The Monkey and Ape Wine

Scholar Cao Loyin(曹學士洛禋) once told me this story.

In the spring of the forty-third year of Kangxi(康熙)’s reign, he and his friend Pan Xichou(潘錫疇) traveled to Huangshan(黃山) and arrived at the Wenshu Monastery(文殊院), where they dined with monks including Xuezhuang(雪莊). Suddenly, the monks disappeared from the table, leaving only their heads visible. Xuezhuang said, ‘This is the ‘floating cloud atop(雲過),’ no need for the two guests to be surprised.’

The next day, they reached the Yunfeng Cave(雲峰洞) and found an old man living there. He stood nine feet tall, had long beards, wore simple clothes, and grass shoes, sitting upright on a stone bed. Scholar Cao asked for some tea, to which the old man chuckled and replied, ‘In this remote mountain valley, where would tea come from?’ Cao had roasted rice with him and offered some to the old man, who said, ‘I haven’t tasted rice in over sixty years.’ When Cao asked for the old man’s name, he revealed, ‘I am Zhou Zhi(周執), once a general of the Ming Dynasty. I’ve been living in seclusion here since the end of the Ming Dynasty, for about a hundred and thirty years. This cave used to be inhabited by apes but was later taken over by a tiger. The apes, helpless, requested me to drive away the tiger, so I settled here.’

Scholar Cao and Mr. Pan looked around the cave and saw two swords on the old man’s stone bed, emitting a radiant light akin to white snow. On a stone table were arranged the Hetu and Luoshu diagrams along with the sixty-four hexagrams. Dozens of tiger skins were piled on the ground. The old man smiled at Scholar Cao and Mr. Pan, saying, ‘Tomorrow, the apes will come to celebrate my birthday. It will be quite a spectacle. Welcome to join.’ Before he finished speaking, several young apes appeared at the cave entrance. Spotting strangers, they quickly bounced away and hid. The old man said, ‘Since I rid them of the tiger threat, they are grateful to me and take turns daily to serve me.’ Immediately, he called out, ‘I want to host here. Quickly gather some firewood, cook taro, and bring it over!’ Hearing the command, the young apes leaped away. In no time, they returned carrying firewood and cooked taro, offering it to Scholar Cao and Mr. Pan. At that moment, Scholar Cao thought, ‘If only there was some wine.’ Surprisingly, the old man read his mind and promptly led them to a cliff, revealing a stone cover. Underneath, in a small hollow, was filled with clear, greenish wine emitting a fragrant aroma. The old man said, ‘This is Monkey and Ape Wine.’ They drank the wine together. As they became tipsy, the old man unsheathed the swords and began to dance. In his hands, the swords moved like lightning and stirred up whirlwinds. After finishing the dance, the old man walked back into the cave and lay on a tiger skin, telling Cao and Pan, ‘If you’re hungry, freely gather some pine nuts and acorns to eat.’ Both Cao and Pan felt invigorated after consuming the nuts and acorns. Scholar Cao’s long-standing ailment from the cold was nearly eighty to ninety percent cured.

The old man then led Scholar Cao and Mr. Pan to another cliff. There sat a white ape with long beards inside a small hut made of pine branches, holding a scripture, chanting in an unfamiliar language. Below the hut, thousands of apes echoed the rhythm of the white ape’s recital, sometimes bowing, sometimes dancing. Scholar Cao and Mr. Pan were delighted by the scene and hurried to the Wenshu Monastery, hoping to bring Xuezhuang to witness it. However, when they returned to the Yunfeng Cave for the second time, the cave was empty, and the old man had vanished without a trace.

Translated from《猢猻酒》in 《子不語》:


12 thoughts on “The Monkey and Ape Wine”

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