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The Journey to the West

Conflict can be an interesting problem in any given story. The Journey to the West is no exception. Consider the following questions as study prompts. Also think about the novel as a “journey” in the variety of traditions we will be examining.

1. What is the nature of conflict in A Journey to the West? Can you discern a pattern that would appear to describe how “plot” (complication) unfolds in the novel?

2. Why is Monkey significant to conflict in The Journey to the West? Explore his character and the ideas his character inspires, perhaps even relation to other characters, like Tripitaka or the Sha Monk?

3. Direction matters in The Journey to the West. Why? What’s the big deal?

4. What dispute does Fu Yi have with the Buddha? Why does this dispute matter to the story the novel tells?

5. What’s the significance of names in The Journey to the West?

The Narrow Road to the Deep North

1. In The Narrow Road to the Deep North how do crossings, of any numerous instances, play a role in Basho’s journey?

2. This sentence in The Narrow Road to the Deep North stands out: “For a while, it became a memorial to a thousand years” (689). What’s “it” and how does this relate to the writing of poetry?

3. How might you interpret this poem in the haiku tradition: “Stillness– / sinking deep into the rocks / cries of the cicada” (1-3)?

4. In terms of nature and connectedness, consider the first three lines of this poem:

The Seventh Month–
the sixth day, too, is different
from the usual night

A strong reading of this stanza may depend on some astronomical understanding, specifically concerning what is absent from the sky for modern people who live in populous regions, and might have trouble observing the Milky Way. How does Basho’s poetry demonstrate connectedness to the world through images of low/high, sky/ground, water/land?

The Peach Blossom Fan

1. In The Peach Blossom Fan, can you identify specific instances in the drama where Daoism and Confucianism come into conflict?

2. What is the significance of color imagery in The Peach Blossom Fan?

3. Nature, culture, and cyclical images play a significant role in the story of The Peach Blossom Fan? How so?

4. Both Hou and Xianjug have associated trigrams, according to Zhang Wei. Hou is associated with the Li domain. Xianjung is associated with the Kan. Where the do you see the characteristics of these domains at play in their respective characters?