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Viaje al Oeste recoge los avatares del monje Chen Hsüan-Tsang (Tripitaka) en su largo peregrinaje a la India en busca de escrituras budistas. Con su brillante estilo literario, se acabará desplazando al monje viajero y confiando el peso de la acción a sus tres discípulos, antiguos inmortales caídos en desgracia, que se verán obligados a sortear peligros y monstruos, cada v Viaje al Oeste recoge los avatares del monje Chen Hsüan-Tsang (Tripitaka) en su largo peregrinaje a la India en busca de escrituras budistas. Con su brillante estilo literario, se acabará desplazando al monje viajero y confiando el peso de la acción a sus tres discípulos, antiguos inmortales caídos en desgracia, que se verán obligados a sortear peligros y monstruos, cada vez más poderosos y crueles, que se oponen a su propósito de alcanzar la Montaña del Espíritu, donde en recompensa a su fidelidad serán elevados a la categoría de budas. Su aventura se convierte en un auténtico viaje interior, en el que las visiones budista y taoísta de la realidad juegan un papel esencial, apreciable incluso en la estructura de la obra. La presente traducción, directa del chino, es una de las escasísimas de la obra completa en una lengua occidental desde su aparición en 1592. «Esta nueva edición en un solo volumen de Viaje al Oeste viene a llenar un vacío tan enorme como la novela en sí, pues estamos hablando de todo un clásico de la literatura universal que, hasta épocas muy recientes, ha permanecido desconocido para los lectores españoles. El asunto es todavía más grave si se tiene en cuenta que el Rey Mono, uno de los protagonistas de la narración, es en China un personaje tan popular como lo pueden ser entre nosotros Don Quijote y Sancho Panza: ni algo menos ni algo más.» Jesús Ferrero


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Viaje al Oeste recoge los avatares del monje Chen Hsüan-Tsang (Tripitaka) en su largo peregrinaje a la India en busca de escrituras budistas. Con su brillante estilo literario, se acabará desplazando al monje viajero y confiando el peso de la acción a sus tres discípulos, antiguos inmortales caídos en desgracia, que se verán obligados a sortear peligros y monstruos, cada v Viaje al Oeste recoge los avatares del monje Chen Hsüan-Tsang (Tripitaka) en su largo peregrinaje a la India en busca de escrituras budistas. Con su brillante estilo literario, se acabará desplazando al monje viajero y confiando el peso de la acción a sus tres discípulos, antiguos inmortales caídos en desgracia, que se verán obligados a sortear peligros y monstruos, cada vez más poderosos y crueles, que se oponen a su propósito de alcanzar la Montaña del Espíritu, donde en recompensa a su fidelidad serán elevados a la categoría de budas. Su aventura se convierte en un auténtico viaje interior, en el que las visiones budista y taoísta de la realidad juegan un papel esencial, apreciable incluso en la estructura de la obra. La presente traducción, directa del chino, es una de las escasísimas de la obra completa en una lengua occidental desde su aparición en 1592. «Esta nueva edición en un solo volumen de Viaje al Oeste viene a llenar un vacío tan enorme como la novela en sí, pues estamos hablando de todo un clásico de la literatura universal que, hasta épocas muy recientes, ha permanecido desconocido para los lectores españoles. El asunto es todavía más grave si se tiene en cuenta que el Rey Mono, uno de los protagonistas de la narración, es en China un personaje tan popular como lo pueden ser entre nosotros Don Quijote y Sancho Panza: ni algo menos ni algo más.» Jesús Ferrero

30 review for Viaje al Oeste. Las Aventuras del Rey Mono

  1. 5 out of 5

    Kevin

    On hold since Summer 2006, I'm done with 3 1/2 volumes of this. I hope to finish before I die. 9/14/07: Seriously, I should finish this. 10/4/07: No kidding. 10/29/07: Give it some time. 12/9/07: Wait for it... 2/6/08: Uh... 4/6/08: I've read another chapter! 5/22/08: Guys, really. 6/17/08: I've read another bit. 7/10/08: This is getting ridiculous 9/30/08: What the hell. 4/25/09: I don't think this is ever going to be finished. 7/26/09: Except, by some miracle, I HAVE FINALLY FINISHED. 7/27/09: I've downgraded it from a On hold since Summer 2006, I'm done with 3 1/2 volumes of this. I hope to finish before I die. 9/14/07: Seriously, I should finish this. 10/4/07: No kidding. 10/29/07: Give it some time. 12/9/07: Wait for it... 2/6/08: Uh... 4/6/08: I've read another chapter! 5/22/08: Guys, really. 6/17/08: I've read another bit. 7/10/08: This is getting ridiculous 9/30/08: What the hell. 4/25/09: I don't think this is ever going to be finished. 7/26/09: Except, by some miracle, I HAVE FINALLY FINISHED. 7/27/09: I've downgraded it from a 5 to a 4, not because of any flaw in the plot (which I hold to be one of the best in general), but because the writing simply lacks that bit of finesse in most Western literature. This is to be expected though, because of rough translations. I'm sure if I could read Chinese and then read the original in Chinese, I would make it a 5.

  2. 5 out of 5

    The Final Song ❀

    Here ends the Journey to the West. After taking so long to read it I thought that I would never read those words. But now that I finished it, I am starting to miss Monkey smugness, Pig idiocy and Xanzang naivety. And... Well Friar Sand carried the luggage. Journey to the West is something really unique, more than a novel is a collection of independent stories joined to make a cohesive and very long one. What surprises me the most is how can it be entertaining and fresh after many centuries, and h Here ends the Journey to the West. After taking so long to read it I thought that I would never read those words. But now that I finished it, I am starting to miss Monkey smugness, Pig idiocy and Xanzang naivety. And... Well Friar Sand carried the luggage. Journey to the West is something really unique, more than a novel is a collection of independent stories joined to make a cohesive and very long one. What surprises me the most is how can it be entertaining and fresh after many centuries, and how despite the four main characters having pretty much the same set of characteristics across all the novel it never feels dull. It is predictable at times, that is true enough; but just as we know that the pilgrims will reach their destination we also know that we are reading it for the Journey. And about the translation, at least the present one seems to translate thing literally at parts and leaving the chinese names at others, as the translator himself has said this one is more directed to being easily readable (but sometimes it gets wonky) than being accurate. And just a final piece of advice, do no try to read it all on a sit, that ended very badly for me. Now I feel a desire to visit India and grab some sutras.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Dave

