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The Three Sui Quash the Demons' Revolt

The Three Sui Quash the Demons' Revolt: A Comic Novel Attributed to Luo Guanzhong

translated, with an interpretive essay, by Lois Fusek
Copyright Date: 2010
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    The Three Sui Quash the Demons' Revolt
    Book Description:

    The twenty-chapter novel The Three Sui Quash the Demons’ Revolt is traditionally attributed to Luo Guanzhong (d. after 1364?), the alleged author of two of China’s most famous and beloved works of fiction, The Romance of the Three Kingdoms and The Water Margin. The Three Sui tells the story of the uprising of adherents of the Maitreya Buddha led by Wang Ze in 1047–1048. Wang Ze was eventually executed and all future heterodox activity outlawed. Paradoxically, The Three Sui treats the rebellion as an occasion for slapstick, baggy-pants humor in which facts are distorted and wildly mixed with fiction. Wang Ze's real-life lieutenants show up as a comical peddler and a mysterious Daoist priest. A celebrated warrior takes part in the rebellion despite having died seventeen years earlier. Although the novel is divided into chapters and otherwise follows the traditional format for such extended narratives, a careful examination reveals The Three Sui is an arrangement of self-contained vernacular stories. No story bears an intrinsic relationship to any other story. And because the integrity of the various stories has been so remarkably preserved, The Three Sui is a vernacular novel in which the vernacular story reigns supreme. Although the Wang Ze rebellion took place during the Northern Song dynasty (960–1127), ultimately The Three Sui is the story of the Ming dynasty (1368–1644) in Song masquerade. It calls attention to the social unrest, even anarchy, caused by the rising power and influence of movements like The White Lotus Society and warns of the Ming’s downfall unless such groups are contained. In this, the novel proved to be a prescient voice: The Ming collapsed as the result of a central authority weakened by mass sectarian uprisings. The Three Sui has been little known and sadly overlooked by scholars of Chinese literature and history. Now this vibrant translation and insightful interpretive essay make this early example of Chinese vernacular fiction available to a broad audience interested in comparative literature and fiction.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6070-7
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Translatorʹs Introduction
    (pp. xi-2)

    When I first read this novel, I knew only that it was attributed to Luo Guanzhong, who is thought to have died sometime after 1364, and that Luo is also said to have been the author of two of China’s greatest novels,The Romance of the Three KingdomsandThe Water Margin. I knew, moreover, that there were two versions ofThe Three Sui Quash the Demons’ Revolt: the twenty-chapter novel said to be by Luo and a forty-chapter version first published in 1620 by Feng Menglong (1574–1646). Feng attempted to resolve what he considered the inconsistencies of the...

  5. Preface to the San Sui ping yao zhuan
    (pp. 3-4)
  6. 1 The pawnbroker Moneybags Hu gets the magic painting His wife burns the painting and gives birth to Yongʹer
    (pp. 5-13)

    The poem says:

    When the emperor rises early, his ministers do so too.

    They gain the palace gates before the sky grows light.

    Many splendid nabobs dwell within the Eastern Capital.¹

    They reach their dotage strangers to the morning star.

    At the time of Emperor Renzong (r. 1022–1063) of the Song dynasty, the capital city Kaifeng, or Bianzhou, was as beautiful as silken brocade. Within the city, there were twelve miles of imperial avenues and twenty-eight gates.

    Houses of pleasure lined thirty-six lanes.

    Singing-girl palaces numbered seventy-two.

    And if there were any leftover empty lots,

    They served as gardens...

  7. 2 Hu Yongʹer goes to buy steamed cakes in a snowstorm Auntie Sheng gives her the magic teachings of the Goddess of the Ninth Heaven
    (pp. 14-19)

    The poem says:

    There has been little food in the kitchen of late.

    The baby weeps and wails at the empty rice basket.

    Mama then soothes her child with a gentle whisper,

    “Papa has a brand new poem for the prime minister.”¹

    On that night when Moneybags Hu, his wife Mrs. Hu, and his daughter Yong’er, were together in the octagonal pavilion in the back garden enjoying the Mid-Autumn Festival and drinking wine, it happened that the gatekeeper frantically rushed in and announced, “Master Hu, disaster has struck!” Moneybags said, “What kind of a disaster? Where is this disaster?” The...

