Horsey and Sandy Join the Pilgrimage

To complete the roll call of Pilgrims in the classic Chinese Journey to the West, we need to introduce Sandy and Horsey, as they are called in English versions of legend. Today’s post will start with Horsey, (Yulong in Chinese, meaning “rain dragon”), then finish up with Sandy, (Sha Wujing in Chinese, meaning “Sand Awakened to Purity.”

Yulong, the White Dragon Horse (aka Horsey)

Yulong, son of Dragon King Ao Run, is the least well-known of the Pilgrims in Journey to the West, since for the most part he serves merely as transportation, the White Horse that Tang Monk Xuanzang rides for most of the way. Horsey, as we call him in English, is actually only the third son of Ao Run, who rules the Western Sea, as one of the Four Dragon Kings who govern the four oceans thought to bound ancient China in the cardinal directions to the North, South, East, and West.

Dragons play a major part in Chinese myth and legend: they dwell in royal courts made of crystal beneath the waves, where they command armies whose brigades and divisions are made up of the many different creatures who live in the sea. They are also in charge of the weather, and create great storms and whirlwinds, sometimes appearing to mortal humans as waterspouts and maelstroms.

Photo of a Dragon King in his temple.

Dragon King in his temple

In ancient times many villages had temples dedicated to their local Dragon King, where they made sacrifices in order to persuade their powerful deity to send good weather for their crops — not too much rain so as to flood, but not so little as to create a drought.

Interestingly, dragons of Western myth tend to resemble lizards, while those of the East are more often winged serpents, when inhabiting their “natural” form. But Chinese dragons can change their shape at will — into, say, a Lordly White Horse, as with our Pilgrims, but they can also take human form, in which they often appear with a dragon head wearing a crown.

Being the third son of a king isn’t necessarily a great thing for a dragon to be, living on hand-me-downs of hand-me-downs, and with no hope of inheriting very much in the future, which may explain why Sandy “acts out” so badly when Monkey and the Tang Monk first encounter him. But once again, Guanyin has been there before them, and when he finds out who they are, Horsey becomes the most steadfast of the Pilgrims on the Journey to the West.

Sha Monk, Monk Sand, or Sandy

Of all the pilgrims, Friar Sand most resembles his Master Xuanzang in, well, monkishness. Like Pigsy — but NOT like Monkey, who was a party-crasher in heaven — Sandy was a high-ranking officer in the Celestial Army, a Curtain-Lifting General, whose position of honor was to attend the chariot of the Jade Emperor in the Hall of Miraculous Mist. (Wouldn’t you love to live in a place with a name like that?) But one day, in a fit of rage (his defenders say it was an accident), he smashed a crystal goblet belonging to the Queen Mother of the West (also known as the Perfected Marvel of the Western Florescence and the Ultimate Worthy of the Grotto Yin), and this called down upon him 800 blows with a rod by her infuriated son the Jade Emperor, who then exiled him to the mortal realm. There the disgraced former general was incarnated as a hideous man-eating sand demon. And every day, seven swords flew down from heaven to stab him in the chest, which is why he took up living in the middle of the Flowing-Sand River in order to protect himself.

Drawing of Friar Sand with his crescent-moon staff and necklace of skulls

Image of Sha Wujing

His appearance is truly hideous: a huge red beard, a bald pate, and a necklace of skulls. The skulls came from nine monks who had previously tried to make the Journey to the West to fetch scriptures: even though they begged Sandy for mercy, he devoured them anyway, sucked the marrow out of their bones, and threw the leftovers into the river. All the bones sank, but the skulls floated, so Sandy played with them and finally fashioned jewelry out of them.

When Guanyin was sent by the Buddha to find bodyguards for the Tang Monk on his Journey to the West, she enlisted the monster, gave him the name Sha Wujing, and, as she had done with Monkey and Pigsy, gave him a promise of redemption at the end of the Journey.

Sandy carries a Staff called Yueyachan, which has a crescent moon blade at one end and a spade on the other. He knows 18 transformations (to Pigsy’s 36 & Monkey’s 72), and fights best in water, even though Pigsy can outlast him in a test of endurance, and Monkey can defeat him on land or in the air. Also unlike them, Sandy doesn’t have superpowers or superfaults either. He is polite, obedient, and rather intellectual like his Master — perhaps Guanyin felt the group needed one more-or-less normal person!

The Flowing-Sand River in which Sandy lives before joining the Journey is also the boundary of the known world in the story. When Sandy joins the Pilgrims, the Journeyers cross the frontier into the wilderness — where, as we know, pretty much anything can happen…


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2 Responses to Horsey and Sandy Join the Pilgrimage

  1. williamgeorge745 says:

    Love your narrative, Bill. You write beautifully, with such intelligence and wit. Thank you for this absolute treasure of a blog.

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