TJ Hinrichs, Cornell University
Offered at Southern Connecticut State University in Spring 2006
MW 2:00-3:45

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Exploration of the popular culture, society, and religion of Late Imperial China through reading of The Journey to the West (also known as Hsi you chi, Xiyouji, or Monkey) in translation and of scholarly works. Study of historical contexts in which this work was produced, performed, and read, and its impact on popular culture.

Required Books (available for purchase at the Bookstore and on Reserve at Buley:

    • Rampolla, Mary Lynn. A Pocket Guide to Writing in History, Fourth Edition. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s Press, 2004.
    • Wu Ch’eng-en. Monkey. Trans. Arthur Waley. New York: Grove Press, 1980.

Other readings, assignments, resources, and PowerPoint presentations will be available on WebCT or are accessible online through the Buley online catalog. You should be able to access WebCT from your MySCSU page. If you have trouble with this, contact the Help Desk or a Computer Lab assistant.


Class Participation: 15%

Includes contributions to general class discussion and group work. In order to participate effectively and receive a good grade, students must do all of the week’s readings before the first class of the week.

Presentations 15%
4 or more; in any given week to be performed by people not writing response essays

Response Essays * (1-2 pages) 25%
5, choice of 1A or 1B, 2A or 2B, 3A or 3B, 4A or 4B, 5A or 5B (See below.)

Response essays are always due at the first class meeting of the week, to be exchanged for classmate feedback. I encourage you to rewrite your essays based on that feedback. You must turn in both draft and revised version at the following class meeting (usually on Wednesday).

Response Essay Feedback 5%

Short Essay * (5-7 pages) 15%

Draft due March 6; rewrite due March 8. †

Final Essay * (12-15 pages) 25%

Preliminary efforts, including essay thesis, bibliography, and outline will be due in class over the previous month.

Draft due May 8; rewrite due May 10. †

* Typed in 12 point type, double spaced, one-inch margins, footnotes with proper citation formats.
† Limited extensions will be granted if requested in advance. Late papers will be docked 1/3 grade/day.

Priorities: This is your course. You decide what you want to get out of it, how it ranks among your priorities this semester, and how much time and energy you can afford to put into it. If you are having trouble with some part of the course, email me or come see me. (Please use telephone communication as a last resort.) I can often help or direct you to someone who can.

Civility, Respect, and Learning: All classroom behavior should be characterized by civility, attentiveness, and respect. All coursework should be performed with integrity. Essay assignments should structure your development of your own ideas and writing skills. When you refer to or quote others’ ideas, even if you arrived at similar ideas on your own, you must cite your sources. If you have questions about this, see “Plagiarism: What It Is and How to Avoid It,” in our course book A Pocket Guide to Writing in History, 70-76; see <http://library.southernct.edu/plagresforstu.htm>; or see me. Besides undermining your learning process, plagiarism or cheating will result in an F and will be reported to the dean, possibly resulting in further penalties.

Attendance, Participation, Group Work, and Presentations : A type of learning and creativity emerges in group discussion that you do not get in independent work. In addition, expressing yourself clearly and contributing intelligently to group discussions are highly prized skills in this culture and in most work places. Some people find it difficult to think or express themselves in groups or in front of groups. Some people become so excited about their own ideas that they forget to really listen to and think about what other people are saying. Class time is an opportunity to work on issues such as these.

Weekly Preparation: Read all of the following week’s readings before class on Monday. (Obvious exception: Read the first week’s readings during that week and weekend.) It is helpful to estimate in advance the number of pages assigned, calculate how long it will take you to read and take notes on them, how long it will take you to prepare for any written assignments, and make sure you set aside time to do all of this.

Email: I will be sending out essential information via email. Check your SCSU email account regularly. If you have trouble doing this from home, do it from a computer at school. If you normally use another email account, consider setting your southernct.edu account to automatically forward to the other one.

Developing Cultural Literacy: As you read, you may come across words or ideas that you do not understand. For English-language words, make it a habit to look them up in a dictionary such as <http://www.m-w.com/home.htm> and expand your vocabulary. For concepts from East Asian cultures that we are studying for the course, if the explanations in the readings are not clear, ask in class. If you are curious and diligent, look up encyclopedia articles on these and on events and people, for example in <http://www.britannica.com/> (look up through Buley online catalog for full text). Be careful with Wikipedia and popular or commercial web sites; they can be unreliable.