  8. 3 Hu Yongʹer conjures up cash and rice Moneybags Hu angrily burns the magic wishing book
    (pp. 20-29)

    The poem says:

    The Goddess of the Ninth Heaven really astounds people.

    But they are afraid everything in the book is not true.

    Thus just because of one little fleeting fit of temper,

    The resolute and steadfast heart was put to the flames.

    That night when Yong’er looked at the book, she found it to be entitledThe Magic Teachings of the Goddess of the Ninth Heaven. She opened it to the first page, and there was written: “The Way to Metamorphose Money.” There was a picture of a single copper coin strung on a piece of rope. The instructions...

  9. 4 Hu Yongʹer changes straw into horses Hu Yongʹer changes beans into soldiers
    (pp. 30-36)

    The poem says:

    The demonic arts are of rare occurrence in the world;

    The Five Thunder Magic is comprehended by only a few.²

    If the heterodox engaged in the ways of the orthodox,

    Of a certainty, the gods would be favorably inclined.

    That day when it occurred to Moneybags to check up on his daughter, he went to the parlor, but she wasn’t there. He went to her bedroom, but she wasn’t there either. He went into the back garden, but she was nowhere to be seen. As he walked past the woodshed, however, he noticed that the door was...

  10. 5 The daughter of Moneybags Hu marries Idiot Boy Hu Yongʹer secretly flees to Zhengzhou
    (pp. 37-49)

    The poem says:

    The garrulous are hated; the taciturn are regarded as stupid.

    The wicked are despised; the good are thought to be gullible.

    The affluent are envied; the needy are treated with reproach.

    Consider, if you will, what it must take to accommodate Heaven.

    On that day Madam Li spoke to Moneybags Hu saying, “The son of Mr. Jiao is about thirty years old. His hair is tied up in horn-like tufts such as are worn by children. Saliva trickles from his mouth. A nurse dresses him, and three times a day she feeds him tea and rice. He...

  11. 6 Hu Yongʹer conjures up a hideous face at the inn Bu, the peddler, pursues Yongʹer, and she jumps into a well
    (pp. 50-57)

    The poem says:

    This flippant, flighty fellow makes you want to laugh.

    He meets a girl on the road and reckons her his wife.

    Wealth, pretty women, and wine up in the high towers,

    Who has not gone astray for the sake of these things?

    Can he not have heard the ancient saying, “Never love another man’s wife! Never ride another man’s horse?” Why then when he met a pretty girl on the road did his heart begin to beat with desire? The fellow said to the porter, “I would ask you for some hot water to wash my feet.”...

  12. 7 Bu Ji encounters Auntie Sheng in the Octagonal well Bu Ji is banished to Mizhou after presenting the golden caldron
    (pp. 58-65)

    The poem says:

    For those who have ever harbored evil in their hearts,

    It is untrue to say Heaven and Earth send retribution.

    Instead it is those selfsame sinful deeds of the past

    That come back to dog your every step in the present.²

    The men hauled up the bamboo basket, and with one voice they raised a shout. They looked at the diver who had been in the pink of health when he went down, but when brought up, he had a face like yellow wax. His hands and feet were stiff as a board. He was dead in...

  13. 8 Zhang Luan rescues Bu Ji in the woods Zhang Luan enjoys two moons at the shrine of a mountain deity
    (pp. 66-74)

    The poem says:

    The ritual of the Thunderbolt possesses mighty power.¹

    Two moons up in the sky throw the city into a dither.

    A cloud-grasping hand reached down from the empyrean

    To free one caught in the snares of Heaven and Earth.²

    At that time the magistrate ordered Bu Ji banished to the military garrison at Mizhou in Shandong Province. He was given twenty strokes of the cane, and the tattooer was summoned to place the “golden print” of the criminal on his cheek.³ The writ of sentence was sealed. The magistrate appointed two marshals, Dong Chao and Xue Ba...

  14. 9 Zuo, the lame priest, buys steamed cakes and hoodwinks Ren Qian Ren, Wu, and Zhang angrily pursue Zuo, the lame priest
    (pp. 75-82)

    The poem says:

    The magic that charred the cakes, stifled the fire,

    And blinked the pig’s eyes is exceedingly splendid.

    Just because they wanted to catch that lame priest,

    The three men got their chance to meet a sorceress.