    Hiroshi Saito translation Heaven Arc The lesson of the this, the prequel section that sets up the main story, is that you can be an enormous asshole and you'll totally get your way, at least until you piss off Buddha. Earth Arc You can continue to be an enormous ass and mouth off to gods as long as you nominally do what they say and use some more polite language. Water Arc The gang's all here now. It's imporant who's around when you get your divine punishment. Sometimes they shave your head and take y Hiroshi Saito translation Heaven Arc The lesson of the this, the prequel section that sets up the main story, is that you can be an enormous asshole and you'll totally get your way, at least until you piss off Buddha. Earth Arc You can continue to be an enormous ass and mouth off to gods as long as you nominally do what they say and use some more polite language. Water Arc The gang's all here now. It's imporant who's around when you get your divine punishment. Sometimes they shave your head and take your necklace of skulls. Sometimes you just get a new name. Wizard Arc It's totally ok to eat fruit that looks like babies. Though if you mess up the orchard you may need to ask a bodhisattva for some gardening tips. Just don't go killing monsters masquerading as old folks unless you've got good proof. That's a good way to get excommunicated. Treasure Arc Don't trust boars. They lie a lot. If you're ever excommunicated, a daring rescue is always a good way to get back into your master's good graces. Keep any imporant documents away from boars; they are always hungry. It's hard when your co-workers are useless and you have to do all the work yourself. But at least you get to feel clever. Past acquaintances have a funny way of showing up in new guises. The stove boy is an inexplicably talented swordsman. King Arc Bodhisattvas are basically really touchy and tend to overreact, so be careful around them. They think nothing of having their pet lion push you into a well and keeping your corpse down there for three years while you think about what you've done. And said pet will be impersonating you the whole time, by the way; at least it doesn't have a thing for your wife. If you're having trouble with a yokai that happens to be the son of an old friend, it's understandable that you don't just want to kill them; it will make things so much harder to deal with though. However, you can always get a bodhisattva to do your dirty work for you. It helps when the yokai has been badmouthing the bodhisattva behind its back. You know how touchy those bodhisattvas are. As has been previously established, their efforts at disciplining the unruly usually involves a new hairdo. Dragon Arc Seriously, why are monks so delicious? If a minor dragon kidnaps your master, you can always go drink tea with his uncle while he sends people to take care of the problem for you. Religious strife is nothing new; these taoists can't seem to get enough of oppressing monks. Then again, the three main taoists are really yokai and they aren't talking about their dark pasts, so who knows why they're being so stubborn. The fact that your brother just tricked them into drinking his urine is not helping matters. They will keep on challenging you to increasingly ridiculous contests until they eventually kill themselves. You did try to stop them, but you'll still feel bad about it. Peaches still taste delicious.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Helmut

    Fantastically entertaining I am always astonished how readable and accessible are those old Chinese classical books. I've stated that for The Marshes of Mount Liang, and it's even more true for the 西遊記 Xiyouji, or "Journey to the West". Dating back to the 16th century, it's as readable as if it was only written a few decades ago. Of course, there are some stylistic quirks you have to get accustomed to - retelling of a just happened event by another person, formulaic plot elements, and the wordine Fantastically entertaining I am always astonished how readable and accessible are those old Chinese classical books. I've stated that for The Marshes of Mount Liang, and it's even more true for the 西遊記 Xiyouji, or "Journey to the West". Dating back to the 16th century, it's as readable as if it was only written a few decades ago. Of course, there are some stylistic quirks you have to get accustomed to - retelling of a just happened event by another person, formulaic plot elements, and the wordiness that blows up this novel to its daunting 2500 pages. But these are minor quibbles which should not distract you from enjoying this novel, because it is otherwise outstanding. Everybody will find something loveable within this book, be the reader looking for an exiting adventure yarn with many action scenes, for shining heroes and ugly villains, or for a funny and at the same time profound, tongue-in-cheek social novel with loads of obstinate, naive monks, insidious tricksters and corrupt officials. Even for those seeking spiritual enlightenment, there is enough stuff in the novel, from buddhism over taoism to confucianism. Never dry or boring, everything is told with a very potent humor. Jenner's translation is vivid and lively and captures the Monkey King's chaotic and active personality perfectly in a modern language, without modernisms or antiquarianisms. The ubiquitous poems have not been forced into English end rhymes but remain freely rhymed (rhymed poems always break the flow of reading for me), and they have a different indention than the rest of the text. The novel is split in 4 volumes, each of them the size of a standard paperback. The paper is the typical Foreign Languages Press paper, which means very thin and translucent. This novel will bring you hours of high-quality entertainment with a touch of sophistication. If you liked it, you should also read the aforementioned "The Marshes of Mount Liang" and The Sorcerer's Revolt, and maybe have a look at Three Kingdoms as well. If the page count should discourage you - Arthur Waley's Monkey condenses the 2500 pages in an honest manner (not always true for abridgements!) into a more palatable 300 pages.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Matt

    2/6/15 - Finished Volume 1 (of 4). This is a fascinating mythic journey so far. This first volume is almost more of a prologue, for those wondering how much of a journey this is going to turn out to be, out of 25 chapters, the first 7 make up the origin story of Monkey, and the next five of the monk Sanzang who at least so far appears to be the actual hero of the story, journeying to the west to receive the scriptures from the Buddha and bring them back to the Tang Emperor. I would love to read 2/6/15 - Finished Volume 1 (of 4). This is a fascinating mythic journey so far. This first volume is almost more of a prologue, for those wondering how much of a journey this is going to turn out to be, out of 25 chapters, the first 7 make up the origin story of Monkey, and the next five of the monk Sanzang who at least so far appears to be the actual hero of the story, journeying to the west to receive the scriptures from the Buddha and bring them back to the Tang Emperor. I would love to read some works on comparative literature looking at this and some western works such as the Iliad, and Dante. There's an amazing journey through the underworld, and some really funny trouble-making by Monkey and the other disciples Sanzang picks up along the way. Volume 1 ends on a bit of a cliffhanger, I'm looking forward to seeing where Volume 2 takes me. 2/24/15 - Finished Volume 2. I'm about halfway through, and not tired of the story yet. I'm starting to get a better feel for the humor, much of which comes from the character of Pig, his laziness, and his conflicts with Monkey. It's fascinating to see how the story manages to come up with varieties of challenges for the travelers to face, though there is a persistent theme of monsters catching Sanzang, and planning to eat him once they've finished dealing with his angry disciples. The editor has done a pretty effective job of ending each volume on a bit of a cliffhanger, which helps the reader maintain their momentum going forward. 3/29/15 - Finished Volume 3. This is the volume where the threats and challenges have gotten weirder than just a strong opponent who Monkey has to defeat. There are more enemies where Monkey has to explicitly call for significant assistance, and there are conflicts that are more complicated than the standard "fighting for 40 or 50 rounds" cycle. Once again, this volume ends on a bit of a cliffhanger. 4/28/15 - Finished Volume 4. Sanzang's journey to the west took 14 years, mine took 4 months. It was totally worth it. This is an amazing epic. Weird, and silly, with a structure that is clearly built up from the oral tradition from which it originated. I know there's an abridged version in English that's been published by a more mainstream publisher, and I'd like to check it out sometime to see how the translation differs, but the sheer bulk of this complete edition lent it an immersive quality that strengthened the impact of the story.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Anh

    Finally, it came to an end. 3 months. Books like this should be the slow reads that are done along side with other shorter, faster-paced books. To be honest, I hadn't expected much when I started: I watched every TV series version available maybe a zillion times before. I believed that I practically know everything about this Journey. But perhaps my memories blurred, or that they were the little details that I never noticed when I was sitting in front of the b/w 14" television when I was 5; or per Finally, it came to an end. 3 months. Books like this should be the slow reads that are done along side with other shorter, faster-paced books. To be honest, I hadn't expected much when I started: I watched every TV series version available maybe a zillion times before. I believed that I practically know everything about this Journey. But perhaps my memories blurred, or that they were the little details that I never noticed when I was sitting in front of the b/w 14" television when I was 5; or perhaps it's because the translator did a terrific job. Perhaps because reading brings different experiences from watching: the liberty to pause and ponder on whatever I want to, the liberty to change to another book that suits my moods better. Anyway, I enjoyed the story very much, and "discovered" many things new. The conversations between enemies are somewhat hilarious, I even found the wording done with a good sense of humor and refinement. The adventure itself is not completely interesting. It's boring, in fact. But once you learn how to ignore the repetition to see and enjoy the dialogues, the folklores… you'll see why it's a classic. Boring, yet enjoyable. Just like textbooks. I also appreciate the 1986 tv series adaption(s). Many things were modified, maybe totally skipped, maybe exaggerated, and that brought more colors to the original story.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Nathan "N.R." Gaddis

    Translator W.J.F. Jenner says :: "Because this was a book written for entertainment and pleasure I did not want it cluttered with footnotes. I reckoned that as long as readers were being carried along by the story, they did not want to be distracted by an annotator plucking at their sleeves, and explaining the countless Buddhist, Daoist and other references. Those who do want the scholarly paraphernalia can always turn to Anthony C. Yu's version." More to the point, here's a piece by Jenner :: 'Jo Translator W.J.F. Jenner says :: "Because this was a book written for entertainment and pleasure I did not want it cluttered with footnotes. I reckoned that as long as readers were being carried along by the story, they did not want to be distracted by an annotator plucking at their sleeves, and explaining the countless Buddhist, Daoist and other references. Those who do want the scholarly paraphernalia can always turn to Anthony C. Yu's version." More to the point, here's a piece by Jenner :: 'Journeys to the East, “Journey to the West” by W J F Jenner' https://lareviewofbooks.org/essay/jou...

