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Monkey, also known as The Monkey King or The Journey to the West, is one of the four great novels of China--along with The Water Margins, Dream of the Red Mansion, and The Three Kingdoms.  It tells the story, in allegorical form, of Xuan Zang (or Hsuan Tsang), a 7th Century monk who trekked from China to India in search of Buddhist texts, his translations of which were a key to the growth of Buddhism in China.  His real-life travelogue is itself considered to be a great work of literature, but for purposes of the novel he, referred to here as Tripitaka, is given a group of comic companions : the Monkey King, a kind of trickster god, who represents rebelliousness against both heavenly and earthly order;  Pigsy, a marshal of heaven turned into his animal namesake for attacking a fairy maiden, who represents a sort of earthy stolidity; and Sandy, a kind of sea monster, who Waley says represents "whole-heartedness", whatever that means.

The book is intermittently amusing, but even in this abridged version is way too long.  Characters' motivations and the meanings of most of the action are awfully obscure.  And like any picaresque, it is almost purely episode driven, without the various episodes necessarily adding up to a coherent and sustained story.  The book is interesting as a cultural relic, but, if no one told you, you wouldn't imagine it to be such an influential text.


Grade: (C)


See also:

Asian Literature
Book-related and General Links:
    -Wu Ch'Eng-En : Pre-20th Century Culture (Leighton Doran | Steve Endres | Sarah Lemrise)
    -Wu Cheng-en (ca. 1500 - 1582)
    -Wu Ch'eng-en's Monkey
    -Journey to the West (China Today)
    -Monkey : A Superhero Tale of China (Retold by Aaron Shepard)
    -The Legend of the Monkey King (Think Quest)
    -Ol' Monkey (A pagan triumphal) Being the story of the handsome monkey King, Sun Wu Kong, Great Sage Equal to Heaven, Aware of Vacuity.
    -Monkey King (Justin Dart)
    -ESSAY : Serious Monkey Business (Dr. Shaw, University of Richmond)
    -ESSAY : From protean ape to handsome saint: the Monkey King. (Chinese folkloric character) (Whalen Lai, Asian Folklore Studies)
    -REVIEW : of THE JOURNEY TO THE WEST Translated and Edited by Anthony C. Yu (David Lattimore, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : May 29, 1980 Frederic Wakeman, Jr.: The Monkey King
       The Journey to the West Volumes 1 and 2 translated and edited by Anthony C. Yu
    -REVIEW : of Monkey King by Ed Young (National Post)

    -LINKS : Monkey Links
    -Marty's Web Pages: Monkey

    -INFO : The Lost Empire (2001-TV) (
    -REVIEW : of Lost Empire : Too bad `Lost Empire' was unfortunately found (R. D. HELDENFELS, Akron Beacon Journal)
    -REVIEW : of Lost Empire (Dave Mason, Scripps Howard News Service)
    -REVIEW : of Lost Empire (M.S. Mason,Television critic of The Christian Science Monitor)

    -REVIEW : of ULTIMATE JOURNEY Retracing the Path of an Ancient Buddhist Monk Who Crossed Asia in Search of Enlightenment by Richard Bernstein (Alexander Frater, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of ULTIMATE JOURNEY Retracing the Path of an Ancient Buddhist Monk Who Crossed Asia in Search of Enlightenment by Richard Bernstein (DONALD S. LOPEZ Jr, NY Times)
    -REVIEW : of Ultimate Journey by Richard Bernstein (Len Barcousky, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette )
    -REVIEW : of Ultimate Journey: Retracing the Path of an Ancient Monk Who Crossed Asia in Search of Enlightenment by Richard Bernstein (James Harding, Washington Post)


Well im writing a paper basically were all monkeys, So that really is the the great satire or great sage but we dont become anything more then one after we reach enlightenment using our ambition to get there out of the many maturing stages each character represents something different, tripitaka a child, The monkey a human with good and bad ambitions, Pigsy our sexual and other instincts that we are slaves to, And the dragon Sandy is sincerity and honor which is the last maturing stage which creates balance with all the others and allows us to reach enlightenment if we are asked what is the character that drives us to enlightenment it is our ambition thats why its called monkey i believe.

If you have any questions email me

- Jorge Cubas

- Apr-15-2006, 22:29


feed the monkey obey the monkey and u will reach enlightenment

- bob

- Oct-18-2005, 20:20


I was trying to find something about the Enlightenment theme in Monkey what can you tell me?

- Heather Stanley

- Oct-20-2004, 21:13