The Monkey King is one of the four classics of Chinese literature, standing alongside Dream of the Red Chamber, the Water Margin and Three Kingdoms in the pantheon of must-read Chinese novels. If you're new to the story and don't want to miss any of it, we suggest you start with our opening paragraph of the novel as previously annotated. If you find reading about the traditional Chinese calendar system wearying you can skip ahead to where the action picks up by starting with the third paragraph in our selection today.

Continuing where our first chapter left off, the first paragraph in our selection today briefly reiterates the Chinese creation myth, which holds that the universe was brought into being through the tearing open of a heavenly void. The world is briefly described as consisting of four different continents governed by a number of divine rulers before the novel shifts its focus to a mysterious island far offshore. This island is then described in depth in a stand-alone poem. The ending of this poem is much easier than its opening: don't be discouraged.

Our story starts in earnest with the third paragraph however, where we are introduced to an enormous rock at the peak of the island mountain. As those familiar with The Dream of the Red Chamber's opening allegory will guess, this rock is of course a sentient creature. And in time it splits open to reveal an egg which is carved by the wind into the shape of a monkey. This monkey is like all other monkeys, except for its flaming eyes which shoot out fiery beams of light. The excitement this causes naturally attracts the attention of the Gods, who gather to discuss the creature in the final paragraph and conclude that it is of divine origin.

As with all of our annotated Chinese short stories, we encourage premium subscribers to click through to our text page and read this 16th century story in the original Chinese. And the good news is that you don't need a dictionary to do this at all. Simply hover your mouse over any word for a popup containing an exact definition of the word in its proper context. And be sure to enable the "extra notes" field in your popups for additional information including explanatory notes, suggested translations of particularly thorny sentences and much more.