Wu Cheng'en

Wu Cheng'en
or Wu Ch'eng-en

born с 1500, Shanyang, Huaian, China
died с 1582, Huaian

Chinese novelist and poet.

He received a traditional Confucian education and became known for his clever poetry and prose composition in the classical style. Interested in bizarre stories, he used oral and written folktales as the basis of the novel Xiyouji (Journey to the West, also partially translated as Monkey), published anonymously in 1592. It relates the comic mishaps and adventures of the 7th-century monk Xuanzang, who traveled to India looking for sacred texts, and his entourage of three animal spirits: a monkey, a pig, and a fish. It satirizes Chinese society and government and contains religious and philosophical elements drawn from Buddhism, Daoism, and Neo-Confucianism. Only two volumes of his other writings have survived.

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▪ Chinese author
Wade-Giles romanization  Wu Ch'eng-en 
born c. 1500, Shanyang, Huaian [now in Jiangsu province], China
died c. 1582, Huaian

      novelist and poet of the Ming dynasty (1368–1644), generally acknowledged as the author of the Chinese folk novel Xiyouji (Journey to the West, also partially translated as Monkey).

      Wu received a traditional Confucian education and became known for his cleverness in the composition of poetry and prose in the classical style. Throughout his life he displayed a marked interest in bizarre stories, such as the set of oral and written folktales that formed the basis of Xiyouji. In its 100 chapters Xiyouji details the adventures of a cunningly resourceful monkey who accompanies the Buddhist priest Xuanzang on a journey to India. Like all novels of its time, Xiyouji was written in the vernacular, as opposed to the officially accepted classical style, and therefore had to be published anonymously to protect the author's reputation. As a result, the identity of the novelist was long unknown outside of Wu's native district. Only two volumes of Wu's other writings have survived; these were discovered in the imperial palaces and were reprinted in 1930.

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Universalium. 2010.

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