Monkey: The Journey to the West
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Monkey: The Journey to the West

4.04 of 5 stars 4.04  ·  rating details  ·  2,517 ratings  ·  209 reviews

Probably the most popular book in the history of the Far East, this classic sixteenth century novel is a combination of picaresque novel and folk epic that mixes satire, allegory, and history into a rollicking adventure. It is the story of the roguish Monkey and his encounters with major and minor spirits, gods, demigods, demons, ogres, monsters, and fairies. This translat

Paperback, 306 pages
Published January 12th 1994 by Grove Press (first published 1942)
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Feb 03, 2009 Neaz rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Everyone
"Monkey" is Arthur Waley's delightful rendition of Wu Cheng-en's "Journey to the West", one of China's four great classical novels. This abridged version provides English readers with an experience that would otherwise have been inaccessible to those of us unable to read the original Chinese. The novel offers a pleasant mixture of action, adventure and comedy. It examines a number of meaningful themes, including three great Eastern philosophies (Buddhism, Tao and Confucianism) and satirical comm...more
I kind of regret buying this book. I thought it looked like a fun little read when I saw it in the mythology section, so I picked it up (several years ago).

Why regret it when I enjoyed it? I could have enjoyed MORE of it. You see, I found out much later that Monkey is an abridged version of Journey to the West. This is one of the four classic Chinese novels. I've read (and generally loved) the other three: Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Outlaws of the Marsh, and Dream of Red Mansions. Now I've r...more
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This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
i'm very sorry that i didn't like this more. many people seem to think this is a good translation, which disappoints me because i was quite willing to lay the blame at my inability to get into this book on arthur waley though it may be that they are lauding the book for its accuracy in translation rather than in its artistry. i'm not sure why i didn't enjoy it as much as i didn't: i love folklore, and monsters and fighting and adventures but despite all that, this book's take on those things kep...more
Jim Peterson
Monkey is a magical tale of fantasy and adventure in the Tang Dynasty (618–907) of imperial China. At around 350 pages, this translation is actually a short version of the 2,000-some-page Journey to the West, which was written in the 16th century. It is a very important book throughout Asia, and considered one of the four Great Classical Novels of Chinese literature. A Japanese friend of mine assures me that 98% of Asians know the story of Journey to the West whether through the book directly or...more
This is the retelling of famous for the time Buddhist pilgrimage of the real life Tripitaka (Hsuan Tsang) in 700AD by the Chinese author Wu Ch’eng-en in around 1550. He retells the now mythical, fantastical and legendary exploits as a profound allegory and irreverent religious tale. I have vague memories of a poorly dubbed tv series in the 1970s in the UK of the same name.

Monkey is first introduced as a playful, unruly handful via birth from a stone egg by the Jade Emperor. He becomes monkey kin...more
This was on my to-read list for about 20 years.

Here are a few things I was able to glean from this abridged translation:

1. Break a crystal dish in Heaven and you've had it, Laddie.
2. The Goddess of Mercy is fine with torture.
3. Lao Tzu has a short fuse, but he's a whiz with the party favours.
4. Monkeys might not be very refined, but they still throw less poo than self-righteous monks.
5. Even Buddhas still enjoy a good scam.

I quite enjoyed the first part of the story with untamed Monkey and his...more
Because I was going to live and teach in China for a year, I wanted to be informed on classic Chinese literature. I started with "Dream of the Red Chamber" which was difficult to follow, with its 400+ characters, and numerous subplots. Then I began The Journey to the West about the famous Monkey King, Sun Wukong, who is a mischievous trouble-maker until he is trapped under a mountain for 500 years, converts to Buddhism, then begins a quest to protect Xuanzang (on his way to obtain scriptures fro...more
Matthew Preston
It's a shame that the conversion of this text to a kindle format was so full of errors (for example, every "!" was rendered as "1"1). The translation felt authentic, although the repetition of the adjectives used to describe the characters (Dear Monkey! that fool Pigsy!) made parts of the text more clunky than maybe necessary. But then again, this was an abridged selection (the gaps nearly noticeable though) so maybe that can be forgiven. The character of Monkey was by far the standout, most int...more
Jan 29, 2014 Alex marked it as to-read
Shelves: asia
I'm just stalking Maija's shelves right now. So...I didn't know this existed.

Copying directly from Wendy - sorry, Wendy, it's just that it was really interesting:

'The most popular, though much-abridged version (in translation anyway?) is Monkey: The Journey to the West. I did some research and have decided on this non-abridged version instead: The Journey to the West, Volume 1 and just take it on one volume at a time.

