A Supplement to the Journey to the West is a Chinese novel from around 1640 that was written as a type of addendum to the great classic novel Journey to the West. Journey to the West is set during the Tang dynasty (618 - 907), since it involves a character, Xuanzang that lived during that period. In A Supplement to the Journey to the West, one of the characters, Sun Wukong aka Monkey

leaps through and travels hundreds of years forward in time to the Song Dynasty,

which officially lasted from 960 until 1279, and later returns to the Tang dynasty (618 to 907 AD).

In the West (i.e. Europe, not the "West" from the novel's title), the concept of time travel was popularised by H. G. Wells' story The Time Machine, published in 1895, i.e. three and a half centuries after A Supplement to the Journey to the West. The Wikipedia article on time travel mentions older examples from other literatures, e.g. from the Mahabharata (India) and from 8th-century Japanese literature. Is A Supplement to the Journey to the West the oldest Chinese example? If not, what is the oldest one?

  • Is Sun Wukong able to repeat the forward leap (as opposed to happenstance) and travel back in time too? If not I don't know if I'd call it time travel.
    – Eddie Kal
    Sep 6, 2020 at 16:16
  • @EddieKal Unfortunately, I have not yet read A Supplement to the Journey to the West; it is still on my to-buy list.
    – Tsundoku
    Sep 6, 2020 at 16:31
  • If you consider Rip Van Winkle a time travel story, I have an answer to this question. I know Rip Van Winkle earned a mention in that Wikipedia entry, but I think there's some others missing in the article.
    – Eddie Kal
    Sep 6, 2020 at 16:37
  • @EddieKal Would that really be an earlier example? Sun Wukong also travels back to the Tang dynasty, while Rip Van Winkle in Irving's story has no way to go back in time (unless I misremember the story). In addition, A Supplement to the Journey to the West predates "Rip Van Winkle" by more than 150 years.
    – Tsundoku
    Sep 6, 2020 at 16:54
  • I am talking about similar stories to Rip Van Winkle from way before both of them. And yes, Rip Van Winkle doesn't go back, that is why I wonder if you consider stories with a similar idea time travel. I have at least one example at least 1000 years older.
    – Eddie Kal
    Sep 6, 2020 at 16:58

1 Answer 1


Well, in Chuanqi (Legend), a form of literature popular in Tang Dynasty, there were stories very similar to Rip Van Winkle. The most famous one would be 《枕中记》 (The World Inside A Pillow). Besides, in Chinese folk lore, relativity of the time—— that time goes much slower up in the heaven than it does on earth——has been an recurring theme.


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