Yu Lung, Xuanzang, Zhu Bajie, Sun Wukong, and Sha Wujing.
Journey to the West (西游记 Xīyóujì pronounced roughly shee-yo-jee) is one of the Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese literature, and first published in the 1590s, although it is plainly based on much older folk-legends. It is Inspired By the pilgrimage undertaken by the Tang dynasty Chinese Buddhist monk Xuanzang, who nearly a thousand years earlier travelled to India to study Buddhism at its source and obtain accurate copies of Buddhist texts known in China only through inaccurate nth-generation copies.In the novel, Xuanzang (also called Tripitaka, a Chinese-Sanskrit bilingual pun that can't be explained concisely in English), at the request of the bodhisattva Guan Yin, is accompanied by three supernatural beings who have been assigned to guide and protect him as penance for past misdeeds. Zhu Bajie, pig-like in appearance and a greedy hog in behaviour, and Sha Wujing, a river monster whose fierce appearance belies his thoughtful nature, are former heavenly dignitaries exiled to their current existences. The third companion is Sun Wukong.Sun Wukong deserves a paragraph to himself. Warrior, magician, and trickster, the Handsome Monkey King (by acclamation of his subjects) and Great Sage Equal of Heaven (self-proclaimed) gets seven chapters devoted to his rise and fall before the novel's nominal hero first appears, and continues to steal the limelight throughout with practiced ease. Every reader has a favourite story — the one about his bet with the Buddha is particularly popular — but alas, this page is too small to do them all justice. (It's worth noting that the character Sun Wukong appears to have been inspired by Hanuman from the ancient Indian epic Ramayana.)There's also Yulong, a dragon who eats Xuanzang's horse and in restitution is required to transform into horse shape and carry Xuanzang the rest of the way. But even the author seems to forget most of the time that he's not just a horse.After many adventures, in which Sun Wukong and his allies defend Xuanzang from thieves, robbers, cannibals, vamps, false priests and monsters of all varieties (not to mention the horrifying affair of the escaped goldfish), they reach India and everybody lives happily ever after. Yay!Journey to the West has been adapted to television many times - especially in Japan, where the story is called Saiyuki and the characters are Genjo Sanzo, Cho Hakkai, Sha Gojo, and Son Goku. Many anime series have at least one Shout-Out, and some go for outright plunder (from Gensomaden Saiyuki to, of all things, Dragon Ball - yes, that Son Goku was inspired directly by this Son Goku). One Japanese live-action adaption of the 1970s, and its thoroughly gender-bent cast (the role of Xuanzang/Tripitaka/Genjo Sanzo is traditionally played by a woman), is still fondly remembered simply as Monkey in English-speaking countries from the irreverent (almost Gag Dub) BBC translated version, with its annoyingly catchy disco theme-song "Monkey Magic" (directly taken from the Japanese broadcast where it was also sung in Surprisingly Good English). The most recent TV adaptation is Journey to the West of 2011.While it is popular in Japan, it's omnipresent in its native China. For example, there was a 1980's Journey to the West TV series in China that was so popular, it's said that to this day there's always at least one television station rerunning it anywhere in the nation. The show is amusing even if you don't understand Chinese. Jeff Lau's Chinese Odyssey films renewed the popularity of the novel for young Hong Kong audiences during the mid-'90s.The movie The Forbidden Kingdom adapts the encounter of Xuanzang and Sun Wukong, complete with the "main" character being named Jason Tripitakas, and just like in Journey to the West, Xuanzang/Jason has the carpet pulled out from under him by the Monkey King. Possibly the prime example thereof, and arguably a Jet Li Crowning Moment Of Awesome, would be that after Jason is explained by Jackie Chan's character to be the "Seeker" and thus the nominal hero, the Silent Monk — a familiar created by the Monkey King — looks him over before openly laughing in his face.The team responsible for Gorillaz, Damon Albarn (he of blur) and Jamie Hewlett (of Tank Girl fame), adapted the story into an opera in 2007. They also did a two-minute animated version for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, which was used as a title sequence for the BBC television coverage of the event.Now has a character sheet!Works based on Journey to the West include:
Monkey King (An unsubbed, undubbed Chinese cartoon.)
