The Ultimate Fight: Red Child Vs. Monkey King

The Monkey King is by far one of the most powerful figures in Chinese folklore, singlehandedly taking on entire legions of celestial generals and felling the mightiest of monsters with a single blow. But as glowing as his resume is, there was a time when even Golden Monkey was completely stumped.

In the 2024 Shen Yun dance story Golden Monkey Battles Red Child, he summons dragons and shapeshifts but still loses to a little boy.

Trekking through perilous mountains, Tang Monk and his bodyguards stumble upon a seemingly innocent child tied to a tree. (Qing dynasty drawing)

How to Catch a Monk

This story is drawn from the sixteenth-century Ming Dynasty novel, Journey to the West. Trekking through perilous mountains on their way to what today we call India, Tang Monk and his bodyguards—PigsySandy, and Monkey King—stumble upon a seemingly innocent child tied to a tree.   

Monkey King knows the game too well and instantly recognizes the boy. He is about to smite the kid, but the monk, who is thoroughly duped, stops Monkey in his tracks by chanting a spell that throws Monkey to the ground writhing in pain from a terrible headache.

Tang Monk draws near the boy, only to discover him to be the infamous Red Child in disguise! Monk is taken captive and hurriedly escorted to the demon’s lair, where he finds himself the center of dinner preparations with him as the entrée.

From Bully to Bodyguard

Hundreds of years before meeting Tang Monk, Monkey was wreaking havoc in the heavens. When he wasn’t stealing peaches of eternal life, he was crashing celestial parties, harassing dragons, and so on, for decades. On one of his many adventures he met the Bull Demon King and, after realizing they were of one heart, the two became sworn brothers.

What they didn’t expect was that Monkey’s shenanigans would finally catch up to him and he would be caught and punished. Serving a five-hundred-year sentence trapped under Five Finger Mountain, Monkey gradually came around to the conclusion that living as a heavenly hooligan was not the best lifestyle design. As his cries of repentance took on more genuine notes, Bodhisattva Guanyin, the “Goddess of Compassion,” gave Monkey an opportunity to end his sentence and assigned him the role of protecting Tang monk on his perilous journey.

A Precious Snack

Why did the monk need protection? Word got out in the international demon and monster community that the monk was the reincarnated friend of Buddha himself, and that a single bite of his flesh would grant immortality.

The monk’s human body made him vulnerable, and all manner of evil creatures drooled at the thought of the tasty monk passing by their lairs on his journey west.

One of these lairs belonged to the son of Bull Demon King and Princess Iron Fan, none other than Red Child.

And so it was that Red Child laid a trap for Tang Monk, captured him, and dragged him away to his lair. 

Monkey King being no match for Red Child’s flame, retreats in scorching defeat.(Qing dynasty drawing)

Why Kids Shouldn’t Play with Fire

Red Child may look juvenile, but he’s a formidable warrior. After training for 300 years, he mastered the use of Samadhi Fire. This flame can torch entire valleys with a fire that never burned out and is completely immune to water. The Monk’s situation is desperate and he’s about to be served up as barbequed monk. 

Monkey is determined to rescue his master, so he flies up to the sky and then dives into the sea to seek the help of the four Dragon Kings. The Dragon Kings can summon torrents and floods, and what better way to put out a flame than the power of the sea? 

 Monkey and the dragons fly out of the sea palace, find Red Child’s lair, and blast open the doors. But they are no match for Red Child’s flame and retreat in scorching defeat.

Divine Intervention

But Tang Monk had a mission—he  couldn’t just be cooked alive en route without successfully fetching the sacred scriptures. Just when all hope seems lost, Bodhisattva Guanyin swoops in. Using her white vase, she easily puts out Red Child’s fire with a little spritz and then flings a golden ring at the bull’s son. 

Using her white vase, Bodhisattva Guanyin easily puts out Red Child’s fire. (Qing dynasty drawing)

Following one final skirmish with Monkey, Red Child realizes he has lost and begs the goddess for mercy, embarking on a new path as her sworn disciple. Later in the novel, Red Child, now named Shancai, actually helps Monkey on one of his endeavors. 

The four heroes continue on their journey, where more hungry monsters and temptations lurk in ambush along the path of their spiritual quest.


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