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Monkey: A Journey to the West

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  6,091 ratings  ·  535 reviews
Probably the most popular book in the history of the Far East, this classic combination of picaresque novel and folk epic mixes satire, allegory, and history into a rollicking tale. It is the story of the rougish Monkey and his encounters with major and minor spirits, gods, demigods, demons, ogres, monsters, and fairies. This translation, by the distinguished scholar Arthu ...more
Paperback, 352 pages
Published March 29th 1973 by Penguin Classics (first published 1592)
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Kyc There are two complete translations of "Journey to the West". One is by William John Francis Jenner and is published by China's Foreign Language Press…moreThere are two complete translations of "Journey to the West". One is by William John Francis Jenner and is published by China's Foreign Language Press. The other, recently revised, is by Anthony C. Yu and is published by the University of Chicago Press.(less)
Raj No, it's abridged. I think it keeps the start and end intact, but picks and chooses the adventures en route to be kept.…moreNo, it's abridged. I think it keeps the start and end intact, but picks and chooses the adventures en route to be kept.(less)

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Sep 27, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Roy Lotz
Perhaps because I have been reading too many political books—inevitably dreary—I found Monkey to be almost electrifyingly delightful, from the beginning to the very end. When I bought the book used, on a whim, I knew virtually nothing about it other than it was a famous Chinese classic. Thus, I vaguely expected something rather dry and edifying; so I was delighted, instead, to find the inspiration for one of my great childhood loves, Dragon Ball. Indeed, while admittedly lacking in animation, Mo ...more
Katie Lumsden
Aug 31, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting, if strange read, like nothing I've read before. It's funny, historically interesting and at times very engaging, if somewhat hard to get into. ...more
Its funny, I read about 50 pages of this then lost the thread and started struggling with who was who, to such an extent that I put it down for a few months.
After this break I then went back about 20 pages and started again. This time it stuck, I sailed through the rest of the book, and really enjoyed it. I think if I hadn't of struggled it might have been 5 stars, but all in all I think 4 is a fair mark.
Dec 16, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Kudos to Arthur Waley for somehow reducing this 100-chapter classic of ancient Chinese literature into a 30-chapter abridgment that makes sense. Certainly many hard choices were made along the way. There is almost none of the florid court poetry that the original has in abundance, and many fun adventures wound up on the cutting room floor, but what remains captures the spirit, humor, suspense, and moral lessons of Wu Cheng'en's "Xi You Ji" (Journey to the West).

Because this was published in 1943
Sep 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: classics, fantasy, asia
The last thing I'd expect a hundreds-of-years-old slice of classic Chinese literature to be is fun, but that's exactly what MONKEY is. It's great fun! It's a delight to read, a thoroughly modern action-adventure storyline that embodies the classic 'journey' narrative and packs it to the brim with all manner of outlandish incident and constant humour.

The only difficulty with MONKEY comes from trying to remember all of the various deities and sub-sections that Heaven is made up of. Almost every ch
Feb 03, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
According to Wikipedia:

Journey to the West is a Chinese novel published in the 16th century during the Ming dynasty and attributed to Wu Cheng'en. It is one of the Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese literature.

The novel is an extended account of the legendary pilgrimage of the Tang dynasty Buddhist monk Xuanzang who traveled to the "Western Regions", that is, Central Asia and India, to obtain Buddhist sacred texts (sūtras) and returned after many trials and much suffering.

In the book, the mo
Akemi G.
Oct 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-fiction
I read this in Japanese, so I cannot comment about the quality of the English translation. Part adventure journey, part human comedy disguised as fantasy. (Very cynical to government bureaucracy)

For those who are wondering about the *complete* translation of this classic: There have been multiple versions of this, because authorship in the old China is not what you assume. People added their own fancy as they hand-copied the book(s), and it's hardly possible to distinguish which part is authenti
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
I'm embarrassed to admit that I learned only recently about Sun Wukong, a very famous monkey character all over Asia. That is to say, billions of people on earth are quite familiar with Sun Wukong, and I didn't know he existed until about a year ago! The planet is becoming smaller and smaller, but there are still some East/West divides...

In any case, the "monkey" of the title is Sun Wukong. This story, which is so well known is Asia, is usually known as "The Journey to the West" (without "monke
Nov 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm not sure about this translation, wasn't a fan, however, I really enjoyed the story. It's a fun book with plenty of humor, adventure, and fantasy. Most people probably know the story already without realizing it because the story of the Monkey King has been retold numerous times, most notably Dragon Ball Z takes several ideas from this story. Besides the Monkey, I also enjoyed Pigsy and Sandy, s this has a unique cast of colorful characters.

I should also note this is an abridged version. I'm
John_Dishwasher John_Dishwasher
The way this tale plays out reminds me of legends surrounding holy relics, or supposed events that confer significance upon hallowed grounds. So possibly this is an origin story for some sacred scriptures somewhere. Mostly, though, the book is a balls-out supernatural adventure. At times it reminded me of all the superhero movies we’re being fed right now by mainstream media; and this parallel led me to realize that in today’s movies we are being shown convincing representations of supernatural ...more
Sep 21, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2009
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
Charlie Corn
Jan 12, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Thank you to Penguin for the review copy; it was a real treat to read this new version by a translator and scholar I really admire. Up to now I've been familiar with the Waley translation in Penguin Classics and I took the opportunity to read them side by side. This is an important translation and a major addition to the canon of English translations, and it’s wonderful to see such a playful, modern, dynamic and enjoyable version.

