Book Review: Journey to the West

Published: 2021/11/30
Number of words: 599

For many years, the Chinese classic tale Journey to the West has been told in various versions. The story has been inspired by Hsuang-Tsang’s journey during the 17th century. The contemporary work is the conclusion of around 900 years of telling and reciting the work as a folktale and a legend. The story has also recaptured the blend of supernatural, magical adventures with a realistic tale, and a dreamlike understanding (Cheng’ en 2015). The story details Buddhist monk adventures travelling to India to bring holy Buddhism scrolls back to China. I think this part is realistic as it portrays my feelings regarding the journey’s actual events.

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Tripitaka journeyed for fourteen years while encountering 81 tribulations on his way for 108,000 miles. This part is surreal and believable as well as unbelievable a man can travel for fourteen years and so many miles. I think the part was a perfect blend of fact and fantasy. During his journey, Prince Tripitaka was escorted by four paranormal helpers who included a dragon-horse, a hog, a river monster, and a monkey king (Cheng’ en 2011). Their journey had ordeals which hindered them from reaching their destination. These ordeals comprised demons, monsters, and numerous ogres. However, each time they triumphed these ordeals since his companions possessed magic weapons and powers. The monkey king was most treasured since he possessed the capacity to turn himself into different creatures, and his body hairs could transform into other creatures to form warriors for battles.

Throughout their journey, Prince Tripitaka and his helpers engage in battles. Demons lure them into a trap while monsters threaten to eat or kill them, but they survive. They engage in heroic acts of saving people who have been beleaguered by such ogres and monsters. Trouble always came by, but the monkey king took different forms such as cloth pieces, a cricket, insects or monkey armies to rescue innocent individuals (Cheng’ en 2015). In addition, he could enlarge or reduce in size and travel a long distance in a blink of an eye. These parts were exciting to read and played a vital role in the tale’s success. These parts were unreal and intended to add flavour into the magical parts to make the story more interesting and the journey more meaning.

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Journey to the West is rooted in Chinese mythology, folk stories, and the Buddhism value system. Today, these values are recognized in Chinese cultures, which proves the story’s timeless quality. Although the original author’s true identity is still unknown, Wu Cheng’en has been accepted as its author. The story is both amusing and entertaining with pleasantry elements as well as enlightening. It gives readers spiritual insight about a person who journeys to find peace within himself and enlightenment (Hsia 2016). Initially, the story begins by reciting about a monkey who came into being and made mischiefs which caused him trouble with the gods, hence being trapped by Buddha under the Five Element Mountain. Then, the story picks Prince Tripitaka’s journey towards enlightenment.

The author paints an intense and remarkable image for readers, and his words build some beautiful world readers cannot control but become inundated in. A blend of spirituality, comedy, and nonsense, the story leaves readers entertained longing for more and a bit closer to understanding spirituality and Buddhism.


Cheng’ en, Wu. Journey to the West. Asiapac Books Pte Ltd, 2011.

Cheng’ en, Wu. Monkey: Journey to the West. Vol. 2. Dalriada Books ltd, 2015.

Hsia, Chih-tsing. The classic Chinese novel: A critical introduction. Chinese University Press, 2016.

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