BOOK REVIEWS

Monkey: Folk Novel of China Reviews

UPDATE TIME: 2017-05-24 
Review Score: 4 out of 5 star From 74 user ratings
ISBN:0802130860
LANGUAGE:English

"A bit like the Buddhist versions of Hans Christian Anderson and Pilgrim's Progress mixed together. Interestingly, Tripitaka, the holiest character in the book has a tendency to burst into tears at the slightest hint that something might be wrong. In general he's fairly useless, Monkey spends most of the book saving him.

The supernatural and heavenly elements of the book seem to be set up in a rather bureaucratic fashion. There are still clearly defined ranks and in many cases, wealth, spiritual or physical, plays a factor in getting ahead.
" said.

"Alright, Monkey! This collection of stories about the inimitable Monkey were written by Wu Ch'eng-En in the 1500's and translated to great effect by Arthur Waley. Monkey goes about traveling the world in a quest for enlightenment, encountering evil in all its manifestations and having a good laugh or two while he's at it. Monkey reminds me of Raven or Coyote of American Indian myth, a trickster, a rogue but a great champion of humanity all the same. Monkey has the feel of a fable or folk tale, complete with moral lessons and allegories, which is fun and makes the reading sort of a light jaunt in itself." said.

"I loved this book. It was fun, exciting, spiritual, and completely bonkers.

Effectively the first half is the story of how Monkey becomes 'The Great Sage Equal of Heaven' and ends up placed under a mountain as punishment. The second half is the journey to India to collect scriptures from Buddha. This is where Tripitaka, Monkey, Sandy, Pigsy, and the horse that is really a dragon in disguise, go on a series of adventures from East to West.

There is much I did not understand in relation to the Buddhist and Taoists but that deeper layer does not spoil the book as a whole. It just offers something to learn about and return to later.
" said.

"I'll admit it: I was led to this old novel from the hilarious TV show, which I used to watch after school with my brother. Just like the show, this is an episodic journey of four heroes travelling from China to India for the Buddhist scriptures. This abridged tome is great fun and a mad fusion of Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism, as our roguish set of outcast heroes: Monkey, Pigsy and Sandman, guard Trippitaka, seeking forgiveness and enlightenment in the process. There are demons, demi-Gods, Bodhavistas; and wonderful tales of love and betrayal throughout.

Monkey is the Odyssey of the East and every bit as great.
" said.

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HOLY HANNAH I am glad to be done with this book. While there were parts that were amusing and there were SOME parts that were interesting, it was still a horribly difficult book to read and TOOK. ME. FOREVER to get done with.
The second half IS much better than the first, but unless you are a scholar of religions or an actual Buddhist, it will be VERY tough going for you. I know nothing about the Buddhist religion and so that part was a huge slog for me. But Monkey himself was a huge scamp who truly loved trouble, even after his "conversion" and those are the parts that read the best.

This would have been better not all in one book...it was a lot to read and absorb.
" said.

"This is an abbreviated version of the Chinese classic "Journey to the West." Imagine Neal Cassidy roaming around ancient China with actual powers. A dubious superhero who does whatever the fuck he wants. Monkey, the Trickster God, is assigned to guard a monk traveling to the west in search of fabled sutras. All of the action seems to follow this pattern:

1) The monk warns Monkey against something
2) Greedy Monkey does whatever is prohibited
3) the Monkey suffers and everyone must have an unexpected adventure
4) the Monkey saves the day, is chastised, and learns a lesson (very un-Cassidy-like)
5) Repeat 1-4

Despite the formula, the book is full of great hijinks, angry deities, and super powers.
" said.

"It's a shame that the conversion of this text to a kindle format was so full of errors (for example, every "!" was rendered as "1"1). The translation felt authentic, although the repetition of the adjectives used to describe the characters (Dear Monkey! that fool Pigsy!) made parts of the text more clunky than maybe necessary. But then again, this was an abridged selection (the gaps nearly noticeable though) so maybe that can be forgiven. The character of Monkey was by far the standout, most interesting protagonist. A rebellious hot head, self absorbed and ambitious until tamed by the Buddha firstly by being imprisoned in a mountain for 500 years and then with the aid of a magic skullcap that tortured him if he disobeyed. Because of this the early episodes are the most stimulating, where Monkey's ambition for himself and his kingdom lead him into direct conflict with heaven (a metaphor for the earthly government). As a source material there is much to be found here; myth and conservative Buddhist philosophy combine with elements of modern RPG (my level 5 rake of heaven will wallop your magic sword of lotus flower!). In the end though, as with the western myths of Arthur the tales need to be read in context of the time in which they were written." said.

"This was on my to-read list for about 20 years.

Here are a few things I was able to glean from this abridged translation:

1. Break a crystal dish in Heaven and you've had it, Laddie.
2. The Goddess of Mercy is fine with torture.
3. Lao Tzu has a short fuse, but he's a whiz with the party favours.
4. Monkeys might not be very refined, but they still throw less poo than self-righteous monks.
5. Even Buddhas still enjoy a good scam.

I quite enjoyed the first part of the story with untamed Monkey and his people. His various interactions with various demons, ogres, celestials, dragons, etc. were a lot of fun. For me it was all downhill after the torture hat went on.

Monkey uses a lot of guile to expose their enemies and help countless people on their way. Monkey, Pigsy and Sandy use brawn to defeat enemies, Sandy acts as nursemaid, Pigsy is in charge of carrying luggage, the erstwhile son of the Dragon King, horse, carries his holiness around, and Tripitaka himself is in charge of crying, wailing, despairing, and criticism. And torture.

The moral? The old quote that comes to mind:

"Men sleep peacefully in their beds at night because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf."

I may try the 4-volume set by Anthony C. Yu in future. Until then, I'll continue to enjoy all of Monkeys various pop culture manifestations, like Shaw Brothers' musical films series. So much fun!
" said.

July 2017 New Book:

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