A Chinese Odyssey (Two movies directed by Jeff Lau starring Stephen Chow. A later Jeff Lau film, Chinese Odyssey 2002, has no relation to Journey to the West.)
Princess Iron Fan (China's first feature length animated film.)
The Shaw Bros. films Monkey Goes West, Princess Iron Fan (not the animated one above), Cave of the Silken Web, and The Land of Many Perfumes.
The graphic novel American Born Chinese ties together Monkey's story with the tale of a Chinese-American boy's coming of age story and the sitcom-like hilarity of an all-American jock plagued by his painfully stereotypical Chinese cousin. And the Christmas story.
Journey to the West: Legends of the Monkey King, an animated series co-produced by CCTV and Cinar, and aired in Canada in the late 1990's via Teletoon. More recently aired on This TV.
Saint (Wii video game)
Monkey: Journey to the West, an opera by Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett done in the Chinese style and mixed up with martial arts and circus acts. Beautiful and humorous.
The Lost Empire: The Legend of the Monkey King (aka The Monkey King), a two-part Made-for-TV Movie for NBC from 2001. An American scholar finds himself transported into the realm of the Monkey King and his companions by a luck goddess and and must help them save the very story of Journey to the West from demons who would remove it from the world — and reverse time itself in the process.
The Monkey King, a 2014 Hong Kong film retelling the origin of Monkey, starring Donnie Yen as Monkey.
Queen's Blade: In the Alternative ContinuityQueen's Blade Grimoire, one of the characters (named Seiten) is inspired in Sun Wukong. This is also notable for being one of the few works when a version of him is depicted as a female.
This story provides examples of:
Achilles in His Tent: When Wukong quits himself from the quest (sometimes at the same time as being fired by Tang Sang Zang) he goes back to his kingdom of monkey demons.
Action Girl: Several she-devils qualify as this when they're not busy seducing Tripitaka.
Adaptational Heroism: The portrayal of Sun Wukong and Tang Sanzang in the actual novel aren't so noble compared to the more popular adaptations. In the original, Sun Wukong lacked mercy in countless instances and Tang Sanzang was continually naive and acts inconsistently or even hypocritically. Their two-dimensional individual characterization and negative portrayals can both be explained by dissonance with today's values and also by the fact that the novel's main characters was intended to be an allegory for the state of a single individual's spiritual journey - Each character represent a different aspect.
Aliens and Monsters: The obstacles the pilgrims meet on their journey are nearly always caused or exacerbated by some immortal creature, and the solution is nearly always for Sun Wukong to beat that creature senseless. Maneuvering the creature into a place where the Monkey King can attack it draws out the plots.
When Wukong demands a place in Heaven near the beginning, he gets assigned the job of Heavenly... Stable Boy. This becomes a Chekhov's Skill later in the story because all horses gain an innate respect/fear for Wukong because of this.
Bajie's reward for completing the quest is to become the deity who is charged with actually eating all of the food and drink that is sacrificed to Buddha from every altar in the world, for the rest of eternity. Buddha explains that Bajie, for all he improved, is still far too crude and earthy to become a Boddhistva like the others, but he still deserves a reward and it was hoped that this would suffice. Needless to say, as far as Bajie is concerned, he has the best job in Heaven.
Sun Wukong manages to thrash the entire celestial army, but Erlangshen matches him in single combat. Also an example of Conservation of Ninjutsu.
The Buddha is the one who finally and definitively subdues Wukong by dropping a mountain on him.
Wukong also respects/fears the Goddess of Mercy Guanyin because she's got a bunch of equipment that can genuinely hurt him (she's the one who crafted the Headband of Agony), but also because she's usually nice to him.
