Syncretism

The Monkey and the Monk/The Journey to the West

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. In English-speaking countries, the work is widely known as Monkey, the title of Arthur Waley’s popular abridged translation.

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. It retains the broad outline of Xuanzang’s own account, Great Tang Records on the Western Regions, but the Ming dynasty novel adds elements from folk tales and the author’s invention, that is, that Gautama Buddha gave this task to the monk and provided him with three protectors who agree to help him as an atonement for their sins. These disciples are Sun Wukong, Zhu Bajie and Sha Wujing, together with a dragon prince who acts as Xuanzang’s steed, a white horse.