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Join us for the next RAS History Club session on the 8th of April, which will take place on Zoom.

Julia Lovell will discuss her new book, Monkey King, an abridged translation of Journey to the West, one of the masterworks of pre-20th-century Chinese fiction. It recounts a Tang-dynasty monk's quest for Buddhist scriptures in the 7th century AD, accompanied by an omni-talented kung-fu Monkey King called Sun Wukong, one of the most memorable reprobates in world literature; a rice-loving, power-napping divine pig able to fly with its ears; and a depressive man-eating river-sand monster. It is a cornerstone text of Chinese fiction, and index to early modern Chinese culture, thought and history: its stature in East Asian literature may be compared with that of The Canterbury Tales or Don Quixote in European letters. Populated by gods, demons, emperors, dragons, bureaucrats, monks, animals, woodsmen, bandits, and farmers, the novel presents an epic vision of imperial China. It captures, in splendid, inventive detail, the complex weave of Chinese society, politics, and religious belief, within a framework of comic adventure that is profoundly subversive of many popular Western perceptions of Chinese culture.

About the speaker:

Julia Lovell is Professor of Modern China at Birkbeck College, University of London. She is the author of Maoism: A Global History, which won the 2019 Cundill History Prize, and The Opium War, which won the 2012 Jan Michalski Prize. Her many translations of modern Chinese fiction into English include The Real Story of Ah Q and Other Tales of China and an abridged version of Journey to the West, both for Penguin Classics. She writes about China for several newspapers, including The Guardian, Financial Times, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.

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