  8. 4 out of 5

    Les Wilson

    Over 60 years since I first read this. It took a lot longer for my brain to assimilate it this time, but glad I stayed with it for in the end I did enjoy it just as much.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Czarny Pies

    The Journey to the West is one of the four great classics of Chinese literature. As an English translation runs to over 1800 pages tackling it seems to be as daunting a task as reading all of Milton's Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained. In fact W.J. Jenner's fabulous translation turns the thing into a fabulous comic romp. The Journey to the West is the epic of how the Monk Tang Sanzang conducts a 14 year voyage to India in order to obtain Buddhist scriptures to bring back to China and thus spiri The Journey to the West is one of the four great classics of Chinese literature. As an English translation runs to over 1800 pages tackling it seems to be as daunting a task as reading all of Milton's Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained. In fact W.J. Jenner's fabulous translation turns the thing into a fabulous comic romp. The Journey to the West is the epic of how the Monk Tang Sanzang conducts a 14 year voyage to India in order to obtain Buddhist scriptures to bring back to China and thus spiritually redeem the Chinese. Sanzang is accompanied by three disciples on his voyage: San Wukong (a monkey with the agility of Spiderman, the sauciness of Bugs Bunny and the brains of Einstein; Zhu Bajie (a pig with the thirst of Boris Yeltsin and the sexual appetite of Bill Clinton); and finally Friar Sand a discreet monk. Sanzang is in his 10th reincarnation at the start of the journey. Male demons want to eat him because they believe that they will attain immortality by doing so. Female demons want to have sex with him so as to deprive him of his virginity which he has maintained through 10 reincarnations. Throughout the journey Sanzang the leader proves to be a dolt at every turn blithely walking into 81 traps set for him by evil demons. His disciples rally around to rescue him on all 81 occasions. On the 81st rescue which is the magic square of nine, the journey is complete. Sanzang arrives in India with his body in one piece and his virginity intact. He receives the sacred scriptures. The four companions then return to China in 8 days. Sanzang and the monkey become Buddhas while the other two disciples receive lesser honours. Jenner makes this all wildly funny. Just as Westerners seldom read through the complete Grimm Brothers or Hans Christian Anderson in one go, the Chinese do not as a rule read all of the journey to the west at once. Every child, however, will know some of the stories. My advice is to get the book and read stories from time to time as the spirit moves you.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Kontrolpian

    Incredibly entertaining for its size, but probably not for everyone. So, somehow I cannot really say I got bored of the four long volumes of Journey to the West. That is not to say I do not have any criticisms, yet the entertainment value of the book makes up for most of them. Journey to the West is comprised of 100 chapters that recount the fortunes and misfortunes of the holy monk Sanzang and his converted disciples (former demons with godlike magical powers)—Monkey, Pig and Friar Sand—that are Incredibly entertaining for its size, but probably not for everyone. So, somehow I cannot really say I got bored of the four long volumes of Journey to the West. That is not to say I do not have any criticisms, yet the entertainment value of the book makes up for most of them. Journey to the West is comprised of 100 chapters that recount the fortunes and misfortunes of the holy monk Sanzang and his converted disciples (former demons with godlike magical powers)—Monkey, Pig and Friar Sand—that are sent to the Western Heaven in India to fetch the scriptures from the Buddha and bring them back to the east. The first few chapters are introductory, telling the stories of Monkey and Sanzang, the last three wrap things up, but overall, the book can hardly be said to be one intricate story: instead, the central chapters tell relatively independent stories of their own, usually following similar formulae: 1) Sanzang gets in trouble/is captured by an evil demon who wants to eat him; 2) The disciples (primarily Monkey) either defeat the demons by brute force, by wit, or by calling in the divine army of some god or relation of his; 3) The monks receive endless gratitude from someone affluent or powerful that is positively affected by their subduing the demon; 4) Repeat. Because of this trend, the book can get somewhat repetitive. However, it is very easy to read. The style and story are simple and there are many poems that break up the prose. My guess is that much is lost in the translation of these poems, and they come off as rather rough in English, but they are enjoyable nonetheless. The thing I found most disappointing was the lack of intellectual depth. Sure, the book has a clear Buddhist message, and it has been debated whether it criticises Taoism or parodies certain political figures of the author's time, but my impression of this was very vague. There is also very little character development and there is not much that ties the full story of JttW together other than the fetching of the scriptures. Nevertheless, many of these aspects are addressed in the translator's afterword, and it is useful to put the story in its historical context. I warn that this is not a 19th century European, War and Peace-style equivalent of Chinese literature: it is in no way comparable to the insight and depth of the European classic novels—but then again, it is not meant to be. One last thing is that this edition is really bad. I can say little about the translation. I am referring to the typos in every chapter, the pages that are so thin that the text can be seen on the other side, and the overall bad quality of the print. This is a minor point, as what matters is the content, but I found it frustrating nonetheless. In conclusion, despite all the criticisms, I still got much pleasure from reading the Journey to the West, and I look forward to reading the other books of the 'four classics of Chinese literature' in the future... perhaps after a break though. 2300 pages are a lot of pages for one book, which is why this might not be for everyone. Would you rather read 10 230-page books or 1 2300-page book? Well, I would suspect that if asked, I would choose the former, but I did the latter this time—and I do not regret it. Also, (view spoiler)[poor Friar Sand/Wujing is my favourite character and is underrated af. (hide spoiler)]

  11. 5 out of 5

    Christian

    (Note: I read the three volume translation [pictured] by W. J. F. Jenner and published by Beijing Foreign Languages Press). Firstly, this series IS a journey. Consisting of three volumes, 100 chapters, and some 1800 pages (Don Quixote, War & Peace, Lord Of The Rings, to name a few epics, all roughly 1200 pages). To top it off is the archaic style in which it is written, the translation sticking closely to the original 16th century Chinese text. This is where getting the right translation is cruci (Note: I read the three volume translation [pictured] by W. J. F. Jenner and published by Beijing Foreign Languages Press). Firstly, this series IS a journey. Consisting of three volumes, 100 chapters, and some 1800 pages (Don Quixote, War & Peace, Lord Of The Rings, to name a few epics, all roughly 1200 pages). To top it off is the archaic style in which it is written, the translation sticking closely to the original 16th century Chinese text. This is where getting the right translation is crucial, whether to go for a straight-up translation or one that is modified to suit the current times. The style in which this version has been translated fits more an old tea house setting where the story is recited/performed to an audience rather than read by an individual. When read, it is often predictable and repetitive, and may be a little too drawn out for some readers. Personally, I enjoyed the journey and found pleasure in the characters themselves rather than the story as a whole. For impatient readers with no stomach for epics, I imagine the abridged version 'Monkey: A Folk-Tale Of China', by Arthur Waley (which is 30 Chapters and roughly 1/6 of the original text) is in order. If you are at all intersted in Chinese culture, are a fan of Dragon Ball, or, like me, you loved the 'Monkey' TV series of the late 70's, this is one not to be missed!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Greg