Note Taking: The act of writing things down will not only give you something to review later, the act itself will reinforce memory. This works better if you put things in your own words rather than copying passages verbatim. In class, take notes not only on facts and on assignments, but on ideas that sound interesting or important. Remembering and thinking about these ideas will help you with your essays.
















Scale (%)














Week I. Orientations

This week we will get started with general background on China, and on our main text, Journey to the West (Monkey). Familiarize yourself with the following:


  • Patricia Buckley Ebrey, A Visual Sourcebook of Chinese Civilization, http://depts.washington.edu/chinaciv/index.htm.
    Explore links: 1) Timeline [note especially the Tang and Ming Dynasties], and 2) from Contents Þ Geography Þ Land and Þ People.
  • Uli Theobald, Chinaknowledge: A Universal Guide for China Studies, <http://www.chinaknowledge.de>. Explore: 1) Basics Þ Language.
  • Simon Ager, “Chinese Script and Language,” Omniglot: A Guide to Written Language, http://www.omniglot.com/writing/chinese.htm.


1. Course Overview January 23
Journey to the West in popular culture today

2. Chinese Language, History, Culture, and Society January 25
Preview: Chinese Cosmology

Week II. Monkey Emerges: Chinese Cosmology and the Supernatural

Study Questions: What do we learn from the first chapter of Monkey about how the cosmos operates? What forms of impersonal power (such as forces that generated life (Monkey) from stone and personal power (such as gods) do we find here?

NOTE: January 29 is the beginning of the Chinese Lunar New Year. Happy Year of the Dog!!


  • Monkey, Chapter I (Emergence of Monkey).
  • Stephen F. Teiser, “Introduction: The Spirits of Chinese Religion,” Religions of China in Practice, ed., Donald S. Lopez, Jr., (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996), pp. 3-37.
    • OPTIONAL: Arthur Wolf, “Gods, Ghosts, and Ancestors,” in Studies in Chinese Society, Arthur Wolf, ed., (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1978), pp. 131-182


3. The Landscape and Population of the Supernatural World January 30

4. Preview: Pursuit of Enlightenment, “Transcendents,” and “Immortals” February 1
Writing: Primary Sources and Avoiding Plagiarism

Week III. Monkey seeks Enlightenment

Study Questions & Response Essay 1A: Compare Monkey’s relationship with his teacher, or his cultivation methods and means to enlightenment with an account or accounts from religious materials in selections from “Record of Occultists,” “The Platform Sutra,” “Physical Practices,” or “Supernatural Retribution and Human Destiny.”

Develop your own ideas and write about Monkey; do not summarize the secondary material. Use quotes sparingly, only when necessary to illustrate a point you want to make. Be sure to cite your sources using footnotes, following guidelines in Rampolla, Writing in History, 77-102.

  • “Working With Sources,” “Plagiarism: What It Is and How to Avoid It,” Writing in History, 5-21, 70-76.
  • Monkey, Chapter II.
  • Alan J. Berkowitz, “Record of Occultists,” in Donald S. Lopez, Jr., ed., Religions of China in Practice, (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996), pp. 446-470.
  • “The Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch,” Sources of Chinese Tradition , Vol. 1: From Earliest Times to 1600, eds. William Theodore de Bary and Irene Bloom, (New York: Columbia University Press, 2000), 494-504.
  • Livia Kohn, Chapter 5, “Physical Practices,” The Taoist Experience: An Anthology, (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1993), 133-159.
  • Cynthia Brokaw, “Supernatural Retribution and Human Destiny,” in Religions of China in Practice, 423-436. Error in text: Note that Shao Yong, referred to on page 425, is a figure in the Confucian, not the Daoist tradition.


5. Essay Feedback; Groups February 6

6. Presentations February 8
Preview: Subversion & Order

IV. Monkey Makes Trouble

Study Questions & Response Essay 1B: Compare and contrast the relevant characters in Monkey with those from other historical sources (as described in the other readings): 1) Nezha, 2) Laozi, or 3) Queen Mother of the West. Do all of the readings, but choose one of these to focus on for your response essay and group work.

Develop your own ideas and write about Monkey; do not summarize the secondary material. Use quotes sparingly, only when necessary to illustrate a point you want to make. Be sure to cite your sources using footnotes, following guidelines in Rampolla, Writing in History, 77-102.

