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One of the details that led to my current interest in things broadly Daoist is my infatuation with the classic Chinese novel, Journey To the West.

 

The historical journey of the historical Buddhist scholar Xuanxuang is the touchstone for the tale of the Monk Sanzang Tang and his guardians. Film and TV versions abound - there's even a weak adaptation on Netflix in "The New Adventures of Monkey" (And a ghost of the tale is cast across "Into the Badlands" as well).

 

A compendium of characters and situations from Chinese myth and legend, each of which is brought in line with the rising tide of Buddhist ideals in what I am assured (By Scott Park Phillips, repeatedly, in both of his books) is a process that mirrors village ritual, it's also a rip-snortin' tale of derring do, rescues and magic abound, and how did I get this far without mentioning Sun Wukong, the Handsome Monkey King, ego drenched avatar of the active mind and hero of the story? (The Monk may be protagonist, but we're here for the Monkey King) Only with great effort, I assure you.

 

A book for readers, the four volumes took me a couple of year to get through the first time, but well worth the investment. Many philosophical points about the junction of Daoism and Chinese Buddhism raised (frequently, inconclusively) on this forum are answered in the context of the story. 

 

The stories spark so much room for side study, and here's someone who puts some effort into just that;

 

https://journeytothewestresearch.com/ 

 

Wonderful books in a wonderful modern translation by Anthony C. Yu.

Edited by Sketch
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3 hours ago, Sketch said:

Journey To the West


Full of alchemical symbology :)

 

I believe Liu Yi Ming called it the clearest description of the alchemical process...

 

Though I think the level of clarity is a little over stated 😅

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Oh yes! Monks dragging a slow cart up a mountain's spine is one of the clearer alchemical allegories. Monkey gets himself cooked in Lao Tzu's oven, too.

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On 12/22/2020 at 1:07 AM, Sketch said:

The stories spark so much room for side study, and here's someone who puts some effort into just that;

 

https://journeytothewestresearch.com/ 

 

Wonderful books in a wonderful modern translation by Anthony C. Yu.

 

Thank you. That is my blog (I actually learned about this post through my blog analytics). I have PDFs of Dr. Yu's translation available for free. Naturally, if you enjoy the digital version, please support the official release.

 

https://journeytothewestresearch.com/2019/06/07/archive-10-journey-to-the-west-2012-revised-edition/

 

On 12/22/2020 at 4:47 AM, Sketch said:

Oh yes! Monks dragging a slow cart up a mountain's spine is one of the clearer alchemical allegories. Monkey gets himself cooked in Lao Tzu's oven, too.

 

I have a paper on the subject archived here.

 

https://journeytothewestresearch.com/2020/02/10/archive-13-alchemy-and-journey-to-the-west-the-cart-slow-kingdom-episode/

 

As an added bonus, here is a woodblock print from a late 16th to early 17th-century literary criticism of Journey to the West showing the monks dragging the cart. Monkey can be seen hovering in the clouds above.

 

https://imagizer.imageshack.com/v2/1280x1024q90/922/DSHpzK.png

 

DSHpzK.png

 

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1 hour ago, Toni said:

dragon ball is based on this book, isn't it? :D

 

Yes, Dragon Ball is based on the novel. Son Goku is even the Japanese transliteration of Sun Wukong. 

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8 hours ago, Ghostexorcist said:

 

 

Thank you. That is my blog (I actually learned about this post through my blog analytics). I have PDFs of Dr. Yu's translation available for free. Naturally, if you enjoy the digital version, please support the official release.

 

https://journeytothewestresearch.com/2019/06/07/archive-10-journey-to-the-west-2012-revised-edition/

 

 

I have a paper on the subject archived here.

 

https://journeytothewestresearch.com/2020/02/10/archive-13-alchemy-and-journey-to-the-west-the-cart-slow-kingdom-episode/

 

As an added bonus, here is a woodblock print from a late 16th to early 17th-century literary criticism of Journey to the West showing the monks dragging the cart. Monkey can be seen hovering in the clouds above.