    I'm torn about whether I should rate this higher. I really liked it, and it's a must read for anyone who likes fighting mangas. This is the granddaddy--a bunch of idiots who don't like each other very much get stuck on a long journey where they have to face increasingly dangerous or outlandish obstacles to retrieve the true scriptures from a Buddha. The Monkey King (grandfather of such characters as Goku and Monkey D. Luffy) uses a combination of martial skills, cunning, and a large network of " I'm torn about whether I should rate this higher. I really liked it, and it's a must read for anyone who likes fighting mangas. This is the granddaddy--a bunch of idiots who don't like each other very much get stuck on a long journey where they have to face increasingly dangerous or outlandish obstacles to retrieve the true scriptures from a Buddha. The Monkey King (grandfather of such characters as Goku and Monkey D. Luffy) uses a combination of martial skills, cunning, and a large network of "friends" who are afraid of getting hit by Monkey's iron cudgel to save his master over and over again. Along the way, the three nimrod disciples Monkey, Pig, and Friar Sand (this translation may name them differently) are constantly trying to play "tricks" on each other, like getting their compatriots in trouble with the master (or getting them steamed and eaten by vicious Taoist monsters.) I landed on 3 stars because it's so long and so repetitive. It's not slow, but how many times can one guy get captured by a monster when he ignores good advice and then get saved after a number of false starts by his three stupid disciples?

  13. 5 out of 5

    Pauline

    One of the Four Great Literary pieces of China and my favorite tale of the four. Through and through, it is a epic tale similar to the Iliad or the Odyssey. The prose takes some getting used to as it is not written in any stylistic matter at all. Rather, it told in tales with each chapter being a new story and event that occurs during the journey to the West. Due to this, I am sure that there are people who would struggle though this. Nevertheless, this tale has always been a part of my culture One of the Four Great Literary pieces of China and my favorite tale of the four. Through and through, it is a epic tale similar to the Iliad or the Odyssey. The prose takes some getting used to as it is not written in any stylistic matter at all. Rather, it told in tales with each chapter being a new story and event that occurs during the journey to the West. Due to this, I am sure that there are people who would struggle though this. Nevertheless, this tale has always been a part of my culture and for that simple reason alone I love it.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Christine Racine

    This four volume translation that clearly involved no native English speakers is not for everyone. It's a lot of fun if you enjoy the unintentional absurdity inherent in too literal translation. For the most part, the rollicking story shines through the odd syntax, which only obscures beyond hope the meaning of a few sentences here and there. This four volume translation that clearly involved no native English speakers is not for everyone. It's a lot of fun if you enjoy the unintentional absurdity inherent in too literal translation. For the most part, the rollicking story shines through the odd syntax, which only obscures beyond hope the meaning of a few sentences here and there.

