Mar 20, 2014


Journey to the West - One of the Four Classical Novels in China

Journey to the West is a classical Chinese novel of gods and evil spirits. Completed at the mid-Ming Dynasty, the early circulated editions didn’t have the author’s name, so it is disputable as to who the author is, but it is generally believed that it is Wu Cheng'en from Huai’an, Jiangsu Province.

Journey to the West, which depicts the story of Monk Tang and his disciples going west to seek for Sutra, is renowned as one of the four classical novels in China. As a matter of fact, before that there had already been the circulation of a story-book describing the Monk Tang and his disciples seeking for Sutra in West Heaven story, and some characters in Journey to the West such as T'ang San-tsang (Monk Tang), Bodhisattva Kuen-yin, Great Emperor Jade, had been in Buddhism, Taoism and legends for a long time. Journey to the West has just imbibed from them and depicts in a romantic way the vivid pictures of heaven, earth and the fairyland, and the interesting stories happened there. It employs its unique novel language to reflect the social reality of the Ming Dynasty, satirizing the existing ugliness of the society, so it enjoys a very important position in the history of Chinese literature.

The influence of Journey to the West being so wide and lasting is largely because it models the Monkey King, the Pig Marshal, Monk Tang and Monk Sha, etc. into vivid figures with independent personalities and infectious power. Of these, the most talked about and best known is the Monkey King. He is an omnificent humanized monkey, mischievous and cute, knowing precisely whom and what to love or hate. And after becoming a disciple of Monk Tang, he went through a whole lot of obstacles so that finally with his protection Monk Tang brought back the True Sutra and realized his Buddhist Ideal, which, to a large extent, shows the unique concept of heroism of the ordinary Chinese people.

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