 

https://imagizer.imageshack.com/v2/1280x1024q90/922/DSHpzK.png

 

DSHpzK.png

 

Thank you! I enjoy your site a great deal. You sent me a copy of the pdf a few years ago; I purchased a copy of the ebook eventually. Great stuff!

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On 12/24/2020 at 7:56 PM, Sketch said:

Thank you! I enjoy your site a great deal. You sent me a copy of the pdf a few years ago; I purchased a copy of the ebook eventually. Great stuff!

 

I'm glad you like my blog and that you bought the official release after I sent you copies. I never met Dr. Yu, but we shared a correspondence some years prior to his death in 2015. I was honored that he called me friend. The information in his footnotes helped guide me to my current research. 

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On 22/12/2020 at 7:15 AM, freeform said:


Full of alchemical symbology :)

 

I believe Liu Yi Ming called it the clearest description of the alchemical process...

 

Though I think the level of clarity is a little over stated 😅

 

This reminded me to reread what he wrote:


 

Spoiler

 

 

COMMENTARY ON JOURNEY TO THE WEST written by Liu Yiming and translated by Thomas Cleary

 

The book known as Journey to the West is about the universal Way that has been handed on by word of mouth from sage to sage, verified mind to mind. Ch'ang-ch'un, the originator of the Journey to the West cycle, dared to say what the ancients did not dare to say, revealing the celestial mechanism.

 

So what the book is about is what is most important. Wherever this book is, there are celestial spirits guarding it. If you are going to read it, you should clean your hands, light incense, and read it with sincere respect. When you feel fatigued, then close the book and put it away in a safe place. Don't be careless.

 

Only those who know this are ready to read Journey to the West.

 

``````````````````````

 

The use of words in Journey to the West is a lot like that of Zen devices; the points to notice are all outside the words. Sometimes they are concealed in ordinary folk sayings, sometimes they are represented in mountains, rivers, or human characters. Sometimes false and true are distinguished by a laugh or a joke; sometimes real and artificial are differentiated by a single word or letter. Sometimes the artificial is used to bring out the real, sometimes the story follows the true to get rid of the false. There are a thousand changes, myriad transformations, all unpredictable, extremely difficult to fathom. People who study this book need to look very deeply into its subtleties, and not ‘scratch the itch from outside the shoe" on the literary level.

 

Only those who know this are ready to read Journey to the West.

 

``````````````````````

 

Journey to the West is a book of spiritual immortalists, not a book of intellectuals. The books of intellectuals talk about the ways of the world, appearing real but actually false; the books of spiritual immortalists talk about the celestial Way, appearing false but actually real. The books of intellectuals prize literary embellishment without making much of a statement; the books of spiritual immortalists prize verbal simplicity, using meaningful but simple statements of profound principles.

 

Only those who know this are ready to read Journey to the West.

 

``````````````````````

 

Journey to the West is permeated with the principle of the unity of Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism. In terms of Buddhism, it corresponds to the Diamond Cutter and Lotus of Truth scriptures; in terms of Confucianism, it corresponds to the "River" and "Lo" diagrams and I Ching; in terms of Taoism, it corresponds to the Triplex Unity and Understanding Reality.

 

The Journey to the West uses the theme of the journey to India to obtain Buddhist scriptures as a means of elucidating the secrets of the Diamond Cutter and Lotus of Truth. It uses the theme of alchemy to open up the mysteries of the Triplex Unity and Understanding Reality. It uses the Chinese monk and his companions to expound the meanings of the "River" and "Lo" diagrams and the I Ching.

 

Only those who know this are ready to read Journey to the West.

 

``````````````````````

 

In Journey to the West, each topic has its meaning, each chapter has its meaning, each phrase has its meaning, each word has its meaning. Real people do not speak or write to no purpose. The reader must pay attention line to line, phrase to phrase, not letting a single word pass by lightly.

 

Only those who know this are ready to read Journey to the West.

