Journey to the West is divided into three sections:
- Chapters 1–7: the rebellion of Monkey (Sun Wukong) against the gods and his punishment by Buddha.
- Chapters 8–12: the early life of Tripitaka (Tang Xuanzang) and his recruitment by Kuan-Yin.
- Chapters 13–100: the recruitment of Tripitaka’s companions, their journey to India, and their return to China with the sutras.
Thus, 88% of the original novel is about the journey to the West, amply justifying its title.
Waley’s translation, however, substantially abridges the original. He included the whole of part 1 (Monkey’s rebellion) and part 2 (Triptaka’s recruitment), but from part 3 he selected eighteen of the eighty-eight chapters:
- Chapters 13–15: recruitment of Monkey and the Dragon Horse.
- Chapters 18–19: recruitment of Pigsy (Zhu Bajie).
- Chapter 22: recruitment of Sandy (Sha Wujing).
- Chapters 37–39: ‘The Lion Demon in the Kingdom of Crow-Cock’.
- Chapters 44–46: ‘The Cart-Slow Kingdom’.
- Chapters 47–49: ‘The River that Leads to Heaven’.
- Chapter 98: ‘The Goal Achieved’.
- Chapters 99–100: ‘The Eighty-first Calamity’.
Monkey’s rebellion thus constitutes nearly a quarter of Waley’s translation, and the particular episodes selected from the third section of the book further foreground the character:
The episodes selected by Waley all highlight the Monkey as a hero who plays a vital role in using his own power or strategies to subdue demons and help the pilgrims successfully complete their mission. Waley’s reduction of The Journey to the West from one hundred chapters to thirty chapters makes an important change to the original story: to a large extent, the journey becomes the Monkey’s journey of self-development, whose growth and heroic behavior overshadow Tripitaka, the original protagonist.
Hao Ji (2016). ‘A Comparative Study of Two Major English Translations of The Journey to the West: Monkey and The Monkey and the Monk’. Journal of Chinese Humanities 2:1, p.80.
Waley thus refashioned the book from the story of Tripitaka’s journey (in which Monkey plays a secondary role) into the story of Monkey’s rebellion and penance (in which Tripitaka plays a secondary role).