Journey to the West is a mythological novel based on many centuries of popular tradition. It was probably put into its present form in the 1570s by Wu Cheng'en (1500-82).
This lively fantasy relates the amazing adventures of the priest Xuanzang as he travels west in search of Buddhist sutras with his three disciples, the irreverent and capable Monkey, greedy Pig, and Friar Sand. The opening chapters recount the earlier exploits of Monkey, culminating in his rebellion against Heaven. We then learn how Xuanzang became a monk and was sent on his pilgrimage by the Tang emperor who had escaped death with the help of an Underworld official. The main story, the journey, takes the priest through all kinds of entertaining trials and tribulations, mainly at the hands of monsters and spirits who want to eat him. Most, like the ferocious Red Boy, want to devour him. Some, such as the scorpion spirit of Pipa Cave, take the form of beautiful women in the hope of seducing him. Only the courage and powers of his disciples, especially Monkey, save him from death. Monkey has to use all his connections in the supernatural world to find the help that will enable him to defeat these and other formidable enemies, such as the Bull Demon King and Princess iron Fan, or the imitation Monkey who is indistinguishable from himself. On the last part of the journey the demons come in as wide a range of shapes and kinds as ever. Among them are spider-women who spin webs from their navels, a pride of lion monsters and a terrible female spirit who carries the Tang Priest down into her bottomless cave to marry him. These and all the other fiends test to the very limit Monkey's ingenuity, supernatural powers and connections throughout the universe. Monkey is the hero of the fantasy, and the reader will soon learn why he has long been so loved in China. Will the pilgrims reach the Vulture Peak and obtain the scriptures? The answer will only be found at the end of the 100-chapter novel.
The story is as full of imagination as Monkey is of magic, and packed with incident and down-to-earth humor. The illustrations are from 19th-century Chinese edition.
The Chinese version source text of this novel is from http://www.shuku.net :8082/novels/xiyouji/xiyouji.html, accessed on 2007-04-23. The character encoding has been converted to utf-8 and the HTML code has been completely redone.