East Journeys to West

Part of our new play Journey from the East was inspired by the 423-year-old saga Journey to the West, one of the Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese Literature, and attributed to Wu Cheng’en, a novelist and poet of the Ming Dynasty in the latter half of the 16th century. It tells the story of the pilgrimage made a thousand years before by a real historical person, the Tang dynasty Buddhist monk Xuanzang, who traveled to India in order to bring back sacred writings — called “sutras” in Sanskrit — to the Emperor. Having accomplished his mission, Xuanzang wrote an account of his adventure, Great Tang Records on the Western Regions.

Chinese Pilgrims on the Journey to the West

In the novel, the Tang Monk is joined along the way by a quartet of demi-gods — Sun Wukong (Monkey), Zhu Bajie (Pigsy), Sha Wujing (Sandy), and Yulong (Horsey) — who are supposed to be his protectors as well as his companions, but as often as not get the whole group into trouble. Along the way, the band of pilgrims is attacked by dragons, held up by ghosts, obstructed by a river 300 miles wide, and lured into plots between local rulers and their subjects. However, with the help of Guanyin, the goddess of compassion, their quest eventually succeeds.

But that’s only part of our story: you’ll also see a Wild West mining town fallen on hard times, complete with a reformed gunslinger, an apocalyptic preacher, and the inevitable wise old-timer and the saloon proprietress with a heart of gold — all of them threatened by a sinister Chinese millionaire who wants all their land.

And that’s just before intermission!

Stay tuned for details…


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