The Order of Wen the Eternally Surprised, better known as the History Monks, and also sometimes referred to as the Men In Saffron (see Men in Black) and No Such Monastery (see NSA), is a highly secretive religious organisation based in the Monastery of Oi-Dong. They are one of a large number of monastic orders that occupy the high Ramtops, which likely takes its name from the Buddhist Rongbuk Monastery near Mt Everest in Tibet. "The Men in Saffron" is an obvious reference to the movie "Men in Black", but also to the original, mythical federal secret agents the movie is named after. "No Such Monastery" is a reference to "No Such Agency", which is the way to which the American NSA (National Security Agency) is jokingly referred, because of their reputation for extreme secrecy and paranoia and the first letters of the agency's name.
The role of The OrderEdit
The Order first appears in Small Gods where they are described as having the responsibility of observing significant events so that they become history, instead of just things happening. However, there is a slight reference to the Order in "Guards! Guards!", where at the end of the novel there are many bright orange robed men loading barrels and one specifically mentions the name Lobsang. They are a Discworld equivalent of the Time Lords from Doctor Who. They also have responsibility to see history follows the right track, as set out in the huge lead-bound History Books - 20,000 of them, ten feet high, with printing small enough to need a magnifying glass to read. "When people say "it is written" - it is written here." According to Small Gods, three people go at a time to access the books because once in the past one person used to go in alone, learn about the future, and won a large sum in bets before he was found out.
In Thief of Time we find that this is a simplification, and the main role of the monastery is to ensure anything happens at all. To do this, they have a number of methods for moving and storing time, namely one by means of spinning cylinders called "procrastinators", which look like Tibetan prayer wheels, and are evocative of the Tipler Cylinder theory. (It having been established as early as Wyrd Sisters that people's perception of time affects its flow on the Disc, the Monks must ensure this does not become a problem, by, as an example, taking some time from the middle of the ocean ('how much time does a codfish need?' a probable coelacanth reference) and putting it in a busy Ankh-Morpork workshop with a deadline to meet.)
They also frequently need to enter the world, to take a more direct hand in events. It is for this reason that a number of monks have been trained as ninjas. Many of them have since been retrained by Lu-Tze, who believes most problems can be sorted out without resorting to martial arts.
Because of the Order's control of Time, the valley is permanently reliving a perfect day, with the cherry blossom beginning to fall. Which is too bad if you actually want cherries; fortunately for Lu-Tze, at the end of Thief of Time, Lobsang Ludd, the new personification of Time, makes a slight adjustment to some of the valley's trees so as to give his tutor his own "perfect moment".
Main article: Lu-Tze
Lu-Tze appeared in Small Gods and had a substantial role in Thief of Time, in which we learn that he is not a monk at all, but "merely" a sweeper at the Monastery of Oi-Dong. In fact, he uses the same trick (that no-one notices a sweeper) in the monastery as he does when out in the world, and has learnt as much about the nature of time as some of the higher monks simply by tidying up the classrooms. Everyone knows that Lu-Tze is one of the best, but few realise who he actually is. He is described as being somewhat short, bald, wrinkly, and with a scrubby beard. He smokes little cigarettes, in much the same way that Nobby Nobbs does. He also looks 'generically ethnic' so that he could have come from anywhere. Lu-Tze enjoys making and keeping gardens, and is highly skilled with a broom or rake or similar tool (when he raked a gravel path at the Citadel in Omnia (Small Gods) he left curves and scallop patterns which looked so nice that Brutha felt guilty about walking on them). Lu-Tze, while he almost never uses martial arts, is renowned as a terror in the enlightenment country. At dojos across the mountains, students have Rule One drilled into their heads ("Never act incautiously when confronting a little bald wrinkly smiling man"). When he does use martial arts, Lu-Tze is unmatched. He is the only person who knows 'deja fu', a fighting style in which the hands move in time as well as space. He later appears in Night Watch, in order to assist Samuel Vimes' attempt to return to his own time. He is known to tend to bonsai mountains, which are like bonsai trees, but are, well, mountains, and when not in the world, generally resides in the garden of Five Surprises (some of the Surprises are quite lethal).
Lobsang (born Newgate Ludd) was raised by the Ankh-Morpork Thieves' Guild, but was discovered by Soto of the History Monks when Lobsang performed the Stance of the Coyote (personalized time shift, possibly a reference to cartoon character Wile E. Coyote's ability to pause in mid-air, often for comic effect) in order to save his own life after falling from a rooftop. Afterwards he was raised in the Temple, where he confounded his teachers by knowing too much. Eventually he was apprenticed to Lu-Tze and went out into the world to stop the second Glass Clock, which was being constructed by his temporal double, Jeremy Clockson.
It is revealed that he is the son of Wen the Eternally Surprised and the personification of Time. After fusing with Jeremy, Lobsang inherited all of Time's powers and eventually took over her role.
At the end of Thief of Time he shares an unspecified "perfect moment" with Susan Sto Helit (a.k.a. Susan Death), who is also a human who inherited qualities from an anthropomorphic personification. Lobsang inherited powers directly from his parent; she, indirectly from a foster grandparent. His incarnation of Jeremy had romantic inclinations to Myria LeJean, the first embodied Auditor, who shared the feeling but wasn't able to express it, due firstly to Jeremy's nullification and secondly due to her committing suicide via 10,000-gallon vat of chocolate at the end of Thief of Time.
- Wen the Eternally Surprised. The founder of the order, and the writer of the History Books. Wen was the first person to fully grasp the nature of time—that the only thing that exists in the universe is the present, that the past is only a memory, and that the universe is literally broken down and rebuilt by Time from moment to moment, in an interval which would come to be known as the "quantum cosmic tick". He is also involved in a relationship with the personification of Time. Considering the name of the castle Oi Dong, he is an obvious reference to King Wen, the mythical author of I Ching, (The Book of Changes). His name could also be a pun on the word "when."
- Clodpool the Apprentice. Wen's extremely stupid apprentice. Wen stated that if Clodpool could learn his teachings, anyone could.
- The Abbot. One of the wisest minds on the Disc, capable of thinking in sixteen dimensions. He has not acquired the "circular-aging" ability of the other monks, however, and must therefore reincarnate. (He could be compared to the Dalai Lama in this sense.) His body is about a year old during Thief of Time, though his mind is certainly many centuries old.
- Qu. A mechanically-minded, white-haired monk with a fascination for things that go bang. Qu invents most of the weaponry that the order's martial artists take on their missions into the world. He is based on the James Bond character Q. Technically though, in Pinyin his name would be pronounced chu.
- Marco Soto. A monk with a huge ponytail, he claims he does have a shaved head and the hair is a separate entity. This has done wonders for his ability to get sent out on assignments far from the monastery, and he is currently the head of the History Monks based in Ankh-Morpork. A student of Lu-Tze, he knows there are many ways for a monk to become invisible, but the best is to be holding a begging-bowl (it should be noted, though, that the bowl was made by the aforementioned Qu). Devoted to peace and cosmic harmony, as long as no-one touches his hair. He is named after a Discworld fan who won a charity auction to appear as a cameo character.
- Soon Shine Sun. Another monk based in Ankh-Morpork. Soon Shine Sun runs the second-hand clothes shop ("shonky" shop) next to the Order's Ankh-Morpork temple. He avoids awkward questions by feigning a near total inability to speak the Morporkian language.