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Ostensibly, the classic Ming dynasty novel Hsi-us Chi (The Journey to the West) composed by Wu Ch’ êng-ên (1500-1580), relates the pilgrimage to India of Hsüan-tsang (Tripitaka) with his guardian disciples the Monkey King, the dragon-horse, the ogre Sandy, and Pigsy. They are in quest of the Buddhist scripture (the legendary origins of Buddhism in China). Each of the five pilgrims corresponds to one of the five elements of Daoist alchemical lore, and their trial by fire represents an allegorical fusion of the elements into a unified whole. Let’s take a look at this popular Chinese novel and consider the thematic role of Daoist alchemical imagery in creating a Buddhist allegory.
Cooksey, Thomas, "Fusing the Five Elements: Alchemy, Allegory, and the Monkey King" (1996). Robert Ingram Strozier Faculty Lecture Series. 63.
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