  15. 4 out of 5

    David Peterson

    Talk about a long, strange trip… Journey to the West is, by far, the longest book I’ve ever read (my edition was over 2,000 pages divided into 100 chapters), and certainly one of the most unique. It is considered one of the Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese literature, and of those, is probably the most fantastical. It took me five years to read, but it was well, well worth it. I’ve got quite a lot to say about this book, so either strap yourself in, or leave this review for later. This one’ Talk about a long, strange trip… Journey to the West is, by far, the longest book I’ve ever read (my edition was over 2,000 pages divided into 100 chapters), and certainly one of the most unique. It is considered one of the Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese literature, and of those, is probably the most fantastical. It took me five years to read, but it was well, well worth it. I’ve got quite a lot to say about this book, so either strap yourself in, or leave this review for later. This one’s going to be a doozy… Let’s take it from the top. What is this book? Calling Journey to the West a novel, and suggesting that it was written by Wu Cheng’en is a bit misleading. While it’s true that Wu Cheng’en is the most likely author of this particular version of the story, he was by no means the first—nor did he invent this tale wholecloth. Instead, the version of the story we have today can be considered the endpoint of centuries of collaboration and oral history passed down from generation to generation. The story of Journey to the West was inspired by an actual journey. In the seventh century, a monk named Xuanzang was said to have traveled from China to India to obtain the Buddhist scriptures for the Tang emperor. It took him seventeen years, and he even wrote an autobiography, so there’s plenty of detail about his journey (and was at the time this book was being compiled). Nevertheless, fantastic stories began springing up from all corners about his adventures traveling from China to India and back, and these stories formed the basis of the novel Journey to the West. Though the stories changed hands many times and were elaborated and exaggerated over the centuries, there are a few overriding themes and characters which I’ll sketch out briefly before delving into a full summary. Sanzang, the incarnation of the Buddha, is sent by the Tang emperor to India to obtain the scriptures. On his journey he’s helped by three disciples: A stone ape called Monkey, a pig beast named Pig, and a kind of ogre named Sand. With that basic outline down, let me give you a more detailed summary. In the days of old, lightning strikes a great stone on the Mountain of Flowers and Fruit and produces a monkey. This is the character known as Monkey, the great hero of Journey to the West. Monkey quickly becomes the ruler of all the other monkeys, and trains under a Taoist master to become more powerful. Not being satisfied with all this, though, Monkey undertakes a series of adventures to become the most powerful being in the universe. First he travels to the Underworld and removes his name from the rollsheets of the dead, assuring himself (and his fellow monkeys) immortality. Then he goes up to heaven and basically wrecks up the place. He demands to be given the title “Great Sage Equalling Heaven” to show that not even the ruler of heaven is better than he. While in heaven, he eats a fruit that gives him immortality, and then gets drunk. Thinking they can be rid of him, the heavenly soldiers stuff him into a furnace to burn him up. Ho, ho, but that only makes him stronger (not kidding)! The fires refine his essence, so that Monkey becomes invincible. In order to calm him, they give him an official task (he’s made the protector of the horses), but that’s not enough for him, of course. Then Monkey meets his “match” (see below for my comments on this). The Buddha decides to fix Monkey once and for all. He grabs Monkey and puts him in his hand and tells Monkey that if he can jump out of his hand, he’ll be the ruler of heaven. If not, the Buddha will imprison him. Monkey fails, and the Buddha slams Monkey down to earth, imprisoning him beneath a mountain where he’s trapped for five hundred years, with nothing to eat but hot gravel. At this point, the novel enters its second stage. The story shifts to the Tang empire, where the emperor has a terrifying dream. In it, he mistakenly beheads the king of the dragons, and as punishment, he’s ordered to retrieve the Buddhist scriptures or else. He engages a holy monk named Sanzang to do so, and Sanzang sets off on his task. Before he sets off, Sanzang meets with Boddhisattva Guanyin (basically a deus ex machina). She gives him a special headband and instructs him to find three disciples to help him on his journey (as well as gives him a horse that used to be a dragon). It’s Sanzang who, a chapter or two later, frees Monkey from underneath the mountain. He frees him on the condition that he become his disciple, and agreeing, Sanzang puts the headband the Boddhisattva gave him on Monkey’s head. This is the only thing that can control monkey. See, the headband is magic, and if Sanzang says a particular magic spell, he can tighten the headband, causing Monkey endless torment. Monkey absolutely hates the band tightening spell, and will do anything to get Sanzang to stop saying it, or to prevent him from saying it in the first place. After this, Monkey helps Sanzang get two more disciples: Pig, a lecherous lout who’s Monkey’s comic foil, and a nondescript fellow named Sand. With the band all together, they set off for the Thunder Monastery in India to get the Buddhist scriptures. Now comes the bulk of the novel: More than 80 chapters that are nearly identical. All of them go roughly like this: Sanzang and the gang have traveled x number of miles and come upon a foreboding mountain/city/castle/cave/monastery. Monkey takes a look at it and says, “We should stay away from there. There are demons in there.” Sanzang, Pig and Sand (none of whom have Monkey’s powers) can’t see any demons, so they berate Monkey, saying he’s being superstitious, and that they should move on. Monkey protests, and Sanzang, getting upset, threatens to say the band tightening spell. Monkey recoils, and they press on, heading to the foreboding mountain/city/castle/cave/monastery. Once inside, the demons spy Sanzang, and, having heard a rumor that anyone who eats his flesh will gain immortality, abduct him straight away. Pig, terrified and lazy, says they should all go their separate ways. Monkey says, “No, we have to save him.” Reluctantly, Pig agrees to help. Monkey tells Sand to stay with the horse and the luggage (Sand’s most important [and only] task). Monkey goes to the mouth of the cave/castle, etc. and insults the leader, saying something like, “Hey, you dirty tadpole! This is your great, great grandfather speaking! If you give up the Tang priest now, I’ll only beat you half to death! You better do as I say!” The big bad guy hears this and sends out a junior devil to see what’s going on. The junior devil sees Monkey and is terrified. He reports back and says that there are two ugly monks outside, and that one of them looks like a Thunder God (for some reason, Thunder Gods look like monkeys, and anytime anyone sees Monkey, they say he looks like a Thunder God [rather than he looks like a monkey]). The big bad guy, fed up with the insults, goes out to fight. He and Monkey and Pig fight a hundred and twelve rounds, with no one gaining the upper hand. Seeing that he might be losing, the big bad guy unleashes his super secret weapon, and manages to escape and/or capture Pig. Monkey, annoyed, gets on his somersault cloud and flies up to the Western Gate of Heaven for help. The guys up in heaven just can’t stand Monkey, of course. They know what he did once upon a great long while ago, and they just want him to leave, so they agree to do whatever he asks. They send down some soldiers to fight the big bad guy, and so they all go down to the cave/castle, etc. Unfortunately, not even this works. The big bad guy uses his super secret weapon and bests the armies of heaven. Humiliated, they all go back, and Monkey makes more of a clamor, and so they give him someone who’s really good (like Prince Nezha or the Boddhisattva). When they get there, they manage to get the big bad guy out and capture him, and Monkey’s about to kill him, when some heavenly person cries, “No, stop! I know who that is. It turns out that’s my stag/horse/lion/tiger that went missing hundreds of years ago. He must have come down to earth to cause mischief. What a naughty stag/horse/lion/tiger you are! Come back at once!” And so the big bad guy, who is actually some pet of the heavenly being, goes obediently back, Sanzang and Pig are safe, they make a couple jokes, and they move on. Now imagine reading an expanded version of that (this is the short version) about fifty times over. That’s what it’s like to read Journey to the West. But hey, unlike a bad anime, this one actually does have an ending! And what an ending it is! Unbelievable! So, after like 96 chapters and more than 2,000 pages, you, the reader, along with Sanzang and the gang get to the Thunder Monastery. After reading all that, it feels like you too have been journeying for fourteen or fifteen years (or, in my case, five). What happens is nothing short of astounding. First, in a small section I actually found a bit sad, the gang has to cross the river that separates the living from the dead. Monkey, Pig and Sand, who are already immortal, can walk right across without any problems. Sanzang, however, tries to get in and sinks. He’s afraid. Monkey tells him not to worry and snickers, and in something that seems like a dream, he points out to Sanzang that he’s okay. He lifts him up on the water, and points to his body (Sanzang’s) floating away downstream. And so, their lives behind them, they head up to the Thunder Monastery. Along the way, they’re stopped by two lesser buddhas. The buddhas bug them to give them…something; I forget what (money?)—and as the travelers have nothing on them, the buddhas decide to play a trick on them (more on that later). They get to the top and a great vegetarian feast is laid out for them. Then they meet with the Buddha and ask him for the scriptures. The Buddha, naturally, refuses. Yeah, that’s right: He refuses. He says the scriptures are too important to just be handed out willy nilly, but he says he’ll have some of his disciples copy out some of the less important scriptures, and they can take those with them. And then he shoos them away. The entire scene probably takes up less room than my description of it. So they go to his disciples, and who do they turn out to be but the lesser buddhas that were bugging them on the way up. They recognize the gang, and decide to copy out what scriptures they’re allowed to take with them in disappearing ink. They load up these scriptures on the horse, and the gang heads down the mountain Monkey, being a bit sharper than the rest, decides to look at the scriptures at some point, and he notices that they’re blank. Ticked off, they all go back, and Monkey reads Buddha the riot act. The Buddha kind of laughs it off, but then, finally, has half of the scriptures copied out (in real ink), and they leave Vulture Peak. After this, they get back in four days (magically), Sanzang gives his sermon, and each of them receives a reward. Both Monkey and Sanzang become buddhas; Sand becomes an arhat; the horse (the dragon prince, remember) becomes a naga; and Pig becomes an altar cleaner (he eats whatever’s leftover when people leave offerings). And there you have it. If you’ve gotten this far (and, no we’re not even close to being done yet), you may be wondering, “Why should I read this if it’s so dull and repetitive?” Repetitive it may be, but dull it is not, and that’s thanks to two characters: Monkey and Pig. First, Monkey is one of the most extraordinary characters in the history of literature (though you won’t find him in any top ten list since no one reads anything written east of Russia). He’s whimsically wistful, arguably invincible, and utterly incorrigible. I mean, he goes down to the underworld to strike his name off the registers of the dead so that he’ll never die! He makes the gods in heaven tremble! And yet he’s one of the most likable characters you’ll ever come across. He literally laughs in the face of danger (multiple times a chapter), and never shows any concern over anything (except that band-tightening spell). Combining him with Pig was a stroke of genius. Pig is lazy, loud, stupid and coarse, and he and Monkey are always at loggerheads. Their over-the-top antics are reminiscent of The Three Stooges . I remember one scene in particular. Sanzang has been captured (for probably the twelfth time), but this time, Pig all of a sudden grabs the luggage, throws it on the ground and proclaims, “Well, it’s over! Let’s split the luggage up and go our separate ways.” Then Monkey, of course, conks him on the head and tells him they’re going to save the master. The book is filled with little scenes like this that make the whole thing (yes, the whole thing) a joy to read. Despite this, the book has some serious flaws. Consider, for example, one of the four “main” characters, Friar Sand. What’s his deal? I don’t really know, and I’ve read the book. That’s because in all 2,317 pages, you can probably fit Friar Sand’s lines on five pages—and most of them will come from the chapter where he becomes Sanzang’s disciple. I figure that Wu probably realized around chapter 40 that Sand wasn’t getting much action, and he figured at that point that it was too late to rescue it, so he just gave it up. It’s hard to imagine what role Friar Sand would play, anyway. In battle, Monkey’s the invincible one, Sanzang’s the weak one, and Pig is the bumbling one. Friar Sand is…pretty good at fighting? And that’s it. In social settings, Sanzang alternates between pious and wise and a blubbering coward. Monkey alternates between brash and brilliant, and Pig is…well, Pig (they don’t call him “the Idiot” for nothing). Friar Sand doesn’t add to this dynamic, and interjecting him would only intrude. Some of the best scenes in the book involve Monkey, Sanzang and Pig all arguing over something (Monkey makes Pig upset, Pig complains to Sanzang, Sanzang tries to punish Monkey, Monkey tries to explain, etc.). In fact, if you removed Friar Sand from the book entirely, no one would notice—and the result would probably be better. That’s something that shouldn’t be said about one of the main characters of a book. In addition to the troubling issue of Friar Sand, the book isn’t very well written. The prose doesn’t “sparkle”: it’s merely there. That might have something to do with the poetry (I’ll get to that in a minute), but for one of the greatest novels ever written, it’s just not written very well. It’s adequate, and that’s the best you can say for it. The repetition has already been mentioned, but I haven’t said anything about the curious dei ex machina. Frequently Wu will have a great big battle, and then the monster will be defeated somehow, and then after that, someone like Monkey (or the narrator) will explain, “Wu Bajie was lucky, because he remembered his Ring of Golden Rain, which made him invulnerable to the monster’s attacks”. Of course we haven’t heard of the Ring of Golden Rain before, but that’s just the beginning. This thing isn’t even introduced when it’s relevant (i.e. when Pig’s in danger). Wu will introduce it after the conflict has already been resolved as a further explanation of how it was resolved! The book is filled with issues like this. If you want to read Journey to the West, you have to take all of them and just swallow them up whole. If you stop at every issue like this that arises, you won’t get past chapter 1. One of the most notable features of the novel that I haven’t mentioned yet is the poetry. If the book comprises more than 2,000 pages, I can say, without exaggerating, it also comprises more than 3,000 poems (and yes, I realize that comes out to more than a poem a page; I’m still probably underestimating). In chapter 94, for example, there are 21 pages and 23 poems. Some of them are short (just two lines), others longer (the longest is about four pages long), most are somewhere in between (a quarter of a page to half a page long), but all of them are important if one hopes to describe the structure. Each chapter of Journey to the West usually begins with a small poem, and then the action moves thus. Sanzang et al. come across some mountain or castle (as mentioned above), and there’s a poem to describe it. Then when they meet up with someone, Sanzang or Monkey will have some little poem to explain a point (or make a joke). Then when Sanzang is abducted, Monkey will battle with some demon, and the entire battle will take place in a poem that usually sounds something like this: Cudgel and sword clash in the sky! The cudgel booms like thunder, The sword flashes like lightning. One fights to save his master, The other to defend his cave. Plus a few more lines like that. Then the narrator will find a way to insert six to ten more poems here and there before the chapter is up, and the chapter will always come to a close with a little two line poem. By the end of the book, I was able to recognize the different types of poems, even though the poetic styles themselves weren’t translated (by this I mean you can translate the meaning of something like a sonnet without preserving the strict structure of a sonnet. These translations were similar). What fascinates me about the function of the poems is that they’re considered…authoritative, I guess you can say. Most poems are introduced by the stock phrase, “and here’s a poem to prove it.” To prove it! So, for example, they’ll come across a woman who’s very beautiful, and the author will say as much in prose, but that, evidently, isn’t good enough (I mean, since it’s in prose, it could be false!). In order to say anything with any authority, it must be proven with a poem. Just wild! Though the book’s content is a delight, there are several plot issues that trouble me—or that, at least, still have me thinking. The first is Monkey’s encounter with the Buddha. As I mentioned before, the Buddha dares Monkey to jump out of his hand. If he can do so, he’ll admit defeat. Monkey fails to do so, though, and the Buddha imprisons him under a mountain. Now, it’s clear why this makes sense allegorically. Monkey is trained by a Taoist monk, and one of the main points of the book is that Buddhism is “the” way. Therefore, Monkey, as a representative of “inferior” Taoism, is supposed to be defeated by the Buddha. But despite what happens, I maintain that that matchup is unfair

