On the journey to acquire scriptures, instead of attacking, a demon tells Tang Sanzang the stories of sacrificing oneself to feed a tiger and cutting one's flesh to feed an eagle. The demon then asks Tang Sanzang to cut a piece of his own flesh as an offering. How would Tang Sanzang react?

Analysis of Tang Monk’s Moral Choices in “Journey to the West”

In “Journey to the West”, Tang Monk faces moral dilemmas that highlight the difference between essential needs and desires. For instance, feeding one’s flesh to an eagle to save its life might be considered a dire necessity, as not doing so would result in the eagle’s death. This scenario represents a situation where saving one life should not come at the cost of another. However, the monsters seeking immortality by eating Tang Monk do not present such a dire need; their desire for eternal life is more of a luxury than a necessity. In fact, through proper cultivation, these monsters also have the chance to achieve immortality, making their demands non-essential. Therefore, Tang Monk is fully justified in refusing them.

Moreover, Tang Monk has encountered similar situations before. He met tigers twice, once accompanied by Liu Boqin and another time by Sun Wukong. In both instances, Tang Monk did not persuade or order them not to fight the tigers, instead witnessing the hunts. This behavior suggests that he would not willingly sacrifice himself to feed a tiger, let alone show mercy to it. Therefore, it is unlikely he would offer his flesh to monsters.

From another perspective, Hu Shi, a Chinese scholar, wrote a sequel to “Journey to the West”, adding an eighty-first trial. In this story, Tang Monk dreams of the ghosts of the monsters killed by his disciples, who had wanted to eat him during his journey. Feeling that he couldn’t sacrifice himself then due to his mission, Tang Monk, upon completing his journey, cuts flesh from his body to feed these ghostly monsters. This dream sequence, which concludes the eighty-first trial, offers an interesting angle to this question.

Lastly, in “The Later Journey to the West”, there is a character named Mei Yin Monk, formed from the bones of nine monks eaten by Sha Monk. Hearing that the new disciple, Tang Banjie, has pure Yang blood, which could grant him flesh and blood, Mei Yin Monk plots against him. However, after being subdued, Tang Banjie shows compassion for Mei Yin Monk’s difficult cultivation and drips his blood on Mei Yin Monk’s head, miraculously helping him gain flesh and blood. This incident shows a different perspective, where Mei Yin Monk’s need is deemed essential, and Tang Banjie agrees to help with minimal personal loss.

The White Bone Spirit’s Quest for Life

The White Bone Spirit lamented, “Wronged and perished, my skeletal form has endured the harsh elements in these desolate mountains for centuries. Only my unyielding spirit has kept me alive this long. O Holy Monk, with your compassion, just a drop of your blood can bring me back to life. I beseech you to embrace the benevolence of the Bodhisattva and not withhold your help.”

Tang Monk hesitated, saying, “I am on a sacred mission to the Western Heavens to seek scriptures, as decreed by the Goddess of Mercy. With such a responsibility, I dare not take my life lightly. If you need my blood, you should ask the Goddess of Mercy herself in the Southern Sea. If she consents, I will have no objections and will willingly offer my flesh and blood.”

Thus, the White Bone Spirit set off to the Southern Sea, overcoming mountains and rivers, even bribing the mountain deity to finally meet the Goddess of Mercy.

The Goddess of Mercy shook her head and said, “I understand your plight, but Tang Monk’s journey is a divine decree. Without Buddha’s permission, how can I command him to give you his blood? You should go to the Western Sacred Mountain and seek Buddha’s approval. If Buddha agrees, I will immediately authorize Tang Monk to do so.”

The White Bone Spirit then trekked to the Western Sacred Mountain, enduring hardships and bribing Ananda and Mahakasyapa, finally meeting Buddha.

Buddha said, “Tang Monk’s journey is pivotal for the spread of Buddhism from the Western Heavens to the East. Although a drop of blood seems trivial, if it causes him to suffer a headache or fever, delaying the journey, it would be catastrophic. How can you prioritize your own benefit over such a significant matter?”

Despite her pleas, Buddha replied, “This matter is of great consequence. Even I, seated in the Western Sacred Mountain, cannot unilaterally decide. However, if both the Tang Emperor and the Jade Emperor consent, I too will agree.”

The White Bone Spirit then risked her life to reach the Tang Emperor, who said, “Although Tang Monk is my royal brother, his mission is ordained by the Bodhisattva, and I cannot intervene. However, I sympathize with you. If you can obtain the Jade Emperor’s signature, I will sign without hesitation.”

