Just released: the 31st and final book in the epic “Journey to the West” series of easy-to-read Chinese novels
The latest book in the series, aptly titled “The Last Trial”, was published this month by Imagin8 Pressthe publishing house founded by Mr. Pepper.
The books are written for English speakers who are learning to read the Chinese language. Interest in learning Chinese is growing rapidly around the world, with an estimated 200 million non-Chinese people learning the language in 2020. But high-quality reading materials are scarce.
“This is the largest and most ambitious project ever undertaken to create a series of graded readers for Chinese language learners,” Pepper says. “There are already plenty of graded players on the market, but they tend to be short and self-contained, and they use juvenile themes suitable for young children. We wrote this series to be read and enjoyed by everyone, from middle schoolers to adults.
“It is truly a monumental achievement!” says Daniel Nalesnik, CEO of popular language learning site HackChinese.com. “Virtually all Chinese language learners who achieve a high degree of proficiency use graded readers. The Journey to the West adaptation by Imagin8 Press simply makes this process enjoyable, which is why we recommend it to all of our students.
The books, which are available in paperback and eBook formats, start out easy and get more difficult as the series progresses. The first book in the series, “Rise of the Monkey King”, is 123 pages long and uses a vocabulary of just 512 Chinese words, but the last book is more than twice as long. In total, the series features over 2,200 vocabulary words.
“Journey to the West” was written in the 16th century by Wu Cheng’en. It is probably China’s most famous and beloved novel and is considered one of the four great classic novels of Chinese literature. Its place in Chinese literature is roughly comparable to Homer’s epic poem “The Odyssey”, in European culture.
The storyline is loosely based on an actual journey by a Buddhist monk who traveled from the city of Chang’an (now Xi’an) west to India in 629 AD and returned 17 years later with invaluable knowledge and texts of Buddhism.
In the novel, the pious but powerless monk Tangseng acquires three powerful but deeply flawed disciples to aid him in his journey from eastern China to India.
The first is Monkey King Sun Wukong (his name means “vacuum-awakened monkey”), whom the monk frees from a 500-year imprisonment under a mountain where the monkey was trapped as punishment for creating havoc in the sky. . The second is Zhu Bajie (“Eight Prohibition Pig”), a gluttonous pig who fights constantly and often succumbs to his desires for food, sex, and comfort. And the third is Sha Wujing (“sand seeking purity”), a reformed man-eating river demon.
All three were converted to Buddhism by the monk, but they often fall back into their bad habits and cause Tangseng a lot of trouble. Luckily, they all have great magic powers which are useful in fighting demons and monsters and saving Tangseng from all kinds of trouble.
The original novel is very long and quite complex. It contains 100 chapters and has more than half a million Chinese characters. The novel uses a very large vocabulary of 4,500 different words, more than 90% of which are not included in HSK levels 1-6 taught in schools, making reading almost impossible for most non-native Chinese speakers.
Pepper and Wang’s series tells the same story unchanged from the original. But he uses half as many different words and gradually introduces them over the course of the series, defining each word where it first appears. The books are written in simplified Chinese and each page of Chinese is associated with an opposite page written in pinyin which is a phonetic method of writing Chinese. Each book also includes an English translation and a glossary.
Free audio versions of each book are available for free on the company’s YouTube channel and can be downloaded from the Imagin8 Press website.
A list of all 31 books in the series, along with short descriptions and links to Amazon product pages and free YouTube audiobooks, are also available on the Imagin8 Press website.
The books are available in paperback and eBook format from Amazon.com, and from many other online booksellers, including Barnes and Noble, Walmart, IngramSpark, and Apple Books.
For larger orders, books can be purchased directly from Imagin8 Press at a reduced price.
For more information or to obtain review copies, contact Jeff Pepper, [email protected], phone 412-979-9141. Jeff is available for interviews.
Jeff Pepper (Author) is President and CEO of Imagin8 Press and has written dozens of books on Chinese language and culture. During his thirty-five year career, he founded and led several successful computer software companies, including one that became a publicly traded company. He is the author of two books on software and has been granted three US patents.
Dr. Xiao Hui Wang (translator) holds a master’s degree in information science, a medical degree, a doctorate. in neurobiology and neuroscience, and 25 years of experience in academic and clinical research. She has been teaching Chinese for over 10 years and has extensive experience in Chinese to English and English to Chinese translation.