Journey to the West
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30-10-2011, 12:31 PM
Journey to the West
I know there are some people on here that love the Japanese language and culture. Therefore, some of you may have heard of the famous novel called Saiyuki (Journey to the West). It is actually a Chinese novel published during the 16th century. Those Nipponophiles may have been exposed to it via the famous late-1970s TV show Monkey Magic, or they may have seen the manga Saiyuki, which is loosely based on the novel. It has been adapted elsewhere in a very famous manga and anime (see the slideshow below). It is known throughout Asia. Its Chinese name is Xiyouji, which literally means "Record of the Western Journey."

The main character is a stone monkey (yes, stone) who trains under a Daoist sage to learn the secrets of immortality and vast magic powers. He can transform into anything, call on gods and spirits to do his bidding, and even fly on clouds. His weapon is an iron staff that weighs 18,000 lbs. He challenges the authority of heaven, and the only person powerful enough to stop him is the Buddha. He eventually repents for his actions and decides to protect a Buddhist monk on his way to India to receive scriptures from the Buddha. The monkey protects him from all sorts of nasty trolls, ghosts, and demons.

This is my favorite mythological story. I guess the closest western equivalent that I can think of is Lord of the Rings. I just recently gave a presentation on the story in my Chinese 301 class. Here is the accompanying slideshow:

http://www.slideshare.net/ghostexorcist/...pp-7108861

Some people actually look at the monkey character as a real deity. For instance, back in 2007, someone driving a car in Singapore slammed into tree, which caused the bark to fall away. This revealed what looked like a big monkey holding a smaller monkey. The people in the area began to leave offerings of Bananas to it because they thought it was the monkey in question. It was later postulated that the two monkeys were the result of the tree healing in such a way (caluses) after being repeatedly struck by motorists. Here is a picture of the tree.

[Image: monkey_tree.jpg]

There have been numerous Chinese TV shows made about him. Here is a trailer for a TV show that just came out this year. It is a little confusing if you have never read the novel, but you can see all of the neat fantasy elements involved.





Here is a clip from a movie loosely based on the novel. It was made by Stephen Chow (who plays the monkey), the same guy who did Shaolin Soccer and Kung Fu Hustle. During his battle with a bull demon, you see him use his power of transforming his hair into an army of monkeys.





Has anyone here read this?
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30-10-2011, 05:11 PM
RE: Journey to the West
I've not actually read many chinese novels. They are really long. I'm very familiar with Saiyuki and Suikoden [Shuihu Zhuan] (I'm into Japanese stuff so Chinese names are harder to remember). I've never read either though. The one I have read I can't think of it's name. I'm big into Ainu stuff so I look to it more than China. a fan of Japan but not necessarily for the Japanese mainly.

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28-02-2012, 11:32 PM
RE: Journey to the West
(30-10-2011 05:11 PM)Lilith Pride Wrote:  I've not actually read many chinese novels. They are really long. I'm very familiar with Saiyuki and Suikoden [Shuihu Zhuan] (I'm into Japanese stuff so Chinese names are harder to remember). I've never read either though. The one I have read I can't think of it's name. I'm big into Ainu stuff so I look to it more than China. a fan of Japan but not necessarily for the Japanese mainly.

I love Suikoden too. I have a book of Japanese woodblock prints of the outlaws. They are very beautiful.

I've read a little stuff on the Ainu as well. I find their practice of facial tattooing very interesting, especially because the woman do it too. Their look and culture is so different from the Japanese despite their proximity.
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28-02-2012, 11:34 PM
RE: Journey to the West
Filox is a big manga/anime fan. Hopefully he'll find his way to this thread.

This looks interesting to me. I'm going to check it out.

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29-02-2012, 06:06 AM
RE: Journey to the West
XiYouJi (西游记) is a fantastic novel. It is a very recommended book if you are curious about Chinese literature. Other books such as The Three Kingdoms (三国演义), which tells the story about the warring nations during the era of the Three Kingdoms and their generals.

The "monsters" the travelling monks encounter are usually pets belonging to the deities. One example would be a river monster that demanded the sacrifice of two children every year, in which the river monster was in fact an escaped goldfish from GuanYin's pond. Other monsters such as the Scorpion Spirit and the Spider Spirit are originally animals/insects which transcended into spiritual forms.

西游记 promotes the value of mercy, to forgive a person regardless of his nature or background (TangSanZang reciting the "Headband Tightening Curse" every time SunWuKong hurts or kills anyone, even demons, as seen in his fight with the White Bone Spirit. This serves as deterrence to prevent killing of the innocents, something which the Abrahamic God has to learn not to do.). The story also serves as a parallel to a person's journey to attain nirvana, a hard and tedious process with many difficulties and challenges ahead. Despite the conflicts between master and student (various instances where TangSanZang expelled SunWuKong for murder, after lecturing WuKong on the value of life, regardless of whether the opponent was human or demon), the band managed to persevere the whole journey, past flaming mountains and demon caves, to reach the Western Heaven.

