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The significance of a dog's tail: comments on the 'Xu Xiyou ji.'

THE XU XIYOU JI IS ONE OF FOUR traditional Chinese vernacular novels associated with the legendary journey to India by Xuanzang and his disciples in the seventh century.(1) The four novels are: the Xiyou ji (Record of the Westward Journey), commonly attributed to Wu Cheng'en of the 16th century; the Xiyou bu (Supplement to the Westward Journey), by Dong Yue, written in the early seventeenth century; the Hou Xiyou ji (Later Record of the Westward Journey), by an anonymous author, probably of the late seventeenth century; and the Xu Xiyou ji (Sequel to the Westward Journey).

The least well known of the four is the Xu Xiyou ji. This work is mentioned in most of the standard histories of Chinese fiction or Chinese literature, but it has rarely been seen in modern times. For example, Lu Xun referred to it in his Zhongguo xiaoshuo shilue, but adds that he had not seen the work.(2) Liu Dajie writes in his Zhongguo wenxue fazhan shi that in addition to the Xiyou ji there was already in the Ming dynasty a sequel named Xu Xiyou ji. He then also adds that he has not seen the work.(3) According to two mainland scholars, the Xu Xiyou ji is seldom found in libraries in either China or the West.(4) Some scholars interested in traditional Chinese fiction have spent years trying to find this novel. In 1928 Zheng Zhenduo found a copy of it in Suzhou and then in 1933 he saw it again in Beijing. In an article written in the latter year he said:

The Xu Xiyou is a book very rarely seen. I looked for it for many years but could not find it. Five years ago in a certain bookstore in Suzhou I got a copy from a pile of miscellaneous books. It was a pocket edition published during the Jiaqing-Daoguang period (1796-1850). I then went through a time of great turmoil and this book was lost. After I arrived in Beiping I again looked all over for it in bookstores but was unable to find it. Finally I got a copy in the Song Yun Ge. The edition was the same as the one I had found in Suzhou.(5) This is believed to be the first account by a scholar who actually saw the work in the twentieth century.

Very little attention has been paid to the Xu Xiyou ji, and when scholars have made reference to it, their comments have usually been negative. I cite two examples. In 1715 Liu Tingji commented on this work in his Zaiyuan zazhi. After discussing the practice of writing sequels to well-known novels, Liu evaluates several. He writes:

As for the Xiyou ji it has its Hou Xiyou ji and its Xu Xiyou ji. Although the Hou Xiyou ji cannot match in beauty what went before it, nevertheless its playful laughter and angry shouting make it delightful reading. As for the Xu Xiyou ji, this indeed is truly a dog's tail.(6)

Liu Tingji was not alone in holding such a low opinion of the Xu Xiyou ji. The writer of the "Xu Xiyou bu zaji", which is appended to an early Qing-dynasty Shuoku edition of the Xiyou bu, makes a similar comment:

The Xu Xiyou ji is written in conscious imitation |of the Xiyou ji~ and comes close to truth, but the writer lacks restraint, and particularly by adding |the two guardians~ Biqiu and Lingxu he has merely put feet on a snake.(7)

Here I wish to suggest that this novel, though disparagingly compared to a dog's tail or a snake with feet on it, is actually quite significant in two ways. First, it raises interesting questions regarding the history of the Xiyou tradition and, of course, its own place within this tradition. Second, its content is unique, as may be shown by the way it treats the character of Monkey. There are now two modern typeset editions of the novel available. These are a 1986 Chunfeng wenyi chubanshe edition from Shenyang in Liaoning and a 1986 Jiangsu wenyi chubanshe edition from Huaiyin of Jiangsu. The supplementary material provided by the collators of these editions may help us to understand the historical significance of this work. Aside from questions of its literary merit, its very existence raises important questions concerning the whole Xiyou tradition.