  16. 4 out of 5

    Isen

    The book consists of 100 chapters. The first seven deal with the tale of Monkey's revolt against heaven. A stone monkey is born on the Eastern Continent, becomes the monkey king, and travels west to attain immortality. He is taught by a Taoist master who warns him never to reveal how it was that he attained his powers, and prophesises that in 500 years he will be struck down by heaven lest he finds a way to escape his fate. None of this ever comes up again, because an overarching theme of the bo The book consists of 100 chapters. The first seven deal with the tale of Monkey's revolt against heaven. A stone monkey is born on the Eastern Continent, becomes the monkey king, and travels west to attain immortality. He is taught by a Taoist master who warns him never to reveal how it was that he attained his powers, and prophesises that in 500 years he will be struck down by heaven lest he finds a way to escape his fate. None of this ever comes up again, because an overarching theme of the book is a contempt for continuity. This takes us to the main section of the book. The Buddhist priest Sanzang is tasked by the Bodhisattva Guanyin to travel to distant India (36,000 miles, or 1.5 times around the world) to worship the Buddha and retrieve some Buddhist scriptures, as a test of his faith. The "divinity testing mortals" trope is stupid in the best of times, but unfortunately this is not the best of times. This is Journey to the West. As such, in order to assists Sanzang on this "test" he is allotted three immortal companions -- Monkey, Pig and Friar Sand -- a dragon horse, an arsenal of magical artifacts, and some two dozen attendant gods. When that proves insufficient, as it often does, the Jade Emperor and his heavenly hosts, Lord Lao Zi, the Buddha from the Western Heaven, and Guanyin herself turn up to rescue him from the predicaments he winds up in. To make things worse, it is revealed that some or all of the obstacles in his path have, in fact, been placed there by Guanyin. So in other words this "test" of Sanzang's faith involves of Guanyin setting up problems, and then solving them herself. How this is any different from bringing the scriptures over on her own is anyone's guess. This is just as well for the sake of the story, however, as Sanzang is completely useless, and would fail any test set before him when given the chance. Not only do his disciples save him from every peril he, seemingly intentionally, blunders into during his quest, even the banal details like begging for food and carrying the luggage is left to the immortals, while Sanzang sits on his horse doing nothing. I can accept that, being a mortal, he does not have any magical powers himself and has to rely on his disciples to do the heavy lifting for him, but it's not like he has any redeeming features to make up for it. He is an utter moron, and completely incapable of learning, falling for the same tricks again and again. He is a coward, and falls of his horse whenever someone looks at him funny (not to mention the time he spent an hour gathering up the courage to talk to some women. "Primal masculinity" indeed). And, despite the book going on about his virtue, in his interactions with other characters he frequently comes across as an asshole. The adventures themselves are dull and repetitive. They follow the formula of, the pilgrims come to a mountain/river, Monkey warns of a demon, Sanzang abuses Monkey, demon captures Sanzang and tries to eat/mate with him (but doesn't actually, even if given more than enough time), Monkey either whacks the demon on the head with a cudgel, or goes and gets another divinity to whack the demon on the head with a cudgel. Repeat 81 times. In the afterword the translator mentions that we cannot reasonably expect any suspense from the stories because the pilgrims triumph in the end, but it's a lot worse than that -- we know that Arnie will eventually shoot the badguy, but at the same time there is risk involved: if he gets shot in the head he would die. Not Monkey. Monkey is indestructible, as he points out and demonstrates on many an occasion. The problem is no that we know in advance that Monkey won't fail, but rather that failure is impossible. Monkey can't die, and even if Sanzang were to die then Monkey has demonstrated that he is perfectly capable of bringing the dead back to life. His powers are so vast, that there is absolutely nothing that could stop him. Which brings us to the next problem, the magic overload. Monkey's powers are so enormous that the author simply cannot come up with any credible challenges to him. At the end of the day, he could simply fly Sanzang to the Western Heaven and be done with it (the author does attempt to lampshade this -- "Mortals are heavier than mountains" -- only problem is, Monkey is perfectly capable of transporting Sanzang and other mortals by air when it suits him, as are other monsters. Oh, and, Monkey is perfectly capable of lifting mountains). The translator notes that the appeal of the stories is the cleverness of Monkey's solution to them, but it's hard to appreciate this cleverness when Monkey's choice of strategy is dictated not by the challenge he faced, but by the author's decision to write about one ploy or another. In one adventure Monkey knocks down the gates of a monster's abode. In another he turns into an insect and flies through the gap. In another he stands outside helpless. Why? Are these gates unbreakable? Are there no cracks to squeeze through? No, no reason is given. We can only assume the gates are the same as always. It's just that the author decided that this particular adventure needs a McGuffin of some sort. Or the intervention of another deity. Or, just, that the book is somehow not long enough as it is. Of course, this makes it difficult to interpret the situations in which Monkey actually does find himself powerless to defeat one monster or other. Monkey made war on heaven, and only just lost. And now some animal spirit on the way to India is stronger than Monkey? Just how tenuous is the Jade Emperor's hold on authority? Why does none of these monsters depose him and be done with it? The most interesting bit of the book is the translator's note at the end, which details some of the book's history, confirming the reader's suspicion that it is most likely a collection of independent stories than a cohesive whole. However, unlike the translator I do not believe that this lets the book of the hook for being terrible. Good stories need no excuses, they can stand against the best of novels on their own strengths. This is simply not a good collection of stories.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Wendelin Gray

