Also known as Journey to the West, the Monkey King is one of the four classics of Chinese literature, standing alongside Dream of the Red Chamber, the Water Margin and Three Kingdoms in the pantheon of must-read Chinese novels. Originally a popular legend, the story was written down in the late Ming Dynasty. In its current form it is essentially inaccessible to all but very advanced speakers, and so as with Dream of the Red Chamber, remains largely unread among native English speakers.

As with all of our annotated Chinese short stories, we encourage premium subscribers to click through to our text page and read the original 16th century text. You will not need a dictionary to do this. Simply hover your mouse over any word for a popup containing an exact definition of the word in its proper context. Be sure to enable the "extra notes" field in your popups for additional information including explanatory notes, suggested translations and much more. We will be publishing the remainder of the first chapter in serial form over the next few months.

What should you expect in this passage? As with many works of great literature, the Monkey King begins with a creation myth. In this case we have the Chinese creation myth. Our first few paragraphs concern how the universe came into existence. They describe how a figure named Pan Gu tore open the indistinct void that preceded the creation of the heavens and set in motion a never-ending cycle of creation and destruction in which the earth and humankind itself plays a part.

In very short order our story passes from the creation of the heavens and earth to the creation of the stars and planets, and then onwards to the dawn of beasts and men. We will shortly meet the Monkey King (Sun Wukong), an allegorical figure representing mankind itself, whom our story will follow as he joins a caravan to India to retrieve sacred Buddhist texts. A chronicle of the Buddhist journey to enlightenment itself, the Monkey King is in turns playful, delightful and profound. It is filled with exciting stories, interesting characters and is often pure fun. We hope you enjoy it as much as we do.
 said on
December 19, 2009
This looks great. There's a big statue of the characters from this story in the city where I live, and I've always wanted to give it a try in the original Chinese.
 said on
December 19, 2009
Yeah, it looks great. I had a lot of trouble with the opening of the story before, especially with all of the numbers and time periods. This is a lot easier.
 said on
December 19, 2009
I tried this once before a long time ago with just a dictionary. I only got a few pages in. Then I gave up and read it in translation.

Is this an abridged version? The story I recall was long.

I look forward to trying it again.

 said on
December 19, 2009
@scott - it's just the first section of the first chapter. it took them a couple of months to get through the first chapter of Dream of the Red Chamber (8 parts?) interspersed with other stories and I'd guess the same plan is at hand for this one.
 said on
December 20, 2009
@scott, @barrister - exactly. this is the first section of the first chapter (unabridged). we'll be publishing the remainder in serial form until at least the entire first chapter is done.
 said on
January 12, 2010
我很爱西游记更爱孙悟空!
 said on
January 12, 2010
@Xiao Hu

Did you ever see the Stephen Chow movie 大话西游(Big Words of Western Tour)?I love that.
 said on
January 13, 2010
@Lanzi,

我没看过,我很喜欢周星驰的电影,我一定要看!你觉得周星驰的最好看的电影是哪一部?

 said on
January 14, 2010
@Xiao Hu

去看吧去看吧!我喜欢的周星驰电影有很多,不过都是他90年代前中期的作品。比如《大话西游》,《鹿鼎记》,《喜剧之王》,《赌侠》之类的。你呢?
 said on
January 14, 2010
对了,我还喜欢王家卫的作品。他有两部电影是同一时期同一批演员拍的,但是风格迥异。《东邪西毒》和《东成西就》。哈哈。都堪称经典。
 said on
January 15, 2010
@Xiao Hu,

你一定要看《大话西游》,非常好。

--Echo

echo@popupchinese.com
 said on
January 15, 2010
My favorite 周星驰 movie is "食神". So zany.... All his movies seem to have these "underdog" and "fall from grace"motifs. Good stuff.
 said on
January 20, 2010
我超爱《大话西游》,看了好多遍了还是很想看哟。

我刚刚看《西游记》这本小说的时候,觉得这个作者总是喜欢到处显摆,连写小说也是,不过看着看着,就觉得这本小说写得的确不错,越到后面越好看。

所以,继续期待下一期吧!
 said on
January 20, 2010
@paglino9

《食神》很好看啊,超搞笑的。My favourate part is when Karren sings to 周星驰 about how she would sacrifice her life for their friendship, with a knife in her hand, and blood on 周星驰's shirt.
 said on
January 20, 2010
@Lanzi

My favorite character in that movie is the cross dressing stylist who makes over Karren at the end of the film. Apparently he has reoccurring roles in many of 周星驰's films. I'm pretty sure he's in 少林足球.
 said on
January 20, 2010
Oh man, 《食神》 was my family's Christmas Eve movie this year -- the plan had been to watch The Big Lebowski, but we couldn't find the DVD, and as I was rummaging through the movies I had in my room back in the States, I came up with a DVD of 《食神》 that I must've bought in China years ago.

Long story short, my parents still haven't forgiven me (even after I tried to warn them that Stephen Chow is "like Robin Williams on a coke binge, except less reserved"). 《少林足球》is probably a better introduction for the uninitiated, but 无哩头 is definitely an acquired taste -- one I'm not sure I've acquired myself.
 said on
January 20, 2010
@ Brendan

Props to Jeff Bridges for taking home the Best Actor at the Golden Globes.

Plus I thought Robin Williams already did most of his standout tweaked out of his mind. He did Mrs. Doubtfire right before he went back into Rehab... knocked Sally Fields off the wagon.

 said on
February 6, 2011
Shouldn't 传 in the first paragraph be 4th tone?
 said on
February 8, 2011
@gubooble,

Yes, thanks for letting us know. Fixed.

--Echo

echo@popupchinese.com
 said on
May 4, 2011
hehe bumhead
 said on
August 23, 2011
I am finally making it to the Monkey stories. Am trying to read them with the popup feature but the script is partly covered up by the image at the top (in both Part1 and 2). Anybody else encountered this problem? I work with Safari 5.0.5 (iMac).

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