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___ Xuanzang, The Tang Monk

Xuanzang, the Tang Monk (Chinese: 玄奘; pinyin: Xuánzàng) is a central character of the classic Chinese novel ‘Journey to the West’. The Chinese novel was published in the time of the Ming Dynasty in the 16th century. Wu Cheng'en (circa 1500–1582) is considered to be the author of the novel.


In the novel Journey to the West, Xuanzang travels to India to retrieve Buddhist sutras. On his journey he is constantly terrorized by monsters and demons because of a legend that they would obtain immortality by eating the flesh of a holy man.

While he is a pacifist who has no fighting ability of his own, he is flanked by his three powerful disciples - Sun Wukong, Zhu Bajie, and Sha Wujing - themselves "monsters" who have vowed to protect Xuanzang on his journey in order to atone for their sins in Heaven.

While the heavenly origins of Sun Wukong are up for debate, both Zhu Bajie and Sha Wujing (and even the horse on which Xuanzang rides) were once minor deities in Heaven who were cast to Earth for their wrongdoings.

The character of Xuanzang is based on a historical Chinese Buddhist monk of the same name, a scholar, traveller, and translator. Born as Chen Yi (ca. 600? – 664), Xuanzang became famous for his sixteen-year journey to India. He left the Tang capitol Chang'an (today Xi'an) in 629 and returned via the southern route in 645. At the request of the Tang Emperor Taizong (r.626-649) he composed a description of the lands through which he traveled. The book is known today as the "Record of the Western Regions".

An illustration of Xuanzang from the "Journey to the West"

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