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Understanding the novel Xi-you-ji (Journey to the West) in the context of politics and religions

Item

Author

Long, Darui

Date

2005

Volume

6

Pages

237-256

ISSN

1530-4108

Abstract

Journey to the West is a novel known to almost all in China and overseas Chinese. Boys and girls are enchanted by the stories in which the Monkey subdued the demons when he kept company to Master Xuan Zang(玄藏600? – 664) with Pigsy and Sha Monk on their journey to western regions to obtain authentic Buddhist scriptures.

Since 1920s, Dr. Hu Shi (胡適1891 – 1962)and many other scholars have made researches into this novel. Most of the scholarships have focused on literature. My paper discusses the innuendoes that Wu Cheng’en (吴承恩)used to criticize Emperor Ming Shizong (明世宗r. 1522 – 1566). The emperor was addicted to Daoist practices for longevity by making elixir, a medicine which was believed to lead to immortality in ancient China. The emperor followed the Daoist advice to stay away from state affairs – he met ministers in the court four times in these forty-two years on his throne. He put his treacherous ministers in charge of state affairs. As a result, the Ming gradually moved towards its doom.

The paper aims to discuss the novel and its characters in the perspective of history, court politics and religion. It offers textual analysis on how Wu Cheng’en criticized both Daoism and Emperor Ming Shizong (1522 – 1566 CE) by using innuendoes and irony.


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