The Shenyang edition was collated by Zhang Ying and Chen Su who tell us in a long article appended to their reprint that for many years they searched everywhere for the novel.(8) Then in 1980 they found a copy in a collection of rare books in a private home in Shanghai. In 1983 they found another copy in the Tianjin Library. According to their information, the copy that Zheng Zhenduo found in 1933 is now in the Beijing Library,(9) and there is also a fragmentary edition now in the Shoudu (Capital) Library. This makes three and a half editions seen by Zhang Ying and Chen Su. Zhang and Chen believe that all of these editions were published by the same printing establishment, the Yugu Shanfang, and that all date from the Tongzhi period. One edition can be dated to 1868 and another to 1871. It is clear that Zhang and Chen have tried to reproduce the original 1868 edition as faithfully as possible.(10)

The Huaiyin typeset edition was collated by Lu Gong and Tian Mu. In a preface, Lu Gong tells us that the earliest edition he has seen dates from 1805 and that his reprint is based on this blockprint text. Unfortunately for us, however, this reprint is a severely abridged version of the original. Lu Gong tells us that he and Tian Mu have tried to make their edition more "readable" by excising much of the overtly Buddhist material, which they believe is "hard to understand." Lu also makes it very clear that he and Tian consider the novel's effort to promote Buddhism its greatest fault.(11) Without access to any of the four and a half extant Qing texts, I use the Shenyang reprint as the base text. Although the earliest extant editions were all printed in the nineteenth century, it is clear that this novel, or at least a work by the same name, existed much earlier. Yuan Wendian, in his Ming Diannan shilue, makes reference to the Xu Xiyou ji.(12) Since Yuan Wendian's work was written in 1799, the novel must have been in circulation at that time. An even earlier reference is found in the quotation from Liu Tingji given above. Liu Tingji was born in 1653 and wrote his Zaiyuan zazhi in 1715. From his comment we can be certain that the novel was in circulation during the early eighteenth century. Three suggestions have been made by Zhang Ying and Chen Su regarding the authorship of the Xu Xiyou ji. The first is that the novel may have been written by Ji Gui sometime between 1642 and 1716. Ji Gui was a friend of Mao Qiling (1623-1716). In his "Ji Gui xiaopin zhiwen yin", Mao praises Ji Gui and makes special reference to Ji Gui's Xiyou xu ji. Zhang Ying and Chen Su cite this reference and then raise the question: is this Xiyou xu ji the same work as our Xu Xiyou ji?(13) If so, then the novel dates back at least to the late Ming or early Qing period.

I have already pointed out that Yuan Wendian refers to the Xu Xiyou ji. In the source mentioned he identifies Lan Mao as the author of this novel.(14) Lan Mao's dates are 1397-1476. If Yuan's information is reliable, then the Xu Xiyou ji must have been written in the early Ming dynasty.

A third suggestion is that the Xu Xiyou ji was written by the same person who wrote the Xiyou ji. The Xu Xiyou ji contains a preface by a certain Layman Zhenfu (Zhenfu Jushi). Here, among other things, Zhenfu praises the author of the parent novel for his skill in depicting the absurdities of this world. Zhenfu then adds the sentence.(15) Since Zhang Ying and Chen Su take this as possible evidence that the author of the Xu Xiyou ji and the author of the Xiyou ji were the same, they seem to interpret this sentence to mean, "He then continued to write this book, so that with one return |to Buddhism~ all could be dispelled."(16) The trouble here is that in Chinese the subject of the verb ('to write') is ambiguous and the sentence could just as easily read, "Someone else then continued by writing this book, so that with one return all could be dispelled."

After a close reading of the Xu Xiyou ji it seems to me highly unlikely that its author was the same person who wrote the popular Wu version. The narrative style of these two works is simply too different to consider this a serious possibility. Furthermore, as Zhang Ying and Chen Su point out, there are numerous discrepancies in content between the two works. The most serious problem, however, is one I shall point out below: the author of the sequel takes a stand directly opposed to much that is found in the parent novel.

Even if the same person wrote both the parent novel and the supplement, an important question still remains: which work served as the parent novel? The textual history of the Xiyou ji is very complicated. There were at least three versions of it circulating at the end of the sixteenth century: the one attributed to Wu Cheng'en, and two shorter versions by Zhu Dingchen and Yang Zhihe.

