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4.7 out of 5 stars
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4.7 out of 5 stars
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on 2 October 2006
This is a lucid and superlative translation of this classic Chinese novel: Arthur Waley's abridgment 'Monkey'is great for getting the flavour of Wu Cheng'en's timeless novel but this complete translation by W.J.F Jenner, illustrated with many Ching period woodcuts, is a true delight and one at last appreciates the scope of 'Journey to the West' in all its amazing detail - it's a masterwork perhaps comparable to J.R.R Tolkien's 'Lord of the Rings' and the narrative is rich with weird adventures, bizarre and comedic episodes, wild combats, spiritual and poetic interludes and charged throughout with esoteric Taoist, alchemical and Buddhist symbolism as we follow the way via many vicissitudes to the Western Heaven and the Greater Vehicle scriptures with our heroes, the monk Tripitaka who is a sort of everyman on the spiritual quest through life, the irrepressible Monkey, who represents the mercurial mind so hard to control, and also the amazing magical powers of the immortal Taoist adept which nonetheless need to learn to be motivated and guided by the higher quality of Compassion and placed in the service of the enlightened Buddha-nature. Pigsy of course stands for the lower appetites and is a hilarious glutton and Friar Sand is a strange and earnest figure who defies definition. It would be a faint spirit indeed who could not take pleasure in the cunning strategems and heroic antics of the irascible Monkey King, the Great Sage Equalling Heaven - these characters are archetypal aspects of each of us and their great quest mirrors the journey of the spirit. This 3 volume translation is a joy to read and the exquisite poems which are embedded throughout really add to the full appreciation of this wonderful and intricate novel. Like 'The Golden Ass' of Apuleius it is richly humorous but beneath the phantastic episodes and the wild japes there is a serious message and purpose and the 'Journey to the West' is a profoundly spiritual novel. Was there ever a hero like the Handsome Monkey King!!
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on 28 May 2003
This is the 16th century novel that the silly TV series was based on. A unique work of its time, it relates the adventures of Tripitaka and his companions on their quest to bring buddhist scriptures to China from the west. It's very much an adventure story, with all the elements of ancient chinese myth, and lots of humour as well. It's also strongly allegorical and I have to admit that without much knowledge of buddhism a lot of it went over my head, but it was still entertaining and a must read for anyone interested in the classics.
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on 5 February 2017
Journey to the West is definitely the biggest story that I've read so far, and one that I enjoyed over the course of just over a month (starting at Christmas day and finishing on the 5th February), but can I recommend it? It's a bit hard to critique literature that is, A: over 400 years old, and B: intended for an Eastern Chinese audience that was centered around the times of religious change in China.
The story has huge links to Chinese mythology, Buddhism and Tang/Ming dynastic era influences, with other central points that are tied to becoming pure, and cooperation to achieve goals.
The story was surprisingly easy to read in my opinion. It does help to have a little bit of background to some of the influences, and whilst the introduction does give some context, you might find yourself doing some extra research as you go along to get a better understanding of certain principles, characters or terminology to clear up any confusion.

Reading it from the perspective of the modern age might be a hurdle to jump over, but if you're into the respective themes or genre, then I'd would recommend that you give it a read. The only issue might be that it's not an exceptionally long story, which might take up a lot of your time - especially if you're a slow reader that likes to take in words or information, then you might be reading Journey to the West for a while. The narrative style is kinda divided between narration and interaction with the characters, but there are also a plethora of descriptive section which usually are presented in poem form, which are harder to take in because of the style of the lexical items (typically you don't skim-read poetry), so this could break the pace at which you read quite a bit. It took me just over a month, but that was with me consistently taking time out of my schedule to read a few chapters every day. Each one is approximately 20+ pages, with there being a cumulative 100 in total. Also, the numbers of pages on Amazon is about 300 pages or so off: there's actually about 2100 pages in total. There are a few illustrations here and there too, which are a nice edition, but you're still reading a hefty amount of story. The story itself is fascinating in my opinion, and I did enjoy reading it, but the major bulk of the story becomes quite routine beyond chapter 13. The first 7 chapters tell the origins and tales of one of the main characters: Sun Wukong (Monkey), then in chapter 8-12, it focuses on the central protagonist: Sanzang, and his backstory. But from then onwards, Sanzang and Monkey make their journey to the west, whilst basically coming across the same sort of obstacles. Soon after Sanzang leaves his home of Chang'an, he is ordered to go to the west to fetch Buddhist scriptures from India, to bring them back to so that the Tang Emperor and his subjects can reach Dharma. Not long in, you also meet and are accompanied by the other main characters: Pig and Friar Sand, but from then on, the challenges are basically the same. The journey is very long, and they reach various mountain ranges, rural areas or monasteries, where they get a place to stay for the night, but there are always complications which take one of the following Three general rules of thumb:

Sanzang gets kidnapped by demons, and his three disciples have to save him.
Sanzang becomes a prisoner of a lustful female demon, and the three disciples have to get him out of the predicament to preserve his purity.
Or Sanzang feels obliged to help with the troubles of local town /city that he's arrived in.
This is an overgeneralisation, and there are varying differences between each ordeal, but you do get to the point where it feels like everything is just "samey": Sanzang is vulnerable and needs his disciples to protect him, or get intervention from various deities that exist in this narrative.

