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Monkey, Pig and Friar Sand — The Metal Man,
The Mother of Wood and The Yellow Wife.

Monkey, Pig and Friar Sand have different sets of names and each name or set of names has it`s own meaning and symbolism. One set of Chinese names is Sun Wukong (孙悟空 - Monkey awakened to emptiness), Zhu Wuneng (猪悟能 - Pig awakened to ability) and Sha Wuching (沙悟净 - Sand awakened to purity). These names symbolize that they all have a primordial (先天) origin.

Monkey, Pig and Friar Sand, by Chen Huiguan.



His (Sun Wukong) primordial body matches an earlier heaven (先天). -- Journey to the West, chapter 7
As he (Zhu Wuneng) was placed in the wrong womb he has a face like a wild boar, but he's still kept his original divine nature.
-- Journey to the West, chapter 19
I (Sha Wuching) have had a divine essence since childhood. -- Journey to the West, chapter 22



The primordial or precelestial domain (先天 - xiantian, lit. before Heaven) is the eternal and omnipresent original state of Oneness, which exists outside of space and time. In man this primordial domain is the state of conscious awareness; it is yang, it is the light of consciousness. The postcelestial domain (后天 - houtian, lit. after Heaven) is distinguished by multiplicity and relativity; it is the state that features transitory events and phenomena that exist within space and time. The postcelestial domain in man is the state when a man is pre-occupied with his thoughts and emotions, his sense of right and wrong, his desires, his plans, his ambitions, without any self-awareness: it is yin, it is a state of internal darkness.

Sun Wukong, Zhu Wuneng (and Sha Wuching) have also names that originate in Taoist Alchemy.

The Mother of Wood Lends His Might in Defeating the Ogre,
The Metal Lord Uses His Magic to Wipe Out the Monster.
-- Journey to the West, chapter 86
Monkey and Pig go looking for the demon` s cave. “Strike, Pig,” says Monkey when they find it. “This is where the evil spirit lives. The master must be here.” At this the idiot turns vicious, raises his rake, and brings it down on the gates with all his strength, smashing a big hole in them and shouting, “Ogre, send my master out at once if you don't want me to smash your gates down and finish the lot of you off.” After fighting for thirty rounds, the splendid Great Sage turns himself into a winged ant and flies into the main hall, where he sees the junior devils jostling and shouting. He pulls out a handful of hairs, chews them up into little pieces, blows them lightly out of his mouth and silently recites the words of the spell that turns all the pieces into sleep insects. These he throws into the faces of all the devils, and the insects crawl up their noses, gradually making the devils feel sleepy. Before long the junior devils were all lying stretched out fast asleep. He sees a very tiny doorway and squeezes through the narrow gap between the doors and finds himself in a big garden. Flying further inside he sees a clump of tall trees at the foot of which were tied Tang Priest. “Untie me quick, disciple,” the venerable elder says. “Being roped up like this has been agony. -- Journey to the West, chapter 86

From the title of chapter 86 and the events in it, we understand that Pig represents ‘The Mother of Wood’ and Monkey ‘The Metal Man’. This is also clearly stated in chapter 30.

Wood grows in the nor'nor'west and is matched with a pig;
Metal was born in West sou'west and was an ape,

-- Journey to the West, chapter 30

The elements Metal and Wood have a special meaning in Taoist Alchemy.


The Wedjat Eye

Monkey is the Metal within Water ☵, the true yang principle external to one's self. Belonging to the category of life (性–xing) lord of hardness and motion, he signifies the primal breath of all living creatures. -- Liu Yiming, Commentary on Journey to the West
Pig is the Wood within the Fire ☲, the true yin principle internal to one's self. Belonging to the category of essence (命–ming), lord of pliancy and quiescence, but he can only change into substance that is posterior to Heaven (后天 - houtian) and not the true treasure that is primordial (先天 - xiantian). -- Liu Yiming, Commentary on Journey to the West

Pig is the only one of the three who had a 'natural' birth from a womb. As a result, he has strong desires of the flesh and because he isn`t able to completely overcome them, at the end of the story he doesn`t become an immortal, which means he isn`t able to return to the primordial realm, but is rewarded with the job of ' Altar Cleanser'.

The lead of real awareness, sense, is associated with metal; the mercury of conscious awareness, essence, is associated with wood. When you do things on the basis of acquired conditioning, sense and essence are disparate; this is likened to metal and wood being separated, each keeping to itself, unable to meet. Unless sense and essence commune, true sense and true essence do not manifest, and real awareness and conscious awareness do not combine. -- Liu Yiming, Commentary on Understanding Reality
They swore to become brothers,
And the dharma brought them back to their true nature.
When metal and Wood were tamed, the True Result could be achieved;
The Mind-Ape and the Mother of Wood combined to make the elixir.
Together they would climb to the World of Bliss.
-- Journey to the West, Ch. 31

Real awareness is unfiltered awareness, not clouded by opinions and attitudes and contains self-awareness and awareness of the moment one is in. Without the mind of Tao, without real awareness, conscious awareness has no choice but to become adultered and becomes everyday awareness of ordinary life, formed by training and experience and does not include self-awareness or awareness of the moment.

