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Behind the Scenes Origins 

 Saiyuki is the Japanese title for the Chinese legend Journey to the West.  The manga and anime title of the same name is a very, very loose adaptation of the legend, with Jeeps, guns, smoking, booze, and lots and lots of very un-Buddhist-like violence.  Genjyo Sanzo is the representation of the T'ang priest Sanzang.

Story Origins - Saiyuki

 
No one knows where Genjyo Sanzo came from.  He was found washed up on the shore of  a river by Buddhist monks and fostered at the Kinzan Temple, he too young to know who his parents were or how he came to be there.  Even as a child, he knew his own mind, and had a strong belief in himself.  The only one who truly accepted him was Komyo Sanzo, the highest ranking priest at that temple.  Komyo was the keeper of two of the Sacred Sutras, the Maten and the Seiten.  It was said that when the gods created the world, they used the five Founding Scriptures of Heaven and Earth.  The priests who were in charge of protecting those scriptures were the Sanzo order.  It was a mark of Komyo Sanzo's stature that he was entrusted with two of the powerful objects.   (In later series it is revealed that his father was a government official who was killed, similar to the Chinese character Sanzang he represents.)
 
The other monks took to calling the orphan "Kouryuu", which means "River Rat".  Soon it became his name, but he associated it with coming from the strength of the flowing river, and the intended insult fell flat. 
 
He excelled in both the martial arts and magic, but seemed to lack the desire to join the order.  The other monks met this with jealousy and often tried to derail the boy, but Master Komyo was always there to explain the truth (and keep the other monks in check).  His treatment at the hands of the rest of the monks, plus his already strong sense of self, led to a harsh all-encompassing cynicism.  The only one he truly cared about was Master Komyo. 
 
One night, the peaceful world of the monastery shattered.  Evil youkai, or demons descended on the temple, heading straight for Master Komyo's quarters.  Komyo lost his life protecting Kouryuu, and the Seiten Scripture was stolen.  Amidst accusations and suspicion from the other monks, the outwardly calm Kouryuu made an announcement and a request to the temple elders.  The announcement; that he had been with Master Komyo the previous night because Komyo Sanzo was giving him a new name; Genjyo Sanzo.  The request; to allow him to travel down the mountain in pursuit of the youkai to get the Sacred Scripture, his Sacred Scripture, back.  The elders ignored the protests of the lesser monks and granted his request.  He was given his choice of weapons from the temple armory, supplied, and he left.   
 
The weapon he chose was a small, snub-nosed revolver which closely resembled a Webley (although the gun changed in subsequent series), called a banishing gun in the anime.  One shot to any normal youkai was instant death.  It was pretty effective against non-youkai, too. 
 
So he left the only home he knew and made his way into the world, armed with his gun, the Maten Scripture, and his wits.  He wasn't even sixteen.  
 
What He Didn't Know 
 
What Genjyo Sanzo couldn't know was he was the reincarnation of a god who had been "removed" from Heaven, the Court of the Jade Emperor, 500 years before.  Nephew to the Merciful Goddess, Kanzeon Bosatsu, his name had been Konzen Douji and he was an administrator in the court of the Merciful Goddess (who in the manga was a hermaphrodite, but was changed to female in the anime.)  In the original Saiyuki series, the events surrounding his leaving Heaven are shrouded in mystery.  It is only explained how he met up and interacted with Son Goku (the same Son Goku his later incarnation travels with, but with an erased memory), and the previous incarnations of  Sha Gojyo, a general in the armies of Heaven named Kenren, and  Cho Hakkai, then the lackadaisical Field Marshall Tenpou.   
 
 Konzen was infinitely bored with Heaven, grouchy, grumpy, and with no patience for anything.  His aunt, the equally bored Merciful Goddess, in order to amuse herself and liven up Konzen's life, bought a small child-like creature said to have been born from a mountain.  The monkey-like being was completely naive and had no experience with any kind of society, much less the strictly structured society of Heaven, and was guaranteed to liven things up.  One caveat; the small creature was incredibly powerful.  For protection, manacles were fashioned, manacles of massive weight in order to curtail his strength.  Despite the shackles, he was still able to move relatively freely, even normally.  Just observing him would never reveal that he was so bound.  
 
Additionally he wore a god-forged golden coronet, a power limiter, to curb more than just his brute strength.
 
The Merciful Goddess had her nephew Konzen at her side when making the purchase, and encouraged the blond haired god to inspect the little creature more closely.  As he stepped forward, the creature was struck by the shining beauty of the god, with long, streaming hair "like the sun".  It was a fateful moment.   
 
