paper II

paper II - Integration of "The Three Schools" in Yu's...

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Integration of “The Three Schools” in Yu’s Abridged Translation of Journey to the West Tripitaka’s quest to retrieve the Sutra’s of the West and bring the enlightened texts to the people of China forms the foundation for the Ming-era classic, Journey to the West . The monk treks through an often-supernatural world that combines elements from Buddhism as well as Confucian and Taoist traditions. A seemingly Taoist conceptualization of heaven coexists alongside a Buddhist paradise; a Buddha uses a Taoist’s spell to control an unruly monkey; and gods of any tradition indiscriminately interact with one another. Journey picks and chooses from the vast catalogue of folk and religious traditions, creating an eclectic blend of elements from all three major schools. Although religious allusions crowd the pages of the epic Journey to the West , the work’s development of Monkey’s—particularly the character’s spiritual development— illustrates how the greater story uses an integration of traditional Confucian and Taoist beliefs to introduce and promote Buddhist thought. The structure of Journey to the West demonstrates the importance of the Monkey character explicitly, and therefore “the Great Sage” makes an ideal example by which to examine how Journey approaches the question of Buddhism’s relationship with Confucianism and Taoism. Although the primary plot of the novel centers on Tripitaka’s journey westward, neither the monk nor his journey is introduced until the eighth chapter. Instead, Journey presents the reader with a prequel of sorts—a seven-chapter introduction to Old Monkey. The author’s effort to so elaborately develop this character alludes to his importance, and indeed the Monkey encapsulates many of the work’s central themes. Specifically, as Journey chronicles Monkey’s attainment of far-flung powers through the - 1 -
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Way, his subsequent battles with the gods, and his eventual conversion to Buddhism, the author outlines the novel’s approach to the synthesis of these three schools of religious thought. The novel opens with a divinely born, yet untrained, Monkey King seeking immorality. His chosen solution, Taoism’s the Way, builds the foundation for Journey to the West ’s religious themes. Monkey, after being tipped off by a lyrical reference to The Way in a woodcutter’s song, finds an immortal allegedly trained in the Way to teach him, explicitly subscribing to Taoism (13-15). It is during this, his initial introduction to The Way, that the Monkey King is given the “religious name” by which he is referred to throughout the rest of the novel—Sun Wukong (18). The Monkey character, therefore, is quickly and overtly tied to Taoist thought; however, his teacher—the Patriarch—does not limit his lessons to one tradition. Instead, the patriarch explains in his first lecture that he draws from Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism. “For a while he lectured on Dao. . .,” the narrator recants, “. . .for a while he spoke on Chan—/To harmonize the three schools
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This note was uploaded on 05/06/2008 for the course REL 140g taught by Professor Rudisill during the Fall '07 term at USC.

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paper II - Integration of "The Three Schools" in Yu's...

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