Despite it's repetitive feeling at points, it is an interesting story, and worth reading in my opinion, but you need patience, dedication and persistence to finish Journey to the West in my opinion: this isn't just casual reading. Finishing it though does feel like a personal accomplishment though. :)
But yeah, it does feel like it kinda overstays its welcome. Other translations, such as the more commonly known "Monkey" are shorter, condensed down and more concise, but if you want to the true authentic feeling, read this edition (Especially since it's very hard to find the full original text translated into English). I'm not sure how it compares to the original in the original language, but from the perspective of an English person, I'd say that you should make your own decision as to whether you want to bother reading it.

The actual print (in paperback at least) is split into 4 seperate volumes, with relatively thin pages, with dimensions of 7 inches tall, 4.5 inches wide, and around 1 inch thick for each novel. Thankfully you don't have to hold the entire novel whilst reading all at once. However, I did find my editions had a few creases in the the covers, but these were very small and not really that big a deal. There are also a few typos and spelling errors every so often. Whilst they are few and far between, they do exist, but do not ruin the reading experience, as you can usually infer what was meant to be said. Considering that most editions have volumes sold a individually, at a relatively high price, this edition is actually a really good price to pay for.

Overall, Journey to the West is a good read, but only really worth doing or accomplishable if you have the devotion or interest to see it through to the end. Again, I did personally enjoy reading it, but I can see why some people might get bored with it. I'll let you decide whether you want to get it or not. I give this Amazon product 4 stars. If you can get into it, this novel will fascinate you until the very end. If you can't get into it, then you'll never finish it and you'll have wasted your money.
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on 3 October 2013
I bought this as a mothers day gift as this is one of her favourite stories (she loved the old TV series) and she absolutely loved it. She spent the rest of the day annoying my Dad by reading out sections to him. Well worth the money!
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on 28 February 2014
The classic novel 'Journey to the West' is well worth a read if you like Chinese history, or enjoy studying religion, or like mythology. While parts are dry, the novel overall is really interesting and I found most of it to be very engaging. Even though Monkey is insanely overpowered, and a lot of characters are two-dimensional (like Pig), the problems of the party always present a challenge and the trouble they get into and the struggles they have to overcome are varied and don't get boring (well, most of the time anyway. It's a long story and some parts are very repetitive).

While this book is rich in detail and shows the incredible and complex Chinese Buddhist mythology and traditions beautifully, it's obvious that the author had a real hatred of Taoists. If you're a scholar of Buddhism or Chinese religions, this book is definitely a must-read, but be aware of the biases.

The biggest problems I had were that this set of books (the novel is split into four parts) doesn't seem to have been proofread against typos and also seems to have been printed on quite low-quality paper. Also, some of the translation notes are cut off or are missing. Otherwise, this is a brilliant set of books. They're well worth the price.
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on 10 July 2010
My pen-pal bought me a copy of this for Christmas one year and I loved it. The Monkey King is one of my all time favorite characters.

The story tells of the Monkey King helping the Buddhist monk, Tang Sanzang, get from China to India, in order to collect Buddhist scriptures. This story has been retold in many ways, including a TV series called Monkey.

Journey to the West is held in high regard in China.

This particular product is a box set of four paperbacks with the story spread across them.
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on 27 May 2013
I give my review a five-star rating because I really enjoy reading it. It has exceeded my expectations. I would certainly recommend to anyone who wants to have an understanding of a famous Chinese folklore. In fact, many Chinese today who practise traditional Chinese ancestor worship pray to the Monkey God and he is revered as a deity and many Chinese temples of statues of the Monkey God.
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on 24 August 2011
This box set offers the whole story of Journey to the West at an affordable price.
However I was disappointed that the pages were very thin and that the box was very weak.
Had I have known it was like this I would have bought another version of the Journey to the West even if it was more expensive.
If you don't mind about quality then this set is good, but if you want more then look elsewhere.
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on 24 September 2014
really good so far, am still on book one but I loved the abridged Monkey book so much I've been loving this one. there are a lot of translated poems and such in there, which I don't get much out of, but they probably were brilliant in the original language. such a shame.
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on 9 March 2016
Funny, witty, thought provoking. An absolute treat.
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