Currently, it is generally accepted that the author of Journey to the West is Wu Cheng En. However, that wasn't always the case, as the author's name was not printed on the earliest versions of Xiyouji, as was the norm back then. The author's identity became a subject of great interest and controversy, but during the Qing Dynasty, the theory that Qiu Chu Ji, a famous Taoist priest, was in fact the author of Xiyouji, became popular and was widely accepted by most literary critics of the day. However, much later, it was discovered that this theory had been founded on a misconception - that another work by Qiu Chu Ji, also called Xi You Ji, was the same Xi You Ji as the one we all know and love. In reality, it was an entirely different piece of writing, a record by Qiu Chu Ji's disciple of their journeys in the western lands. Literary critics were once again thrown into the dark. Who then, was the true author of Xiyouji?
Ming-dynasty fiction writer and poet from present day Jiangsu province. His father was a merchant, but liked to read; he passed this interest on to his son who was known early in life for his literary leanings. Nevertheless, Wu repeatedly failed the civil service exams. He was 63 years old when he was appointed to the post of Vice Magistrate in Changxing county, but after only two years was thrown into prison on a trumped-up charge of corruption. The details of the case were eventually brought to light and Wu was offered another position but did not take it up. Wu's poetry focused on the expression of emotions, and for this reason his work has been compared to that of Li Bai. He is best known for the novel [The journey to the West], famous for its depiction of the antics of the Monkey King, Sun Wukong. Some scholars have disputed Wu Chengen's authorship of the but the evidence is not conclusive.
XI YOU JIby WU CHENG EN
It was not until the 20th century that the answer was found. Literary giants Lu Xun and Hu Shi unearthed the truth by researching various documents of the Ming Dynasty such as 'Huan An Fu Zhi' and found evidence that Xiyouji was most probably written by Wu Cheng En. However, lately, in the year 2000, a controversial yet well-researched book, 'Hua Shuo Wu Cheng En', was published, presenting various findings and documents that pointed towards the fact that Xi You Ji was not written by Wu Cheng En, but Li Chun Fang, a writer of the same period. So who do we believe? For the present, as the last claim has not been proven beyond doubt or accepted widely in literary circles, I feel that it is safe to deem Wu Cheng En as the author of this masterpiece.
Wu Chengen was born in Kiangsu province in eastern China. His father was a merchant who loved literature, and Wu was noted for his own literary accomplishments at a very young age. Nevertheless, he repeatedly failed the arduous examinations for the imperial civil service. Finally, at the advanced age of 63, he became a provincial magistrate, only to be imprisoned two years later on groundless charges of corruption. After clearing Wu’s name, the imperial court offered him another post, which he refused, preferring to devote the remainder of his life to writing.