Subsequently, she headed to the Southern Heavenly Gate to seek the Jade Emperor. But with her resources depleted and her beauty faded, she was stopped by the Four Heavenly Kings and denied entry. Despite her desperate pleas, the Kings rebuked, “There are many with grievances. If everyone could seek the Jade Emperor’s help, how could he manage? What would be our purpose as guardians?”

After kneeling at the gate without rising, the irritated Heavenly Kings ordered their warriors to severely beat her. Then, they called the local deity responsible for her area to take her back, who warned her, “You cause trouble as a demon in our land, and as long as you pay tribute, we overlook it. But causing disturbances in Heaven disrupts our peace, and we cannot tolerate this. If you do this again, we will destroy your bones, ensuring you can never be reborn.”

The White Bone Spirit wept, “I didn’t want to resort to violence. It’s just that the normal process truly doesn’t work.”

Refusal. Tang Monk’s chicken soup should be richer than demons'. Instead of reverse infusion, it’s better to cultivate the Great Way through feeding tigers and nourishing eagles.

The Purpose of Tang Monk’s Journey to the West

Self-sacrifice to feed tigers and nourish eagles is a personal practice, whereas Tang Monk’s quest to the West is not for personal gain but for the sake of the Tang Dynasty and its ruler.

Are demons really scheming just for a taste of Tang Monk’s flesh? Their goal is to devour Tang Monk entirely, causing the journey to the West to fail and ultimately be abandoned.

Demons are meant to harm humans; those that do not harm are not considered demons, such as White Snake and Xiaoqing. Demons that harm should not exist, and any demons encountered on the journey, whether defeated or subdued, are eliminated.

Although Tang Monk restricts Sun Wukong from attacking demons, he does not prohibit him from battling monsters. The distinction lies in clearly identifying a creature as a demon; Tang Monk supports eliminating those identified as such. Tang Monk’s restrictions on Sun Wukong only apply when a creature’s demonic nature is not yet confirmed.

Many claim that a creature is a demon, but Tang Monk’s prohibition is not always clear-cut. These demons often assume deceptive appearances, masquerading as good beings. Sun Wukong can only attack demons when their true nature is revealed, and in such cases, Tang Monk’s restrictions do not apply.

It is known that certain beings are demons due to the narrative in Journey to the West. However, the characters in the story do not possess an all-knowing perspective but view situations from their own angles. Understanding Sun Wukong’s playful nature, as seen in his statement, “Regarding transformations, I could compete, I could compete at pinching, and I could fool people. There are three to five of us who are no match…,” one can better grasp Tang Monk’s perspective in the encounter with the White Bone Demon.

Even if consuming a piece of Tang Monk’s flesh could grant demons immortality, what purpose does their immortality serve? Does it harm more people? This is not an achievement but an act of malevolence. If Tang Monk were to allow such actions, the journey to the West would be doomed to failure, and he would not attain Buddhahood.

Eagles and tigers are different; they do not live to harm others. They are part of the diverse world and have a right to life. Since the venerable monk aims to assist the weak, he must be willing to sacrifice himself.

Demons have the potential to become divine creatures or harmless spirits. When they stray down the wrong path and encounter Sun Wukong, they must either be eradicated or corrected.

Why not open a bathhouse on the journey to the West?

Although drinking a sip of Tang Monk’s bathwater won’t grant immortality, it should be good for several hundred years of cultivation, right?

The Concept of Intent and Causality in Buddhism

The question posed by the OP is very insightful, but it oversimplifies matters. When it comes to creative writing, novels have their own context, as many other responders have pointed out. Let me discuss something different!

Borrowing from Buddhist philosophy, there are two terms: “intent” and “causality.”

Intent refers to the purpose and motive behind your actions.

What was the intent and causality behind the Buddha’s actions of sacrificing himself to feed a tiger and cutting his own flesh to feed an eagle?

Causality lies in the fact that tigers and eagles are naturally carnivorous. At that time, they were both starving, and sparing the lives before them would likely result in their own deaths. The Buddha, out of compassion and in the hope that both predator and prey could survive, selflessly sacrificed himself by feeding the tiger and cutting his flesh to feed the eagle.

From the perspective of the tiger and eagle, their actions were driven by their natural instincts and survival needs.

Can we say that the demons who wished to consume Tang Monk had no other options?