For those unfamiliar with the story, we follow a monk, Tripitaka
Yigal Zur
Dec 04, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
great tale from china. the story of a Buddhist monk who left xian, crossed the mighty himalaya with funny followers and came back with loads of scriptures. amazing tale. love it
Horace Derwent
newly translated by china expert, julia lovell, cool

actually it's just not about a monkey, it's about an eminent monk(a dignitary buddhist) and his three disciples, and the journey they went to ancient india for obtaining buddhist scriptures
Oct 27, 2011 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: china
Waley's abridged version is widely...tolerated at least, liked by very many.

There is also this abridged version of the Yu translation: slightly longer at 528 pages.

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 a
Missy J
Review (July 2016):

I think I read a different book four years ago. It definitely was a different translation. This time around, I really enjoyed the Journey to the West, or better known as "Monkey" translated by Arthur Waley. The story was easy to follow and quite funny. I never lost track of what was going on. I'm glad that I give this another chance. Monkey is a powerful, ingenious rascal, whose only fault is his self-absorbed regard for himself. I especially loved the beginning of the book, w
Readable introduction to one of the four Chinese literary epics. This one has an interesting preface and serves to give the reader a summarised version of events encountered by the group of protagonists.

What it doesn't do is capture the mystic charm of the original text (which admittedly is less accessible to English or casual Mandarin readers), or expound upon the profundity of the journey in its parts. A lot of the scenes ended almost as abruptly as they began and left me with questions hangin
Kaleido Books
Fans of the fantastic 'Monkey Magic' series might enjoy reading this early English translation of the classic Chinese folk tale -- one based on historical fact.

This particular translation is prefaced by a very interesting essay about the translator, a Christian missionary who found (and thus inserted) various Christian messianic themes into the story.

Sadly, this translation has practically no characterisation; it is told as a series of events with very little drama or descriptive language.

Very i
Mar 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

"I first heard the story in the Japanese drama, Saiyuuki back in 2006, MONKEY MAJIK / Around The World theme song
The books is even better so far!"

Just loved the book, it's tone is perfect and Monkey is such a great character, while Pigsy supplies plenty of laughs. My favorite part of the book is the three Taoist deities, the trick that Tripitaka's three disciples play on them and how the competition between them turns out.
Plots and Points
This is an interesting little read that provides a small window into what is presumably a much more complete work. This is an abridgement of journey to the West and as such gives you the key plot beats but it's an allegorical novel at it's core so cutting out massive chunks of the allegory really damages the overall effect.

The writing style and characters are all great and it's surprisingly funny for an ancient work about Buddhism but ultimately it's quite repetitive and this provides little mo
Muhtasim Khan
Jan 10, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I loved this abridged version of 16th century Chinese folklore and it was very interesting.It's mix of many themes adventure, comedy, and drama.
Tripitaka (the monk): The main character .He is supposed to represent the best, but also the worst of humanity. He is always is jealous of Sun Wukong’s power, thus he does not trust or care for Sun. And like many humans, he is EXTREMELY sensitive to praise and brown-nosing, thus he always believe Pigsy even though it is clear Pigsy never has Tripitaka’s
Oct 20, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The amount of charm this book has for something over 400 years old is incredible. Considering this is an English translation of Classical Chinese, it is extremely readable, the only areas of difficulty being the references to Taoist and Buddhist religious figures which were, of course, lost on this 21st century Irish feen. Despite this I found it didn't impede my overall enjoyment of the novel, which continued to entertain me throughout with that particular brand of moralistic humour and wit tha ...more
Birgit Eggink
The story is quite repetitive and I didn’t get the insights and wisdom I would’ve hoped. It was a fun story though, easy to read :)
Dec 13, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, comedy
Monkey - Great Sage and Equal of Heaven. I watched the classic Japanese TV series when I was a kid to buying the complete series on DVD so my children wouldn't miss out on the fun (And I can say it is still as good today as it was when I was young). But until now I had not read the book itself. The original was written in the 1500's by a Chinese author Wu Ch'eng-en and was called 'Journey to the West'. The original was 100 chapters long and after trying to read more scholarly translations I foun ...more
Vanessa Fabiano
Sep 27, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I had no idea this was a an actual book, never mind translated and available in Penguin classic format! Having loved the camp TV series made in China and shown on UK TV in the late 1970s when i was a child I could not resist reading it. I am very glad I did.
As we Buddhists will tell you, it is very difficult to describe the indescribable but I will try. First of all life is humourous, the best part of life is laughter, and this book has plenty of that, and what is more uses it as a gentle didact
Oct 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is a major classic of Chinese literature for good reason: it remains a gripping story with unforgettable characters. Arthur Waley is one of my favorite translators, and the fact that he was a skilled poet in his own right comes through in the simple beauty of the prose. I was a little disappointed to find that the translation skips a number of chapters from the original, but a friend of mine who's a fairly well-known translator of Chinese poetry told me that with a few exceptions, the ...more
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Wu Cheng'en (simplified Chinese: 吴承恩; traditional Chinese: 吳承恩; pinyin: Wú Chéng'ēn, ca. 1505–1580 or 1500–1582, courtesy name Ruzhong (汝忠), pen name "Sheyang Hermit," was a Chinese novelist and poet of the Ming Dynasty, best known for being the probable author of one of the Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese literature, Journey to the West, also called Monkey. ...more

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