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"Journey to the West"

This article was originally published on November 28, 2011, in the Shenzhen Daily.
The information was accurate at that time, and may be outdated now. Use with caution.

The friends from "Journey to the West" (at Mazu Temple, Nanshan)
Back in the Tang Dynasty, the Chinese monk Xuanzang (玄奘) made a solitary journey through the harsh western deserts all the way to India. In over 17 years, through more than 70 countries, he gathered sacred texts and artifacts to bring back to China. He thus became one of the most important figures in Chinese Buddhism.

The serene Tang Monk (Tangseng) from "Journey to the West"
Nearly a millennium later, in the 1590s, Wu Cheng'en published Journey to the West, a highly-fictionalized fantasy novel based on Xuanzang's journey counted as one of the "Four Great Classical Novels" of China.

The mischievous "Monkey King" Sun Wukong
In Wu's book, Xuanzang is accompanied on his adventure by three friends (or four, counting his horse, formerly a dragon). Sun Wukong, or "The Monkey King" is often just called "Monkey" in English translations. Zhu Bajie, a pig, is sometimes styled "Pigsy"; and Sha Wujing, a sort of supernatural river monk, is sometimes called "Sandy" or "Friar Sand."

Zhu Bajie, called "Pigsy" by some
Together they face eighty-one adventures, involving magicians and monsters, rushing rivers and burning mountains, and all kinds of temptations. In the end, they succeed in their task, and are rewarded by being taken to Heaven.

Sha Wujing, the Sand River Monk, sometimes called "Sandy" or even "Friar Sand"

Scholars still debate whether there is much significance in the often humorous story. But there's no doubt that it's still popular today. Figures of the friends, especially the Monkey King, can be found in temples and parks all over China. For a good example in Shenzhen, visit the Mazu Temple in Nanshan, south of the terminus of bus #42 from Windows of the World Metro Station.

GPS Info:
  • 22.4898, 113.8854


1 comment:

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