Loosely based on historical records, Journey of the West tells the story of the Buddhist monk Xuanzang who travels West toward India to find a set of sacred texts. On his journey he is accompanied by a varied group of characters: the mischievous monkey Sun Wukong, the pig Zhu Bajie, and the monk Sha Wujing.


Wu Cheng’en. (1958). Monkey (Arthur Waley, Trans.). New York: Grove Press.

Arthur Waley (well known for his other translations from Chinese, including the Book of Songs, the Analects, and Chinese poetry) translated an abridged version in 1942 under the title Monkey—A Folk Tale of China. He translated only 30 out of 100 chapters, and many critique the translation for being arbitrary and untrue to the original.

Wu Cheng’en. (1982). Journey to the west (William John Francis Jenner, Trans.). Beijing: Foreign Languages Press.

William John Francis Jenner translated the full book in 1982-1984 in three volumes, published with the Foreign Languages Press in Beijing. The 2003 edition (6 vol.) has both Chinese and English text.

Wu Cheng’en. (1977, 2012). The journey to the west (Anthony C. Yu, Trans.). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

The most highly regarded translation is Anthony C. Yu’s complete translation in 4 volumes (including scholarly notes) from 1977-1983. In 2012 a revised, 4-volume edition was published by Chicago University Press that reflects new trends/beliefs in scholarly interpretations of the novel.

Online Resources

As with Dream of the Red Chamber, the nature of the story (an adventure trip) lends itself well to TV and movie adaptations, as well as comic/manga/graphic novel and even musical adaptations. (List and reviews to come.)

The series Invitation to World Literature dedicates one episode to Journey to the West. There is a video with interviews about the novel, a sample chapter, a glossary, and other interactive ways to explore the novel and its social/cultural background.

Read the article on this novel from the Berkshire Encyclopedia of China, or learn more about Ming and Qing novels.