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Journey to the West (Chinese Classics, Classic Novel in 4 Volumes) Paperback – Box set

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 2346 pages
  • Publisher: Foreign Languages Press; 1 edition (January 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 7119016636
  • ISBN-13: 978-7119016634
  • Product Dimensions: 3.8 x 4.5 x 7.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (59 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #116,533 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: Chinese --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Wu Cheng'en (c. 1500-c. 1582) bore the style Ruzhong and the pen name Sheyang Hermit. According to Records of Huai'an Compiled during the Tianqi reign period of the Ming Dynasty, Wu Chen'en was "lively and clever, erudite and an accomplished writer".

W.J.F (Bill) Jenner, born in 1940, is an English student of Chinese history and culture. His secondary education was mainly in the Greek and Latin classics. He began the study of Chinese at Oxford in 1958, where he graduated in Oriental Studies in 1962. He earned his Oxford D Phil for a thesis on the history of the great city of Luoyang in the 5th-6th centruy AD.

From 1963 to 1965 he was a translator at the Foreign Languages Press, for which he translated From Emperor to Citizen (volume 1, 1964; volume 2, 1965; laterreprints in two-volume and single-volume form, including one from Oxford University Press), the ghosted autobiography of Aisin-Gioro Pu Yi, the last emperor of China. He also began his translation of Journey to the West at that time. From 1979 to 1985 he returned to the FLP most summers to complete Journey to the West and to do other translations for the Press and its sister organization Panda Books.They included Lu Xun: Selected Poems, a bilingual edition with introduction and notes published by the FLP in 1982 and Miss Sophie's Diary and Other Stories by Ding Ling (Panda Books, 1985).

Since 1965 he has taught Chinese studies in universities, mainly the University of Leeds and also the Australian National University and the University of East Anglia.

His other books include Modern Chinese Stories, edited and translated with Gladys Yang (London: Oxford Univeristy Press, 1970); Memories of Loyang; Yang Hsuan-chih and the lost capital, 493-534 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1981); and The Tyranny of History: the Roots of China's Crisis (London; Allen Lane, The Penguin Press, 1992; Penguin paperback with corrections and afterword, 1994).

In recent years his main project has been a major new two-volume history of China from the Neolithic the present for Penjuin Books.

He has two daughters and a son.

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Customer Reviews

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Cricket Tanner
This unabridged translation by W. J. F. Jenner includes a "Translator's Afterword," which I recommend you read before (not after) you read the story itself.
Elbert D. Porter
Each chapter ends with a sort of cliffhanger and a directive to read on if you want to know what happens next.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

309 of 314 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on February 15, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is the most complete and faithful translation of Journey to the West I have yet found. It is the third version of the story I've read, and unlike those other versions ("Adventures of Monkey King"/ISBN 0962076511 and "Monkey : A Journey to the West [ABRIDGED]"/ISBN 1570625816), it contains the complete and unabridged story, preserving very faitflly both the style and content of the original story.
This extreme faithfulness is both a strength and a weakness. It's a strength in that you get a real feeling for the scope of the original work, and you get to hear all the interesting little back-stories and side-stories that make Journey to the West one of the great works of Chinese literaure. It's a weakness because these stories often seem completely irrelevant, and may be quite confusing to someone who is not familiar with Chinese culture and religion.
For example, every time something happens in Heaven, Hell or in the palace of the Tang Emperor, the book includes a complete list of everyone who attended. In Heaven, at least, many of the names are descriptive (names of stars, constellations, etc.) and are therefore translated. In the Tang Emperor's palace, though, you'll get a list of 10 or 20 names in Chinese, and only some of the names ever get stories attached to them in the book (and I challenge any non-Chinese speaker to remember the names when they do show up again).
There's also a lot of poetry, and though the translations are good, translated poetry can never equal the original. In one sequence, a fisherman and a woodsman argue in verse for 10 or more pages of very small type, frequently singing songs set to tunes few non-Chinese would recognize by name.
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211 of 213 people found the following review helpful By Luke on May 20, 2006
Format: Paperback
There are, at present, two complete versions of the long Chinese comic novel "Journey to the West". One of them, the more recent, is published by Anthony Yu at Chicago University Press. The other, an older version made by W. J. F. Brenner for the Foreign Language Press, is made over five decades ago, but is as yet still not completely superseded.

Looking through the translations, it's obvious that both are worthy undertakings by two enthusiatic contemporary Sinologists. Anthony Yu, though not a native English speaker, is professor of East Asian studies at the Chicago University, an expert in his field, and an ethnic Chinese. Brenner is a long-time Sino translator who has rendered his fair share of Chinese classics into English. So how did these two translations fare compared with each other?

Brenner is a no-nonsensical and very sensible translator of the Wu Cheng'en's book. While he doesn't take great liberties with the text, when required, he demonstrates lots of felicities in reframing Chinese ideas and philosophies into English. Take the beginning for instance, a difficult passage which involves understanding of Chinese arithmetics and metaphysics. Here is Brenner's version:

"In the arithmetic of the universe, 129,600 years make one cycle. Each cycle can be divided into twelve phases: I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII. VIII, IX, X, XI and XII, the twelve branches. Each phase lasts 10,800 years.

"Now within a single day, the positive begins at the time I; at II the cock crows; at III it is not quite light; at IV the sun rises; V is after breakfast; and at VI one does business. VII is when the sun reaches noon; at VIII it is slipping towards the west; IX is late afternoon; the sun sets at X; XI is dusk; and at XII people settle down for the night.
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99 of 106 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on February 22, 2001
Format: Paperback
Journey to the West is probably the most well-known tale amongst Chinese folk the world over. It is a story that has been adapted in the form of operas, television series, cartoons and movies many times over. To be able to read a complete and unabridged version of this epic is a joy indeed. My only regret is that as a Western-educated Chinese, I am not able to read this masterpiece in it's original language. Although the translator does a very good job at translating the book, I am sure many nuances and subtleties of the Chinese language have been lost in the translation.
The story is a simple one. Set during the early Tang dynasty (the peak of Chinese civilisation), a holy Buddhist monk has to travel from China to India to collect the true Mahayana Buddhist scriptures from the Lord Buddha himself, in order to bring enlightenment to his fellow country men. The journey is a long and ardous one, not least because numerous demons lie waiting in ambush for a chance to capture and eat the monk, as his holy body will confer immortality on whoever eats it. Thus, the Goddess of Compassion assembles a strange group of bodyguards for the monk: the proud and mischievous Monkey, the lustful and greedy Pig, the loyal and steadfast Friar Sand, and a Dragon Prince transformed into a horse. Their various adventures are so full of humor and wacky hijinks that I cannot help myself from laughing out from time to time. Monkey is the ultimate Chinese version of the universal trickster-hero. Do yourself a favor and pick up this book. You will not regret it for a moment.
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