Were they not cunning and powerful in their own right? Even wild creatures like White Bone Demon and the terrain of White Tiger Mountain were at their disposal. In particular, the Lion Camel Kingdom had numerous minor demons. Did any of them face a real crisis? Not at all. They lived quite comfortably!

It’s similar to someone who enjoys luxuries, drives a fancy car, and then approaches an elderly person to donate to a charity, saying, “Uncle, instead of donating to a charity, why not give me the money today? I feel like having something affordable.” They expect others to show kindness!

What do you think?

Moreover, you are trying to impose your own perspective on them. The reason these demons are considered demons is because their minds are twisted, and they firmly believe in their own power, status, and methods.

This reflects their attachment and arrogance.

You don’t even need to look at demons; consider a business executive, especially one who rose to power through cutthroat tactics. If you tell them that survival doesn’t solely rely on ruthless competition, that cooperation and mutual assistance also work, will they listen? They will likely call you naive. They will do everything in their power to find some dirt on you to prove they are right. In the end, they may end up alone with their money, alienated from family and friends.

We find it strange, don’t we? Why can’t they think differently?

Well, they have trapped themselves in a loop of thinking.

Why did Lao Rongzhi and Fa Ziying resort to such brutality instead of simply kidnapping people for ransom? Why did they brutally harm innocent individuals?

Can you understand? Trying to fit their mindset with your own is fundamentally flawed.

What is falling into demonic thoughts?

It’s when your thinking gets stuck in a dead end.

Why is it that when China earnestly advocates mutual benefits and cooperation, some Americans remain skeptical? Why do they insist on dominance? Even without their own people saying it, people like Gao Hua are constantly promoting the idea that they have more money, bigger guns, and stronger technology. Why can’t they consider other perspectives?

You see, they just refuse to think positively!

No matter what the issue is, there are always some people online who believe there must be some hidden agenda behind it. They keep digging and find nothing, yet they still don’t believe!

If you tell them that not everything has a hidden agenda, will they believe you?

Demons are called demons because they believe the so-called righteous path is nonsense. Do you think demons who firmly believe in power and methods would ever discuss sacrificing themselves to feed a tiger with Tang Sanzang?

Let alone Tang Sanzang, how about all of you present here? If I were to suggest donating or giving blood, many of you would probably think it’s foolish. Do you ever have a subconscious thought of “selflessness” in your daily actions?

The psychological issues of demons are much more severe than yours.

That’s why they are called demons.

If they could understand the concept of self-sacrifice, they would have turned to the righteous path and wouldn’t have pursued Tang Monk.

I ask you all, do you understand why the Buddha sacrificed himself to feed a tiger and cut his flesh to feed an eagle? Did the story only convey overflowing compassion? Have you ever thought about this question?

Chao Gai ordered twenty leaders to descend from the mountain and attack Zengtou Market. Zhang San Mountain’s leader, Huang Xin, was a cunning man. Seeing that Zengtou Market was strategically fortified and that Shi Wengong was exceptionally skilled in martial arts, he sent his trusted subordinate back to Liangshan to report.

He told his subordinate, “This time, Chao Big Brother may suffer a big loss. We must make sure that Song Jiang comes to assist us!”

However, when the subordinate returned to Liangshan, he couldn’t find Song Jiang for several days. He was constantly pestered with questions by Wu Yong and others.

A few days later, Chao Tianwang returned to the stronghold, poisoned and defeated by arrows. It was only then that Song Jiang found out and angrily scolded Wu Yong and the others, saying, “Why didn’t you inform me earlier!”

You cannot understand “Journey to the West,” so you have this perception. Although it is said that eating a bite of Tang Monk’s flesh can grant immortality, the method to prepare Tang Monk’s flesh requires steaming the entire Tang Monk to achieve the effect of immortality. Otherwise, why would demons capture Tang Monk? If they just wanted to eat him, they could have taken him and quickly run away after taking a bite. At the very least, drinking some of his blood would suffice.

This creates a paradox:

Before achieving enlightenment, no one has rights, and it’s deserved to be beaten. Refer to a certain apron incident.

After becoming a demon, even if someone speaks kindly to you, you refuse to listen and insist on taking a bite, leading to the fate of being beaten to death, as seen in the subsequent cases of demons.

The premise of moral coercion is to suppress the opponent’s power.

If Tang Seng expresses a desire for you to restrain from eating meat, what should you do? If you argue with him, the Monkey King will surely take you to reason with him.

The Paradox of the Monk and the Monsters

Tang Seng directly asks, “Are you willing to cut off a piece of meat for me to eat?”

