The Mad Monk

Ji Gong

Chinese DVD cover
Directed by Johnny To
Written by Sandy Shaw
Starring Stephen Chow
Maggie Cheung
Anthony Wong
Kirk Wong
Ng Man Tat
Release dates
Running time
85 min
Country Hong Kong
Language Cantonese

Ji Gong (濟公, pinyin: Jì Gōng; The Mad Monk in English) is a 1993 Hong Kong comedy film directed by Johnny To, and starring Stephen Chow as the "Mad Monk" Ji Gong, a popular Chinese folklore figure from the Southern Song Dynasty. The film follows "Dragon Fighter Luohan" as he accepts a challenge from the gods to change the fate of a beggar, a prostitute, and a villain in three heavenly days. He is reborn on earth as a mere mortal and ultimately battles an evil demon to stave off hell on earth.


The movie starts out with all of the gods in heaven complaining to the Jade Emperor about the malicious practical jokes played on them by Dragon Fighter Lohan. The Emperor summons Dragon's sworn-brother, Tiger Fighter Lohan (Ng Man Tat), in order to find Dragon. Dragon (Stephen Chow) eventually appears and rebuke the various gods for their horrible judgments on mankind. He insisted he can do a better job and is banished to be reincarnated into an animal by the Jade Emperor. The Bodhisattva Guan Yin (Anita Mui) intervene and issues Dragon a challenge. If he can change the fates of three people—a beggar, a prostitute, and a villain—doomed to nine incarnations as their current position in life within three heavenly days (thirty years), without heavenly powers, he will be upgraded in heavenly status. If he fails, he will be downgraded from an arhat to an animal. The Bodhisattva gives him a magical fan that can only be used three times a day for sleight-of-hand-like magic tricks to help him in his mission. However, heavenly soldiers force him down from heaven before he has the fan in hand.

When Dragon's future parents visit a Buddhist temple to pray for a child, the statue of Dragon Fighter Lohan leaps from a wall containing the major arhats, signaling his rebirth on earth. While Dragon grows into manhood (only a few moments in heavenly time), Tiger enlists the aid of a heavenly soldier (Wong Yut Fei) to help him reincarnate on earth so he can bring Dragon the magical fan. However, the heavenly soldier mistakenly causes Tiger to be born to an extremely old woman and the fan to a much younger woman. He then uses his magic breath to cause Tiger to rapidly grows to his proper age but with the brain of a baby. Dragon's earthly parents later adopt the "idiot" and treat him like an infant son.

Stephen Chow as "Dragon Fighter Lohan" (right) and Ng Man Tat as "Tiger Fighter Lohan" (left).

Dragon eventually regains all his memories after being struck by lightning and soon encounters the prostitute (Maggie Cheung), the beggar (Anthony Wong) and the villain (Kirk Wong). Tiger gains his memories back when clouds block the moon (the time when heavenly security is the most relaxed) and gives Dragon his magic fan before being forced to return to heaven. Dragon uses his magic to influence the thoughts and behaviors of each of his targets. For instance, he turns himself into the likeness of the beggar's father and tells him to stop begging. However, that doesn't work so he turns himself into a host of other beings to try to convince him. He later uses his magic to save the prostitute from being burnt at the stake. While trying to boost the begger's self-esteem, the villain attacks Dragon. Dragon transforms himself into Shaolin's patriarch, Damo, to combat the aggressive attacks of the villain but his power eventually was exhausted for the day. The villain then subsequently murders the beggar and forces Dragon to watch while he brutally rapes the prostitute. The beggar, before dying, regained his dignity and recognised himself by his own name and not as a beggar.

Dragon rushes back to the temple that houses the holy golden-skeleton of his body from a former life to retrieve his skeleton. He uses the skeleton to travel to the underworld to retrieve the beggar's soul. Once there, Dragon confronts a demon who handles all the souls travelling to hell and trades his skeleton for the beggar's soul, but the demon keeps both and kicks Dragon back to the land of the living. Dragon rushes back to the temple once again and learns that all of the local gods and arhats housed there are leaving the temple as they do not want to be associated with Dragon, who has made a deal with a demon. The statue of Guan Yin wept and then subsequently collapse. In a fit of anger, Dragon waves his magic fan to repair it, only to have it disintegrate into a million pieces (thus symbolizing that all the gods and the Bodhisattva has forsaken him in his time of need). Thinking he had failed to change the fate of the beggar before his death, Dragon immediately seeks out the prostitute and promises to marry her if she gives up the sex trade. She agrees, but when Dragon begins to transform into a tree because of a prohibition against gods marrying mortals, she thinks he is playing a joke on her and disfigures her face with a hair pin so no one would ever love her.

Meanwhile, the villain slaughters all the prostitutes in the brothel and his henchmen so he could acquire the blood of 49 people and immerse Dragon's skeleton in it to rid it of its power. Dragon goes to the brothel to confront the villain and, with the help of Tiger and the heavenly soldier, is able to regain his proper form. With the villain held back by Tiger and the heavenly soldier, Dragon beat up the villain, to discover that he has been given an invincible body by the demon that Dragon traded with in the underworld. The villain revealed that he is a devotee of that demon. Dragon then pulled the villain's heart out to show him that the demon gave him a stone heart to control him forever. Feeling betrayed, the villain revealed that the demon has schemed to force all the gods and arhats out of the temple so it can retrieve his scepter of power, which was hidden under the statue of Guan Yin by the Buddha. He then repented, crushes the stone heart in his hand and wishes to be an animal in his next life.

Dragon was given a chance to return to heaven but with a three rank demotion if he admitted defeat. However, he decided to remain to prevent the demon from retrieving its scepter and brings destruction to all. Dragon imbues his power into his golden skeleton, pounds it into powder and made into golden paint. He then use it to write protective talismans on the windows of the temple. However the demon blew away the talisman which forces Dragon and the temple monk to run away with the scepter as the demon demolishes the town looking for it. In the process of escaping, the remaining golden paint was swallowed by the monk. The monk subsequently admitted that he had borrowed two of the skeleton's golden teeth to substitute his own. The monk then boasting of his false demon-exorcising powers to the demon in a bid to make the demon laugh and open his mouth. Dragon, with his 2 golden teeth, jumps into the demon's mouth while he was laughing away at the monk. This caused the demon to explode and die while Dragon's clothes are left behind.

The gods begin to celebrate in heaven because Dragon seemingly lost the bet and was going to be demoted to an animal. Guan Yin interrupts the festivities and shows them how he succeeded in changing the fates of the three people: The beggar is reborn into the house of a rich family, the prostitute opens up a bean curd restaurant and no longer sells her body, and the villain is reborn a pig. Instead of being demoted to become an animal, Dragon was promoted to a senior arhat. Dragon was then presented with a tiara and sceptor in a promotion ceremony and asked to give his thoughts in a parody of a Beauty Pageant.


See also

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