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Currently, it is generally accepted that the author of Journey to the West is Wu Cheng En. However, that wasn’t always the case, as the author’s name was not printed on the earliest versions of Xiyouji, as was the norm back then. The author’s identity became a subject of great interest and controversy, but during the Qing Dynasty, the theory that Qiu Chu Ji, a famous Taoist priest, was in fact the author of Xiyouji, became popular and was widely accepted by most literary critics of the day. However, much later, it was discovered that this theory had been founded on a misconception – that another work by Qiu Chu Ji, also called Xi You Ji, was the same Xi You Ji as the one we all know and love. In reality, it was an entirely different piece of writing, a record by Qiu Chu Ji’s disciple of their journeys in the western lands. Literary critics were once again thrown into the dark. Who then, was the true author of Xiyouji?
It was not until the 20th century that the answer was found. Literary giants Lu Xun and Hu Shi unearthed the truth by researching various documents of the Ming Dynasty such as ‘Huan An Fu Zhi’ and found evidence that Xiyouji was most probably written by Wu Cheng En. However, lately, in the year 2000, a controversial yet well-researched book, ‘Hua Shuo Wu Cheng En’, was published, presenting various findings and documents that pointed towards the fact that Xi You Ji was not written by Wu Cheng En, but Li Chun Fang, a writer of the same period. So who do we believe? For the present, as the last claim has not been proven beyond doubt or accepted widely in literary circles, I feel that it is safe to deem Wu Cheng En as the author of this masterpiece.
Name: Wu Cheng En
Other Names: Ru Zhong, She Yang Shan Ren
Birthplace: Huai An, China
Period: Ming Dynasty
Number of Wives: 2 only (lol~)
Born: Around 1506 Died: Around 1582
Hobbies: Reading fantasy books about demons, magic, gods etc (hey he’s kinda like me! ^o^) and writing all sorts of poems and stuff.
History: Wu Cheng En’s literary prowess surfaced early, in his teenage years. He passed his provincial examinations to attain the rank of Xiu Cai, but never proceeded beyond that. This was mainly because he excelled at multiple writing forms and not just poems, and also multiple subjects, including Taoism, Buddhism, Confucianism, and he was also an adept in many fields such as Chinese chess, painting, military skills, medicine, and many, many more. He basically wrote about everything under the sun. Which meant that he was not suited for the strict requirements of the examinations of his period. He held a couple of minor postings but that was about all. Despite this, he and his writings were always in demand and he was renown as a writer and poet. His genius was widely recognized as he wrote many other works of value apart from Xiyouji, which he is believed to have finished in his early sixties, around 1570.
* For a picture of Wu Cheng En, go here. (actually it’s only his bust – what do you expect? Colour photos? XD)