Encyclopedia  |   World Factbook  |   World Flags  |   Reference Tables  |   List of Lists     
   Academic Disciplines  |   Historical Timeline  |   Themed Timelines  |   Biographies  |   How-Tos     
Sponsor by The Tattoo Collection
Journey to the West
Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index

Journey to the West

Journey to the West (Traditional Chinese: 西遊記; Simplified Chinese: 西游记; pinyin: Xī Yu J, WG: Hsi Yu Chi) is a classic of Chinese literature, and perhaps the most well-known amongst the younger generation. It was published anonymously in the 1590s, and no direct evidence of its authorship survives, but it is traditionally ascribed to the scholar Wu Cheng'en. The novel tells a fictionalized and mythologized version of the Buddhist monk Xuanzang's pilgrimage to India.

In the novel, the monk Xuanzang (玄藏) is called by the Bodhisattva Guan Yin to travel to India to obtain copies of certain important Buddhist texts that are not available in China. He is accompanied on his journey by three disciples - the monkey king Sun Wukong (孫悟空), the pig-monster Zhu Wuneng (豬悟能), and the river monster Sha Wujing (沙悟淨) - who have agreed to help him along the way as an atonement for past sins. His horse is a reincarnation of a dragon prince.

The book is a reflection of how thoroughly Chinese Buddhism had combined with Daoism and Confucianism in China (for more information, see the article Religion in China).

One of the supernatural helpers, the monkey king Sun Wukong, has become one of the most famous and beloved characters in Chinese literature. His recognition factor and popularity in Asia have been compared to those of Mickey Mouse in Western countries (although, considering his personality, Bugs Bunny might be a better comparison).

Part of the novel's enduring popularity comes from the fact that it works on multiple levels: it is an adventure story, a dispenser of spiritual insight, and an extended metaphor in which the group of pilgrims journeying toward India stands for the individual journeying toward enlightenment.

Related topics

Notable English-language translations