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Journey to the West

Pigsy succumbs to temptation

Pigsy succumbs to earthly temptations by accepting food, while Xuanzang, unmoved, and Monkey look on. From Journey to the West by Wu Cheng'en, woodblock book, Chinese, 18th century
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The novel 'Journey to the West' (Xiyouji), attributed to Wu Cheng'en (c.1500-82), opens with the birth from a stone egg of Monkey, who progresses from becoming the King of the Monkeys on the Mountain of Flowers and Fruit, to achieving supernatural Daoist skills. Bounding through the skies on clouds, he creates havoc on his visits to heaven in the vain hope of achieving ever higher celestial office. Having eaten the peaches of immortality specially grown for the banquet to be held by the Heavenly Queen Mother of the West, and upset the Jade Emperor and other deities, he is finally incarcerated beneath the Mountain of the Five Elements by the Buddha. Released to accompany the monk Xuanzang on his quest to obtain the holy Buddhist scriptures from India, these two, and three other pilgrims - Pigsy, Monk Sha and the dragon horse - overcome 81 calamities and confrontations in the form of supernatural phenomena and monsters before reaching their goal and returning to China with the texts.

The story is loosely based on an actual journey undertaken by the monk Xuanzang in the 7th century across the desert wastes of Chinese Central Asia to India (equated with Paradise in the novel), the home of Buddhism, to collect Buddhist texts for translation into Chinese.

Although the hero would seem to be Xuanzang, it is Monkey's sarcasm, humour, wit and exuberance together with the dynamism of the many other characters that have captivated countless generations of readers. These qualities have given rise to the production down to the present day of many popular arts and crafts connected with the characters. Apart from numerous illustrated woodblock printed books, representations are found in ceramics, shadow puppets, papercuts, children's toys, dramas and operas, as well as modern comics, film animations and television series. Items in the exhibition include many such forms which reflect the wide appeal of the pilgrims escapades. Other exhibits relate to the real pilgrimage undertaken by Xuanzang.

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Discover more:
The Mythical Quest The Mythical Quest
Quest for the Holy Grail Quest for the Holy Grail
Jason and the Quest for the Golden Fleece Jason and the Quest for the Golden Fleece
Seven Voyages of Sindbad the Sailor Seven Voyages of Sindbad the Sailor
Tale of Cupid and Psyche Tale of Cupid and Psyche
Rama's Quest for Sita Rama's Quest for Sita
Legendary Journeys of Alexander the Great Legendary Journeys of Alexander the Great
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