The Yellow Wind Demon King, whose fiendish winds can blind even Sun Wukong.
One Fetch Quest was to get a magical fan so that they could blow out a supernaturally powerful volcano and pass through the area unharmed. Unfortunately, said magical fan was owned by the mother of Hong Hai Er, whose ass Wukong had soundly kicked in an earlier story arc.
Boring Return Journey: The journey to the West takes 86 chapters. The return to the East (with supernatural assistance loaned by the Buddha) takes 1.
Bring My Brown Pants: Literally happens to Baije during one run-in with a monster though he has the decency to drop trou.
Wukong's weapon is an iron rod that is able to grow to an enormous size and is said to weigh 8100kg. (Acquired, full size, from an undersea dragon king that had no idea what to do with it. Which was then shrunk with monkey magic. And put behind Wukong's ear.) It also qualifies as Simple Staff, or at least this is how Wukong usually uses it.
Sha Wujing and several other demons frequently employ clubs and hammers as weapons.
Casanova Wannabe: Bajie, who started the series blackmailing a girl to serve as his eventual bride and fights a continual battle against gluttony and lust. (The whole reason he ended up as a pig-demon in the first place was that he made inappropriate remarks to a fellow goddess. In one translation, he actually committed sexual harassment/tried to rape her.)
Celestial Bureaucracy: All of reality works because of the Emperor issuing decrees to lesser officials who do a given duty. For instance, he tells a water dragon where to send rain. Sun Wukong occasionally uses his connections/influence with certain officials to acquire some object or other objective.
Celibate Hero: Xuanzang is a celibate monk, but keeps getting abducted by beautiful women and female demons who find him attractive, good to eat, or both. The big deal, is that the female demons only want him for sex, which depending on the monster is either physically harmless (Xuanzang considers it A Fate Worse Than Death) or Out with a Bang. Either way, they want him to make the first move and keep it consensual. Then there's the part that by having him consent to sex, he would be breaking his vows which is kind of important.
Character Development: Just as important as kicking demon-ass is Monkey's personal journey to becoming a decent person. He is not so much fundamentally-bad as he is a selfish Man Child who needed the guidance of a loving, patient and wise father-figure to truly grow up, which he found in Tripitaka. By the time he is deemed worthy of truly joining the Gods at the end of his journey, he has grown from a tantrum-throwing tyrant into a kind-hearted, compassionate and noble protector of the weak.
Chronic Hero Syndrome: The Journey would not have taken nearly so long if Xuanzang didn't insist on helping everyone they met along the way. Though as pointed out in Character Development this is part of the point of the journey.
Continuity Nod: Occasionally the group will meet characters they met earlier or talk about previous adventures, such as the "River of Heaven" arc where Xuanzang complains about always having trouble at river crossings.
Cool Sword: Many demons wield scimitars and swords in battle. The most notable one is the Seven Star Sword.
The Garuda King in the Three Monsters arc. By virtue of being Buddha's pet and the brother of Buddha's foster mother, he knows everything there is to know about Sun Wukong's tricks and how to counter them. He was also the demon that came the closest to eating Xuanzang. Wukong only subdued him by calling in the Buddha himself to control Garuda.
Wukong exhibits this as well at times, knowing when something isn't right and trying to convince the others to move on, but with Zhu Bajie constantly playing catch with the Idiot Ball with Xuanzang during those chapters it never ends well.
Deus ex Machina: Whenever Wukong can't resolve something himself, he generally goes to Guan Yin for help, or if it's beyond her abilities, Buddha himself. He's also lodged his share of complaints against the Celestial Court.
Disproportionate Retribution: Shā Wùjìng, a general of heaven, was given 800 lashings, forced to reincarnate into a flesh-eating demon, and every week a flying sword would come and stab him in the breast and in the side 100 times. The only way he could avoid this last part was to hide in a river. His crime? Accidentally breaking a crystal cup at one of the Festivals of Immortal Peaches.