There's a great video with Anthony Yu, the translator of the above Journey to t...more
Sep 03, 2008 Ademption rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: people who let their id run wild, superhero fetishists
This is an abbreviated version of the Chinese classic "Journey to the West." Imagine Neal Cassidy roaming around ancient China with actual powers. A dubious superhero who does whatever the fuck he wants. Monkey, the Trickster God, is assigned to guard a monk traveling to the west in search of fabled sutras. All of the action seems to follow this pattern:

1) The monk warns Monkey against something
2) Greedy Monkey does whatever is prohibited
3) the Monkey suffers and everyone must have an unexpec...more
A bit like the Buddhist versions of Hans Christian Anderson and Pilgrim's Progress mixed together. Interestingly, Tripitaka, the holiest character in the book has a tendency to burst into tears at the slightest hint that something might be wrong. In general he's fairly useless, Monkey spends most of the book saving him.

The supernatural and heavenly elements of the book seem to be set up in a rather bureaucratic fashion. There are still clearly defined ranks and in many cases, wealth, spiritual...more
Theo Rogers
Yes, I know that's quite a claim to make! But this book actually deserves it. It's accessible, it's a ripping yarn, and quite simply it's an absolute joy to read. All this it achieves while balancing profundity and pure playfulness with a lightness and deftness of touch that leaves modern fantasists like Tolkien trailing in its wake. I realize that many people will feel I've just committed sacrilege. But... Well, like I said before, this book genuinely deserves such high praise.

READ IT! Your lif...more
I thoroughly enjoyed this classic of Chinese literature. The translation to English seems to have preserved intact the spirit of the original. An excellent read filled with myth, adventure, tall tales and feats of wonder, and the message that while mischief and gaiety are to be valued, so too is responsibility to be respected.
Kenny Daily
Who wouldn't love a 500 year old fantasy story about a monkey made of stone that beats people up on his way to India to retrieve the Buddhist scrolls?
Brian Turner
These characters and stories will be familiar to anyone who watched the Monkey Magic series back in the '70s.
The first part shows how Monkey became a king, learnt his magic powers, got his staff and ended up imprisoned in a mountain by Buddha.
Then the priest Tripitaka comes along on his mission to get scriptures from India and releases Monkey after 500 years.
Meeting up with Pigsy and Sandy along the way, they then have more adventures along the way.

A good translation of the original source makes...more
Julian Meynell
This is an abridged version of one of the four great classics of Chinese literature. The work is essentially a fairy tale of the highest order.

The book is a picaresque with the main story being that a Buddhist priest is travelling to India to bring back to China some religious texts. He is accompanied by the titular character Monkey who is a kind of trickster god and two other creatures Sandy and Pigsy.

The story moves effortlessly between straight ahead fairy tale and satire. The two main target...more
Looking for a riveting piece of 16th century Chinese folk fiction? Try the hilarious adventure tale “Monkey" (also known as Journey to the West). Penned by scholar Wu Chen An, it tells the story of a mischievous monkey, and is based on the actual pilgrimage of the monk Tripitaka to India, to fetch the Buddhist scriptures for the Tang emperor.

Wu layers this earnest, grueling undertaking, with legend, gossip, superstition, religion, and concocts a rollicking bit of satire. The central irony of the...more
Marc Kozak
I picked this up because I am interested in reading what other cultures consider essential reading - and this is one of the four Great Classical Novels of Chinese literature. It tells the tale of a priest's 17-year journey to pick up sacred scrolls from Bhudda in India. It also tells of his three disciples, one being Monkey, who is really the main character here. Monkey has great superpowers but also is kind of a dick. He has a bad temper, is super full of himself, and gets into the equivalent o...more
Ninja Neko
Monkey is unlike any novel I've ever read. At first it took some getting used to, but I ended up really liking it. I ordered a copy to take with me on my first trip to China last year. A couple of long train/plane rides were on our schedule and I needed some reading material. I had wondered about Journey to the West before because of the many references I had encountered in manga & anime. So I knew I could expect some kind of Chinese fairy tale with humourous criticism on the petty sides of...more
Carl Nelson
One of the "Four Great Classical Novels" of Chinese literature, "Journey to the West" is the 16th-century embellishment of a 7th-century pilgrimage from China to India to retrieve Buddhist scriptures that will bring enlightenment to China. At the folklore level, this is a rollicking tale of misadventure and the clever solutions of the trickster Monkey that save the feckless priest Tripitaka and his frequently-unwilling cohorts, the foolish Pigsy and the obedient Sandy. As an allegory, Tripitaka...more
This book is about the quest of a monk to go to India to bring some buddhist scriptures to China. The book is a translation of some of the chapters of "Journey to the west" by Cheng-en Wu which is much longer. The translator opted not to shorten the chapters but to omit chapters. Since the book consists of many stories or separate adventures, I wouldn't have noticed is had the translator not mentioned this in the foreword.

