Journey to the West is a classic Chinese epic novel about a Buddhist monk who must travel to the west (which, in China at that time, meant India) to acquire the holy books (sutra). Journey to the West records the trials and tribulations (mostly monsters and demons -- yes, it's a supernatural fantasy novel) that he faces along the way. The story is loosely based on the real-life journey of the monk Xuan Zang.

The most famous character from the book (and its true protagonist), though, is not the monk, but one of the monk's travelling companions, the Monkey King, who is known for his cleverness and his mischeviousness.

Xiyou Ji

(Chinese: "The Westwards Journey" or "Journey to the West")

Title of a novel, the first Chinese novel which can be ascribed to an identifiable author: Wu Cheng'en (1506-1582) from Jiangsu province.

The first printed edition of Xiyou Ji, in 100 chapters, was published in 1592, written in the contemporarily popular "spoken word style", baihua.

The book builds on legendary material about the monk Xuanzang, called Tripitaka in the novel, who made a hazardous pilgrimage to India in the years 629 to 645, to bring the holy scriptures of Buddhism to China. Collections of legends about Xuanzang, dating from the 13th century on, have been preserved, as well as plays and a narrative poem which closely parallels the events in Xiyou Ji.

The book is structured around a series of allegorical episodes occurring at the beginning of Xuanzang/Tripitaka's pilgrimage, and revolving around the assembly of the entourage of pilgrims and their journey through a wild and trackless region.

Xuanzang plays a secondary rôle in the tale, the actual protagonist being Sun Wukong, a mythical figure - half-man, half-monkey. By virtue of cunning, humour, and personal bravery, Sun Wukong (generally called "Monkey" or the "Monkey King") becomes the actual leader of the expedition. The other travelling companions are similarly anthropomorphic animal figures, symbolic of human frailties and passions.

The philosophical object of the story is the uncovering of hypocrisy and the search for moral integrity and lasting values, set in the form of a somewhat burlesque satire. The enduring appeal of the tale has led to its becoming a staple of the Peking opera.

The story has also caught the imagination of Western audiences, most notably via the 1942 translation into English (Monkey, by Arthur Waley), and a TV series (Saiyuki, Japan 1979).

I journeyed to the west over a period of time between December 2013 and January 2015. A rough timeline:

  • Visited my compadre in San Francisco for a week over new year's. This was because due to mutual agreement, I would visit him since he had visited me in Akron the new year's prior.
  • Flew out to visit him for another week in May
  • Got laid off
  • Ran out of money
  • Ejected to San Francisco to find a job
  • Hackerspaced around a bit while surfing on whuffie
  • Started hacking for an open source startup in the new age fintech
  • Drove my car across the country
  • Rode a train back
  • Kept going into another strange land
  • Realized that for the first time, I was coming back from Europe at a place that wasn't CAK.

And thats pretty much where I'm at right now.

The people out here are very welcoming. Some amazing relationships have blossomed from this journey. An incredibly good decision was made.

For my next trick, I'm going to move all the rest of my things out here and settle in to change the world. I'm finding my place in the world again and I want to be ready for whats next.

This journey taught me quite a lot. I can totally drive across the country in three days. And its a blast. Crossing an entire continent by car with a cat and some of the worldy possessions that I hold closest.

I also learned a lot about myself. In the process of moving, I shed much of the weight of previous relationships. People who were important to me drifted away and are now reduced to casual observations. The role they have played in my life for numerous years has all but dwindled. Not lost, not forgotten, but not around.

In their absence I have grown and learned and become more than I thought I could be.

Funny how that works.

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