Time for some information again, since the last chapter may prove to be confusing otherwise. I have glided over the story in the last addition about Sun Wukong, but here I’ll talk about the work itself, Journey to the West. While I’m sure that this information is just a quick Google search away, I wanted to provide the relevant bits of information here to save your time, and highlight the key elements in bold.
The novel has 100 chapters that can be divided into four unequal parts. The first part, which includes chapters 1–7, is a self-contained introduction to the main story. It 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, Qitian Dasheng (simplified Chinese: 齐天大圣; traditional Chinese: 齊天大聖), or “Great Sage Equal to Heaven”. His powers grow to match the forces of all of the Eastern (Taoist) deities, and the prologue culminates in Sun’s rebellion against Heaven, during a time when he garnered a post in the celestial bureaucracy. Hubris proves his downfall when the Buddha manages to trap him under a mountain, sealing it with a talisman for five hundred years.
The second part (chapters 8–12) introduces the nominal main character, Tang Sanzang, through 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 Avalokiteśvara (Guanyin) to search Tang 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 Tang Sanzang becomes a monk (as well as revealing his past life as a disciple of the Buddha named “Golden Cicada” (金蟬子)) and comes about being sent on this pilgrimage by Emperor Taizong, who previously escaped death with the help of an official in the Underworld.
The third and longest section of the work is chapters 13–99, an episodic adventure story in which Tang Sanzang sets out to bring back Buddhist scriptures from Leiyin Temple on Vulture Peak in India, but encounters various evils along the way.
The four-man, one horse team
Journey to the West is comprised of five central characters (well, more like 4, since the last one isn’t really relevant), a short description of each of them follows.
The nominal main character, Tang Sanzang, through 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 Avalokiteśvara (Guanyin) to search Tang 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 Tang Sanzang becomes a monk (as well as revealing his past life as a disciple of the Buddha named “Golden Cicada” (金蟬子)) and comes about being sent on this pilgrimage by Emperor Taizong
The first is Sun Wukong, or Monkey, whose given name loosely means “awakened to emptiness”, trapped by the Buddha for defying Heaven. He appears right away in chapter 13. The most intelligent and violent of the disciples, he is constantly reproved for his violence by Tang Sanzang. Ultimately, he can only be controlled by a magic gold ring that Guanyin has placed around his head, which causes him unbearable headaches when Tang Sanzang chants the Ring Tightening Mantra.
The second, appearing in chapter 19, is Zhu Bajie, literally “Eight Precepts Pig”, sometimes translated as Pigsy or just Pig. He was previously the Marshal of the Heavenly Canopy, a commander of Heaven’s naval forces, and was banished to the mortal realm for flirting with the moon goddess Chang’e. A reliable fighter, he is characterized by his insatiable appetites for food and women, and is constantly looking for a way out of his duties, which causes significant conflict with Sun Wukong.
The third, appearing in chapter 22, is the river ogre Sha Wujing, also translated as Friar Sand or Sandy. He was previously the celestial Curtain Lifting General, and was banished to the mortal realm for dropping (and shattering) a crystal goblet of the Queen Mother of the West. He is a quiet but generally dependable and hard-working character, who serves as the straight foil to the comic relief of Sun and Zhu.
The fourth is Yulong, the third son of the Dragon King of the West Sea, who was sentenced to death for setting fire to his father’s great pearl. He was saved by Guanyin from execution to stay and wait for his call of duty. He appears first in chapter 15, but has almost no speaking role, as throughout the story he mainly appears as a horse that Tang Sanzang rides on.
A few points to note here:
You can see why Ba Jie and Sha Seng (Sha Wujing) can be tempted into betraying their “brother”, since they were formerly from the Celestial Court, only banished due to mistakes. Therefore it makes sense that they desired to go back to their former glory.
Wukong’s home is called the Flower Fruit Mountain.
Wukong has been trapped under a mountain in the original work, and also in Adventure to the East for five hundred years.
Hopefully that was useful,
By the way, those of you that play Overwatch. Go look up the skins for Winston, Roadhog, Reinhardt, and Zenyatta… Classics never die I guess xD
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