the book reviews
Wu lived in sixteenth century China and there is not much information about his life. His book, Monkey, is very well known in Asia and around the world. It is the story of the journey of a man known as Tripitaka. He was an actual person and his real name was, Hsuan Tsang. Tripitaka lived in the seventh century. He went to India to learn Buddhism and he brought this wisdom to China. There are several other main characters in the story. Monkey is armed with a magic cudgel and he represents the intellect. Pigsy is armed with a rake and he represents the physical appetites. Sandy has a necklace of skulls and he represents sincerity and enthusiasm. These four characters encounter Kuan-yin, Lao-tzu, various dragons, divers monsters, and dozens of Chinese deities. By the tenth century there was a cycle of legends about Tripitaka's journey. From the thirteenth century onwards, these stories were performed by Chinese actors. Today they are on TV. I recommend Arthur Waley's translation. The original book is immense. Other translators tried to include all of the episodes. In order to accomplish this, they deleted huge portions of text, particularly dialogue. Waley omitted some entire episodes, but he translated the remainder in its entirety. Except for incidental passages of verse, which translated poorly. The resulting book is for a western reader. This story is an amalgam of satire, folk-lore, allegory, philosophy, psychology, religion, history, and poetry. It satirizes bureaucracy. All the deities are the bureaucrats and heaven is a replica of the ancient Chinese government. I can imagine Wu in Heaven, sharing a ribald joke with Rabelaise. There were many occasions while I read the book, when I laughed uncontrollably. One such occasion was the night when Monkey and his crew stayed at a monastery. They drank all of the wine in the ceremonial jars and then refilled the jars with piss. Monkey was naughty, so a special crown was made for him. A crown that tightened when he was mischievous. This story is well written. A reader of any age can enjoy it and learn from it. I dare not tell what happened, when Monkey ate all of the Peaches of Immortality.
Copyright © 2019 by Michael A. Hawes. All Rights Reserved.
Michael Hawes was born in Texas, raised in Louisiana and lives in British Columbia.