The Monkey God


“Ok so the story is called, I think like the English translation is called, like the Monkey God, or like the Monkey King or something. Basically it’s about this, uh, this like monkey character in like Chinese mythology, who uh, like he’s born basically with godlike characteristics. Um and he proves himself like a very strong warrior, uh like very smart, things like that. Um, but he greatly angers the gods, like in heaven, in this, it’s set in like a Buddhist context, kind of. He greatly angers the gods, so, he’s kind of like uh, he’s not exactly a full-fledged god in their eyes. Um so he greatly angers them so he’s basically punished for I think like 500 years, he’s punished um to like basically like have this like giant mountain, be on top of him for 500 years and that’s his punishment. Um and he is basically set free when this Buddhist monk um comes by and decides to accept him as his disciple, um and basically the rest of the story is about this monk as he, he gathers two more disciples, each of them have sin in their own way, and basically it’s about his journey to India to, I dunno, achieve some sort of salvation of some sort. Um, and basically like his disciples greatly help him along the way, and the whole myth is about their misadventures, facing adversities and stuff, and overcoming it. Um and basically about how this monkey god sort of redeems himself for all of the sin that he’s committed.”


The informant said that “it’s like a really popular Chinese folklore. Like I used to watch cartoons of it when I was little. Yeah so like um, it’s a really long myth so like basically it’s like broken up into a ton of episodes. Um yeah so I used to just watch it as a kid. They had a lot of different versions of it, animated and live action.” She also would hear parts of the story while attending Chinese school as a child.


My research revealed that the story, as most people know it, stems from Wu Cheng’en’s 1592 novel, Journey to the West. The novel itself is a fictionalized account of the pilgrimage to India of the Buddhist monk Xuanzang, already a legendary figure by the 16th century. That this story about a Buddhist monk is so popular says a lot about Chinese culture, mainly that the ascetic life of a monk is something that all people can learn valuable lessons from.

Here is a link to the USC library page on the book, where it’s call number can be found, as I could not find the full text online:{CKEY}