Read the Classic Chinese Novel That Inspired “Dragon Ball”
For a lot of kids out there (who are now adults) with little to no knowledge of Japanese animation, the series Dragon Ball was their first experience with the medium (especially in Latin America). The popularity of this particular anime cannot be denied, but its inspiration is never really discussed. An obscure fact among non-die hard Dragon Ball fans is that Journey to the West, an ancient classic of Chinese literature, is the tale that started it all.
Published in the 16th century anonymously, but attributed to Wu Cheng’en, Journey to the West recounts the story of monk Xuanzang and his pilgrimage to India in search of sacred scriptures that will help enlighten the people of China. This task was given to him by none other than Buddha himself. Along the way Xuanzang enlists the help of various animals, namely the Monkey King Sun Wukong, the pig Zhu Bajie, and the sand creature Sha Wujing. Throughout their arduous journey Xuanzang and his entourage encounter many obstacles, but eventually reach their destination, a symbolic moment that represents enlightenment.
If you read Chinese, something you should be very proud of, then you’re probably better off reading the original, but for us English-speakers the translation by Arthur Waley, titled Monkey, is the best choice out there. If you’ve ever wondered about the origins of Goku’s monkey tail or are simply interested in ancient Chinese literature (or both!), then Journey to the West is the book for you.