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Journey To the West


"Journey To the West" (Chinese pinyin: "Xi You Ji") is one of the four great classic Chinese literature masterpieces. The book was written by Wu Cheng-en (1500-1582) of Ming Dynasty.

"Journey To the West" is a thick book of 100 episodes, but it is the kind of book you do not want to put down as soon as you start to read. It is a wonderful book for many reasons.

  • It is a book of extremely high literary value. It is written in very beautiful language and is full of poems.
  • It is a book of very attractive fairy tales with all the amazing plots about the Buddha, deities, supernormal abilities, monsters and devils. For westerners, it is like an oriental version of ancient Greek fairy tales. Children and school students definitely will like it.
  • This book carries the a lot of information about traditional Chinese culture.
  • It talks about the real meaning of human life, about how to improve oneself and cultivate into Buddha hood etc.

The novel tells the trip of Tang Monk and his three disciples going to India to fetch the Buddhism scriptures. During the journey, Tang Monk and his disciples experienced 81 tribulations.

However, nothing could influence Tang Monk's determination to go to the west and fetch the true scriptures. With the protection and help from divine beings, they overcame all the difficulties and interferences and finally reached India.

This story was a real event that happened in China's history. In 629 A.D. of Tang Dynasty, a young monk Xuan Zang ( pronounced as "Sheeuan Zang") went from capital city Chang An to India to study Buddhism. He returned to Chang An city in 645 A.D. taking back hundreds of books of Buddhism scriptures.

This book is also a full account of the cultivation process of the Tang Monk as well as his companions. Cultivation practice (or Xiu Lian in Chinese) is an essential part of Chinese culture. A big number of stories left from Chinese Buddhism and Taoism are about how to become divine beings through practicing cultivation. In this book, the Tang Monk and the Monkey King succeeded in their cultivation and became Buddha in the last episode. In modern words, to practice cultivation is to improve one's mind and body.

Main Characters in "Jouney to the West"

Monkey King

Monkey King

Because the book is written from a supernatural perspective, Monkey King, with his supernormal capabilities, seems very prominent among the four main figures. He indeed is doing very well. He is determined and clear headed. He is never confused by demons that change into all kinds of forms or humans. He is always courageous and never afraid.

"Monkey King" has many good human characters like courage, diligence, determination, clear head etc.

Tang Monk

Tang Monk

Tang Monk is the very main character of the book Jouney To The West. Originally while in heaven, he was the second disciple of the Tathagata Buddha. Because he did not listen to Buddha¡¯s preaching respectfully once, he was demoted to the human world to get tempered and improved. In the human world, he has been given birth again and again. In each life, he has been practicing cultivation. During the period told in this book, it was his tenth life in human world.

While reading the book, many people might think the Tang Monk is very incapable among his companions because he did not have any supernormal abilities. However, he is by no doubt the best cultivator among all. Because he carried no supernormal abilities, the whole trip was more difficult for him than for any of his companions. He relied on only one thing to go through all tribulations: determination. His will of fetching the scriptures has never been waved by any of the tribulations.

The difficulties Tang Monk went through was enormous. There were not only many devils trying to eat him, but also many temptations. For example, in one of the countries that Tang Monk passed there were only ladies. The female emperor invited Tang Monk to stay and be her husband as well as the Emperor. However, Tang Monk resisted all these temptations and continued going on his journey to the west.

From an ordinary point of view, Tang Monk seems very clumsy. He had no supernormal ability at all. After being captured by demons, he can do nothing but to wait for his disciples to rescue him. However, he is the really critical person of the whole story. If without him, the whole story would not exist. In human dimensions, there has to be a traveling process of fetching the scripture. Otherwise, there is no difference from the Buddha dropping the scriptures to humans directly. It shall not be like that. Human dimensions has to have human dimension¡¯s process.

The most outstanding character of Tang Monk is just one thing: determination. It is widely known among the demons that Tang Monk has practiced cultivation for ten life times, if any one eats him, one will obtain longevity. So the demons always want to eat him and often capture him. His will of fetching the scriptures is never defeated. Despite all the tribulations and dangers, he always survived with the help from gods.

Tang Monk also has shortcomings. For example, when being captured by demons, sometimes he is weak and afraid. However, as a cultivator, Tang Monk has two very outstanding characters: one is determination and the other is faith in Buddha. These are really the most crucial qualities that a cultivator must have.

Sha Monk

Sha Monk

Sha Monk's Buddhist name is Wu Jing, which means "enlightening to cleanness". He was originally a general in heaven under Jade Emperor's governing. He was demoted off the heaven because of breaking a precious instrument. He then came to human world and was committing eating of humans at Liu Sha River until he met with Tang Monk. He respected Tang Monk as the Master and joined Tang Monk, Monkey King and Zhu Ba Jie in the journey to the west. His weapon is a metal shovel with a crescent at the other end.

During the whole journey, He always works hard silently in carrying heavy loadings and never has any complains about his assigned work. Sha Monk is always loyal to the mission and never said anything to break up the group or stop the journey. He was kind to every one. At the end, he successfully cultivated himself into an Arhart.

Eight-Commandment Pig (Zhu Ba-jie)

Zhu Ba Jie

"Ba Jie" means Eight Commandments, which is a name given by Tang Monk. "Eight Commandments" originally is a Buddhism terminology formulating eight types of bad behaviors to abstain from including killing, stealing, sex etc.

Ba Jie was a general in heaven. He was demoted off the heaven down to human dimension because of his molesting the female deity Chang E ( pronounced as "Chang Er"). However, he dropped into a pig's body by error and became a pig in human world. So his assumes an image with a pig's mouth and ears.

With a pig's body, Ba Jie carried nearly all the imperfect characters: ugly outlook, greedy, very indulged in eating, lascivious, lazy, fond of stirring conflicts, being not determined etc. However, being reminded by fellow disciples and reminded by Tang Monk all the way, Ba Jie also completed the whole jouney and reached India.

The case of Eight-Commandment Pig in Jouney To The West proves that even a person with very poor inborn quality can still cultivate into a deity.

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