Journey to the West


"So what's the deal?" you ask yourself.   "After all that history I had to go through, this better be good."

I hope I won't disappoint you.  The story Journey to the West is as mentioned above, a novel written by Wu Cheng'en in the Ming dynasty.  It tells the story of a righteous monk's heavenly quest to travel to India (Western Heaven) and retrieve the Buddhist scriptures for the people of Tang Dynasty China.  The main character is Triptaka, the Tang Monk, who is commissioned by the Boddisatvia, the Goddess of Mercy, Kuan-Yin, to make the hazardous journey which will ultimately take sixteen years.  The Tang Monk is very holy; a piece of his flesh is said to make a person live ten thousand years.  Thus, the many demons that abound along the roads all want to make the Tang Monk either their husband or their dinner.  Hence he needs heavenly guardians and one by one he aquires three disciples and a magical horse that is actually a young dragon.  All four of these heavenly creatures have been converted to Buddhism by Kuan-Yin and have sworn to follow the Tang Monk to the Western Heaven and thus atone for their sins.

The novel consists of 100 chapters.  The first thirteen chapters are really an introduction.  The first seven deal with the birth, ascension, general antics, and final imprisonment of the Great Monkey King under a mountain to wait for the holy monk to free him.  The next six chapters are devoted to giving us the history of the Tang Monk and establishing him as a caricature of a good and holy monk.

The rest of the chapters are episodic and can easily be divided into separate stories.  Each little story has a challenge for the pilgrims to overcome, whether it be a kingdom in danger, a kingdom overrun, or most popularly a demon to subdue.  I won't give away the ending here, sorry, you'll have to go read the book.   There are two translations listed on my sources page, both of which should be easily available at your local library, or from or other booksellers.