Bodhisattva Guan Yin holding the Sun and the Moon




For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face. -- The Bible, 1 Corinthians 13:12
When real awareness and conscious awareness meet, it is like the sun and moon meeting in thirty days. -- Liu Yiming, Commentary on Understanding Reality




The Dance of Death, The Munster of Bern, Switzerland,



Monkey and Pig often have problems with each other. When they don`t get along, or when they are separated because of difficulties, it means that Metal and Wood are separate and the true nature is lost; this represents the usual, every day state of man.

The Metal Man and the Mother of Wood were dispersed.
The Yellow Wife was damaged, her powers divided,
The Way (The Dao - 道) was finished, and how could it be saved? -- Journey to the West, chapter 30


The Yellow Wife is another symbol from Taoist Alchemy and relates to the element Earth; it is represented by Sha Wuching.

Friar Sand is the true Earth, and he lives to guard the Central Quarter and to harmonize the yin and yang.
-- Liu Yiming, Commentary on Journey to the West

This symbol can be found in all esoteric traditions under the names the Earth Mother, the Mother Goddess and Mother Prajnaparamita.

Venus von Willendorf,the Mother Goddess or Earth Mother, representing True Intent
(24,000–22,000 BCE)

The Egyptian goddess Hathor, also called 'The Great Cosmic Mother'

The yellow woman is the earth mother in the center, called the yellow woman because it can harmonize yin and yang and can combine the four forms. The alchemical treatises use this to symbolize the true faith within the true intent in people, which can harmonize essence and sense, and nurture vitality and energy. True intent and true faith are the yellow woman in our being. -- Liu Yiming, The Inner Teachings of Taoism
Spiritual alchemy, the science of the gold elixir, uses the yellow woman as the go-between for yin and yang. The yellow woman is true intent; faithfulness in the center is truthfulness in the center — truthfulness is associated with earth, which is called the yellow woman. -- Liu Yiming, Hexagram #61, Faithfulness in the Center, The Taoist I Ching


The Goddess Pranjaparamita (13th c. National Museum of Indonesia, Jakarta)




She is the one who shows this world for what it is, she is the genetrix, the mother of the Buddhas. -- Prajnaparamita sutra (Buddhist text)
Once true Earth appears, Metal and Wood spontaneously join; once genuine truthfulness comes through, essence and sense spontaneously unite. So genuine truthfulness is the go-between of true sense (emotions 情) and true essence (性). When essence and sense unite, real awareness and conscious awareness are the same energy, they embrace and nurture each other; the essence is stabilized, feelings are forgotten, and the primordial energy comes from nothingness. -- Liu Yiming, Commentary on Understanding Reality



When they are working together as one, Sun Wukong (孙悟空 - Monkey awakened to emptiness), Zhu Wuneng (猪悟能 - Pig awakened to ability) and Sha Wuching (沙悟净 - Sand awakened to purity) represent the three great medicines or three jewels, that entered the postcelestial domain to enable one to return to the precelestial domain.

True intent (symb. by Friar Sand), true sense (symb. by Monkey), and spiritual essence (symb. by Pig) are the three jewels in our bodies, true earth, true lead, and true mercury. These three jewels have a primordial (先天), whole, unified energy, which is complete, without any defect. This cannot be called intent, sense, or essence – it is all one reality. But then when it mixes with temporally acquired conditioning, true intent becomes adulterated with artificial intentions, true sense becomes adulterated with arbitrary feelings and spiritual essence becomes adulterated with temperament.-- Liu Yiming, The Inner Teachings of Taoism
GATHERED JEWELS IN THE THREE FIELDS CORRESPOND TO THE THREE TREASURES。
-- Zhang Boduan, Understanding Reality
These jewels gathered in the three fields are like the "three terraces," the three stars that surround the star representing the Lord of the Heavens. These three fields do not refer to the perineum, center of the torso, or center of the brain, nor to the umbilical region, solar plexus, or center of the brow, or to the coccyx, center of the spine, or back of the brain; they are the places where the three great medicines—primordial vitality, primordial energy, and primordial spirit are produced. -- Liu Yiming, Commentary on Understanding Reality

These three jewels (三宝) have been given many different names. One set of symbols in Taoist Alchemy is The Metal Man, The Mother of Wood and The Yellow Wife and, as can be seen by the names, are represented by the elements Metal, Wood and Earth. These three jewels have a primordial (先天), whole, unified energy, and have the same meaning as the three yang lines of the trigram Heaven.

