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Wu Cheng'en at Yuntai Mountain : Book Review

James Oinam *

 World Book Fair, Delhi on Jnuary 5 2019
World Book Fair, Delhi on Jnuary 5 2019



Book Review: Wu Cheng’en at Yuntai Mountain
(Stories about Ancient Chinese Literary and Art Figures)
Adapted by Hua Shiming
Illustrated by Zhao Xucheng
Designed by Zhang Xizhu
Publisher: Morning Glory Press, Beijing
First edition published in 1986

My ramblings at the World Book Fair, Delhi was rewarded in an unexpected way. The fairs have been low key for some time due to renovation work being carried out at the fair ground, Pragati Maidan. At one of the stalls, some Chinese publisher was entering into collaboration with some Indian publisher.

A book, titled The Flight of the Bumble-Bee, was also being launched at the stall. Some author was speaking in Chinese while a translator was reading out what the author was saying in English.

The stall was packed with Chinese books. However, being a relatively small stall I did not have to spend much time before I could lay my hands on a few illustrated books written in English. They were surprisingly cheap. One book is on the three kingdoms of China.

The battle of the three kingdoms is very popular. I had even heard that there are video games based on this theme. Hence, it did not take me long to decide whether to buy it or not. The other is on ancient Chinese doctors.

The third book is a short biography of the author who wrote about the one of the most famous Chinese mythological characters, the Monkey King. This is the book under review, which is a 23-page, large-sized book, each page containing full-page water colour illustration, that cost me only Rs 60.

 Book Cover of 'Wu Cheng’en at Yuntai Mountain'
Book Cover of 'Wu Cheng’en at Yuntai Mountain'



Wu Cheng’en, who lived in the Ming Dynasty, wrote the story of the well-known Monkey King’s great expedition accompanying a monk of Tang Dynasty, The Pilgrimage to the West. Unable to clear the civil services exam to serve the feudal lord, Wu resolved to write the story of this legend. But he had never come across any monkey in his life. When he came to know that he can find monkeys in the Yuntai Mountain, he went there to study them.

Unfortunately, he did not find any monkey on the mountain. But to his surprise, he found trees bearing peaches in winter. Then he met an old man who explained this curious phenomenon to him. A young couple had lived there who planted peaches given to them by the Queen of Heaven. When the couple left for heaven, a lot of monkeys came to the place because of the fruits.

The old man also told Wu how the Monkey King was born. Once while mending the sky, the fairy Nuwa accidentally dropped a stone on the mountain. A round rock emerged beside the fairy’s stone. From that rock, Monkey King was born. In time he became the king of all the monkeys living there.

Due to their reckless habits, the monkeys ran out of food. The Monkey King then led the monkeys to a waterfall. On the other side of the waterfall was a dark cave. The monkeys were afraid to go in, so the brave Monkey King jumped into it and found a place where they all could live. Then the other monkeys followed him.

The old man also showed Wu Cheng’en the spring from where the waterfall originated. After listening to the man’s stories and seeing the spring, Wu got the inspiration to write his story.


* James Oinam wrote this article for e-pao.net
The writer can be contacted at jamesoinam(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on April 23, 2019 .



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