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Pearls of wisdom from the shows philosophisers!

"I'm not immortal yet. What's mortal must die and i hate that idea.." (Monkey)

"Oh Look... a woman!" (Pigsy)

"It's a cheerful philosophy and i've heard it from people before. They're all dead now though" (Sandy)

"Let me out. 500 years under a mountain is enough. A joke is a joke!" (Monkey)

"Just because you're a Dragon it doesn't make you better than me."

"A boy priest all too human, a water monster once Commander of the Heavenly host and, in the midst of beauty, the ugliness which lust used to make an angel... into a pig -- Three of the four called by their karma to save the world. The fourth, least qualified of all perhaps, is of course.. Monkey "

"Alright, let battle commense! Wine and... bananas. Bring on the dancing girls." (Monkey)

"Defeated, the God of Fertility turned over a new leaf. This is why, today, very few men have babies." (Narrator)

"Grow Stick... grow again stick... grow nice and large again for King Monkey." (Monkey)

"The Great Chinese Sage, Lao Tzu said words that are beautiful are seldom true." (Narrator)

"The Jade Emperor was visiting his...'good friend'... the Star goddess Vega, on... erm, 'business matters." (Narrator)

"And you know eating babies isn't good manners, don't you?" (Monkey)

"There's nothing so stubborn as a Buddhist, nothing so stupid as a priest. I mean, what's he worshipping? Gods? I met the gods - bloody boring bunch!" (Monkey)

Journey to the West

Monkey reads Journey to the West
Traditional Chinese: 西遊記
Simplified Chinese: 西游记
Hanyu Pinyin: Xīyóu-jì
Wade-Giles: Hsiyu-chi.

Journey to the West is one of the Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese literature, the other three being :
• Romance of the Three Kingdoms (三國演義) (14th century)
• Water Margin (水滸傳) (aka Outlaws of the Marsh) (13th-15th century)
• Dream of the Red Chamber (紅樓夢) (also known as The Story of the Stone) (first block print 1791)

It was originally published anonymously in the 1590s during the Ming Dynasty and, even though no direct evidence of its authorship survives, it is ascribed to poet and novelist Wú Chéng'ēn - born in Shanyang, Huaian, China, c.1500-1582.

Known as ‘Monkey’, from the title of a popular, abridged translation by Arthur Waley, the novel is a fictionalized account of the legends surrounding the Buddhist monk Xuánzàng'. Dismayed that the land of the South knows only greed, hedonism, promiscuity, and sins, Buddha instructs the Bodhisattva, Guān Yīn, to search Táng China for a holy pilgrim worthy of the task of taking religious texts, the Buddhist sutras of  transcendence and persuasion for good will, back to the East for translation.

The Bodhisattva finds three  willing disciples for the monk along the way, who agree to help Xuanzang in order to atone for their previous sins, as well as a  dragon prince, Yu-Lung, who goes in the guise of a white horse.

Throughout the journey, these four brave travellers have to fend off attacks on their Master from various monsters and spirits. Most came in search of immortality, which is obtainable by eating the flesh of the holy monk, whilst others want to hinder the pilgrimage. All three – in particular, Sūn Wùkōng – have to use all their abilities and connections to defeat formidable enemies which include the Bull Demon King, the Iron Fan Princess, and even an indistinguishable imitation of Sūn Wùkōng himself. The demons on the later parts of the journey include spider-women who spin webs from their navels, a pride of lion monsters, the white-bone demon with shape-shifting powers, and a terrible female spirit who carries Xuánzàng down into her bottomless cave to marry him.

The pilgrimage takes an arduous fourteen years to complete, after which each traveller is promoted to a higher post in the bureaucracy of heaven, with Sūn Wùkōng and Xuánzàng achieving Buddhahood, Bājiè promoted to an altar cleanser (ie. eater of left-over food from the God’s altar), and Wùjìng promoted to an arhat status. The dragon is made a Naga.

*Arhat = literally translated as 'worthy one' - someone who has become spiritually enlightened through the teachings of a Buddha. Different to a Buddha? YES, .. a Buddha attains enlightenment all by themselves BUT ARE ALSO arhats.
* Naga = According to the Buddist Monastic rule - animals cannot become monks but can be given the Five Precepts as a means to attaining a human existence, and therefore monkhood, in the next life. Until these five precepts are achieved, the animal will be known as a Naga.