    I've read a few different volumes of this novel, including some excerpts in the original Chinese, and most of the translations are worth reading. I've read a few different volumes of this novel, including some excerpts in the original Chinese, and most of the translations are worth reading.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Chelsey

    I feel great accomplishment in having finished this epic. The amount of effort that I put into reading it makes me understand the 14-year-long journey that our main characters underwent. Indeed, when we finally reach the Western Heaven in chapter 98, all of the work felt worth it, and that in itself is an achievement.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Eric C

    Off-the-cuff thoughts on “Journey To The West” (Jenner translation, 1,800 pages): Where do you begin with this story?? Written 500 years ago about events from over a thousand years ago, is this a novel? A superhero serial? A chemistry lesson? A deep dive into Buddhism? All of the above? “Journey to the West” is based on the actual journey of actual Chinese monk Xuanzang, who travelled to India around 630 A.D., studied Buddhism, and brought his learnings back to China, transforming his country. Bu Off-the-cuff thoughts on “Journey To The West” (Jenner translation, 1,800 pages): Where do you begin with this story?? Written 500 years ago about events from over a thousand years ago, is this a novel? A superhero serial? A chemistry lesson? A deep dive into Buddhism? All of the above? “Journey to the West” is based on the actual journey of actual Chinese monk Xuanzang, who travelled to India around 630 A.D., studied Buddhism, and brought his learnings back to China, transforming his country. But throw in his fictional super-powered sidekicks Monkey, Pig, Friar Sand, and a dragon who has become a horse… and have them battle hundreds of demons and magical beasts over 100 chapters and fourteen years… and that’s this episodic adventure in spiritual growth. Because if you read this just as an adventure story, it’s frequently a page-turner and funny, but also gets incredibly repetitious: The group travels, Xuanzang is captured by a demon, Monkey and Pig try to rescue him, fail, Monkey comes up with a clever plan (though usually has to appeal to higher gods for help), they defeat the demon, rescue the monk, and travel on, only to have the monk captured by the next demon. Repeat this for hundreds and hundreds of pages with everyone making the same stupid mistakes over and over again. EXCEPT. If you view this whole book as a metaphor (and guidebook) for meditation and achieving enlightenment, THEN it all makes maddening sense. If the monk is the human soul yearning to live in the true present moment (enlightenment), and every demon is a distraction which halts the soul’s spiritual progress (a group of bandits are named Eye-seeing Happiness, Ear-hearing Anger, Nose-smelling Love, Tongue-Tasting Thought, Mind-born Desire, and Body-based Sorrow), and if Monkey is the human mind which is full of itself, but with proper teaching it can find ways (with occasional help from higher powers) to keep dragging the soul back on track, and if Pig is the base human desire for food and sex and sleep (willing to help the soul, but always ready to abandon the spiritual quest for a good time)… well, then this 2-steps-forward-1-step back journey is just descriptive of what deep spiritual work feels like. Because the demons and adventures DO personify the distractions on the spiritual path - greed, lust, wrath, illness, reliving the past, enveloping oneself in poetry and philosophy, thinking you have reached enlightenment before you truly have, trying to teach others what you haven’t truly learned yourself, feeling the need to rescue others, and more. It also offers up endless (masked) Taoist lessons in alchemical chemistry - which ingredients to mix with what to achieve a given effect (“baby girl” can mean mercury, “baby boy” can mean lead, which in turn can symbolize pneumatic vitalities from different anatomical regions, etc) There’s a whole chapter that deep dives into Chinese medicine. It also offers up countless wild battles that would put Marvel to shame, featuring scorpion women, rhino gods, undersea armies, Princess Iron Fan, spider spirits, shape-shifting demons who pretend to be Taoist monks while taking bites out of the heads of courtiers, and many more. It also offers up “Just So Stories” - why we put a ring through the nose of water buffalo, why certain monkeys are now extinct, and more. It also offers up lovely nature poetry disguised as travelogue, to meditate on as one reads. One description of spring: “The grass cushions the horse’s hooves, New leaves emerge from the willow’s golden threads. Apricot vies for beauty with peach; The wild fig round the path is full of life. On sun-warmed sandbanks sleep mandarin ducks; In the flower-scented gully the butterflies are quiet.” It also offers up grinning vulgarity with wisdom like “Even a fart can swell in the wind”; Pig flees a battle telling his opponent “I have to go take a shit!”; and a lovely Taoist euphemism for an outhouse: “The place where the five kinds of grain prepare for reincarnation”. It also offers up truly exquisite phrases on almost every page, such as this description of a beautiful poem: “How elegant it is, and how free of worldly dust.” And this admonition to humanity: “Wander at will through countless billion years, a spot of sacred light ever-shining in the void.” It also offers up a vision of Heaven and Hell - both massive bureaucracies run by countless official gods and planets, in which dialogue like this appears: “Your Majesty, there are two single-horned Devil Kings outside who want to see you." Ultimately I’m glad I read this book, though I grew weary of the constant repetition and mistakes on the journey (life-like as they are). But hopefully, as a character says: "The learning reached up to the Mud Ball Palace in my head, and down to the Bubbling Spring in my feet." (less)

  20. 5 out of 5

    Ha Pham

    Back when I was really young and had nothing to do, I read the whole set a few times. I only remember bits of the stories with epic battles, or Son Wu-kong's incredible magical abilities. This time when I re-read it, I am now able to pick up more subtleties in the stories and dialogues, like the author's satire of China's society, corruption of authority which invades even holy temples, or the philosophy of Budhism... I also grew to appreciate the translators' effort - they were able to recreate Back when I was really young and had nothing to do, I read the whole set a few times. I only remember bits of the stories with epic battles, or Son Wu-kong's incredible magical abilities. This time when I re-read it, I am now able to pick up more subtleties in the stories and dialogues, like the author's satire of China's society, corruption of authority which invades even holy temples, or the philosophy of Budhism... I also grew to appreciate the translators' effort - they were able to recreate the tale as faithfully and and beautifully as possible while inserting their own witty humors into every pages. Highly recommended.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Ringman Roth

    Finally Finished this book after 4 years. I had been reading it off and on for a while. Its not that its bad, its just long, and some chapters can get tedious, but there were definitely some interesting and funny bits to this. And it holds up rather well today in some aspects. Its interesting to see how many archetypes of cartoon characters today can be compared to the ones in this book. Sun Wukong' Its also interesting to see a novel that celebrates the culture's religious beliefs while at the Finally Finished this book after 4 years. I had been reading it off and on for a while. Its not that its bad, its just long, and some chapters can get tedious, but there were definitely some interesting and funny bits to this. And it holds up rather well today in some aspects. Its interesting to see how many archetypes of cartoon characters today can be compared to the ones in this book. Sun Wukong' Its also interesting to see a novel that celebrates the culture's religious beliefs while at the same time Sun Wukong, will often make a mockery of it. It is very much a book that is like watching a tv serial, with each chapter being a new installment in the series. You can read a chapter, wait several days and read another and not miss much, because many sections reiterate what had happened before-hand. This, is in my opinion, the best way to enjoy it. Read it at your leisure at a slow pace. While I am happy to be finally finished, like a good series finally coming to an end, I'm sad to see it go.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Hank

    A simple but probably one of the better translations of the old story of a Journey to the West, or Sun Wu'kong, as it may be called otherwheres. Stories like this are rare to find these days, and filled with a touch of history that makes a slow read if you want to understand it all, but immensely rich in depth if you do learn it all. A simple but probably one of the better translations of the old story of a Journey to the West, or Sun Wu'kong, as it may be called otherwheres. Stories like this are rare to find these days, and filled with a touch of history that makes a slow read if you want to understand it all, but immensely rich in depth if you do learn it all.

