The Marriage of Heaven and Hell: A New Reading of Journey to the West
Since the appearance in the sixteenth century of Journey to the West (Xiyou ji), one of the most popular novels in China, critics have long held it as a sacred text, a work of spiritual cultivation with a crowning denouement culminating in the ultimate enlightenment or salvation of the self. With the demise of the monarchy and the founding of a republic in China emerged a new approach to the novel. Freed of the tyranny of a sovereign and fresh in the spirit of a republic, the Chinese began to probe into the satirical nature of this fiction, treating it as an indictment against the corrupt regimes of the past. Deadlocked in their debate on the meaning of the novel, critics of both camps have failed to note the prevalence of eroticism in this novel. This study will thus demonstrate how the author blends into his narrative both seriousness and light-heartedness, sacredness and blasphemy — the marriage of heaven and hell — and how eroticism may help define the nature of the novel.
Keywords: Sacred, Religion, Eroticism, Sociopolitical
Dr Michael Vincent Yang
Associate Professor of Chinese, Modern Foreign Languages Department, Baylor University