My children are officially more cultured than me: they’ve read all of these 西游记 / 西遊記 (Xī Yóu Jì) Journey to the West books in Chinese while I’ve barely made a dent in the English translation! Growing up, I didn’t learn much about Chinese culture, so my kids filled me in on Monkey King and his various adventures. I’ll share the Chinese picture books my kids read plus my daughter’s bilingual book report that she created for her second grade project! There are also great Journey to the West audiobooks and videos, so I hope at least one of these can be useful for your family.
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What is Monkey King Journey to the West about?
Originally published in the 16th century (Ming Dynasty), Journey to the West is one of the most popular classic Chinese stories throughout history. Today, it remains an important part of Chinese culture. The anthropomorphic characters and fictional plot are heavily inspired by Chinese mythology plus Confucian, Taoist and Buddhist philosophies.
The main characters, Sun Wukong 孫悟空 (Sūn Wùkōng), Tang Sanzang 唐三藏 (Táng Sānzàng), Zhu Bajie 豬八戒 / 豬八戒 (Zhū Bājiè), Sha Wujing 沙悟淨 (Shā wù jìng), and Dragon Horse go on an adventurous pilgrimage across Asia in search of sacred Buddhist texts.
Related: More great books by Chinese authors
Monkey King Journey to the West Videos for kids in English and Chinese
Generally, I have a rule to read before watching any video adaptation. However, if you’re not fluent in Chinese or don’t have the budget for the books, you can check out the videos to see if your child likes the story.
Little Fox Journey to the West videos
Since we are screen-minimal, we’ve watched only a few of these videos so far. But this could be a good starting point for learning about Journey to the West.
Little Fox is a kid-friendly digital library of animated stories, songs, games, and other language study tools in English and Chinese. Their Journey to the West video series features over 100 short (~5min) videos:
If you want to create a curriculum for Journey to the West or other stories, you can download vocabulary lists and mini booklets from the Little Fox website.
CCTV Journey to the West videos
For teenagers and grown-ups, some of my readers recommended highly recommended CCTV’s Journey to the West drama series which has Mandarin audio with simplified Chinese and English subtitles. I personally have not watched any of these and honestly am struggling with this story, because I prefer non-fiction). But the Journey to the West drama is pretty popular on YouTube.
Monkey King Journey to the West – abridged Chinese and English books for kids
Looking for the right version of the Monkey King Journey to the West books can be confusing because of the countless versions available! While these books have many vivid illustrations, the advanced language, idioms, and historical references definitely pushed my children’s vocabulary. I would categorize these as bridge books / early chapter books.
Simplified Chinese Monkey King Journey to the West books
- Simplified Chinese with Pinyin: Monkey King Journey to the West Beginner’s 10-book set 西游记幼儿美绘本 – This set is good for beginners with the phonetic support. (In full disclosure, this set was gifted to us by JoJo Learning with no expectation for review.)
- Simplified Chinese: The Monkey King Classic Collection 32-book set 美猴王系列丛书 – This series is filled with complex language and idioms and is thus much more challenging. After my daughter flew through the prior set and craved more, I decided to splurge on this set.
Traditional Chinese / Zhuyin Monkey King Journey to the West Books
- 金鼎獎西遊記 with audio CDs – If your family reads traditional Chinese characters, these came highly recommended by many parents. The CD is apparently very dynamic and animated.
English Monkey King Journey to the West Books
These are the books that I ordered and are collecting dust…but the reviews rave about Anthony C. Yu’s translations. Younger readers or those who don’t want to read all 4 volumes may want to try the abridged version.
- The Monkey and the Monk: An Abridgment of The Journey to the West
- Journey to the West, Revised Edition
Photos of the Monkey King Journey to the West books in Chinese
Here’s a peek inside the 2 different sets of simplified Chinese Journey to the West books that my daughter read.
Monkey King: Journey to the West bilingual book report
Last winter, my daughter was excited to prepare a bilingual book report with her classmates! In her class, she’s the only Asian American student, and I’m grateful that her friends have listened respectfully when she shares about Chinese culture. Since we were distance learning, the presentation was online via Zoom.
I’m so proud of how motivated she was to create this! To prepare for the book report, she talked to her Chinese tutor about characters she wanted to highlight as well as which events to include in a timeline summary. Through narration and copywork, she transcribed her thoughts in Chinese and translated them into English!
Here’s how it turned out! What do you think?
Since her toddler brother loves to copy her, I got an extra poster board for him to make his own version of a book report! Big sister helped him write the English and Chinese labels.
What does your family think of the Monkey King Journey to the West story?
Did you read the books or watch the videos? Let me know what you think in the comments below!
We’d love to hear about your learning experience and if you agree or disagree with our review!