  • Monkey, Chapters III-VII.
  • Livia Kohn, “Laozi: Ancient Philosopher, Master of Immortality, and God,” in Religions of China in Practice, pp. 52-63.
  • Natha (=Nezha): “from The Romance of the Gods (Feng-shen yan-yi): Ne-zha and His Father,” in Stephen Owen,. ed., trans., An Anthology of Chinese Literature: Beginnings to 1911 (New York: Norton, 1996), 771-806.
  • Suzanne Cahill, “Performers and Female Taoist Adepts: Hsi Wang Mu as the Patron Deity of Women in Medieval China,” Journal of the American Oriental Society 106, No. 1, Sinological Studies Dedicated to Edward H. Schafer (January 1986), 155-168.


7. Essay Feedback, Groups February 13

8. Presentations February 15
Preview: Comparative Literature and Culture


V. Monkey in Comparative Perspective: Tricksters

Study Questions & Response Essay 2A: In this week’s readings, Hynes gives us a framework for thinking about trickster characters and for comparing them across different cultures. In your writing assignment, 1) summarize Hynes’s main points in one paragraph of five to seven sentences at most, and 2) discuss ways in which the character of Sun Wukong (Monkey) conforms to or departs from Hynes’s model.

  • “Approaching Typical Writing Assignments in History,” “Following Conventions of Writing in History,” Writing in History, 22-34, 53-69.
  • William J. Hynes, “Mapping the Characteristics of Mythic Tricksters: A Heuristic Guide,” “Inconclusive Conclusions: Tricksters — Metaplayers and Revealers,” in William J. Hynes and William G. Doty, eds., Mythical Trickster Figures: Contours, Contexts, and Criticisms, (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1993), pp. 33-45, 202-217.


9. Essay Feedback Wed., February 22
Class Discussion: Monkey as Trickster?
Preview: The Afterlife

VI. Emperor Goes to Hell

Study Questions & Response Essay 2B: In this week’s readings, Teiser describes the emergence of a particular view of purgatory (or hell) in China, centuries before Monkey was written. In your writing assignment, 1) summarize Teiser’s main points in one paragraph of five to seven sentences at most, and 2) discuss ways in which the depiction of the operation of hell in Monkey conforms to or departs from Teiser’s account.

  • Monkey, Chapters X-XII.
  • Stephen F. Teiser, “The Growth of Purgatory,” in Religion and Society inT’ang and Sung China , eds., Patricia Buckley Ebrey and Peter N. Gregory, (Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 1993), pp. 115-145.


10. Essay Feedback, Groups February 27

11. Presentations March 1
Preview: Kuan-yin: Goddess or Boddhisattva?

VII. Kuan-yin and Hsüan-tsang (Tripitaka)

Kuan-yin, a.k.a. Guanyin or Guanshiyin, is in one sense a Boddhisattva, not a deity at all. She (originally he) is, however, treated as a deity in Chinese popular practice, and is one of the most popular “gods” in East Asia. How is she depicted in Journey to the West, and how does she compare to other gods and Buddhist figures?

  • Monkey, Chapters VIII-IX.
  • Optional: “The Earliest Tales of the Bodhisattva Guanshiyin,” “A Sutra Promoting the White-robed Guanyin,” in Religions of China in Practice , pp. 82-1


12. Short Essay Drafts due March 6
Short Essay Feedback

13. Kuan-yin March 8
Short Essays due (turn in both draft and final revised version)
Preview: The Journey

VIII. The Fellowship of the Scriptures

This week we finally begin the Journey to the West. Tripitaka and Monkey, characters developed in earlier chapters, finally meet, and the text introduces us to the rest of the motley crew, the dragon/horse, Pigsy, and Sandy. Tripitaka is our only pure and good character, but how effective is he? What does each character bring to the group? In what ways do they play off against each other, or do their interactions contribute the story?

In the back stories for each of these characters, how are sin, karma, retribution, and redemption working?

  • Monkey, Chapters XIII-XVIII.


14. Discussion: Characters in Conflict March 13

15. Discussion: Sin, Karma, Retribution, and Redemption March 15
Preview: Gods, Ghosts, and Demons


IX. Conquering Demons

Study Questions & Response Essay 3A. In this week’s readings, Campany examines the nature of demons in Journey to the West. For your response essay, pick one demon, preferably one not discussed by Campany, and discuss the ways in which it fits into Campany’s model. Do the other readings of the course help us to understand this demonic character and the pilgrims’ interactions with it?