The monster thinks for a moment. If they cut off a piece of their own flesh, they can then eat Tang Seng’s flesh, which sounds quite satisfying!

Monster: “I’ll do it!”

Tang Seng takes the monster’s flesh and throws it to Erlang Shen’s dog.

Then he says, “Are you willing to endure a blow from the monkey I’m raising?”

The monster hesitates, thinking, “Who can withstand a blow from that monkey?” They are about to refuse!

But the monster’s elder brother, considering sacrificing a young monster to have a taste of Tang Seng’s flesh, finds the idea quite appealing!

Monster: “I don’t want to!”

However, the other monster brothers loudly insist, “He’s willing!”

Sun Wukong delivers a blow, and the monster dies.

The other monsters were still thinking about eating Tang Seng’s flesh!

Tang Seng then says, “The monster is dead, and I’m willing to offer myself, but he can’t eat anymore.”

Monster elder brothers: “I can eat in his place.”

Tang Seng: “Can you die in his place?”

Monster elder brothers: “He dies, and I eat? Why not?”

Tang Seng: “Amitabha! Do unto others as you would have them do unto you!”

Monster elder brothers: “Can’t you sacrifice yourself for us? Cut your own flesh to feed a tiger? Sacrifice yourself for us to eat?”

Tang Seng: “Desire for oneself is desire for others; attainment for oneself is attainment for others. Do you understand?”

Monster elder brothers: “So, you want to give us to eat?”

Tang Seng: “No, no, no. I want to give you to eat, but you can’t eat.”

Monster elder brothers: “What do you mean? You had my little brother cut his flesh, and he died. Now we can eat you, but you’re not letting us eat!”

Tang Seng: “Not at all! Even if my monster little brother cuts flesh for me, I can also cut flesh for him, and he can die for me. But I won’t cut flesh for you, and I won’t die for you.”

Monster elder brothers: “Oh! We understand now. As long as we cut flesh and get a hit from Sun Wukong, we can finally eat Tang Seng.”

Tang Seng: “That’s right!”

Monster elder brothers: “We just finished cutting meat, bring on Sun Wukong!”

Tang Seng: “This time, the KPI is off the charts…”

The Monk and the Monsters

Tang Seng: “I, a humble monk from the East, have come here following the compassionate Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva, seeking to journey to the West to worship the Buddha and obtain scriptures. It is because the Lesser Vehicle teachings are difficult for the common people. If you let me go, I will return and help you overcome your difficulties.”

Wukong: “Master, no need for more words. Once I defeat this demon, you can recite scriptures and help it attain liberation.”

Tang Seng: “Monkey, you rash one! This demon has a sincere heart, and it pleaded with me. How can we casually kill it? Let’s make a deal. If you can seek an audience with Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva and the Buddha in the Western Heaven and obtain their blessings, I will grant your request.”

The monsters were overjoyed and hurried to nearby temples to kneel and pray, begging for Tang Seng to become a Buddha by killing himself.

However, as they entered the temple, they heard an angry voice.

“Where did these evil creatures come from, daring to deceive the heavens? You reckless demons, how can you, with your tainted karma, eat the flesh of those who are destined to become Buddhas? You truly do not know your limits!”

“Have mercy, Bodhisattva!” The monsters cried out repeatedly but couldn’t take a single step out of the temple.


The monsters' resentment lingered, and they arrived before the Yama King’s judgment seat, pleading for justice.

Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva heard the commotion and couldn’t help but reprimand them: “You wicked demons, who have committed such sins by eating human flesh and accumulating bad karma, now wish to emulate the Bodhisattvas who sacrifice themselves to feed tigers and the Buddhas who cut their flesh to feed eagles? Do you not understand the story of the ‘Divine Tiger Consuming Impurities, and the Bodhisattva Ascending the Blue Lotus’? Do you think you have the qualifications to eat the bodies of those who have cultivated for ten lifetimes as saints?!”

Upon hearing this, the monsters suddenly understood and felt hopeless, never daring to speak again.

The Adventures of Tang Seng and His Disciples

Without a doubt, Tang Seng would recite the Tightening Curse. Who is Tang Seng? He’s the reincarnation of Golden Cicada, possessing supreme powers. These little tricks of the monsters, well, they won’t succeed.

Scene One:

Before the monster could finish its story, a golden light descended, with a loud thud and what seemed like a scream as the monster fell.

Who was this newcomer? None other than the furious and wide-eyed Sun Wukong, the Great Sage Equal to Heaven, wielding his Golden Cudgel.

