During the Qing Dynasty, there was a beggar in the Wu region who was noted for his curly beard. He lived in a small hut he built at the foot of the South Mountain.
The beggar adopted a monkey to keep him company. He trained the monkey and dressed him up to play in puppet shows, and they performed at crowded places to make a living. Every time the beggar was given food, he would share it with the monkey. No matter what the season or weather, he was with the monkey at all times. The pair became more like father and son.
More than 10 years passed, and the beggar grew old and weak. He could no longer take the monkey out to perform. The monkey sat along the roadside by himself to beg for food to bring home to share with his master. The villagers knew all about him and were willing to give him food. The loyal animal managed to keep both himself and the beggar alive for quite a while this way.
Eventually, the beggar died. The monkey whined and paced around his body as if mourning a dead father. When he was done crying, he sat along the roadside and stuck out his hand to beg for money. He received coins from passers-by. He took the coins and walked to a coffin shop where he yelled and jumped and refused to leave.
The coffin shop owner did not understand what the monkey wanted, but he felt something was amiss. He ordered his employee to follow the monkey. When they arrived at the hut, the man found the beggar’s dead body and reported back to the shop owner. Touched by the monkey’s act, the shop owner gave him a coffin.
The monkey stayed there. Every time he spotted people with a shoulder yoke, he tugged on them. They understood him and carried the coffin to the hut at South Mountain. They put the corpse in it and buried the beggar.
The monkey again sat on the roadside to beg for some food and drinks for a memorial ritual. When finished, he ran around picking up dead branches and gathered them beside the beggar’s grave. He put the costumes he wore for their performances on top of the heap and set it all on fire. Giving out a few heartbroken shrieks, he jumped into the fire burning himself to death.
The villagers were awed and touched by his devotion to his lifelong friend. They knew such devotion was very hard to come by. They named him “Loyal Monkey” and created a burial mound for him to commemorate his loyalty.
Translated by Cecilia