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A Monkey King Bookshelf

Good Books for Getting Into China’s Comic Epic, The Journey to the West

By Aaron Shepard

For more treats and resources, visit Aaron Shepard at www.aaronshep.com.

Copyright © 2002, 2014 Aaron Shepard. May be freely copied and shared for any noncommercial purpose as long as no text is altered or omitted.

Here are the most valuable books I’ve found on the Monkey King, hero of the classic Chinese novel The Journey to the West. Most links are for more info at Amazon.com, an affiliate.


Monkey, by Wu Ch’êng-ên, translated by Arthur Waley, John Day, New York, 1943; reprinted by Grove, New York, 1958. A one-volume abridgement of The Journey to the West. Probably the best approach to the novel for most readers.

The Journey to the West, translated and edited by Anthony C. Yu, University of Chicago, Chicago and London, 1977. Four volumes. Includes extensive introduction, notes, and so on. The best translation for a full experience of the novel. A one-volume abridgement is available as The Monkey and the Monk, 2006.

Journey to the West, by Wu Cheng’en, translated by W. J. F. Jenner, Foreign Languages Press, Beijing, 1982. Three volumes. A good translation, but handicapped by poor printing quality, a lack of supplemental materials, and rigid adherence to Pinyin romanization.


Book cover

The Monkey King: A Superhero Tale of China, Retold from The Journey to the West, by Aaron Shepard, Skyhook Press, 2008. My own retelling of the origin and first adventures of Monkey, taken from the epic’s first seven chapters. (The full text can be found on my Web site.)


Ancient Tales and Folklore of China, by Edward T. C. Werner, Bracken Books, London, 1986; reprinted from Myths & Legends of China, George Harrap, London, 1922. An excellent compendium of stories.

Taoism and Chinese Religion, by Henri Maspero, translated by Frank A. Kierman, Jr., University of Massachusetts, Amherst, 1981. A detailed and insightful look at traditional Taoist mythology and spiritual discipline, as revealed (and concealed) in its literature.

The Eight Immortals of Taoism: Legends and Fables of Popular Taoism, translated by Kwok Man Ho and Joanne O’Brien, introduction by Martin Palmer, Penguin, New York, 1990. A good introduction to popular mythology about Taoist “Immortals.”

Awaken Healing Light of the Tao, by Mantak and Maneewan Chia, Healing Tao Books, Huntington, NY, 1993. A modern rendition of ascetic Taoism.

The Hsi-yu-chi: A Study of Antecedents to the Sixteenth-Century Chinese Novel, by Glen Dudbridge, Cambridge, 1970. A fascinating look at the roots of The Journey to the West.

Larousse Encyclopedia of Mythology, Prometheus, New York, 1960. Includes a good overview of Chinese mythology.

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