Monkey: A Folk Novel of China

Notable English-language translations

  • Monkey: A Folk-Tale of China (1942), an abridged translation by Arthur Waley. For many years, the most well-known translation available in English. The Waley translation has also been published as Adventures of the Monkey God, Monkey to the West, Monkey: [A] Folk Novel of China, and The Adventures of Monkey, and in a further abridged version for children, Dear Monkey. Waley noted in his preface that the method adopted in earlier abridgements was "to leave the original number of separate episodes, but drastically reduce them in length, particularly by cutting out dialogue. I have for the most part adopted the opposite principle, omitting many episodes, but translating those that are retained almost in full, leaving out, however, most of the incidental passages in verse, which go very badly into English."[13] The degree of abridgement, 30 out of the 100 chapters (which corresponds to roughly 1/6 of the whole text), and excising most of the verse, has led to a recent critic awarding it the lesser place, as a good retelling of the story.[14] On the other hand, it has been praised as "remarkably faithful to the original spirit of the work."[15]
The literary scholar Andrew H. Plaks points out that Waley's abridgement reflected his interpretation of the novel. This "brilliant translation... through its selection of episodes gave rise to the misleading impression that that this is essentially a compendium of popular materials marked by folk wit and humor." Waley consciously followed Hu Shih's lead, as shown in Hu's introduction to the 1943 edition. Hu scorned the allegorical interpretations of the novel as old-fashioned and instead insisted that the stories were simply comic. Hu Shih's interpretation reflected the popular reading of the novel, but does not account for the levels of meaning and the allegorical framework which scholars in China and the west have shown to be an important part of the late Ming text.[16]
  • Journey to the West (1982–1984), a complete translation in three volumes by William John Francis Jenner.[17] Readable translation without scholarly apparatus.[18]
  • The Journey to the West (1977–1983), a complete translation in four volumes by Anthony C. Yu, the first to translate the poems and songs which Yu argues are essential in understanding the author's meanings.[19] Yu also supplied an extensive scholarly introduction and notes.[18][20] In 2006, an abridged version of this translation was published by University of Chicago Press under the title The Monkey and the Monk. In 2012, University of Chicago Press issued a revised edition of Yu's translation in four volumes. In addition to correcting or amending the translation and converting romanization to pinyin, the new edition updates and augment the annotations, revises and expands the introduction in respect to new scholarship and modes of interpretation.

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