Journey to the West


By Walther Sell

Publisher : 6sixelements

ABOUT Walther Sell

Walther Sell
It is generally assumed that Wu Chengen is the author of Journey to the West.  As one reads this book, it becomes clear that the writer had very detailed knowledge and understanding of the symbolism that is contained within Taoism, Buddhism and Confucianism. For insights and interpretatio More...


Journey to the West is a mythical novel about the journey of the monk Sanzang. He travels from the Chinese capital Chang`An, to Buddha`s Western Heaven in India, to receive the scriptures from him. The Bodhisattva Guan Yin gives him this task according to instructions from the Buddha. Along the way, he is aided by a monkey called Sun Wukong and three other disciples Pig, Friar Sand and a horse. While the story is a metaphor for the journey to enlightenment, it is also a highly entertaining fairy tale. These two ingredients together make for a masterpiece of literature. 

Journey to the West is based on the true story of a Buddhist monk Xuanzang (602 – 664), who traveled alone to India. He was motivated by the poor quality of Chinese translations of Buddhist scripture at the time. Xuanzang left Chang'an in 629 and reached India in 630. He traveled throughout the Indian subcontinent for the next thirteen years, visiting important Buddhist pilgrimage sites and studying at the ancient university at Nalanda. Xuanzang left India in 643 and arrived back in Chang'an in 646. Gradually, stories about Xuanzang`s quest for the scriptures started circulating, and with the passage of time, acquired more and more mystical coloring. As early as the Tang Dynasty (618 - 907), Li Rong`s Fantastic Tales contained an account of Xuanzang and the recondite Scriptures. The character of the Monkey King first appeared during the Song Dynasty (960 - 1279). By the time of the Yuan Dynasty (1271 - 1378) the story’s content had been greatly enriched and it’s dramatic character heightened. Journey to the West appeared in its present form in the 16th century.