There and Back
The first thing to know about Monkey is that it is a version of a story called Journey to the West. Journey to the West was first published in 1592 with the Chinese title Hsi Yu Ki, (Records of the Western World); this was translated into English as Journey to the West.
We're reading a classic translation of Hsi Yu Ki called Monkey. The English translator, Arthur Waley, chose this title because of the importance of the Stone Monkey King to the chapters he chose to translate (Waley translated only thirty of the original one hundred chapters of Wu's book). When you're looking through this Web site, you'll find both titles used to describe the story (for example, in the works listed on the Connections page). When we discuss the original text, we use Journey to the West; when we discuss the Waley translation, we use Monkey.
The story of the Stone Monkey King who is our hero is very popular in China, and has made its own journey to the West through movies, TV, and books inspired by the story. Western writers from Octavio Paz to Maxine Hong Kingston have written stories that include the Monkey King. And as twenty-first century Western culture continues to embrace supernatural creatures such as vampires, ghosts, and wizards (from Twilight to Harry Potter), the story of Monkey is even more likely to entertain and enthrall American readers, just as it does readers in China.
David Henry Hwang
Playwright and Screenwriter:
"Growing up in the West you have this notion that Chinese culture is all about selflessness and not living in the material world and having respect for your elders and all that kind of thing, and Monkey is the opposite version of that. He's anarchic he's disrespectful he's selfish, and he's a lot of fun."