Tang Seng, bewildered: “Wukong, what are you doing?”

Wukong: “Master, don’t worry. He’s a demon! I won’t allow even a grain of sand to harm you.”

Tang Seng: “I #trust& you+horse^O^Om Ma&ni#beauty★comfort.”

Wukong clutched his head in pain, suffering from severe epilepsy.

Scene Two:

One day, as the party of five, including Tang Seng, Zhu Bajie, and Sha Wujing, carried their luggage and led their horses through a mountain pass, they arrived at a hillside. On the rocky cliff, two lines of characters were inscribed: “He’s strong, he’s strong, let him be strong, the clear breeze brushes the hill.”

Tang Seng asked, “What place is this?”

Zhu Bajie replied, “Master, this place seems to be ‘Clear Breeze Brushes.'”

Wukong retorted, “You fool, it’s clearly ‘Clear Breeze Brushes the Hill’!”

Tang Seng asked, “Why isn’t it ‘He’s strong, he’s strong, let him be strong, the clear breeze brushes the hill’?”

Wukong took a quick look and realized that his master was about to start an endless conversation. He hastily said, “Master, are you hungry?”

With that, he disappeared in a somersault.

Wukong plucked some peaches from the top of the South Mountain, grabbed a bowl, and was about to return when he thought, “Let me take a bit longer; the master seems to be in a talkative mood.”

Bajie helped Tang Seng dismount from his horse.

Suddenly, a woman approached, carrying incense. Bajie merely glanced at her, and a string of saliva dripped from his mouth like pearls slipping off a broken thread.

The woman came before Tang Seng and bowed deeply, saying, “Venerable Brother, I am a demon.”

Tang Seng shook his head, and Bajie hurriedly added, “Hehe, no, no, you’re not.”

Wujing approached Tang Seng and said, “Master, Second Brother is right.”

Tang Seng asked, “What do you want to do, noble lady?”

“Great Master, I’m hungry. Can you lend me a piece of your flesh?”

Bajie grinned, “Lady, I have plenty.”

“Step aside!”

Tang Seng said, “Noble lady, please jest not with this humble monk.”

At that moment, Wukong stood on the southern peak, arching his hand as he looked over. He sensed something amiss.

Wukong chuckled, “Fate! Fate! Is there a demon here? Let me take a look.”

The Great Sage, with the Golden Cudgel in his ear, gave it a swing. It extended to the thickness of a bowl and smacked the woman in the face, instantly killing her. She was indeed a demon.

Tang Seng, puzzled: “Wukong, what are you doing?”

Wukong: “Master, don’t worry. He’s a demon! I won’t allow even a grain of sand to harm you.”

Tang Seng: “I #trust& you+horse^O^Om Ma&ni#beauty★comfort.”

Wukong fell to the ground, legs kicking: “Damn, why is it always me getting hurt?”

Ethics of Eating Monk Tang

Cutting meat to feed a tiger is because the tiger would die without meat, and predation is a necessity.

The monsters encountered on the journey all have their own reasons. Eating Monk Tang’s flesh is driven by the desire for immortality, a necessity in their eyes.

Either openly consume Monk Tang’s flesh for survival, adhering to the rules of the natural food chain alongside monkeys, making it a reasonable act as living beings.

Or openly eat him for the pursuit of immortality, coveting the miraculous riches of eternal life, following the rules of banditry like Monkey King, making it a reasonable act as outlaw mountain bandits.

Using the tactic of cutting meat to feed a tiger won’t work. Although Monk Tang may seem naive, he wouldn’t be easily deceived into giving away a piece of his flesh. Is he a tick demon that can be satisfied and saved with just a piece of meat?

That would be a monster at the level of a pyramid scheme manager, but the monsters overlooked Tang Seng’s mouth, which is Tang Seng’s greatest weapon… It’s like using an ax against the wrong door, hehe.

I think Tang Seng would listen to the author.

A fictional story allows for wild imagination.

Since there’s a concept of souls, combined with the Taiyi real person, Nezha could use lotus roots to reshape his body. So, Tang Seng could leave his body behind, let the monsters eat it, and then reshape his body to continue the journey. If they encounter more monsters who want to eat Tang Seng’s flesh, they can repeat the process.

Alternatively, since Tang Seng is eventually going to abandon his body at the Lingyun Crossing, they could directly invite all kinds of demons and monsters to the Lingyun Crossing and whoever manages to seize it can claim it as their own.