    Now to continue our story—when the authorities of Zhengzhou submitted their memorial to Emperor Renzong, the emperor spread open the document on the table before him and read it through. He asked his civil and military advisers, “Gentlemen, what should be done to destroy the sorcerer who has killed the magistrate of Zhengzhou?” He had not yet finished speaking when...

  15. 10 The lame priest enters the belly of the Buddha in the Burial Mound Temple Ren, Wu, and Zhang dream they receive Yongʹerʹs magical art
    (pp. 83-94)

    The poem says:

    Chunyu dreamt that he went to the empire of Nanke,¹

    And Zhuang Zhou dreamt that he had become a butterfly.²

    The multitudinous things of this world are all dreams;

    Rise and fall, fame and ruin, are matters of a moment.

    When the lame priest saw that Ren, Wu, and Zhang were in hot pursuit, he took off with all speed. The faster they came, the faster he ran, but as they slowed the chase, he slowed his pace, and when they were no longer gaining on him, he came to a stop. The three men could not...

  16. 11 The Pellet Priest bilks Grand Commandant Bighearted Wang Du Qisheng magically beheads his son
    (pp. 95-105)

    The poem says:

    The art of the goddess of the Ninth Heaven is multifarious,

    But when you start to study it, it comes clear in a second.

    If you will abstain from avarice, anger, lechery, and lust,

    Then plainly you will be one of this world’s little saints.

    On the day when Grand Commandant Bighearted Wang went out of the city for a bit of relaxation and returned home, nothing more happened, and the little band split up to go its separate ways. However, on the following day, the grand commandant’s officers, servants, and toadies came to him and bowed...

  17. 12 His Excellency Bao orders the capture of the demon priest Second Brother Li denounces the demon and dies in a fall
    (pp. 106-117)

    The poem says:

    Man’s bounden duty is to safeguard honor in poverty;

    He must not consider unlawful treasure his very own.

    If a moth hurls itself into a flame, it is consumed;¹

    If a bat encounters a pole, it ends up in the grave.

    Inspector Wen rushed into the noodle shop at the head of a squad of patrolmen just as the priest was coming downstairs. Pointing his whip at the priest, the inspector ordered his men to take him prisoner. The priest, seeing that the police had come to arrest him, extended his hand, and quick as a wink,...

  18. 13 Yongʹer sells mud candles to gain the attention of Wang Ze Auntie Sheng counsels Wang Ze to plot rebellion
    (pp. 118-129)

    The poem says:

    Black magic really possesses stupendous power;

    It goes over and above the ken of the Daoists.

    Observe if you please, Yong’er’s mud candles;

    Even if lighted at dusk, they burn until dawn.

    Now Li the Second should never have denounced the priest merely because he coveted the 1,000 strings of cash in the first place. But having got the reward and used it to open a fruit shop, when the priest came to beg a vegetarian meal, the least he could have done would have been to repay one good turn with another instead of turning him...

  19. 14 Zuo, the lame priest, hands out cash and rice to muster an army Wang Ze is arrested and thrown into prison
    (pp. 130-135)

    The poem says:

    If the people say that the art of black magic has no validity,

    Perhaps it’s just that its secrets haven’t been handed on.

    If they were transmitted to someone with a righteous mind,

    What need then to follow divinities from unearthly realms?

    Just as Wang Ze was remarking on the horses in the parlor, he heard someone shout, “Are you plotting rebellion in there?” Wang Ze took fright and began to quake in lily-livered terror. But when he took a look, he saw a man of rather extraordinary appearance,

    An iron helmet was on his head;


  20. 15 The lame priest rescues Wang Ze and disables his captors Liu Yanwei leads an army to apprehend Wang Ze
    (pp. 136-140)

    The poem says:

    Of those who rant that becoming emperor is a cinch,

    Nine out of ten of them are sure to come a cropper.

    For though their stratagems may reach to the skies,

    They can’t stop the trouble in front of their eyes!

    The prefect was fit to be tied that day, and after ordering Wang Ze placed in a cangue, he handed him over to the Office of Public Order for official cross-examination. The administrator, one Wang Jiang, sounded out Wang Ze. “It is said that yesterday you paid two battalions of troops their wages. Is your house...

