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Monkey


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(Chin., hsi-yu chi). One of the titles of a work also known as The Journey to the West. The work is a supernatural novel about a world of fantastic invention, in which gods and demons loom large and vie for supremacy. The novel began with a series of oral and written versions until the Ming-dynasty scholar-official Wu Ch'eng-en (1500–82) gave it its definitive form and it was published in 1592. The story is based on the journey of the T'ang-dynasty monk Hsüan-tsang (596–664) across the desert into India in search of Buddhist scriptures. Along the way, he meets the title character, the monkey ‘king’ Sun Wu-k'ung, and rescues him from his prison under a mountain. This monkey is an extraordinary character: born from a rock, and having studied with famous Taoist masters, he possesses magical powers, extreme prowess in martial arts, and wonderful weapons. Prior to his imprisonment, the readers are told, he spent many years in rebellion against the Jade Emperor (a heavenly analogue to the rebellion of local warlords against the Chinese emperor, according to critics), before being imprisoned by the Buddha himself. Now, the Buddha has arranged for Hsüan-tsang to find him so that he can do penance by serving the monk as escort, bodyguard, and guide through a series of 81 dangers. The story of Journey to the West is divided into three parts: (1) an early history of the Monkey spirit; (2) a pseudo-historical account of Hsüan-tsang's family and life before his trip to fetch the sūtras in India; (3) the main narrative, which recounts the dangers and calamities faced by Hsüan-tsang, Sun Wu-k'ung, and two other animal companions: Piggsy (a former heavenly general who assaulted a fairy and was punished by transformation into porcine form), and Sandy (a reformed sea-monster). While loosely based on historical fact, the novel is a treasure-trove of Chinese folklore and legend, as well as being a literary masterpiece in its style, construction, vivid imagery, and pacing.

(1) an early history of the Monkey spirit; (2) a pseudo-historical account of Hsüan-tsang's family and life before his trip to fetch the sūtras in India; (3) the main narrative, which recounts the dangers and calamities faced by Hsüan-tsang, Sun Wu-k'ung, and two other animal companions: Piggsy (a former heavenly general who assaulted a fairy and was punished by transformation into porcine form), and Sandy (a reformed sea-monster).

Subjects: Buddhism.


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