Like Zhu Bajie, Wujing was originally a general in Heaven - - more specifically as a Curtain-Lifting General. Once, he became very furious and destroyed a valuable vase. Other sources mention that he did this unintentionally. Nevertheless, he was punished by the Jade Emperor, who had him struck 800 times with a rod and exiled to earth, where he was to be as a terrible man-eating Sand Demon. There, he lived in the ''Liúshā-hé'' . Every seven days a sword would be sent from heaven to stab him 100 times in the chest before flying off.
Wujing's appearance was rather grisly; he had a red beard and his was partially bald; a necklace consisting of skulls made him even more terrible. He still carried the weapon he had in Heaven, a '''', a double-headed staff with a crescent-moon blade at one end and a spade at the other, with six '''' rings in the shovel part to denote its religious association. There is an interesting story about the necklace of skulls. An earlier group of nine monks on a pilgrimage West to fetch the scriptures met their end at the hands of Wujing. Despite their pleas for mercy, he devoured them, sucked the marrow from their bones, and threw their skulls into the river. However, unlike his other victims whose bone sank to the river bottom, the skulls of the monks floated. This fascinated and delighted Wujing, who strung them on a rope and played with them whenever he was bored.
Later, Guanyin, the bodhisattva of compassion, and her disciple Prince Moksa came searching for powerful bodyguards in preparation of Xuanzang's journey west. She recruited Wujing in exchange for some relief from his suffering. She then converted him and gave him his current name, ''Shā Wùjìng''. His surname ''Shā'' was taken from his river-home, while his name ''Wùjìng'' means " purity" or "aware of purity". Finally, he was instructed to wait for a monk who would call for him. When Wujing does meet Xuanzang, he was mistaken for an enemy and attacked by Sun Wukong and Zhu Bajie. Guanyin was forced to intervene for the sake of the journey.
After everything was cleared up, Wujing became the third of Xuanzang, who called him ''Shā-héshàng'' . Now, he was clad in a robe and his skull-necklace was turned into a one. His appearance also changed; from now on he looked more like a human, yet still ugly. During the Journey to the West, his swimming ability was quite useful. He always carried a small gourd which he could turn into a huge one to cross rivers. Wujing was actually a kind-hearted and obedient person and was very loyal to his master, among the three he was likely the most polite and the most logical. At the journey's end, Buddha transformed him into an arhat or luohan.
As the third disciple, even though his fighting skills are not as great as that of Wukong or Bajie, he is still a great warrior protecting Xuanzang and can use his intellect as well as his strength to beat the enemy. He does not know any transformations; he admits this during the middle of the book.
Characters similar to Sha Wujing
In Japan he was seen as a , another fearsome kind of water demon.
In the manga/anime '''', is loosely based on Sha Wujing, with a modified version of the same weapon . However, Gojyō is described as being half human, half ''yōkai'', instead of a man-eating river monster.
''Mega Man: The Wily Wars'' had a character based on Sha Wujing named Mega Water.S in the unlockable "Wily Tower" game. Mega Water.S later made an appearance in the CD Database for ''Mega Man & Bass''.
In the manga/anime '''', the character Yamcha, the Desert Bandit, was originally based upon Sha Wujing.
In Digimon, Shaujinmon is based on Sha Wujing.
In the movie The Forbidden Kingdom Jackie Chan's character Lu Yan is based on Sha Wujing.