Hexagram #5 Attending

HEXAGRAM #5 ATTENDING, TOP YIN: ENTERING A CAVE. THREE PEOPLE COME, GUESTS NOT IN HASTE: RESPECT THEM, AND IT WILL TURN OUT WELL. -- Liu Yiming, Hexagram #5 Attending, The Taoist I Ching

Explanation: The guests who are not in haste are the three yangs of Heaven ☰ away to other houses after birth and become guests; awaiting the time to bring them back, from one yang you gradually arrive at the pure completeness of the three yangs — then as before they belong to your home. Let them be the hosts and yourself be the guest. They are to be respected and not defied. If you respect and obey them, yin and yang merge, the golden elixir crystallizes, life and health are preserved and completed — this is great fortune. This is the attending of cultivating oneself and crystallizing the elixir. -- Liu Yiming, Hexagram #5 Attending, The Taoist I Ching

In Buddhism the Three Jewels are the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha. In Taoism they have many other names such as the Three Treasures, the Three Valleys, the Three Passes, the Three Chambers, the Three Vehicles and the Three Flowers.

Vitality, energy, and spirit are called the three bases. The meeting of the three sets is called perfection of the embryo. Unification of the three bases is called completion of the elixir. -- Li Daochun, The Book of Balance and Harmony
Refining vitality into energy, refining energy into spirit, refining spirit back into openness — this is called "the three flowers gathered on the peak." It is also called the three passes. -- Li Daochun, The Book of Balance and Harmony
QUESTION: What are the "three chambers"? ANSWER: The three chambers are the abodes of the three bases. Spirit resides in the chamber of Heaven, energy resides in the central chamber, and vitality resides in the chamber of Earth. -- Li Daochun, The Book of Balance and Harmony

In the Tao te Ching #67, the three treasures are represented as the virtues of Compassion (慈), Frugality (儉) and Not putting oneself ahead of others (不敢為天下先).

Spirits are of the same nature as the Virtue of Heaven in us, and they are also its messengers. Virtue, like the Spirits, is luminous radiance. It is the "Light that lights all things coming into this world" (Gospel of John, 1:9). The Spirits, filled with light, rush to us and arrive in us. Virtue is brought by them and manifested in us. -- Rooted in Spirit, Chapter 8 of the Lingshu, Huandi Neijing

Virtue is luminous radiance; in other words conscious awareness. All these different versions of the Three Jewels represent the outer meaning. The inner meaning of is the same for all: three yangs breaths in which one keeps conscious awareness. Without conscious awareness, whatever one does, one still remains in the postcelestial domain.

Heaven within me is Virtue.
Earth within me is Breaths.
Virtue flows down,
Breaths expand, and there is life.
-- Rooted in Spirit, Chapter 8 of the Lingshu, Huandi Neijing

Here breaths doesn't refer to the physical breath but to the breath that is accompanied by virtue, by conscious awareness. This is called the Breath of Life, the true Breath and the Yang Breath. A yang breath is a breath in which one keeps conscious awareness and ignores any thoughts that come up. Because it takes time and effort to penetrate the inner meaning, the Three Jewels are given names that one can more readily relate to. The images below show more examples of the yang breaths.

                       Three rams                                                       The three kings visiting Christ                                   God with three faces.


Hexagram #11 Peace/Tranquility

The Chinese characters in the left image read 三陽開泰 (san yang kai Tai), which means three yang bring bliss. There are three rams in the picture and the character “羊 ” (yang, ram/sheep) is a homophone of the character “陽 ” (yang, sun). Therefore in ancient times, people used “羊” in the place where “陽” should be used. The rams are used as a play on words: 三羊開泰 (san yang kai Tai) which means three sheep bring bliss. It originates with Hexagram #11 Peace/Tranquility(泰 )of the I Ching, which has three yangs below and three yins above. The middle image shows the three kings visiting the Christ child after he was born. They are the three quest who are not in haste and also symbolize the three yangs. The right image show God with three faces.

The Three treasures are also mentioned in Journey to the West with again different symbols.

“What three treasures?” asked the Senior King. “The Seven-star Sword and the Plantain Fan that I carry with me,” the Junior King replied, “and the Dazzling Golden Cord that's kept at our old mother's place in the Crushed Dragon Cave in Crushed Dragon Mountain. -- Journey to the West, Ch 34
“The Tathagata Buddha taught me the Band-tightening Spell,” the Bodhisattva replied. “He gave me three treasures when I was sent to the East to find a pilgrim to fetch the scriptures: the brocade cassock, the nine-ringed monastic staff, and the three bands. -- Journey to the West, Ch 34


The Fourth Way and Esoteric Traditions⎟ Living Presence ⎟ The Secret of the Golden Flower ⎟


Japanese symbols of Presence⎟ The taoist I Ching ⎟ Being Presence First