"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 Amazon.com or other booksellers.