The possibility of an early Ming dating of the novel leads to an intriguing question: could it be that the Xu Xiyou ji was a supplement to an earlier work in the Xiyou tradition not extant today? Zhang Ying and Chen Su suggest that perhaps it supplemented the hypothetical and oft-discussed guben (early version) of the novel, remnants of which, scholars believe, are found in the fifteenth-century Yongle dadian and in a fifteenth-century Korean reader.(17) If the Xu Xiyou ji is an early Ming work, its very existence raises important questions for the early history of the Xiyou tradition.

We turn now to the content of the Xu Xiyou ji. It is a long novel in 100 chapters, which tells of the return journey of Xuanzang and his disciples from the Western Paradise back to China. Readers familiar with the standard Wu text will recall that the pilgrims there have an easy time getting back to Chang'an, since they fly back the whole way. The entire return trip is covered in chapter 99 and the only difficulty encountered is the dunking by the White Turtle in the Tongtian He (River that Leads to Heaven). This dunking serves as the final calamity necessary to complete the predetermined number of eighty-one trials. In the Xu Xiyou ji, however, there are repeated references to eighty-one trials already encountered on the westward journey.(18) Furthermore, although the crossing of the Tongtian He is mentioned, there is no reference in the sequel to any dunking by a White Turtle.(19) The sequel begins in Buddha's Western Paradise where Xuanzang and his disciples are about to arrive after their long and arduous journey. Buddha, the "Thus-come One," believes that the pilgrims will need special assistance as they travel back to China with the precious scriptures. So a layman named Lingxuzi and a monk named Daobi, who usually is simply called Biqiu (monk), are chosen to act as protectors, aides, and guardians.

Between chapters 3 and 99 the novel moves through thirty-three episodes in which the eastward journey back to Chang'an is described. Repeatedly the pilgrims return to places visited on their westward journey, and often they meet people or monsters previously encountered. An episodic pattern similar to that of the parent novel is followed, the difference being that the scriptures now occupy a central place in the narrative. Instead of trying to eat or seduce Tripitaka, monsters now try to obtain the scriptures for themselves. The role of the disciples thus shifts from one of protecting Xuanzang to one of protecting the scriptures. In chapter 100 the pilgrims successfully complete their journey, present the scriptures to Emperor Taizong, and then, following the story in the familiar version of the parent novel, are taken back to Mount Ling, where they are rewarded and promoted.

Let us now focus on the way Monkey is treated in this work. As soon as the pilgrims meet the Buddha, a major theme of the novel is introduced. Tripitaka and his disciples are questioned individually to see if they are fit to be entrusted with the precious scriptures. Of the four pilgrims only Monkey fails to pass Buddha's test. Tripitaka shows himself to be holy, sincere, and of pure mind. Pigsy and Sha Monk also answer to the satisfaction of the Buddha. However, to the Buddha's question, "Why are you asking for scriptures? What is your basic intention?" Monkey responds:

I, your disciple, remember how I was born on the Mountain of Flowers and Fruit from a piece of rock that had been nourished by the truth and beauty of heaven and earth and the essence and influence of the sun and moon. Today I wish to procure scriptures to requite the goodness that has been bestowed on me. If you ask about my basic intention, I, your disciple, have all along followed my Master. The subjugation of innumerable demons and the extermination of a great many monsters are all owing to the cleverness and tricks of my mind. I have come for the scriptures just because of this clever, tricky mind.(20)

The Buddha is appalled at what he hears. The wish to repay goodness bestowed is acceptable; but Monkey's words about his clever and tricky mind are dangerous, for they involve deception. Monkey is therefore judged deficient for the task of escorting scriptures.

Thus from the very beginning of the novel Monkey is seen as being in need of enlightenment. The whole novel may even be read as an account of how Monkey gradually changes to fit the author's view of what a good Buddhist should be. As a first step toward the reformation of Monkey, the three disciples are all required to turn in their weapons and exchange them for simple carrying poles. Henceforth Monkey, Pigsy, and Sha Monk must deal with the various monsters they meet without the benefit of their famous weapons which have been deemed incompatible with the pure, holy, and miraculously endowed scriptures.

