The Journey to the West Questions and Answers
by Wu Chengen

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How is Xuanzang, Monkey, Zhu Bajie, and Sha Wujing changed by the journey to the West?

Gunayin, bodhisattva of compassion, intervenes in the four pilgrims' lives not simply in order to retrieve the sacred scriptures, but just as importantly to show each character the way of its personal path to enlightenment. The extent they are changed by the journey is reflected in their readiness for illumination. Xuan Zang and Sun Wukong achieve buddhahood and Sha becomes an arhat, a lesser divinity. Zhu is the exception and still has moral flaws he must work to overcome.

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The measure of change the characters have undergone is evident in how well they have learned the lessons needed for their individual illuminations and thus by the status awarded each by the Buddha upon the group’s successful return.

While Monkey is a morally ambiguous and unpredictable character, he has also always been a seeker of truth and knowledge and his faithful protection of Xuan Zang earns him buddhahood. While it’s not clear if Monkey's rebellious nature has altered, he does in the end express reverence for all three traditions (Taoism, Buddhism and Confucianism) whose coexistence he recognizes as essential to the empire's strength.

The monk Xuan Zang is able to make up for the sins of his previous existence and gets rewarded with buddhahood. Presumably, his path to illumination and elevation was not as long as the other characters’ and he had the added virtue of not seeking immortality for himself.

Similarly, Sha Wujing is able to receive salvation from his monstrous...

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