SunWuKong is my favourite character, with his array of magical abilities, his trusty rod, and how he manages to overcome obstacles using his intelligence. I also admire TangSanZang, despite being captured countless times by demons, he never gave up, and never deserted his mission to obtain the Holy Scriptures in the Western Heaven.

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23-03-2012, 10:42 AM
RE: Journey to the West
(28-02-2012 11:34 PM)Erxomai Wrote:  Filox is a big manga/anime fan. Hopefully he'll find his way to this thread.

This looks interesting to me. I'm going to check it out.

I hope you do check it out. Might I suggest you start with an abridged version first, possibly Arthur Waley's Monkey or Anthony C. Yu's The Monkey and the Monk. The full novel is thousands of pages long.

(29-02-2012 06:06 AM)robotworld Wrote:  XiYouJi (西游记) is a fantastic novel. It is a very recommended book if you are curious about Chinese literature. Other books such as The Three Kingdoms (三国演义), which tells the story about the warring nations during the era of the Three Kingdoms and their generals.

[...]

SunWuKong is my favourite character, with his array of magical abilities, his trusty rod, and how he manages to overcome obstacles using his intelligence. I also admire TangSanZang, despite being captured countless times by demons, he never gave up, and never deserted his mission to obtain the Holy Scriptures in the Western Heaven.

You seem to like it as much as I do. Sun Wukong is my favorite character too for obvious reasons. I'm not a big fan of Xuanzang, though. He is too whiny for my taste. I'm sure the historical Xuanzang would not have approved of the portrayal. However, I realize his literary version was meant to be the yin to monkey's yang.

Donnie Yen is staring as Monkey in a Chinese martial arts movie coming out later this year. It is supposed to cover the first 7 chapters, when Monkey gains his skills and rebels against heaven.
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25-02-2013, 03:48 PM (This post was last modified: 27-02-2013 05:06 AM by ghostexorcist.)
RE: Journey to the West
Stephen Chow, the creator of Shaolin Soccer and Kung Fu Hustle, recently came out with another film entitled Journey to the West: Conquering the Demon. It is a remake of his older film A Chinese Odyssey. I personally don't like it because: 1) Chow isn't in it; 2) it's too slow; 3) it's too serious; 4) they butchered the hell out of the original storyline; and 5) did I mention Chow isn't in it? Anyway, if anyone ever wondered why Sun Wukong was chosen as the basis for Son Goku from Dragon Ball Z, it's because he's a total badass. You can see what I mean by watching the end fight from the film. Feel free to watch the whole thing if you want, but, for my purposes, I suggest fast forwarding to 85:40 (just move the bar up to that point and let it load from there). You will see he is very short, but he is strong enough to do things like destroy mountain sized statues with a single punch. The bit around 99:50 is the best.
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26-02-2013, 11:48 PM
RE: Journey to the West
I've visited Xian's Big Wild Goose Pagoda where the monk Xuanzhang[1] stored the holy manuscripts that he obtained during his journey to the west[2].

In China the Japanese version of the story is looked on a bit like mainstream Christians look on Mormonism. It doesn't seem quite right, and the closer you look at the details the weirder it gets.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xuanzang
[2] http://www.travelchinaguide.com/attracti...dgoose.htm

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27-02-2013, 05:05 AM
RE: Journey to the West
(26-02-2013 11:48 PM)Hafnof Wrote:  I've visited Xian's Big Wild Goose Pagoda where the monk Xuanzhang[1] stored the holy manuscripts that he obtained during his journey to the west[2].

In China the Japanese version of the story is looked on a bit like mainstream Christians look on Mormonism. It doesn't seem quite right, and the closer you look at the details the weirder it gets.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xuanzang
[2] http://www.travelchinaguide.com/attracti...dgoose.htm

I would love to go there myself. I knew the novel was very popular in Japan. I've never seen the Japanese show Monkey Magic, though. I heard it's really good. I'm assuming the reason the Chinese don't like it is because of the whole "our Sino-Japanese war enemies have appropriated one of our most valued cultural treasures" sort of deal. Although, I will say one of my favorite paintings of the Monkey King is a 19th-century Japanese woodblock print. It is the most unique portrayal I've seen. His cudgel looks more like a really log club:

[Image: 1820songokusunwukongjap.jpg]
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27-02-2013, 05:21 AM
RE: Journey to the West
I've never read it but thought it was a cool story and quite interesting mythology after I found out about it.

I first found out of it because of the PS1 game Saiyuki: Journey West... clearly set on the novel.

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