Journey to the West has a strong background in Chinese folk religion, Chinese mythology and value systems. Part of the novel's enduring popularity comes from the fact that it works on multiple levels: it is a first-rate adventure story, a dispenser of spiritual insight, and an extended allegory in which the group of pilgrims journeying toward India represents the individuals journey towards enlightenment.


Historical Context.

The classic tale of 'Journey to the West' was based on real events during the Tang Dynasty. The Big Wild Goose Pagoda in Xī'ān, Shǎnxī Province, China, was where the epic journey began and ended and in memory of Xuánzàng a statue was placed outside the Da Ci'en Temple.

Xuánzàng reached India after he experienced innumerable trials and hardships, of course without the help of his almighty disciples in the novel. Xuánzàng then lived in India for more than a decade, studying at Nalanda University and learning classics of Buddhism and Indian culture. Later he succeeded in going back to China, bringing with him copies of many classic Buddhist texts, which contributed significantly to the promotion of Buddhism in China.

Fictionalized stories of Xuánzàng's journey were in existence long before Journey was written. In these versions, dating as far back as Southern Song, a monkey character was already a primary protagonist. It is believed that these legends began forming from Xuánzàng's accounts of Hanuman, the Hindu monkey god from the ancient Ramayana epic. During the Yuan Dynasty and early Ming, elements of the Monkey legend can already be seen.


The Main Characters. 

Xuan Zang or Tripitaka.
Xuánzàng (or Táng-Sānzàng, meaning "Táng-dynasty monk" - Sānzàng or "Three Baskets", referring to the Tripitaka, was a traditional honorific for a Buddhist monk) is the Buddhist monk who set off for India to retrieve the Buddhist scriptures.
Although he is helpless when it comes to defending himself, the gods provided him with  powerful disciples (Sūn Wùkōng, Zhū Bājiè, and Shā Wùjìng) who will aid and protect him on his journey. In return, the disciples will receive enlightenment and forgiveness for their sins once the journey is done. Along the way, they help the people by ridding various monsters that are hunting their land. The fact that all the monsters and demons are trying to obtain immortality by eating Xuán Zàng provides much of the plot in the story.

Sūn Wùkōng, (孫悟空 or Monkey) - the 'real' hero!
Sūn Wùkōng is the name given to this character by his teacher, Patriarch Subodhi, and means ‘son aware of vacuity’ - probably referring to the vacuum in his head, but he was pleased with his new title non-the less. He is called Monkey King or simply Monkey in English.

He was born as a stone monkey out of a rock as old as creation. which was made magically fertile by the elements. He is noted for his bravery in being the first to enter Water-Curtain Cave on the mountain of flowers and fruit, a feat for which the other monkeys proclaimed him ‘Měi Hóu Wáng’ - the ‘handsome monkey king’.

Later, he started making trouble in the Heavens and defeated an Army of 100,000 celestial soldiers, led by the Four Heavenly Kings, Erlang Shen, and Nezha.

At the advice of The Planet Venus Spirit, The Jade Emperor invited Monkey into Heaven, giving him the title ‘Great Sage equal of Heaven’ in the hope that keeping him on a short leash would minimize the amount of mischief he could cause….  It didn’t !!

Eventually, an appeal was sent by the Jade Emperor to Buddha, who subdued Monkey and trapped him beneath Five Finger Mountain, where he stayed for 500 years. He was  saved when Xuanzang came across him near the start of his pilgrimage, taking Sūn Wùkōng as one of his disciples.  

