Portraits of Thirty-three Swordsmen – 5 Ruzhou Monk

No. 5 Ruzhou Monk: Five shots to the back of the head, Fei Fei says “No”.

Tang Dynasty, early years of Jianzhong (780 – 805), scholar Wei was moving his family to Ruzhou (central western part of Henan province). On the road he met a monk. Riding side by side, they struck up a good conversation.

Near sun down, they came to a fork in the road. The monk pointed to one path: “several miles that way is my monastery, would you like to stay there over night?” Wei said “Very good”. He sent his wife and rest of the family ahead. The monk directed his men to go ahead to prepare meal and bedding for the guest.

More than ten miles later, they still have not arrived. When asked, the monk pointed to a place in the woods where smoke is rising: “that is the place”.

But once there, the monk did not stop, but kept going. By now it’s already dark. Wei became suspicious. He was expert with slingshot, so secretly he took out the slingshot and 10 brass shots from his boots. Only then he confronted the monk: “Student has to arrive in Ruzhou by a set time. It is only because my desire to discuss spiritual matters with you that I agree to come this way. We have already traveled more than 20 miles and still have not arrived, why is that?” The Monk replied “Be patient, we’re almost there.”

At this point it became clear to Wei the monk is a bandit. Wei took a shot at the monk. The brass ball struck dead center in the back of the monk’s head dead. But the monk kept going as if he felt nothing. Wei shot him four more times in the back of head. Only then did the monk reach for the back of the head where Wei shot him, saying slowly “no more practical jokes.” Horrified, Wei knows there’s nothing more he can do, so he did not shoot any more.

After a long while, they finally reached a large manor. Tens of servants with large bright torches came out to greet them. Seating down at a large hall, the monk smiled and reassured the scholar, “not to worry”. Looking to the side he asked the servants “Have you being treating the lady well?” Turning back to the scholar, “Sir you can see your wife, she’s over there.”

Wei followed the servants to the adjacent hall, and found his wife and daughter safe, and that they’ve been treated to a most sumptuous meal. The three of them knew they were deep in dangerous territory, they couldn’t help but break into tears. Wei comforted his wife, then returned to see the monk.

The monk rose up and took Wei’s hands into his: “this poor monk was a big bandit. I was thinking of robbing you. But after you shot me so impressively, I realized your shooting is second to none. If it were anyone else, they’d have a very hard time dealing with it. Right now I have no ulterior motives, please rest assured. The shots you used, luckily I did not lose them.” As he said this, the monk touched the back of head, and all five shots dropped into his hands.

Seeing this type gongfu, Wei shuddered inside. Soon a large banquet was set up. In the center of a large table was a steamed calf. On the calf there were more than 10 extremely sharp knives, neatly inserted. On the outside of those are many pancakes.

The monk invited the scholar to site down. “Poor monk has several younger blood brothers. I would like to summon them to greet you.” At this point five or six large men appeared at the bottom of the stairs. They all wore red, with large, wide belts. The monk shouted “greet the guest!” The men saluted in unison. Wei returned the salute. The monk said to the scholar “Your martial skill is indeed rare in this world. If they met you, their destruction would’ve been instantaneous and complete.”

After the meal, the monk confided in the scholar “I have been a bandit for a very long time. Now that I am old, I’ve made up my mind to quit. Unfortunately I have a son, his martial skill surpasses even my own, I beg him to end him for me.” Then he called out “Fei fei, come out to greet the honored guest!”

From back of the hall a youth appeared. Dressed in jade green with long sleeves, his body is extremely thin, his complexion like that of wax – dry and yellowish. The monk said to him “please go to the rear hall to attend to the guest.”

After Fei Fei left, the monk took out a long sword and handed it to Wei. He said with extreme sincerity: “Please use all your might to kill him, so that he will not be the source of trouble in my retirement.” He lead the scholar into another hall, the doors of which he locked when he backed out the room.

The hall was lit on the four corners with lamps. Fei Fei stood in the middle of the room with just a short whip. Wei took one shot, sure it would land, but with a sharp crack Fei Fei struck it in mid-flight with his whip. The shot sped away from his body, lodged deeply into a beam high near the ceiling. Now Fei Fei started to deploy his light body skills, running on the walls, as quick and agile as a monkey. Wei took four more shots, each one knocked away by Fei Fei.

The scholar then went after Fei Fei with the long sword. Going back and forth swiftly, Fei Fei was like a bolt of lightening. Sometimes he’d get as close as within a feet of the scholar. Wei managed to cut off several sections of Fei Fei’s whip, but can never really touch him.

After a long while, the monk opened the door. “Did you help rid this old monk of the menace?” Wei told him everything that happened. Disappointed, the monk let out a long sigh; staring at Fei Fei for a long time, he finally said “So, you have made up for mind to be a bandit, even our guest cannot do anything to you. Ai, who knows how this is all going to end?”

The monk and the scholar would discuss the arts of swordsmanship and hidden weapons until daybreak. The monk accompanied Wei back to the fork of the road, and gave him several hundred pi (one pi = four yard) of fine fabric before bidding a teary farewell.






Wuyizidi: Fei means fly. “Fei Fei” sounds like the modern word “Ah Fei” – punk. Indeed Fei Fei of this story, in name, appearance, and demeanor, struck many readers as kind of proto-punk.


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