  • Monkey, Chapters XIX-XXVII.
  • Robert Campany, “Demons, Gods and Pilgrims: The Demonology of the Hsi-yu Chi,” Chinese Literature: Essays, Articles, and Reviews 7 (1985):95-115. [electronic journal — access through Buley online catalog]


16. Essay Feedback, Groups March 27

17. Presentations March 29
Preview: Buddhist and non-Buddhist visions in Chinese fiction

X. Completing the Mission

Study Questions & Response Essay 3B: Do you agree with Bantly that Journey to the West is a Buddhist allegory? Can you develop an argument that it is not a Buddhist allegory, or that there is material in the book that contradicts this view of it? In your essay, summarize Bantly’s argument in one paragraph.

  • Monkey, Chapters XXVIII-XXX.
  • Francisca Cho Bantly, “Buddhist Allegory in the Journey to the West,” the Journal of Asian Studies 48, no. 3 (August 1989):512-24. [electronic journal — access through Buley online catalog]


18. Essay Feedback, Groups April 3

19. Presentations April 5

Preview: Historical Journeys to the West

Final Essay: Topic vs. Thesis

XI. From History to Legend

Study Questions & Response Essay 4A: What was so compelling about Xuanzang’s (also known as Hsüan-tsang or Tripitaka) adventures that they grew into legend? What if any elements of the historical Xuanzang’s life made it into Journey to the West?

Final Essay Assignment 1A (one paragraph, for those not writing response essays): Discuss a possible Final Essay thesis, and give a bibliography including chapters of Monkey you might focus on, and other readings that might be relevant. I do not recommend using readings from outside the course.

  • Sally Hovey Wriggins, “The Pilgrim and the Emperor,” “Back in China,” “The Legacy of Xuanzang,” The Silk Road Journey with Xuanzang Rev., (Boulder, Westview Press, 2004), pp. 1-18, 181-193, 211-227.
  • Optional: “Writing a Research Paper,” Writing in History, 39-52. I do not expect you to do outside research for your final paper. Some topics, however, might benefit from a little outside research or reading. If you would like to do this, please discuss it with me.


20. Essay Feedback, Groups April 10

21. Presentations April 12

Preview: Monkeys and Chinese Religion

XII. Sun Wukong: Origins and Legacy

Study Questions & Response Essay 4B: Summarize these two articles in one paragraph each. In the second article, Shahar discusses a number of fictional characters; concentrate in your summary on what he says about Su Wukong. For you introduction and conclusion paragraphs, consider the ways in which Shahar’s historical accounts changed your previous understandings of Sun Wukong and Journey to the West, or of larger issues such as the nature of religion or literature.

Final Essay Assignment 1B (one paragraph, for those not writing response essays): See assignment 1A from last week.

  • Meir Shahar, “The Lingyin si Monkey Disciples and The Origins of Sun Wukong,” Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies 52.1 (June 1992):193-224. [electronic journal; access through Buley online catalog]
  • Meir Shahar, “Vernacular Fiction and the Transmission of Gods’ Cults in Late Imperial China,” in Unruly Gods: Divinity and Society in China eds., Meir Shahar and Robert P. Weller, (Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 1996), pp. 184-211.


22. Essay Feedback, Groups April 17

23. Presentations April 19

Preview: Literary Genres and the Novel in Comparative Literature

Final Essay: Argument, Outline, and Revision

XIII. Journey to the West and the Emergence of the Novel in China

Final Essay Assignment 2A (one paragraph, for those not writing response essays): Revise your existing Final Essay thesis and bibliography, and add an essay outline.


24. Essay Feedback, Groups April 24

25. Presentations April 26

XIV. Journey to the West and Chinese Religion

Study Questions & Response Essay 5B: Hymes and Sangren discuss modifications or exceptions to previously standard stereotypes about the way Chinese religion and the afterlife work. Do you see evidence of their theses in Journey to the West? Discuss.

Final Essay Assignment 2B (one paragraph, for those not writing response essays): See assignment 2A from last week.

  • Robert Hymes, “Personal Relations and Bureaucratic Hierarchy in Chinese Religion: Evidence from the Song Dynasty,” in Unruly Gods, pp. 37-69.
  • P. Steven Sangren, “Myths, Gods, and Family Relations,” in Unruly Gods, pp.150-183.


26. Essay Feedback, Groups May 1

27. Presentations May 3

Final Essay: Dialectical Writing
* From the Inside Out
* Moving Between Outline and Text
* Leaving Introduction and Conclusion for Last

XV. Final Essays


28. Drafts Exchange May 8

29. Wrap-up May 10
Final Essays DUE