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Journey to the West is one of the Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese literature.
Originally published anonymously in the 1590s during the Ming Dynasty, its authorship has since been ascribed to the scholar Wu Cheng'en.
In English-speaking countries, the tale is also often known as Monkey, Adventures of the Monkey God, Monkey: Folk Novel of China and The Adventures of Monkey.
The novel is a fictionalised account of the legends around the Buddhist monk Xuanzang's (also known as Tripitaka) pilgrimage to India in order to obtain Buddhist religious texts called sūtras. The Bodhisattva Guan Yin, on instruction from the Buddha, gives this task to the monk and his three protectors/disciples: Sun Wukong (Monkey King), Zhu Bajie (Pigsy) and Sha Wujing (Sandy). Together with a dragon prince who acts as Xuanzang's steed. These four characters have agreed to help Xuanzang as atonement for past sins.
The novel comprises 100 chapters divided into four parts.
The first, chapters 1–7, deals entirely with the earlier exploits of Sun Wukong, a monkey born from a stone nourished by the Five Elements, who learns the art of the Tao, 72 polymorphic transformations, combat, and secrets of immortality, and through guile and force makes a name for himself as the "Great Sage Equal to Heaven". His powers grow to match the forces of all of the Eastern deities and culminates in Sūn's rebellion against Heaven. Hubris proves his downfall when the Buddha manages to trap him under a mountain and seals the mountain with a talisman for five hundred years.
Xuanzang is introduced in chapters 8–12, providing his early biography and the background to his great journey. Dismayed that "the land of the South knows only greed, hedonism, promiscuity, and sins", the Buddha instructs the Bodhisattva, Guan Yin, to search China for someone to take the Buddhist sutras of "transcendence and persuasion for good will" back to the East. Part of the story here also relates to how Xuánzàng becomes a monk.
The third and longest section of the work is chapters 13–99, an episodic adventure story of Xuanzang's quest to bring back the Buddhist scriptures from Vulture Peak in India with the aid of his disciples, one of which is Sun Wukong.
Chapter 100, quickly describes the return journey to the Tang Empire, and the aftermath in which each traveler receives a reward in the form of posts in the bureaucracy of the heavens.
- In the Japanese television series Monkey, Tripitaka (Xuanzang) is played by a woman.
- Although he is generally described as a monster, Sandy is classified as a Kappa in the Japanese translation.
- In both the manga and the anime, the main cast and support cast hold a play in Haruka's Beach Café Hinata based on a chapter from the Journey to the West story.
- In the anime, it is mentioned that Naru should be Xuanzang (Tripitaka) instead of Sun Wukong (Monkey); this is because traditionally, in Japanese live-action adaptions, Xuanzang is always played by a female actor due to the character's perceived femininity.