  21. 16 Wang Ze leads the people of Beizhou in rebellion Yongʹer marshals her troops and captures prefectures and cities
    (pp. 141-144)

    The poem says:

    One who lays false claim to a throne never stops to consider

    How his ability and virtue measure up to that of Emperor Yao.

    Like snow doused with boiling water, he is suddenly defeated.

    In a maze of swords, he cedes his corpse and does himself in.¹

    When a spy from Beizhou found out that Liu Yanwei had raised an army, he flew at a gallop to report to Wang Ze. The people of Beizhou were greatly distressed, and Wang Ze was petrified with fear. Right away he sought to confer with Zuo Chu, Zhang Luan, and...

  22. 17 Wen Yanbo leads troops to conquer Beizhou Assistant Commander Caoʹs blood pumps destroy the demonsʹ magical powers
    (pp. 145-150)

    The poem says;

    A hundred thousand bravos are marching on Beizhou;

    Time is running short for that army of evil fiends.

    Providence is sending the three Suis to do them in;

    Intrepid though they be, they’ll be turned to dust.

    Now when Wen Yanbo received the emperor’s summons, he proceeded with all haste to the Eastern Capital, where various officials were waiting at the Reception Hall for New Officials to welcome him to the city. Early in the morning on the following day he went to have audience with the emperor. What does a morning session of the imperial court...

  23. 18 The lame priestʹs flying millstone strikes the Duke of Lu The Many-eyed Monster saves the Duke of Lu and offers a word of advice
    (pp. 151-156)

    The poem says:

    The lame priest has practiced magic for many a year,

    But today ruin is his when he meets the blood pumps.

    Then the three Suis—Ma Sui, Li Sui, and Zhuge Sui—

    Will quash the demons and become famous forevermore.

    Commander Wen cleared a path within his ranks and sent out the 300 pumpers, who advanced in company with the crossbowmen. When they sighted the ghouls, ghosts, and fierce beasts, they shot them and squirted them. Wonder of wonders, all these weird creatures turned out to have been cut from paper or made of straw. The number...

  24. 19 Wen Yanbo chances to meet Zhuge Suizhi Fishsoup Li offers a plan to capture Wang Ze
    (pp. 157-169)

    The poem says:

    It’s a meritorious act to proffer plots and schemes,

    And so to vanquish utterly those fiendish renegades.

    The sovereigns will flourish for thousands of years,

    And perfidious traitors will one and all be stopped.

    If Commander Wen had not been destined to become chief councilor, it is very likely he would have lost his life. As the hail of sand and pebbles let loose, the routed soldiers turned and fled. When Commander Wen looked back, he saw that not a single soul was following behind him. He was riding along all by himself. Exceedingly perturbed and distressed,...

  25. 20 Beizhou City carves up the demons Commander Wen quashes the demons and returns to the Eastern Capital
    (pp. 170-174)

    The poem says:

    Hitherto such magical maneuvers couldn’t be combated.

    When a usurper is styled emperor, who can have peace?

    But came the day the Duke of Lu took hold of Wang Ze,

    He gave those perverse demons an object lesson or two!¹

    That night Li Sui and Fishsoup Li at the head of a squad of men stormed up to the door of Wang Ze’s bedroom. Wang Ze heard someone coming on the attack, and in a dreadful fright he said to Yong’er, “Lady, you have done me in.” Right away Wang Ze wanted to deliver a spell, but...

  26. A Fantastic History San Sui ping yao zhuan Reconsidered
    (pp. 175-234)

    The Three Sui Quash the Demons’ Revolt(San Sui ping yao zhuan) is a comic novel traditionally attributed to Luo Guanzhong, who is presumed to have died after 1364 and is the putative author of two of China’s most famous and beloved works of fiction,The Romance of the Three Kingdoms(Sanguo tongsu yanyi) andThe Water Margin(Shuihu zhuan).The Romance of the Three KingdomsandThe Water Marginare major novels. Each consists of over a hundred chapters, and each is set against a background of critical dynastic and historical events.The Three Sui, by contrast, consists of...

  27. APPENDIX A Early Historical and Anecdotal Materials Pertaining to the Wang Ze Rebellion
    (pp. 235-248)
  28. APPENDIX B A Note on the Possible Identity of Wang Shenxiu
    (pp. 249-256)
  29. Notes
    (pp. 257-292)
  30. Bibliography
    (pp. 293-300)
  31. Back Matter
    (pp. 301-304)