Horny Devils: At least three female demons (the Scorpion Woman, the Earth Flow Lady and the Jade Hare) are very beautiful and want to achieve immortality by taking Tripitaka's "yang". (or having sex with him, if you prefer.)
Human Pack Mule: The horse carries Xuanzang, but Zhu Bajie carries everything else — when he's not convincing Sha Wujing to do it for him.
Improbable Weapon User: Zhu Bajie's rake. Other examples include pots, bells, cymbals, an iron gorse, a scraper and a pestle. That said, a weapon that looked very much like a rake was actually used as a part of Chinese warfare at one point.
In a Single Bound: Wukong can travel "108,000 li" in a single backflip.note That's about 35,000 to 45,000 kilometres depending on what definition you use for "li", an ancient Chinese unit of length that has varied considerably over the centuries. For comparison, the length of the equator is about 40,000 km. It's basically hyperbole for "a very long distance" and 108 is a significant number in Buddhism.
Informed Ability: Tripitaka's much-vaunted holiness is undercut by his tendency to tell petty lies, his readiness to torture Sun Wukong, and the fact that his Buddhist stoicism breaks down any time he thinks his journey might be delayed. He also stops asking his disciples not to kill after the first couple of times.
Inspired By: The historical journey of Xuanzang to India - except he did it with a handful of human assistants and even made a few legs of the trip by himself.
Sun Wukong, before his imprisonment, literally beats up, steals from, and terrorizes nearly everyone he meets. He scares a Dragon God to such an extent that he gives Wukong the nail holding the Milky Way in place just to get him out of his house. He gets better. ...sort of.
After they collect the scriptures, the Buddha's servants hand over a bunch of blank scrolls after realising that the pilgrims didn't bring any gifts, although Buddha does comment that blank scriptures like them are true scriptures. Zen, eh?
All the gods in the series, to some extent, are this. They know full well that they can subdue all the monsters on Earth and save countless humans, yet they refuse to do so. It's only when the monsters get in Xuanzang's way that they decide to take action. The fact that many monsters were formerly their pets, and only became monsters because they failed to contain them increases their moral failing.
Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Wukong, after he was stuck under a rock for a few centuries, is so grateful to Xuanzang that he swears everlasting loyalty (though Xuanzang, being a monk, doesn't approve of Wukong's more violent problem solving methods).
Just Eat Him: Some larger devils try to get rid of Sun Wukong by swallowing him. They end up with an awful case of stomach ache to say the least.
Kilroy Was Here: Wukong leaves his name (and piss) on what he thinks is a mighty pillar when trying to escape from Buddha's grasp. Nope, those were Buddha's fingers.
Knight Templar: Sun Wukong can be like this when it comes to dealing with demons and bandits, all of whom he sees as evil monsters who prey on the weak (especially those who want to eat Xuanzang). This is most notably seen during the White Bone Demon and the Doppleganger chapters. In some adaptations, Xuanzong kicks Wukong out not because of what he did (like killing an innocent human which was actually a demon in disguise or a group of bandits), but because of his Knight Templarish attitude.
Let's You and Him Fight: Zhu Bajie and Sha Wujing each fight Sun Wukong before discovering that they're on the same side.
Last of His Kind: The 6-eared Macaque. Then Wukong makes sure the species is extinct.
Living Forever Is Awesome: There are no end to mortals who 'cultivated their conduct' and/or 'refined their spirit' to become immortal and love it. The Wuzhuang temple has a community of immortals because of a tree that produces life extending fruit and are extremely protective of it. Truth in Television, sort of, as this was the goal of real life Taoists. The Buddhists, of course, disagree.
Lost Forever: One page of the scripture gets permanently stuck to a rock when they fall into a river and the pages get wet.
MacGuffin: The scriptures in the Thunder Monastary are the reason for the pilgrimage.