  23. 5 out of 5

    James Violand

    All hail the monkey! This is a quick read. It is easy to understand the enchantment China has for this work. True, it is uneven, but that is because how these separate tales are woven into the whole. The stories are ancient and were compiled in its current form in the 1600s. The best and worst of our natures are displayed as we are subtly taught that a virtuous life is the one worth living.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Toby

    That Monkey really gets my goat!

  25. 5 out of 5

    Ade Yang

    This book I read three times in china.It is claasic book forever.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Pulpist

    Journey to the West is one of the 4 great classic Chinese novels. I like this specific version because you are able to have the 4 books, 100 chapters, in the same set inside a cardboard box. This must be one the earliest fantasy novels ever written in the whole world. So, if you are a fantasy fan and want to read a fantasy book written in China in the 16th century during the Ming Dinasty, it is tailor-made for you. Jorney to the West tells us the story of Sun Wukong, the monkey king, an immortal Journey to the West is one of the 4 great classic Chinese novels. I like this specific version because you are able to have the 4 books, 100 chapters, in the same set inside a cardboard box. This must be one the earliest fantasy novels ever written in the whole world. So, if you are a fantasy fan and want to read a fantasy book written in China in the 16th century during the Ming Dinasty, it is tailor-made for you. Jorney to the West tells us the story of Sun Wukong, the monkey king, an immortal monkey born from a stone right after the original chaos. He goes from monkey king to gardener in the Jade City. Then he wrecks havoc in the Celestial Palace and is punished. He becomes a Buddhist monk and must help the Buddhist monk Tang Sanzang to take the Buddhist sutras of "transcendence and persuasion for good will" back to the East. Along the way they meet one of the funniest and most beloved characters in the book, Zhu Bajie, or simply Pig. After many tribulations and adventures featuring rain-making dragons, monsters, ghosts and evil spirits, they finally accomplish their mission and Sun Wukong is rewarded for his ordeals. He becomes a Buddhist Bodhisattva. When you finish the book you will become a long-lasting fan of the mischievous and fascinating Monkey King.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Andreas

    Journey to the West is a really interesting story about life, morality, and the tastiness of pure monks. It's a book that I think holds up better than many other old texts, as there is a focus on the human condition, which makes the characters far more believable and entertaining rather than other old stories where the heroes exist to inspire virtue and flawlessness. I do have issues with this story though. Firstly, it's dense with information making the story sometimes really hard to understand Journey to the West is a really interesting story about life, morality, and the tastiness of pure monks. It's a book that I think holds up better than many other old texts, as there is a focus on the human condition, which makes the characters far more believable and entertaining rather than other old stories where the heroes exist to inspire virtue and flawlessness. I do have issues with this story though. Firstly, it's dense with information making the story sometimes really hard to understand and enjoy. Secondly, there is a lot of repetition, which is a function that makes it feel more like an oral story, but it becomes a bit much when you can barely go five pages without the characters acting predictably or the monk almost getting eaten. An issue I would probably not have had if it was shorter. Thirdly, this story is wildly fluctuating in quality. I suppose that when you want 100 chapters in your book, you'll have to pull some of the lesser stuff in to fill the time. Now despite everything else, I really do think this story is fun, educational, and can stand on its own. I would recommend it, but only to those that can take their time with a text like this. If you don't have that, I would recommend finding someone online who has read it to tell you the highlights.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Hatlogo

    I'm a 90s Vietnam kid and there are only 2 kind of 90s Vietnam kid: the one who love "Journey to the West" the TV series, and the lying one. Then later, I pickup the book, looking for the same spark. And I was like "what the hell am I reading?". The book is suppose to be a Buddhism propaganda, and yet I feel it's actually the opposite. Sanzang is the leader, and yet he's (still) a joke and a burden. This book don't make me think any better about Buddhism. And if you read this book for fun, then it I'm a 90s Vietnam kid and there are only 2 kind of 90s Vietnam kid: the one who love "Journey to the West" the TV series, and the lying one. Then later, I pickup the book, looking for the same spark. And I was like "what the hell am I reading?". The book is suppose to be a Buddhism propaganda, and yet I feel it's actually the opposite. Sanzang is the leader, and yet he's (still) a joke and a burden. This book don't make me think any better about Buddhism. And if you read this book for fun, then it get repetitive and boring fast. After a while, every chapter is the same. The most entertain thing I find about this book, is how the devil is deal with. Almost every time when Sun Wukong about to finish them (or not, some are stronger than him), some holy god from heaven appear, claim that the devil is actually his pet, take it back and promise to proper educate it. Then everyone laugh and move on. The village suffer for a long time and the culprit and/or authority are free of responsible. It's the perfect metaphor.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Megan Olsen

    This was delightful! I listened to the Arthur Whaley translation, narrated by Kenneth Williams. I came across this title while falling down a Wikipedia rabbit hole. Having never heard of the work, but reading that it was among the most beloved of all classics, my curiosity was piqued, and I downloaded it on audible, not sure what to expect. The story is wonderfully funny, accessible, and entertaining. When I looked up the physical copy, I was surprised to see how long it was; many people in the g This was delightful! I listened to the Arthur Whaley translation, narrated by Kenneth Williams. I came across this title while falling down a Wikipedia rabbit hole. Having never heard of the work, but reading that it was among the most beloved of all classics, my curiosity was piqued, and I downloaded it on audible, not sure what to expect. The story is wonderfully funny, accessible, and entertaining. When I looked up the physical copy, I was surprised to see how long it was; many people in the goodreads reviews seemed thrilled just to have finished it. But listening must be an entirely different experience, because the chapters flew by! The narrator did a wonderful job with the voices—particularly Monkey and Pigsy. I was hooked from start to finish. It gives a wonderful look at the ancient Chinese world and mindset, but it’s really just the good old-fashioned storyline and characters that sold it for me. I would recommend the audible version!

  30. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie

    It's bad when the book just keeps going and going and it's the same plot in each chapter of how the characters respond. I truly came to dislike the book but finished it because all of my students in China recommended it. Many of whom had never read the book but just seen the TV show. That probably made all the difference in the world. The section on just the Monkey King was ok but the actual journey the the different locations and trails to be found "pure" were brutal. This book made it so I hav It's bad when the book just keeps going and going and it's the same plot in each chapter of how the characters respond. I truly came to dislike the book but finished it because all of my students in China recommended it. Many of whom had never read the book but just seen the TV show. That probably made all the difference in the world. The section on just the Monkey King was ok but the actual journey the the different locations and trails to be found "pure" were brutal. This book made it so I have no desire to read the other 3 Chinese classics. It's been years and I still loath the book.

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