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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Reception of "Journey to the West" in early modern Japan Vakhnenko, Yevheniy


As one of the most prominent works of Chinese literature, Xiyouji 西遊記 (literally, The Record of the Westward Journey, or Journey to the West) has received considerable attention in Western scholarship, focusing on issues of its antecedents, textual formation, authorship, character prototypes and religious allegory, which attests to its complexity in terms of the history of its composition and contents. However, not much has been written about the equally remarkable influence that the Journey to the West has had on literary and visual cultures of East Asian countries neighboring China, where it was appropriated, re-created either in full or abridged forms, and re-envisioned over the centuries—an impact greater than that of any other single work of vernacular Chinese literature. This study is devoted to the exploration of the profound and continuous impact that the Journey to the West has had on Japanese culture—the importation of this vernacular Chinese narrative, the history of its translation, and an examination of specific works related to its literary and visual reception. This study will focus on the reception history of Journey to the West in the Japanese context, highlighting the history of its first Japanese translation that extended over a lengthy period of nearly seventy years (1758–1837)—an intermittent “relay” of changing translators—until its complete translation was made available to the widest audience of readers, and one of its adaptations, a gōkan by Tamenaga Shunsui 為永春水 (1790–1844) Fūzoku onna Saiyūki 風俗女西遊記 (Women’s Journey to the West in the Current Style, 1828), in the context of the “writerly” reception of Journey to the West and cross-artistic phenomenon of onna-mono in the Kaseiki years (1804–1830) of the late Tokugawa period.

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