Made of Indestructium: Wukong survived being thrown into a godly fire, said to be able to kill immortals and gods, for 49 days! That he had previously gorged himself on the Peaches of Immortality, the Elixir of Immortality, and the Pills of Immortality helped. In fact, all the fire did (having originally been used to produce the immortality medicines) was cause them to harden inside his body, making him not just immortal but Made of Diamond as well. The smoke of the fire also affected Wukong's eyes, granting him the ability to see through illusions, disguises and transformations. Some versions of the story however state that Wukong survived because he stood in the currents of wind made by the fanning of the servants to keep the fire going. Either way, Heaven really screwed itself over big time.
Mr. Seahorse: Although it was averted before something actually happened, there is a section of the novel (beginning in chapter 53) about Sun Wukong going to retrieve a pregnancy antidote because Zhu Bajie and Xuanzang unknowingly drank magical pregnancy-inducing river water flowing through a town filled with nothing but women.
Morphic Resonance: An extreme case — although his 72 transformations include many perfectly shaped animal disguises, Sun Wukong can only turn his head into that of a human and must conceal the rest of his body.
Non-Action Guy: Xuanzang does nothing but pray and complain and despair.
Not in This for Your Revolution: The other main characters are all bound to Xuanzang out of duty rather than personal choice to begin with. Though all three, to varying degrees, come to genuinely care about the monk as a father-figure.
Not Quite Flight: Wukong travels via very, very powerful jumping. Either that or riding on a cloud.
One-Man Army: During the journey, Wukong is able to fight and defeat just about every Mook, Elite Mook and the fricking Dragon of the Heavens, each said to fight like a god himself. Before that, he fought the heavenly army of 100,000 strong at the same time, ripped through heaven's greatest champions and not just survived every single thing they could throw at him, but HE GOT EVEN STRONGER. By the time he was punished by the Buddha, he was on the brink of actually becoming the Emperor of heaven himself.
Only the Chosen May Wield: The Dragon King of the Eastern Ocean has in his armory a piece of magic iron that was used to measure the depth of the Milky Way. It is 20 feet long and as thick as a barrel. No dragon can lift it. Then one day it begins to glow, and soon Wukong arrives seeking a weapon. He picks up the rod and tells it to become smaller: it shrinks to fit him (but is still as thick as a rice bowl and weighs many thousand pounds). He can get it to be any size he wants, and when not in use, he reduces it to the size of a needle and stores it in his ear.
Only You Can Repopulate My Race: During a hilarious incident in a kingdom entirely populated by women. Slight subversion: they can reproduce without him via a magic spring, but they understandably want men too. Poor, poor Xuanzang...
Out of Focus: As one deviantART user said, "No one likes you, Yu Lung. Not even your dad." The author even seems to occasionally forget he's not a real horse and what few moments of action he does are only because Wukong's gone and everyone else has been captured.
Playing with Fire: Several examples, including the Gold Horned King's Banana Leaf Fan, Red Boy's Samadhi of Fire and a magical bell which can summon flames.
Purple Prose: It's not purple prose, it's friggin' purple poetry, but descriptive asides peppering the novel defy any other definition. It gets downright florid when they reach Thorn Ridge and Xuanzang takes part in essentially a freestyle poetry jam.
Physical God: Ironically, The Buddha matches this much, much better than the actual gods. Though this may be as much translation issues than anything else as Eastern gods aren't really equivalent to the Western idea of such.
The Quest: The whole premise and reason for the novel. Xuanzang has to bring the holy books from India, and he needs protection and help on the way, opening the way to a lot of wacky hijinks.
Restraining Bolt: Sun Wukong has a circlet around his head which contracts if Xuanzang says the command phrase and is most often used when Wukong goes on a There Is No Kill Like Overkill rampage. Rather hilariously, his demon companions trick Xuanzang into saying the word every chance they get. It becomes particularly relevant to the plot when dealing with the Evil Twin.
