The idea of embarking on journeys has stood the test of time - early man explored uncharted territories, while modern citizens jump at the chance to have an overseas experience. Are we truly concerned with materialistic experiences, or are we seeking to expand our horizons ? The term pilgrimage itself suggests a journey to a geographical location of spiritual importance. However, journey in this case may not solely be categorized as physical travel but also as the voyage of soul development.
Tripitaka's pilgrimage is more likely a spiritual journey to enlightenment than a mission to retrieve Buddhist scriptures from the West. Tripitaka in the story bears little resemblance to the historical monk. Historically, XuanZang's travels took him to many kingdoms, and his initiative to seek out the rulers of each of them suggests that his pilgrimage had also diplomatic intentions.
By contrast , the pilgrimage of Tripitaka, the story’s fictional equivalent to XuanZang, was set up to be an ideal case of spiritual journey.
Gold Cicada was his former name
As heedless he was of the Buddha's talk
He had to suffer in this world of dust...
....dedicated wholly to the pursuit of Nirvana (Vol.1, P.263)
Tripitaka was formerly a disciple of Buddha, but when he fell asleep during a lecture, he was reincarnated specifically to undergo this journey to redeem himself and obtain enlightenment after 81 tribulations.
To start off , the pilgrimage can be regarded as an penitential journey - all of the characters are flawed individuals who have committed offence against the community that they were in and were tasked by the Bodhisattva of Mercy to escort Tripitaka for redemption. Wukong, with his brazen and destructive nature, was in custody under the mountains for creating disturbance in the heavenly court (Vol.1, Ch.8, P.196). The lustful advancements...