked. The women vied with one another to fill his jade cup. He seemed most content and stumbled back into the cave, leaning on the shoulders of the women. Sounds of billing and cooing poured out from the cave among chuckles and gurgles. After a long while, the woman appeared at the door, beckoning the captain in.
A giant white ape lay sprawled out on a bed, his four limbs tied down. He frowned when he saw the captain, his eyes flaring like thunderbolts, though he could not break free. The captain’s sword seemed to be hitting iron and rock. Then he remembered and stabbed below the navel. The blade sank in and blood spouted from the wound.
«It’s heaven that kills me, not you!» he bellowed. «Anyway, your wife is pregnant. Don’t kill the child. He’ll bring glory to his ancestors.» And that was his last breath.
The captain studied the place. There were hoards of jewelry and treasure that filled tables. What humans treasured, he had more than plenty. There were more than 30 women and all could be called beautiful without exaggeration. The longest held captive had been there 10 years. They said that when one’s beauty faded he would carry her away to where no one knew. He did all the hunting and collecting by himself. It seemed he was the only one of his kind. In the morning, he would wash his face and put on clothes like a human being, always wearing a hat and a white lined-robe. Seasonal changes didn’t seem to affect him. His body was covered with thick white hair several inches long. When at home, he would often read books inscribed on wood strips, the words of which were illegible. He kept his books under a flagstone.
On fine days, he might practice his paired swords for a change. He could whirl them into a solid patch of glistening light. His diet included a variety of things, mostly fruits and nuts. Dog meat was his favorite, however. As soon as it passed high noon he would disappear like a flash of light and used to return before sunset, often traveling over hundreds of miles during those few hours. He could always get what he needed. At night, he would make love from bed to bed. He hardly slept. Though he could speak our language fairly well, he looked more like an ape than a human.
In early fall this year, for no reason at all he let out a deep sigh, saying that he was charged by the mountain god and could be punished by death. To elude that fate he said he had to solicit the help of divine spirits. On the day of the past new moon he built a fire on the flagstone and burned his books, murmuring as if in a trance that he had lived 1,000 years without having a son, and now that he was about to have one he was going to die. He gazed long at us, from one face to another, with choked sobs. At last he spoke out, «This mountain peak is most inaccessible to outsiders. You haven’t even seen a woodcutter, have you? Anyone that can reach this place must have been sent by heaven.»
The captain returned to camp with the treasures and the women. Some of them still had a home waiting for them.
A year later, his wife gave birth to a boy who seemed to have taken after the ape. The captain was later killed by the new emperor of the Chen Dynasty. His son, however, grew up to be a famous literary figure of his time.»
The compilers of the Chinese book though that the son refers to Ouyang Xun (557-641), one of the most celebrated calligraphers of the early Tang Dynasty. He is said to have had the face of a monkey and an extremely quick wit. Such characteristics may have fostered the details of this story.
Originally published in Li Fang et al. Into the Porcelain Pillow- 101 tales from Records of the Taiping Era. Foreign Languages Press. Beijing. 1998.
Image: Hua Yan 華嵒 (1682–ca. 1765), White Monkey, 1747. Hanging scroll; ink and light color on paper; 139.5 x 63 cm (Painting), 252 x 80 cm (mount). Gift of J. Lionberger Davis, Class of 1900 (y1960-31). Princeton University Art Museum.
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