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Finding Wisdom in East Asian Classics$
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Wm. Theodore de Bary

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780231153973

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231153973.001.0001

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Journey to the West

Journey to the West

(p.159) 12 Journey to the West
Finding Wisdom in East Asian Classics

C. T. Hsia

Columbia University Press

This chapter examines the comic fantasy, Journey to the West (Xi yu ji) by Wu Cheng-en (c.1506–1582). The novel is crowded with characters and episodes; it features pilgrims who are objects of continual attention while the assorted gods, monsters, and human characters they meet on the road claim only secondary interest. Its author, while building an earlier, simpler version of the story, proves his originality in his subordination of story as such to the larger considerations of theme and character and in his firm comic portrayal of the main pilgrims—Tripitaka, Monkey, and Pigsy. The last two, in particular, are as memorable as another pair of complementary characters famed in world literature: Don Quixote and Sancho Panza. As a satiric fantasy grounded in realistic observation and philosophical wisdom, the Journey does suggest Don Quixote—two works of comparable importance in the respective developments of Chinese and European fiction.

Keywords:   Asian classics, comic fantasy, Chinese novels, Chinese fiction, Journey to the West, Wu Cheng-en, Xi yu ji

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