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Monkey, or Journey to the West, is a fictional account of the legendary pilgrimage of Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907) monk Xuanzang to India, to obtain Buddhist scriptures.
Inspired by Bodhisattva Guan Yin, his four disciples - Sun Wukong (Monkey), Zhu Bajie (Pigsy), Sha Wujing (Sandy), and the dragon-prince-turned white horse - protect him along the way, to atone for their past sins.
The intelligent and mischievous Monkey was born from a stone. He learns the 72 transformations, the secret of immortality, and earns himself the title "Great Sage Equal to Heaven". His hubris leads to his rebellion against Heaven and Buddha traps him under a mountain for 500 years.
The lazy and gluttonous Pigsy was formerly Commander of the Heavenly Naval Force, banished for flirting with Princess of the Moon, Chang E.
The loyal and quiet Sandy was formerly the Celestial Curtain-lifting General, banished for dropping a goblet of the Heavenly Queen Mother.
The dragon-prince-turned white horse had been sentenced to death for setting fire to his father's precious pearl, but was saved from execution by Guan Yin.
The four fend off attacks on their master from various monsters and calamities. Most of the monsters are escaped heavenly animals and Buddha engineers many of the calamities. The five finally return to the Tang Empire and receive their due rewards in the form of official or heavenly posts.
Monkey: A Folk-Tale of China is an abridged translation by Arthur Waley. For many years, it has been considered to be the best translation available in English. Journey to the West is a complete translation by W. J. F. Jenner. It preserves both the style and content of the original story. The extreme faithfulness is both its strength and weakness; as some of the interesting little back-stories and side-stories might seem irrelevant and confusing to Western minds.