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Wu Cheng'en (Chinese: 吳承恩; c. 1500–1582) was a Chinese novelist and poet of the Ming Dynasty, and is considered by many to be the author of Journey to the West, one of the Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese literature.
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Xiyouji (Journey to the West)
- There was a rock that since the creation of the world had been worked upon by the pure essences of Heaven and the fine savours of Earth, the vigour of sunshine and the grace of moonlight, till at last it became magically pregnant and one day split open, giving birth to a stone egg, about as big as a playing ball. Fructified by the wind it developed into a stone monkey, complete with every organ and limb.
- Chapter 1 (trans. Arthur Waley)
- "Nothing in the world is difficult," said the Patriarch; "only the mind makes it so."
- Chapter 2 (trans. Anthony C. Yu)
- A monkey's transformed body weds the human mind.
Mind is a monkey—this, the truth profound.
- Commentarial verses in chapter 7
- Your Majesty, what ability and what virtue does your poor monk possess that he should merit such affection from your Heavenly Grace? I shall not spare myself in this journey, but I shall proceed with all diligence until I reach the Western Heaven. If I do not attain my goal, or the true scriptures, I shall not return to our land even if I have to die. I would rather fall into eternal perdition in Hell.
- Spoken by Xuanzang in chapter 12 (trans. A. Yu)
- Treasure a handful of dirt from your home,
But love not ten thousand taels of foreign gold.
- Spoken by Taizong in chapter 12 (trans. A. Yu)
- You can walk from the time of your youth till the time you grow old, and after that, till you become youthful again; and even after going through such a cycle a thousand times, you may still find it difficult to reach the place you want to go to. But when you perceive, by the resoluteness of your will, the Buddha-nature in all things, and when every one of your thoughts goes back to its very source in your memory, that will be the time you arrive at the Spirit Mountain.
- Spoken by Wukong in chapter 24 (trans. A. Yu)
- The lesson of all scriptures concerns only the cultivation of the mind.
- Spoken by Xuanzang in chapter 85 (trans. A. Yu)
- To serve the ruler or to serve one's parents follows the same principle. You live by the kindness of your parents, and I do by the kindness of my ruler.
- Spoken by Xuanzang in chapter 85 (trans. A. Yu)
- What good is it to take back a wordless, empty volume like this? How could I possibly face the Tang emperor? The crime of mocking one's ruler is greater than one punishable by execution!
- Spoken by Xuanzang in chapter 98 (trans. A. Yu)
Quotes about Wu
- One of the most skilled descriptive poets in all Chinese literature.
- C. T. Hsia, The Classic Chinese Novel: A Critical Introduction (1968), p. 120
- Freed from all kinds of allegorical interpretations by Buddhist, Taoist, and Confucianist commentators, Monkey is simply a book of humor, profound nonsense, good-natured satire and delightful entertainment.
- [Journey to the West] describes the exploits and adventures of the monk Hsüantsang in his pilgrimage to India, in the company of three extremely lovable semi-human beings, Sun the Monkey, Ghu the Pig, and the Monk Sand. It is not an original creation, but is based on a religious folk legend. The most lovable and popular character is of course Sun the Monkey, who represents the mischievous human spirit, eternally aiming at the impossible. He ate the forbidden peach in heaven as Eve ate the forbidden apple in Eden, and he was finally chained under a rock for five hundred years as Prometheus was chained. By the time the decreed period was over, Hsüantsang came and released him, and he was to undertake the journey, fighting all the devils and strange creatures on the way, as an atonement for his sins, but his mischievous spirit always remained, and his development represents a struggle between the unruly human spirit and the holy way. He had on his head an iron crown, and whenever he committed a transgression, Hsüantsang's incantation would cause the crown to press on his head until his head was ready to burst with pain. At the same time Ghu the Pig represents the animal desires of men, which are gradually chastened by religious experience. The conflict of such desires and temptations in a highly strange journey undertaken by a company of such imperfect and highly human characters produces a continual series of comical situations and exciting battles, aided by supernatural weapons and magic powers. Sun the Monkey had stuck away in his ear a wand which could at will be transformed into any length he desired, and, moreover, he had the ability to pull out hairs on his monkey legs and transform them into any number of small monkeys to harass his enemies, and he could change himself into a cormorant or a sparrow or a fish or a temple, with the windows for his eyes, the door for his mouth and the idol for his tongue, ready to gobble up the hostile monster in case he should cross the threshold of the temple. Such a fight between Sun the Monkey and a supernatural spirit, both capable of changing themselves, chasing each other in the air, on earth, and in the water, should not fail to interest any children or grown-ups who are not too old to enjoy Mickey Mouse.
- Lin Yutang, My Country and My People (1935), pp. 276–277
- I come more and more to appreciate the wisdom and insight of the great Chinese monkey epic, Hsiyuchi. The progress of human history can be better understood from this point of view; it is so similar to the pilgrimage of those imperfect, semi-human creatures to the Western Heaven—the Monkey Wuk'ung representing the human intellect, the Pig Pachieh representing our lower nature, Monk Sand representing common sense, and the Abbot Hsüantsang representing wisdom and the Holy Way. The Abbot, protected by this curious escort, was engaged upon a journey from China to India to procure sacred Buddhist books. The story of human progress is essentially like the pilgrimage of this variegated company of highly imperfect creatures, continually landing in dangers and ludicrous situations through their own folly and mischief.
- Lin Yutang, The Importance Of Living (1940), Ch. 3: "Our Animal Heritage", I. The Monkey Epic, pp. 33–34