Monkey: A Folk Novel of China

Monkey: A Folk Novel of China Study Guide

Wu Ch’eng-en, a Confucian scholar and well-respected literary poet, wrote Monkey during the Ming dynasty. This makes it all the more surprising that Monkey was written in the vernacular -- plain, simple language -- during a time period that yearned for the classical age and sought a return to those literary customs. It is unsurprising that Wu Ch'eng-en did not claim authorship of the novel, and even more understandable when one considers that he was a good friend of one of the "Literary Seven" who were spearheading the neoclassical movement. Even the subject matter of the novel was distasteful to the upper literary circles, which questioned how folktales and oral tradition could be valuable. Nevertheless, the novel caught on in popularity and has maintained its status as a household name to this day. It has been adapted numerous times -- in film, plays, anime, etc.

The names of the characters in this guide follow those found in the 1942 translation by Arthur Waley, and may be stylized differently in other versions.