In this article, we will talk about the Classical Chinese Novel Behind Dragon Ball: Journey to the west.
The frictional account of the novel is the one where they symbolize and showcase the ways in which an adaptation can be taken to any lengths possible. We here see how the anime which has a totally different aspect and look can be given a totally different outlook and perception. The frictional novel has a background and the setting of a “Chinese Folk Religion.” They depict ‘Chinese Mythology’ and the ‘value systems’ and ways that the ‘Taoist Deities’ and ‘Buddhist Bodhisattvas’ is still reflective of today. The foundation of the novel itself is divided in a total of three Components that are, a story that is profound and fun to read, a spiritual and fantasy type insight and setting, and last, ‘the pilgrim’s voyage to India’ to showcase and depict the road to enlightenment and a better concept of understanding like that of Lord Buddha.
To provide the basis of the basic overview of the story, the story revolves around the legends of the ‘Buddhist monk Xuánzàng’s’ pilgrimage to India during the Táng dynasty in order to obtain Buddhist religious texts called ‘sutras.’ Upon being instructed by the Buddha himself the ‘Bodhisattva Kuan Yin Guānyīn’ lays out a task to the monk and his disciples with the names, ‘Sūn Wùkōng’, ‘Zhū Bājiè’ and ‘Shā Wùjìng’ to bring back Buddhist scriptures from ‘Vulture Peak in India’, this is but the initial story of the novel that we talk about, what inlays in between and what makes up the whole of the story are the adventures and the conflicts that arise between Xuánzàng’s disciples and the various problems and evils that they face along the way. This whole of the adventure is covered in the “Chapters 13-99” as the novel itself only comprises of a total of 100 Chapters. What happened in the first 12 you ask; well they are the chapters that give us the hold of the adventure and the journey that we are now going to embark on and see for ourselves through the words of the writer. This journey is said to us by a pen, that seems small but paints a canvas near our eyes through its words that can strike down a person in a clean split of two if read with interest and understanding. The first 12 Chapters are but a guide to the story that we are now going to see unfold.
To give a heads up and a better follow as to why the disciples are even helping Xuánzàng, it is because of they are either inspired or goaded by Guānyīn they agree to meet and serve him along the way, in order to atone for the sins, they committed in their past lives. Now stepping to the introduction of the characters that we see in the novel, the main ones being Xuánzàng, Sūn Wùkōng, Zhū Bājiè, Shā Wùjìng, and possibly our one more main character who has possibly one of the most sides of the side role in any novel ‘Yùlóng Sāntàizǐ’. To give better input and a little in-depth to the story let us see their role and introduction in the novel.
🌔 The first is Sun Wukong, or Monkey, by Buddha for rebelling against Heaven. He appears right away in Chapter 13. The most intelligent and violent of the disciples, he is constantly reproved for his violence by Xuánzàng. For the sin that surrounds him and of the nature of violence that he belongs to he can only be controlled by a magic gold band that the Bodhisattva has placed around his head, this band causes him excruciating pain when Xuánzàng says certain magic words and helps to keep Sun Wukong in check and in place for his violent and brutal side.
🌔 The second, appearing in Chapter 19 is Zhu Bajie, sometimes translated as Pigsy or just Pig. He was previously Marshal ‘Tīan Péng’, commander of the Heavenly Naval forces, banished to the mortal realm for flirting with the ‘Princess of the Moon Chang’e’. He is characterized by his insatiable appetites for food and sex, and is constantly looking for a way out of his duties, but is always kept in line by Sūn Wùkōng as he is very profound and violent making sure that Zhu Bajje stays in check and performs all his duty well instead of slacking off. This is the best Chinese Novel Behind Dragon Ball: a journey to the west.
🌔 The third, appearing in Chapter 22, is the river-ogre Sha Wujing. He was previously Great General who Folds the Curtain, banished to the mortal realm for dropping a crystal goblet of the ‘Heavenly Queen Mother.’ The Chinese Novel Behind Dragon Ball is very famous among the DBZ fans. He is a quiet but generally dependable character, he in our quest and novel acts as comedic relief as he despite his character and traits is the more admirable of his behavior as he is the kindest of them all.
🌔 The last of the disciples introduced in Chapter 15 is, Yùlóng Sāntàizǐ, third prince of the Dragon-King who was sentenced to death for setting fire to his father’s great pearl. He was saved by Guānyīn from execution to stay and wait for his call of duty, he has almost no speaking role, as throughout most of the story he appears in the transformed shape of a horse that Xuánzàng rides on. This trait and feature of him make him more of a side character but none the less he too is important as it is also him that makes up the major part of the story.
🌔 In the end, we come to our last and the most important character in our story, Xuánzàng. He is a Buddhist monk who sets out in his journey to India to retrieve the Buddhist Scriptures for China from Vulture Peak in India. He becomes the prominent character in the story as the disciples and the other demons appearing in the novel are but just a side character and the story actually revolves around his pilgrimage and his journey to find the scriptures and the Sutras. The vitality of the character creates in-depth conflicts and reason to make the story interesting as he is helpless when it comes to defending himself and must rely on his powerful disciples who always aid and protect him and them in return receive enlightenment and forgiveness for their sins once the journey comes to a halt (to an end.)