His primary weapon is ‘Ru Yi Jin Gu Bang’ - The Magic Golden clasped staff, which he can make grow as tall as the sky or shrink down to the size of a needle to keep in his ear when not in use. He cajoled the staff out of Ao Kuang, the Dragon King of the Eastern Sea . It was said to  have been used by the Gods to make the Milky Way and weighed 13,500 pounds, but Wukong wielded it with ease. The Dragon king, not wanting any trouble, also gave him a suit of golden armor. These gifts, combined with his devourement of the peaches of immortality and three jars of immortality pills while in Heaven, plus his 49 day ordeal in an 8-trigram furnace that gave him a steel-hard body and fiery eyes capable of seeing through any disguise, easily makes Sun Wukong the strongest member of the pilgrimage. Besides these abilities, he could also pull hairs from his body and blow on them to transform them into whatever he wished (usually clones of himself to get a numerical adantage in battle). Although he has mastered the 72-methods-of-transformations (twice that of Zhu Bajie), it does not mean that he is restricted to those 72 different forms. It's also worthy of mention the fact that he can do a "Somersault Cloud," enabling him to travel vast distances in a single leap. Wukong uses his talents to fight demons and play pranks. However, his misbehaviors are checked by a band placed around his head by Guān Yīn, which could not be removed by Sun Wukong himself until the journey's end. Xuánzàng can tighten this band by chanting the Tight-Fillet spell (also taught to him by Guān Yīn) whenever he needed to chastise the Monkey King.

Sūn Wùkōng's child-like playfulness is a huge contrast to his cunning mind. This, coupled with his acrobatic skills, make him a likeable hero, though not necessarily a good role model. His antics presented a lighter side in what proposed to be a long and dangerous trip into the unknown, a journey which would have undoubtedly ended in failure had Monkey not been there to 'baby-sit' the jibbering Monk!

Zhū Bājiè, 豬八戒 or Pigsy.
Zhū Bājiè - Pig of the Eight Prohibitions, is also known as Zhu Wuneng - Pig Awakened to Power. Before he joined Sanzang's pilgrimage, he was also known as Zhu Ganglie - Iron haired Pig. He was once an immortal known as Tian Peng Yuan Shuai , Grand Admiral of 800,000 soldiers and Marshall of the heavenly river. But during a peach banquet in celebration of the gods, he drank too much and flirted boldly with Chang'e, the beautiful moon goddess, resulting in his punishment of being sent down into the mortal world. He was supposed to be reborn as a human, but ended up in the womb of a sow due to an error at the Reincarnation Wheel, which gave Bājiè the appearance of a half-pig, half-man. He took up residence in Cloud Pathway Cave on Fu Ling mountain.  

However, Bājiè's desire for women led him to Gao Village, where he posed as a normal being and took a wife. Later, when the villagers discovered the fact that he was a monster, Bājiè hid the girl away. At this point, Sanzang and Sun Wukong arrived at Gao Village and helped subdue him. Zhū Bājiè consequently joined the pilgrimage to the West.  

His weapon of choice is  ‘Jiu Chi Ding Pa’ - a Nine-Pronged Rake. He is also capable of thirty-six transformations (as compared to Sun Wukong's seventy-two), and can travel on clouds, but not as fast as Sun Wukong. However, Zhū Bājiè is noted for his fighting skills in the water, which he used to combat Sha Wujing, who later joined them on the journey.

Shā Wùjìng, 沙悟淨 or Sandy.
Shā Wùjìng (literally meaning "Sand Awakened to Purity"), given the name Friar Sand or Sandy (a rather feminine name) in English, was once the Curtain Raising General, who stood in attendance by the imperial chariot in the Hall of Miraculous Mist. He was exiled to the mortal world and made to look like a monster because he accidentally smashed a crystal goblet belonging to the Heavenly Queen Mother during the Peach Banquet. The now-hideous immortal took up residence in the Flowing Sands River, terrorizing the surrounding villages and travelers trying to cross the river. However, he was subdued by Sūn Wùkōng and Zhū Bājiè when the Sānzàng party came across him. They consequently took him in to be a part of the pilgrimage to the West.

Shā Wùjìng's weapon is the yuèyáchǎn ("Crescent-Moon-Shovel" or "Monk's Spade"). Aside from that, he knows eighteen transformations and is highly effective in water combat, but is agreed upon as the weakest of the three disciples.

Shā Wùjìng is known to be the most obedient, logical, and polite of the three disciples, and always takes care of his master, seldom engaging in the bickeries of his fellow-disciples. Ever reliable, he carries the luggage for the travellers. Perhaps this is why he is sometimes seen as a minor character; the lack of any particular perks confers the lack of distinguishing and/or redeeming characteristics.