Then he reached up and yanked some of that long, streaming hair out of Konzen's head, and the basis of their relationship was formed.  To say that Konzen was pissed is putting it mildly.  The Merciful Goddess immediately concluded the purchase and put Konzen in charge of her latest acquisition.  While he ranted and raved a change did slowly come over Konzen, thanks to the creature, whom he finally named (after much begging and bugging) Goku. 
 
Konzen introduced Goku to Field Marshall Tenpou, who was definitely more interested in immersing himself in his extensive library than doing any field marshalling.  The two became fast friends.  It was through Goku that Konzen met General Kenren, and while they didn't necessarily like each other, they did respect one another.  The three men all shared the same suspicions about a spreading corruption growing in the Court of the Jade Emperor, one that the Emperor himself wasn't aware of.  Goku's involvement was much more basic, he became acquainted with the only other child in Heaven, the War Prince Nataku.   Little did any of them realize how deeply ensnared the young War Prince was in the machinations of his father, who was planning a coup in Heaven, setting himself up as the new Jade Emperor.   
 
It was their actions in Heaven, 500 years before the events of Saiyuki, that bound the fates of the four together.
  

Fateful Meetings

  
Genjyo Sanzo never did recover the Seiten Scripture, and he never returned to the Kinzan Temple.  The death of his beloved master had only solidified his self-reliance, and he swore to himself he would never care for anything or anyone again so much that he was afraid to lose it.  He would only surround himself with those able to care for themselves, that way he would never have to worry about anyone, ever again. 
 
Then a voice began pleading in his head, a voice that would not quit.  It was calling to him, over and over again.  The closer he got to water, the stronger the voice became, but even in the middle of the desert, the voice would not quit.  In high dudgeon, he set out to discover the source of the voice and make them shut the hell up and leave him alone. 
 
What he found was an adolescent boy, shackled and imprisoned in a cell of stone, wearing a golden coronet.  Even the iron heart of Genjyo Sanzo was touched...kind of.  When he demanded that the boy shut up and leave him alone, the boy had no idea what he was talking about.  Figuring the boy's call wouldn't stop so long as he was imprisoned, Sanzo used his staff and shattered the stone bars of the cell, freeing the boy.  That boy was of course Son Goku, who instantly became Sanzo's loyal sidekick. 
 
Son Goku went with Sanzo everywhere, even on his missions for the  Sanbutsushin, the three aspects of Buddha.  Despite his small size, the boy was a fearsome fighter, and as Sanzo discovered, pretty much indestructible.  Keeping Son Goku in line with heavy use of his paper fan, the two became an effective team.  Although the other monks of Sanzo's order still didn't like either of them too much, particularly when Son Goku would climb the trees on temple grounds and eat the sacred fruit.  The boy was always hungry.  Sanzo figured it was because the boy hadn't eaten for 500 years. 
 
One mission Sanzo was called out to do was the capture of a man-turned-demon.  This man had slaughtered over a thousand demons, all belonging to a powerful clan, and as such, had turned into a demon himself.  For his fearsome crimes of murder, and his new powers, it was determined by the Sanbutsushin that only a Sanzo, and particularly this Sanzo, could bring him in.  Sanzo accepted and he and  Goku were soon on his trail. 
 
They found the fugitive hiding at the house of a half-breed, half-human, half-kappa (water demon).  While the half-demon tried to hide and protect him, the fugitive was afraid his friend would get hurt and confronted the priest.  He swore he would turn himself in once he finished one last thing, and he asked for more time.  After a brief battle where the fugitive ended up with Sanzo's gun, he got away. 
 
It turned out that the fugitive was  Cho Gonou, a man who went on a rampage against the  Hyakugen youkai clan, who had captured his fiancee, Kanan while he was at work.  Fueled by his rage against the townspeople who stood by and let it happen, he ripped through the youkai, slaughtering every single one he came across.  When he found her, locked in a cell, she told him she had been raped and impregnated by their king, Hyakugen Maoh.  Stealing his dagger, she backed out of his reach and stabbed herself.  His grief temporarily weakened him as Maoh's son attacked him, driving his fist through Gonou's torso.  However, Gonou had already killed his thousand demons, and the metamorphosis began.  He killed Maoh's son, but would bear the garish scar for the rest of his life.  Blinded by pain, grief, and confusion over his transformation, he stumbled into the night, where he was found by the half-kappa and his wound tended.
 
