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The Story of Monkey

Journey to the West (or The Tale of Monkey) is perhaps the most widely-read, known and dramatized story in China, and the Monkey King, the story’s main character, is immensely popular with children. In the story, the Monkey King and his three companions accompany the Buddhist monk Xuanzang on his travels to India and back. The real Xuanzang (ca. 602-664) traveled west from China (hence the title of the story), in order to reach India, where he found Buddhist sutras to bring back to China, where Buddhism was expanding in popularity at the time as a relatively new, foreign religion.

Teaching UnitMagical Pilgrims on the Silk Roads: The Adventure in the “Cart-Slow Kingdom” from Journey to the West [PDF] [China Institute]
Unit R from the curriculum guide From Silk to Oil: Cross-cultural Connections along the Silk Roads, which provides a comprehensive view of the Silk Roads from the second century BCE to the contemporary period. Unit R begins on page 278 and provides the text of an episode from The Tale of Monkey. Students could enact this and other episodes with costumes and masks (see the Drama & Music section).

Journey to the West, Part 1: The Adventures of Monkey [Asia Society]
An illlustrated synopsis of the story of Monkey

Journey to the West, Part 2: Preparing for the Great Journey [Asia Society]
An illlustrated synopsis of the story of Monkey.


Teacher’s GuideUsing Chinese Folktales in the Classroom [PDF] [Education About Asia]

Tang Poetry

Video UnitTang Poetry [Asia for Educators]
Introduction to the poetry of the Tang dynasty (618-907), with links to poems by noted Tang poets Wang Wei (699-761), Li Bo (701-762), and Du Fu (721-770).

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