Often a mediator between the other two disciples, he is like the metaphorical glue that holds the group together.


Demons from the story include :  

* Black-Bear-Demon (pinyin: Hēixióngguǐ)

* Yellow Wind Demon (Huáng Fung Guǐ)

* Zhen Yuan Holy Man

* White-Bone-Demon (pinyin: Báigǔjīng)

* Yellow Robe Demon (pinyin: Huángpáoguǐ)

* Gold-Horn and Silver-Horn (pinyin: Jīnjiǎo and Yínjiǎo)

* Red-Child a.k.a. Holy Baby King (pinyin: Hóng-hái'ér; Japanese: Kōgaiji)

* Tiger Power, Deer Power and Goat (or Antelope) Power

* Black River Dragon Demon (Hēi Shui Hé Yuan Lóng Guǐ)

* Carp Demon (Li Yu Jīng)

* Green-Ox-Demon (pinyin: Qīngniújīng)

* Scorpion-Demon (pinyin: Xiēzijīng)

* Six Ear Monkey Demon a.k.a Fake Sun Wukong

* Ox-Demon-King (pinyin: Niúmówáng; Japanese: Gyūmaō)

* Demon Woman (Luo Cha Nǚ)

* Jade-Faced Princess (pinyin: Yùmiàn-gōngzhǔ; Japanese: Gyokumen-kōshū)

* Boa Demon (Hong She Jīng)

* Nine-Headed Worm Demon (Jiǔ Tou Fu Ma)

* Seven-Spider-Demons (pinyin: Zhīzhū-jīng)

* Hundred-Eyed Taoist (Bǎi Yan Mo Jun)

* Green Lion Demon (pinyin: Qīngshījīng)

* White-Elephant-Demon (pinyin: Báixiàngjīng)

* Falcon Demon (Peng Jīng)

* Bikku Country Minister a.k.a Deer Demon

* Gold-Nosed, White Mouse Demon (Lao Shu Jīng)

Notable English-language translations.

• MONKEY (Click to buy!) : A Folk-Tale of China (1942), an abridged translation by Arthur Waley. For many years, the best translation available in English; it only translates thirty out of the hundred chapters.

• JOURNEY TO THE WEST (Click to buy!) : A complete translation by W. J. F. Jenner published by the Foreign Languages Press in Beijing 1955.

• Journey to the West (1977-1983) : A complete translation in four volumes by Anthony C. Yu - University of Chicago Press.


May 6th 2007 - LinkChinese UK news.

The British singer and song-writer Damon Albarn (ex lead singer of pop group 'Blur' and currently 'Gorillaz') has written a new opera - Monkey: Journey to the West, in mandarin, to be shown at the inaugurating Manchester International Festival. The opera is commissioned by the Théâtre du Châtelet, Paris, directed by Chen Shi-Zheng (陈士争) and willopen on June 28th 2007.
The opera is based on a well known 16 century book Journey to the West (西游记), centering around the odyssey of the Monkey King. Considered to be one of the four Chinese classical literature masterpieces, it has been adopted into various forms, including Chinese opera, movie and TV, many times, but not Western opera. British audiences have familiarised with the story from the 70s TV series of Japanese import. Damon Albarn and the set and costume designer Jamie Hewlett, were invited by the Chinese-American director Chen Shi-Zheng (Dark Matter) into the project. Before they started, they had traveled around China for three weeks to understand and learn the music.

journey to the west - damon albarn

Damon Albarn :
Born : East End, London, UK, March 23, 1968
Previous : Blur, Gorillaz,
Ivor Novello 'Song writer of the year' 2006 - joint winner Jaimie Hewlett :
Born : Horsham, West Sussex, UK, April 3rd, 1968
Previous : Artist and designer : Gorillaz, Tank Girl,
Ivor Novello 'Song writer of the year' - 2006 - joint winner
Design Museum's 'Designer Of The Year' - 2006

Ghen Shi-Zheng:
Born : Changsha, Hunan, China, 1963
Previous : Dark matter, Night banquet, Myth of the Hero
"I'm not immortal yet! What's mortal
must die and i hate that idea
King Monkey