Very Good / Very Good. Item #6996
Beijing: Foreign Languages Press, 1982, 1984, 1986. First Editions. Three separate ISBNs: 0835110036; 0835111938; 0835113647. Octavo; Vol I [xxx] + 575pp; Vol II [viii] + 630pp; Vol III [viii] + 647pp. Each volume has 13 full-page illustrations reproducing lithographs made for an 1888 edition of the novel; in addition, Vol I includes a preliminary portfolio of 10 full-page character portraits.
Boxes are individualized with red printing and blind-stamped characters. Pictorial jade and turquoise jackets with gilt spine lettering. Bindings in a sumptuous, nearly radioactive, plum-fuchsia, with gilt stamping on spines and front panels. Illustrated endpapers in celadon. Red ribbon bookmarks bound in. Textblocks in the faintly wheat-colored paper used by the Foreign Languages Press. All volumes Near Fine; the one flaw is a thin vertical line of color-chafing on the jacket spine of Vol III, probably the result of shipping and storage, since the volumes are clearly unread.
Journey to the West, traditionally attributed to Ming Dynasty writer Wu Cheng’en (1500-1582), appeared in this form about 500 years after the Tale of Genji—yes, we know that was Japanese, not Chinese—and about 200 years before Dream of the Red Chamber. It is traditionally viewed as one of the four great classics of Chinese literature, along with Red Chamber, Romance of the Three Kingdoms, and Water Margin.
The West to which this journey takes our Chinese priest-protagonist is not Paris or Kalamazoo, but western China and India, where he seeks Buddhist enlightenment, accompanied by his disciples, Monkey, Pig, and the ogre-ish Friar Sand. Given 21st-century shifts in global power and prestige, our grandchildren will probably be reading this picaresque classic instead of Huckleberry Finn. We should all get ahead of that curve.