The monkey king is to help monk on his quest and actually he is the main...more
Fra i grandi titoli della narrativa cinese non si può non menzionare Viaggio in Occidente (Xiyouji, lett. “Memoria di un viaggio in Occidente”) la cui edizione più antica conosciuta risale al 1592.

Attribuito tradizionalmente allo scrittore Wu Cheng’en, vissuto fra il 1500 e il 1582 circa, questo classico costituisce un vero e proprio salto nel regno della fantasia e dell’intrattenimento ma con importanti finalità moraleggianti, tanto da essere stato paragonato al nostrano Pinocchio.

Infatti, per...more
I started reading this book at the close of last year and had to stop when I took the children's media class because it required so much reading. Well, I finished it and loved it. Monkey is one of the oldest known novels. It is an ancient Chinese folk tale of a monkey who gains immortality and incredible powers. The first half of the book is about Monkey gaining his power and causing trouble for the deities in heaven. They can't control him, until finally he is captured and imprisoned for 500 ye...more
Alanood Burhaima
I am tempted to select this novel as my all-time favorite book since I enjoyed every single chapter of it!
There is no surprise that Wu Cheng en's 16th century literary classic Journey to the west along with the romance of the three kingdoms, dream of the red chamber and water margin make up the four great classical novels of Chinese literature. This novel is actually the fictionalized tale of Xuanzang's journey to India (which took place from 629-645) in order to seek buddhist scriptures and bri...more
Jesse good as I had hoped.

I realize that this is the super abreviated eddition, with only 30 of the original 100 chapters, but I think this was the perfect way to start reading this book. Like reading "The Once and Future King" before reading "Le Morte de'Arthur"...It doesn't give you the orignal story, but will help the reader understand the original sooooo much more.

There is a great introduction and Arthur Waley does an amazing job of translating; making it a story even children could enjoy...more
Leo Walsh
When I first opened this book, I was reading it was a "Classic," and a part of the Chinese Cannon which, save Confucius Lao Tzu, I was ignorant of.

At first, I was not overly impressed. I read it in fits and starts. And would put it away for days on end, which is unusual for me. A monkey, born of stone, becomes a king. Learns wizardry. Because of his precocious trickery gets in trouble with the King of Heaven. And was imprisoned in a mountain.

I read it. Shrugged. It was okay... Sort of like Epi...more
Alexander S.
Sam, Alexander (Period 4): Book Review of Monkey: Journey to the West by Wu Cheng'en

1. Sum It Up: Wu Cheng'en's historical Chinese folktale, Monkey: The Journey to the West, takes place in ancient China, where one of the main characters, Monkey, after a long, gruesome and mischievous past of ruling as the 'monkey king' and seeking the path to Enlightenment and immortality; is freed from 500 years of prison set upon him by the Heavens. The man who unleashes Monkey goes by the name of Hsuan-Tsang,...more
Brandon Ostrom
This book a novel length account concerning the adventures of a mischievous trickster Monkey given godlike sorcerous powers. It's divided into two parts, one where he messed with heaven, the second half with him redeeming himself by trekking from China to India to retrieve ancient Buddhist Scriptures. He changes into an 100 mile tall three headed demon, repeatedly transforms his own hair into hundreds of fighting copies of himself, gets priests to drink his pee and tells them it's holy water, an...more
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Arthur Waley C.B.E., F.B.S. was a distinguished authority on Chinese language and literature. He was honoured many times for his translations from the Chinese and received the Queen's medal for poetry in 1953. His many books include Chinese Poems, Japanese Poetry, The Tale of Genji, The Way and Its Power, The Real Tripitaka and Yuan Mei.
More about Arthur Waley...
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“Nothing in this world is difficult, but thinking makes it seem so. Where there is true will, there is always a way.” 21 likes
“After Supper the Master dismissed all except Sun Wukong, Zhu Bajie and Sha the Monk. He took them out with him and said, "Look at that wonderful moolight. It makes me long for the time when I can return home.” 5 likes
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