Back at the half-demon's house, Sanzo determined to go after the fugitive, and the half-demon, named  Sha Gojyo, came along.  The three of them set off in pursuit.  When they caught up with him, he was locked in battle with the last of the Hyakugen clan, but his wound and exhaustion left him weak. The Hyakugen youkai accuses  Cho Gonou of ripping out the eyes of his brother.  Driven to the point of madness, Gonou proceeded to dig his fingers into his own right eye, nearly destroying it.  He was about to repeat the performance with his left, but a horrified  Goku stopped him.  Brought back to himself, Gonou killed the youkai, and then quietly surrendered to Sanzo.  Sanzo took him back to Chang-An, to face the judgement of the Sanbutsushin.   
 
When  Gojyo asks about Gonou's fate, he is informed rather brusquely that Cho Gonou was dead.   
 
Despite  Gojyo's reaction, Sanzo was speaking figuratively.  Cho Gonou the human man was indeed dead, but in his place stood  Cho Hakkai, youkai.  After that, Sanzo found himself relying on his new acquaintances incredible fighting styles on quite a few missions. 
 

Journey to the West

 

  One day Sanzo was summoned to Chang-An by the Sanbutsushin, and given a mission.  A negative energy wave was engulfing the      

Sanzo was ordered to , where Gyumaoh was sealed, and stop the resurrection, and hopefully, the negative wave that was affecting the youkai.   The wave was threatening Shangri-La itself, which had become renowned for the peaceful interaction of youkai and humans living side by side.  

The priest was fine with the mission, and accepted readily.   Then the Sanbutsushin let the other shoe drop.   He had to take certain companions with him.   This part Sanzo was not so fine with.   The companions, as ordered by the Three Heads were Son Goku, Sha Gojyo, and Cho Hakkai

Expressing his reservations, Sanzo tried to explain why perhaps it wasn’t such a good idea to have those particular three journey with him as all the youkai were going completely insane, and they were youkai.   The Sanbutsushin brushed aside his objections, claiming that all three had ties to humanity that allowed them to resist the negative wave affecting the rest of the youkai.   Also, they were well acquainted with Sanzo’s inability or unwillingness to trust others, and they told him to look beyond his companions’ youkai natures and see them with the “eyes of his heart”. 

Sanzo grumbled, Sanzo groused, but Sanzo accepted.   Gathering Goku, who had journeyed to Chang-An with him, he set off to find the other two.   It wasn’t so difficult as all that, and the four quickly met up and set off to .   

There was even another addition to the party, which Sanzo didn’t mind nearly so much.   A small white dragon, named Hakuryu, with the ability to change into a jeep, or “iron vehicle”.   Yeah, Sanzo didn’t mind that part at all.   Hakuryu was Hakkai’s pet and companion, and the little dragon was a great help in getting the party across vast distances much more quickly than they ever could on foot. 

What followed was an epic journey as Sanzo realized (but never, ever admitted) that he did indeed care about and rely on his companions for more than their youkai killing abilities, as well as encountering a good many enemies, some honorable, some not.   All the while he threatened both youkai and his party with his gun, ordered them around like servants, smoked like a chimney, drank like a fish, swore like a sailor, and killed mostly everything that even mildly annoyed him. 

He did have a tendency when, surrounded by enemies intent on his death, continuing to argue with this companions, ignoring the threat surrounding him.   That pissed off the bad guys more than just about anything else.

The Goku Factor

Son Goku, the Monkey King, is utterly and completely devoted to Sanzo.   Which is good and bad, considering when Goku’s coronet comes off, he turns into a mindless, nearly invincible killing machine, incapable of recognizing friend or foe, living only to fight. 

The first time his coronet comes off, it is in direct response to the near death of Sanzo, who had been struck down by a magically empowered insane priest.   Watching Sanzo lying in the mud and the rain was too much for Goku to bear, and he snapped, along with his coronet. 

The two halves of the coronet fell to the ground,   and Goku went berserk.   Basically, he beat the crap out of the rogue priest, almost killing him, and the priest fled.   Then Goku turned his attention to Gojyo and Hakkai, who were desperately trying to save Sanzo.   It took the intervention of the Merciful Goddess herself to put the coronet back together and stop Goku’s rampage.   

The good comes from the fact that when things get really, really bad for Sanzo, they can pretty much defeat any enemy due to this ability of Goku’s.   The bad comes from once he defeats the enemy, he starts looking around for others, and usually ends up pounding his friends into the ground like tent pegs. 

Sanzo, however, so long as the coronet wasn’t damaged, could usually bring Goku back to himself, usually with the power of his Maten Scripture to bind the boy and get the coronet back on him.   Unfortunately, when Goku’s coronet came off, it was usually because Sanzo was on the point of death, so this was an iffy prospect at best.   Generally, the party agreed it was better for all concerned that Goku’s coronet stay firmly on his head. 

 

Miscellaneous Notes

 
 Sanzo is a Sagittarius. 

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