Imagine writing about a book about your own world, and you are the leader. That is exactly what the novel Monkey written by Wu Cheng’en is about. Wu Cheng’en was born in 1504 in Lianshiu, Jiangsu during the Ming Dynasty. The Ming Dynasty lasted from 1368 to 1644, and it was the growth of “common” literature. Wu Cheng’en was born into a poor family, so he grew up poor. Wu failed the government exam twice, and it was a huge disgrace to his family. Wu retired as a hermit, because he believed humans were too corrupt. He was very gifted at writing poetry and literature, he was known as one of the greatest authors in Chinese literature. His two main characteristics of his writings were fantasy and critique of contemporary society, human corruption. One of his most popular novels, Journey of the West, has four different parts to it. Monkey is one part of his novel Journey to the West. Through out his popular novel, Monkey, the main character Stone Monkey become powerful, gets into trouble, and has to reach Enlightenment in order to save himself.
Wu Cheng’en wrote about his own fantasy world about monkeys. All of these monkeys lived in a society together, and all followed each other. The Stone Monkey ventures up a stream in order to find a particular waterfall. The Stone Monkey gained enough courage to discover the other side of the waterfall. The Stone Monkey was amazed at what he found on the other side, so the other monkeys decided to follow his footsteps. “What made you think it would do to live in?” asked the monkey … “We could really be very comfortable there. There is plenty of room for hundreds and thousands of us, young and old. Let us all go and live there; we shall be splendidly sheltered in every weather” (13). The Stone Monkey went through the waterfall and the rest of the monkeys followed. “They lived in perfect sympathy and accord, not mingling with bird or beast, in perfect independence and entire happiness” (13-14). Stone Monkey is pronounced king by all of the other monkeys because he brought them to a new world. Since he is being treated so highly, he declares himself equal to heaven, and begins to his question his morality. He decides to go on a journey to find the Patriarch to teach him how to gain immorality, seventy-two transformations, and the ability to defend him against the three calamities. The Patriarch agrees to train Monkey, but during the process Monkey becomes even greedier and abuses his powers. Since he misused his powers, he is banished. When Monkey returns, there has been chaos among the other monkeys caused by the Demon of Havoc. Monkey kills the demon, and decides he needs weapons to protect himself. He demanded the dragon king of the Eastern Sea to give him magical weapons. The dragon king spoke to the ruler of Heaven, because Monkey’s behavior was out of line and he was causing chaos.
The Jade emperor’s nephew, Ern-lang, captures Monkey, with the help of Buddha. Monkey cannot be killed so when captured, he turned into stone. Monkey is hidden under a mountain until someone or something comes along the way to save him. Several years late, Buddha wants to know if anyone is willing to perform a certain task. “I wish I knew a holy one who would go to the eastern land and find a believer who could be sent over hill and dale, all the way from China to this place. I would give them the scriptures to take back to China, and he would explain them to the people and change their hearts” (78). The Bodhisattva Kuan-yin bravely volunteered to go on the journey and find the scripture seeker. When Kuan-yin finds the scripture keeper, he agrees to accompany him on the journey and receives the name “Tripitaka.” While traveling they discover the Stone Monkey. “…who after welcoming the Bodhisattva, led her to where Monkey was imprisoned” (83). Monkey was captured for over five hundred years, and pleas to be freed by Kuan-yin. Monkey convinces her to free him by saying, “I have repented, and now...
Cited: Cheng-En, Wu, and Arthur Waley. Monkey. New York: Grove, 1970. Print.
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