The novel is highly critical of Monkey and indeed he often becomes an object of satire. Monkey is ridiculed for his failure to understand and follow the basics of correct Buddhist doctrine. This is significant, for here we have--for the first time in the entire Xiyou tradition--sustained satire directed against Monkey. Although in the other three Xiyou novels the Monkey figure is seen as in need of enlightenment, he is never satirized. In our novel, however, he is consistently and severely satirized. Of course, what is satirized is the Monkey figure who is the very ideal of the parent novel. He is powerful, wise, and discerning as well as ambitious. It is precisely this heroic image that the author of the sequel attacks. Monkey is criticized for his failure to rely totally on the efficacy of the scriptures and for his penchant for violent and destructive behavior.

The satire against Monkey sets the sequel off from the other three westward-journey novels. Although all four novels are projected against a view of reality characterized by Buddhist idealism, it is only the Xu Xiyou ji that finds all forms of violence objectionable.(21) Here Monkey is extremely frustrated without his famous weapon, the magic cudgel. Three times he returns to Mount Ling and tries to reacquire it.(22) Each time he fails in his attempt. The first time, a divine king prevents him from obtaining it; the second time, the cudgel won't respond to his commands; and the third time, he is told that it has been returned to its original form and is no longer useful. Repeatedly Monkey is exhorted by Tripitaka, Lingxuzi, Daobi, and various deities to rely solely on the scriptures: the scriptures are meant to save people, whereas the cudgel kills.

The Xu Xiyou ji thus promotes a kind of radical passivism, and in this it is unique in the tradition. In the other Xiyou novels the idealist presupposition leads to an acceptance, if not outright affirmation, of violence. If demons and monsters are all illusory, then why not kill them? But in the sequel all violence and killing is abhorred. The passivist stance is frequently coupled with the idea that monsters should not be harmed but rather led to convert to Buddhism through repentance. To promote this goal, monsters should be forgiven their misdeeds.(23) Such an emphasis on forgiveness is rare in Chinese literature. The normal emphasis is, instead, on the dominant Chinese cultural value of reciprocity. And the negative aspect of reciprocity is, of course, revenge, the antithesis to forgiveness.(24)

The satire directed toward Monkey is closely related to the process of his enlightenment. At the beginning of the novel Monkey's limitations of understanding and his failures are repeatedly ridiculed. In nearly every chapter of the first half of the novel there is some reference to Monkey's need for "right thoughts," rather than his need for a weapon, or to the problems caused by Monkey's tricks, or to the activation of demons by Monkey's clever and scheming mind. Gradually, however, Monkey changes and there is a simultaneous shift in attitude toward him. In chapter 84 he makes fake axes and exchanges them for real ones, only to have Tripitaka insist that he bury the weapons. Tripitaka's words are significant: "These weapons cannot be allowed to travel with my scriptures. . . . Wukong, haven't you heard it said, 'I myself have the sword of wisdom for exterminating those demons'?"(25) This event seems to mark a turning point for Monkey; he now gives up the idea of using weapons. By chapter 92 he clearly has become even more enlightened, as he decides to abandon deceptive schemes and tricks as well. In chapter 99 Lingxuzi describes this transformation when he states that formerly, without his cudgel, Monkey relied on tricks but now "he'll soon not be using tricks anymore either."(26) In the last chapter Monkey's enlightenment is complete, for he finally vanquishes monsters by reciting Sanskrit scriptures rather than using force or trickery. It is important to note that what is advocated in this novel is not the Chan Buddhism we find in the other three Xiyou novels. Chan stresses sudden enlightenment and sees little value in the scriptural tradition. The enlightenment experiences in the three other Xiyou novels are sudden, with little or no reference to or reliance on scriptural truth. Here in the sequel, by contrast, Monkey's enlightenment comes gradually and the scriptures are central to the whole process.

Thus we find in the Xu Xiyou ji an author who takes a clear stand against the earlier tradition. Despite the constraints of the sequel format, he is able to create a remarkable and original work, one that affirms a strong, non-violent, passivist Buddhist point of view, a view sharply contrasting with the imperative of reciprocity dominant in traditional Chinese thought.

1 This is a slightly revised version of a paper presented at the meeting of the Western Branch of the American Oriental Society in Seattle, October 27, 1990. Appreciation is expressed to all who have offered suggestions for improvement. 2 Zhonqquo xiaoshuo shilue (1923; Hongkong: Xinyi chubanshe, 1967), 175.

