“Journey to the West” or what is known to the Chinese as Monkey King is one of the famous ancient Chinese novels. This novel was written by Wu Cheng-en sometimes in the middle of 16th century. Actually Monkey King is the name of the character given to Sun Wukong. This means “the one who has achieved the perfect comprehension of the extinction of both emptiness and non-emptiness”.
This Chinese novel is thought to be telling an actual story of famous Chinese monk, Xuan Zang. After years of hardships he traveled to India to find the Sutras, the holy book of Buddhism. Eventually he returned to China and translated those Sutras into Chinese and thus helped to spread Buddhism in Chinese soil.
Monkey King is an allegorical novel which is rich with Chinese fairy tales, popular beliefs, monster stories, legends, superstitions and many features of Taoist and Buddhist religions.
Monkey King is an amazing being born out of rock, fertilized by the grace of Heaven. He is extraordinarily active although his life, being able to transform himself into over 70 images of different kind including a tree, a beast, a bird etc. He can use clouds as a vehicle and travel on it as long as 180000 miles without ever tiring himself out. But his primary weapon is ‘ruyi jingu bang’ or “will-following golden-banded staff” which can be shrunk into the size of a hair pin or be expanded into a gigantic figure.
Monkey King is full of drama and adventure. It very successfully describes the spirit of the age. This Chinese novel is divided into three parts:
- the history of Monkey spirit.
- Semi-historical account of Tripitaka’s family background and his journey to fetch the sutras.
- The main story involving 81 dangers and calamities encountered by Monkey, Pigsy and Sandy.