Dragonball/Z: Journey to the West


Journey to the West | Brief Synopsis

What is Journey to the West?
Xi You Ji also known as Journey to the West, is the story of a monk by the name of Tang Seng. During the seventh century, Tang Seng was sent from China to India by his brother the emperor to get a collection of Buddhist bibles. He faced many dangers along the way but finally reached India, returned and the 'Jing' or Gold (the bibles were priceless) and they currently reside in the giant Pagoda in Central Xi An, which is now open to tourists. Journey to the West isn't the true story but it's based on Tang Seng going from China to India in 629AD to 646AD, adding many mythical areas to the story and it has become one of the most loved stories in Chinese history. The main characters in Journey to the West are Tang Seng; "Sun Wu Kong" or "Wu Kong" for short; "Zhu Ba Jie" (mildly translates into Pig Monk); and "Sha Seng"(Sand Monk).

How does it relate to Dragonball?
This story inspired someone named Akira Toriyama to create the incredible story of Dragonball. In Journey to the West a character known as Monkey is what inspired Akira Toriyama to make Goku. This is why Goku has his tail and is able to transform into a giant monkey. Monkey also had an expanding staff and cloud that flies around. Although Goku receives his staff from his adoptive grandfather Gohan, Monkey received his from a Dragon King. Not only is Monkey's staff made of Iron but it weighs in at 13,500 pounds. There is a cloud in the story which is where Akira got the idea but Monkey spends most of his time Walking unlike Goku.

With respect to personality, they aren't so similar. Goku, a child, is naïve and innocent, good-hearted always wanting to help others. However, Monkey is a different matter. Clever and sly, his greatest shortcoming is his tremendous hubris. With his immense strength, he has no problem rebelling against Heaven and declaring himself, "The Great Sage Equaling Heaven." Incidentally, this action is comparable to Satan's revolt against God in the Bible, though it must be noted that Monkey is not evil, but instead highly arrogant and self-assured. Like most literary characters whose fatal flaw is pride, Monkey is punished for his actions. After spending five hundred years trapped beneath a mountain with nothing to eat or drink, he has a chance to redeem himself by assisting the Buddhist Priest Sanzang on his journey to the west to fetch scriptures from Buddha. In an early brush-in with bandits, Monkey kills all of them without a thought. Over the course of the journey, however, he gradually begins to restrain himself and purges himself of his intial propensity towards evil. Goku too is revealed to have a dual good/evil personality when he transforms into a rampaging, mindless, giant ape by the moon's light. It wouldn't be surprising if Toriyama derived that idea from Journey to the West.

The character Sanzang may seem nothing like Bulma, given that a bitchy girl and a pious monk seem to have just about nothing in common, upon closer examination, the similarities appear. First off, they're usually the only human amongst their non-human followers. Secondly, they set off on their journey alone and recruit these non-human followers along the way. Remember that Bulma meets Goku because he has a Dragon Ball that she wants. Another trait that Bulma and Sanzang share is their helplessness. They depend on Goku and Monkey to save them every time they're in danger. A recurring sight in Journey to the West is Monkey having to rescue a sobbing Sanzang who's been stripped naked and tied by demons who want to gain immortality by eating his flesh. Pilaf, a villain from Dragonball who wants the Dragon Balls to take over the world, is likely to have been based on the numerous power-hungry demons from Journey to the West. Lastly, both Bulma and Sanzang are bossy and not always likable as characters. Bulma is prone to yelling, while Sanzang nags his disciples and exhorts them not to be so bad.

In both stories, a pig serves as a comic foil to the protagonist monkey. Dragonball fans will recognize this to be Oolong. Complaining, cowardly, and lazy, he is modelled closely on Pig from Journey to the West. Both are the butt of jokes, and both get their groups in trouble. To their credit, they do help out, but these occasions are few and far. Usually it's their ability to do transformations that allow them to be of use. Pig is mightier than Oolong. With his nine-pronged rake, he's strong enough to do battle with demons. Additionally, he's an excellent swimmer. When Sanzang and Monkey first encounter him, he's a monster terrorizing villagers. Oolong was doing the same when Bulma and Goku run into him. Cheng'en and Toriyama acknowledge the expression "chauvinist pig" by their portrayal of the lust of both Pig and Oolong. On several occasions, Pig is tempted by pleasures of the flesh, and he always succumbs, though it always turns out to work against him. Oolong too is boorish. Besides being a peeping tom, he has a panty fetish.

There are further examples of Journey to the West influencing Dragonball. One case for instance, is when the path to a Dragon Ball is blocked by a blazing fire. Ox King is introduced at this point. The fire and Ox King are lifted straight out of Journey to the West, except that the original character is called "Hermit Ox" who likewise has a horned helmet. To look at another example, take the Dragonball character Puar, who like Oolong, is capable of transformations. In Journey to the West, Monkey and Pig are both able to shape shift. Then there's King Yemma. In Journey to the West and Chinese mythology, he's one of the ten kings of hell who judge the deceased. In Dragonball, he's the sole judge of the afterlife. It is important to realize that Toriyama did not copy Journey to the West. He was, however, noticeably influenced by it, and this influence is reflected in the characters and settings of Dragonball.

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