Journey to The West
Journey to The West is the most successful mythical novel in the ancient Chinese history.
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Wu Cheng'en, the writer of this book, was born in Huai'an Jiangsu province. He was talented and interested in many things. Not only was he good at painting, calligraphy, and I-go, but also loved writing songs and collecting painting and calligraphy of some famous people. Young as he was, he became well known in his hometown because of his literary gifts. However, he did extremely bad in the imperial examinations. He met many difficulties and lived a poor life. It was under such circumstances that he became dissatisfied with and rebellious to the feudal officials and social indifference. He wrote his opinions into a poem, which revealed that the frightfulness of the society had resulted in wrong employments of the governors and the arbitrariness of wicked people. He was eager to change this situation, however, he felt helpless because he could not make use of his talents at the right place.
Then, he poured his unfairness, hatred, and good wishes into this novel. Although it was written in the later years of his life, he had spent his whole life to prepare for this novel. When he was a child, he often traveled to the ancient temples and jungles nearby his hometown with his father. Every time when they arrived at a place, his father would tell him many local fairy tales. He loved to listen to anecdotes while young, and when he grew older he became even more fascinated. After he turned thirty, he had collected so many materials that he decided to produce his own stories. When he was around fifty, he had finished the first ten chapters. Later, he stopped writing for years due to many reasons. He did not finish the whole book until he resigned from his official position to his hometown when he was old.
The novel is written in the form of stories. Each of these stories can be regarded as independent or interconnected sections. There are varieties of immortals and monsters in the stories, which represent justice and evil. The author has created a mythical world in this book, which is also a reflection of the human's. The heavenly palace looks grandiose from the outside, but the God is fatuous and cannot tell good from bad, which resembles the imperial palace of the human world. In the chthonic world that may represent the human royal courts, officials are corrupted, and the innocent people received undeserved treatment. As to the monsters and devils, they kill and eat people, avaricious and concupiscent. They use their witchcrafts to harm people. It is no doubt the reflection of local tyrants and bureaucracy. In contrary to those demons, Monkey King, the hero of the novel, has intense animosity or hostility to the evil. The atrocious monsters become submissive to or are killed by the golden cudgel of Monkey King. The stories all express the writer's strong wishes to get rid of the ugliness and corruption of the society.
The book has generated great impact on the following generations. For hundreds of years, it has been the source of children literature, movies, televisions and dramas.