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Monkey: A Journey to the West

4.01  ·  Rating details ·  5,287 ratings  ·  438 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…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)

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Average rating 4.01  · 
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 ·  5,287 ratings  ·  438 reviews

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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 read an abridged v
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.
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
Sep 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: classics, asia, fantasy
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. Alm
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
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
Nov 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned-books
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 v
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
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 des
Katie Lumsden
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.
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 at a time.

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
Missy J
July 12th, 2016 Review: FOUR STARS

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 faults are his self-absorbed regard of himself. I especial
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
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
Sarah Louise Leach
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
Nov 09, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Eastern, silly lit
Recommended to Jason by: Professor at VT
Four whole stars. Don't let the fact that it took me over a month and a half to read 300 pages say otherwise. That was due to life, and pausing to read something else in spooktober cause Monkey don't fit that bill.

This was great, though not my usual fare. I was never chomping at the bits to read it, and kind of had to make myself get back to it sometimes, but every time I started again, I was loving every minute of it. That doesn't make a lot of sense and I can't explain it, but there it is. It reads really quickl
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 ques
Karen Mosley
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
Sep 02, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 28, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is funny, witty, and allegorical. Somehow it survived a translation from Chinese to English, and the passing of 400 years (or something like 400 years, I'm not sure exactly when it was written). I'd highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in Chinese culture.
Oct 24, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ahha, most Asians know this. Watch the film all the time with my grandma when I was a kid. It is a great piece of Chinese literature :D
Lou (Lou and Life)
I'm glad that I chose to read this book whilst I've been busy with essay writing. It was the perfect book, because it was intriguing enough for me to want to read (and not DNF), but not gripping enough for me to put off studying. It was the perfect time for me to read this because with me being so busy with my essay, it meant that anything I could read for fun would be great. It meant that I really gave this book a chance, and I am glad that I did. This is one of my better liked classics. It sor ...more
Jul 11, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Monkey King's Amazing Adventures: A Journey to the West in Search of Enlightenment.

The Monkey King's Amazing Adventures, also know as A Journey to the West is based on a true story of a Buddhist monk Xuanzang and his pilgrimage to India to acquire the ‘true scriptures’. After his return to China he wrote a detailed geographical description of the lands he had passed through. This book was called ‘Record of the Western Regions’ in Chinese ‘Xiyouji’. On some accounts this record wa
Jun 02, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was an interesting read but man, the Master is kind of an idiot who keeps getting himself in unnecessary trouble just so the Monkey King could save him. At least three times, Wukong would be like "don't do this while I'm gone" and literally as soon as he was gone, the Master and company would do exactly what Wukong just said not to do. And then they'd almost die and Wukong would have to rescue them.

I really enjoyed the first half on the origins of the Monkey King before he joine
Daniel Simmons
A fun romp through Chinese folklore. Somehow, despite having lived in Asia for the past 13.5 years, I've missed out on all the pop culture incarnations (usually TV shows and movies) based on "Journey to the West", so it was nice to finally learn some background to the occasional references I've encountered. (Just yesterday a friend of mine was telling me how an executive at her company acts just like the Monkey King.)
Apr 27, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
At its best, I suppose it's a quirky adventure and spiritual quest with plenty of trickery and deception. But the episodes quickly get very repetitious.
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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.
“Nothing in this world is difficult, but thinking makes it seem so. Where there is true will, there is always a way.” 47 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.” 10 likes
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