One of the more notable and the most interesting factor in this fantastic novel is that a portion of the novel has an entire section dedicated to the story of Xuánzàng. Chapters 8-12, are a portion that entirely covers the story and the historical context of Xuánzàng. Though it is at the very beginning and has the risk of ruining the story further on as all the flashbacks are revealed in parts in the very beginning itself, it actually instead acts as a strong foothold to the introduction that we read. This portion of the novel and the separate story of Xuánzàng makes the foundation of the novel even stronger as the reader now knows of the basic threshold that makes up the whole novel meaning it does not beat around the bush and keeps the story fresh, simple, clean and to the point.
Coming to the background and the setting of the story, the scenery of the masterpiece is laid off along the sparsely populated lands along the Silk Road between China and India, including Xinjiang, Turkestan, and Afghanistan. The setting actually makes the story more fantastic and authentic as once Xuánzàng departs Cháng’ān, the Táng capital, and crosses the frontier he is confronted by many flesh-eating demons in the tall mountains and deep gorges who regard his flesh as a potential and god-like meat (meal) as it was said that eating his flesh would provide them with immortality. This stage of the novel is real formulaic and very cliché as this is a plot that is followed by many novels, animes, and cartoons all around. The simple plot of ‘capture and liberation.’ In the early stage, we see Xuánzàng being captured and his life threatened, while his disciples try to find an ingenious way of liberating him through the clutches of the demons Chinese Novel Behind Dragon Ball.
Throughout the journey, the four brave disciples have to fend off attacks on their master and teacher Xuánzàng from various monsters and calamities. It is strongly suggested that most of these calamities are engineered and controlled by fate and the Buddha himself, as, while the monsters who attack are vast in power and many in number, no real harm ever comes to the four travelers. Some of the monsters turn out to be escaped heavenly animals belonging to ‘Bodhisattvas’ or ‘Taoist Sages’ and ‘Spirits.’ Towards the end of the book, there is a scene where the Buddha literally commands the fulfillment of the last disaster, because Xuánzàng is one short of the ‘Eighty-One Disasters’ he needs to attain Buddhahood. This in turn just tells us of how the events that occurred in throughout the novel is but a test of Xuánzàng from the Buddha himself and the Buddha’s efforts to help Xuánzàng attain Buddhahood, a place of enlightenment and self-peace and reliance.
Coming to the later phase of our story, in Chapters 87-99, we see Xuánzàng finally reach the borderlands of India. The setting here is more exotic and fantasy type based. As Xuánzàng finally completes his pilgrimage of 14 years he and his disciples finally arrive at the half-real and the legendary Vulture Peak. Here there is a mystical scene where Xuánzàng now finally receives the scriptures from the living Buddha. This marks the end of his pilgrimage and journey and finally shows us of the troubles and the problems he faced during his entire adventure from China to India. What about the 100th Chapter? Well, the story in that is as it follows on.
Drumroll please, Chapter 100, the last of all, quickly describes the return journey to the Táng Empire and the aftermath in which each traveler receives a reward in the form of posts in the bureaucracy of the heavens. Sūn Wùkōng and Xuánzàng achieve Buddhahood, Wùjìng becomes the ‘Golden Arhat’, the dragon is made a ‘Naga’, and Bājiè, whose good deeds have always been tempered by his greed, is promoted to an ‘Altar Cleanser.’
Providing little facts and factors of the novel, the novel ‘Journey to the West’ is based on the events of Xuanzang who was a monk at Jingtu Temple in the late-Sui Dynasty and early-Tang Dynasty Chang’an. He was motivated by the poor quality of Chinese translations of Buddhist scripture at the time, and Xuanzang left Chang’an in 629. Helped by sympathetic Buddhists, he traveled via Gansu and Qinghai to Kumul, thence following the Tian Shan mountains to Turfan. He then crossed what are today Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Afghanistan, into Gandhara, reaching India in 630. Xuanzang traveled throughout the Indian subcontinent for the next thirteen years, visiting important Buddhist pilgrimage sites and studying at the ancient university at Nalanda. Xuanzang then left India in 643 and arrived back in Chang’an in 646 to a warm reception by Emperor Taizong of Tang. He joined Da Ci’en Monastery (Monastery of Great Maternal Grace), where he led the building of the Big Wild Goose Pagoda in order to store the scriptures and icons he had brought back from India. He recorded his journey in the book “Journey to the West in the Great Tang Dynasty.” The Chinese Novel Behind Dragon Ball was the best novel in the series of DBZ.
It really is amazing how an adaptation and a simple story of someone’s life story can take such a major turn of events in the anime industry. This again just goes on to show us that the anime industry can again be inspired by anything making the industry one of the most notable when to comes to recreating and adapting to any story be it imaginary or a real-life event. Especially converting an anime as simple and basic as “DRAGON BALL Z” with so few points to even make it possible to make changes in the first place is something that totally tells us of the lengths that the studios can go to have an adaptation possible.
As you may very well see, I have not revealed much of the novel itself in the first place, solely because of the reason that it is now up to you to find out what it is all about from the beginning to the end.