 

``````````````````````

 

Journey to the West thoroughly explains both social realities and ultimate realities; it explains the times of nature and the affairs of humanity. When it comes to methods of learning Tao, self-cultivation, and dealing with society, Journey to the West explains them all. This is the most extraordinary Taoist book of all time.

 

Only those who know this are ready to read Journey to the West.

 

``````````````````````

 

In Journey to the West is to be found the method for overturning life and death, the way to take over Creation, which in the primal state is obeyed even by Nature, while in temporal manifestations serves the timing of Nature. This is not any sort of mental fixation, nor is it quietism. Those who would learn it should not fixate on the unruly mind or the physical body; they should find the real ineffable truth out from where there is no form or image. Only then can they avoid wasting effort.

 

Only those who know this are ready to read Journey to the West.

 

``````````````````````

 

The Great Tao or Way of the Journey to the West is the learning of primordial open nonreification, it is not an artificial, acquired, formal art. First set aside interest in occult arts, and then study to find out what is really true.

 

Only those who know this are ready to read Journey to the West.

 

``````````````````````

 

The main issues in the Journey to the West may span one or two chapters, three or four chapters, even five or six chapters. The main idea of what is being said is in the capping verse of each issue, presented clearly in a poem. If the main idea passes you by, it will be as if there were no head, no brain; not only will the subtle meanings be hard to penetrate, even the words will be difficult to read. The reader must clearly discern the context, the thread of the story, the vein of what is being said, and then read over again what follows, so that they can understand its proper place.

 

Only those who know this are ready to read Journey to the West.


 

 

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I would like to read it but it is sooo long. Maybe in the future

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43 minutes ago, Toni said:

I would like to read it but it is sooo long. Maybe in the future

 

 

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So what the book is about is what is most important. Wherever this book is, there are celestial spirits guarding it. If you are going to read it, you should clean your hands, light incense, and read it with sincere respect. When you feel fatigued, then close the book and put it away in a safe place. Don't be careless.

 

I get the impression from Sketch’s OP and from Ghostexorcist’s blog that they both treat Journey to the West in such a manner of respect. I have previously only read Arthur Waley’s abridged translation, Monkey and didn’t regard it in this light. I found it very insightful of Chinese mythology and also an amusing satire on social and spiritual pretence.  

 

Over time, I’ll explore those more recent translations by Anthony C. Yu. My thanks to both Sketch and especially Ghostexorcist for reminding me of this work's greater depth.  And to Liu Yiming for his strong reminder of the reverent attitude that’s so necessary to gain true insight into the spiritual realms;  a reminder to listen with more with my heart, and less with my intellect. 
 
 

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On 1/3/2021 at 5:40 AM, Yueya said:

 

I get the impression from Sketch’s OP and from Ghostexorcist’s blog that they both treat Journey to the West in such a manner of respect. I have previously only read Arthur Waley’s abridged translation, Monkey and didn’t regard it in this light. I found it very insightful of Chinese mythology and also an amusing satire on social and spiritual pretence.  

 

Over time, I’ll explore those more recent translations by Anthony C. Yu. My thanks to both Sketch and especially Ghostexorcist for reminding me of this work's greater depth.  And to Liu Yiming for his strong reminder of the reverent attitude that’s so necessary to gain true insight into the spiritual realms;  a reminder to listen with more with my heart, and less with my intellect. 

 

I certainly do respect the book. It comprises roughly 600 years of history, religion, and folklore, growing from a series of tales spread by oral storytellers (possibly proselytizing monks) to a published literary juggernaut. It helped spread the mythos of many gods still worshiped today.

I wasn't aware of Liu Yiming's beautiful thoughts on the novel. It's interesting to note that Chang Chun refers to the Daoist master Qiu Chuji (13th-c.), who founded the Dragon Gate sect. He's been confused as the author of the novel because his disciple wrote a travel journey called Journey to the West, which describes Qiu traveling to meet Genghis Khan in Central Asia.

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