3 Zhongguo wenxue fada shi, (rpt., Taibei: Zhonghua shuju, 1962), 2:387.

4 Zhang Ying and Chen Su, "Guben Xiyou de yibu hanjian xushu", in Xu Xiyou ji (Shenyang: Chunfeng wenyi chubanshe, 1986), 778. To my knowledge this is the first serious study to appear, outside of China, on the Xu Xiyou ji.

5 Zheng Zhenduo, "Ji yi jiu san san nianjian de guji faxian" in Zhongguo wenxue yanjiu, 3 vols. (Beijing: Zuojia chubanshe, 1957), 2:1373. This quotation is taken from Zhang Ying and Chen Su, 779.

6 Zaiyuan zazhi, rpt. from Liaohai conqshu, in Jindai Zhongguo shiliao conqkan (Taibei: Wenhai chubanshe, 1966), 3.20.

7 "Xu Xiyou bu zaji," in Dong Yue, Xiyou bu (Hongkong: Shangwu yinshuguan, 1958), 9.

8 For this and information below on Zhang Ying and Chen Su, see "Guben Xiyou de yibu hanjian xushu," 778-99.

9 Some question must be raised regarding this assertion. Zhang Ying and Chen Su believe that Zheng Zhenduo's copy was a Tongzhi (1862-75) edition, yet Zheng Zhenduo himself claimed it dated from the Jiaqing Daoguang period. Zhang and Chen do not seem to be aware that an 1805 edition exists in China. This was found by Lu Gong, collator of the 1986 Huaiyin edition, as stated below. It seems that Zheng Zhenduo's edition was the same as the one found by Lu Gong, rather than the one now in the Beijing Library.

10 For example, they repeatedly indicate where the text is corrupt and illegible by inserting blank squares.

11 Lu Gong, "Qianyan," in Xu Xiyou ji (Huaiyin: Jiangsu wenyi chubanshe, 1986), 1-4 (separate pagination).

12 Ming Diannan shilue, juan 1 (Wuhua shuyuan woodblock reprint, 1900). Cited in Zhang Ying and Chen Su, 783.

13 Zhang Ying and Chen Su, 783-84.

14 See note 12 above.

15 Zhenfu Jushi, "Xu Xiyou ji xu," in Xu Xiyou ji, 2 (separate pagination).

16 Zhang Ying and Chen Su, 788.

17 For example, see Glen Dudbridge, The Hsi-yu chi: A Study of Antecedents to the Sixteenth-Century Chinese Novel (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1970), 52-74.

18 See, for example, Xu Xiyou ji, 264 & 644.

19 Xu Xiyou ji, chapters 61-63.

20 Xu Xiyou ji, 19.

21 For a study of violence and Buddhist idealism in the Xiyou ji, the Xiyou bu, and the Hou Xiyou ji, see my article, "Violence and Buddhist Idealism in the Xiyou Novels," in Violence in China: Essays in Culture and Counterculture, ed. Jonathan N. Lipman and Stevan Harrell (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1990), 115-48.

22 Xu Xiyou ji, chapters 7, 24, and 38.

23 For elaboration on these ideas, see Xu Xiyou ji, chapters 38, 42, 43, 48, and 82.

24 For a study of the place of reciprocity in Chinese culture, see Paul Varo Martinson, "Pao Order and Redemption: Perspectives on Chinese Religion and Society Based on a Study of the Chin P'ing Mei," Ph.D. diss., Univ. of Chicago, 1973. For an important recent article on revenge in Chinese culture, see Richard Madsen, "The Politics of Revenge in Rural China during the Cultural Revolution," in Violence in China: Essays in Culture and Counterculture, 175-201. Madsen writes: "The Confucian tradition had little warrant for forgiving serious injury out of mercy, and the Communist Party continued this tradition" (p. 190). 25 Xu xiyou ji, 651.

26 Xu Xiyou ji, 762.
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Author:Brandauer, Frederick P.
Publication:The Journal of the American Oriental Society
Date:Jul 1, 1993
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