Rhino Rampage: The three rhino kings near the end. The Rhinoceros King, despite his name and single horn, is actually a bull.
Side Quest: Take a drink every time Wukong and company get sidetracked because 1) Xuanzang got kidnapped and/or 2) the locals are being menaced by a demon.
Stock Shout-Out: The modus operandi of many East Asian artists seems to be: "When really, really, really stumped for ideas, nick them from Journey To The West."
Stupid Good: Every time a demon disguises itself as a human in peril, you can wager your donkey that Xuanzang will insist on helping said disguised demon. Despite knowing that demons can take human form, and that Wukong can see through their disguises, Xuanzang gladly ignores Wukong's advice because he's just that compassionate of a guy. Only once in the entire book, in one of the later chapters, does he consider that Wukong might be right... only to revert back to Stupid Good when the demon (disguised as a child) puts on the puppy dog eyes. This is justified by the very fact that he is suppose to be a really good Buddhist monk. It wouldn't be particularly Buddhist to be selectively compassionate and only help the people he wants to help.
Summon Bigger Fish: As powerful as Sun Wukong and his companions are occassionally they encounter threats beyond their ability to deal with. Often, they have to get help from Guan Yin, Buddha, or other gods to help subdue the demons they are fighting.
Sun Wukong almost won it, if not for the fact that he's almost useless in water.
Amongst his opponents there's the Rhinoceros King, whose ring can suck in every single weapon you use against him, including Su Wukong's rod, the weaponry of a whole army of gods and an army of flame beasts.
Take That: Some scholars believe that the work is one against the decadent government at the time.
That's No Moon: Those weren't pillars that Wukong vandalized, those were Budda's fingers!
This Was His True Form: Inverted — Many of the antagonists are wild animals that have learned to mimic human form (the Chinese version of the henge described on the obake page); they revert to their true form when killed.
Too Dumb to Live: Xuanzang is incapable of seeing through the disguises of the demons that kidnap him. It's understandable since he's a human, but you would think after the first few times of his blindness getting him kidnapped and almost raped or eaten he would wise up and listen when Sun Wukong and the others tell him not to trust the pitiful looking stranger seeking their assistance.
Touched by Vorlons: Any animal within earshot of a practicing Taoist or Buddhist whether the religious figure intends it or not will gain some degree of the same powers as the travelers.
This is what led to the incident with the Scorpion-Woman, as even Buddha and Guanyin didn't want a damn thing to do with her.
The Dragon-Horse even points this out when the group needs his piss to make a medicine; even if he pisses in a stream, the fish will turn into dragons.
Weapons That Suck: Several examples, including the Crinsom Gourd and Jade Pot (which both melt the victim), the Vajura Ring (which can suck and snatch every weapon, flame or danger around), the Human Bag (which sucks people inside it) and finally, the most dangerous one, the Yin Yang Pot, which destroys whoever's inside it with flames, serpents and dragons.
What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Zigzagged depending on the story arc. Killing humans is always very bad but the demons that kidnap Xuanzang are more likely to be imprisoned/reformed than killed. Guanyin outright says this trope to Wukong after one of his numerous freakouts as even innocent Half-Human Hybridchildren are fair game but when subduing Red Boy/Boy Sage King she made sure to clear out every insect, bird and reptile within a hundred miles so they wouldn't be caught in the flood she released. When Red Boy makes another appearence, he lives on her island and has done a Heel-Face Turn thanks to her.
Bajie and Wujing only exist to get the crap beaten out of them to show that Wukong needs to swoop in and save the day again.
Equally commonly is that Wukong is beaten as well and needs to fall back on greater Divine Intervention.
Zerg Rush: Wukong can create numerous clones of himself. Given that this is Mister God-Mode Sue we're talking about here, a Zerg Rush of Wukong clones is nothing to sneeze at. This doesn't work with the Yellow Wind demon (who blows the clones away like straw) and the Gold Horned King and Red Boy (who both torch the clones into oblivion).