A little-studied aspect of the Monkey character 孫悟空 (Sun Wukong) in Wu Cheng'en's 吳承恩 Xiyou ji 西遊記 (Journey to the West) is his identity in terms of category of being, that is, how he fits into and rebels against the cosmic system of the ranking and classifying of beings that governs the novel. He is a human-like monkey, who is also an aspiring immortal, who was once a miscreant demon, who moreover never completely sheds his demon-like behavior. Journey to the West pays particular attention to the taxonomy of beings, which therefore needs a more detailed examination than has appeared so far, including a look at the lists of categories that Journey to the West applies. A deep sense of category envy and species rivalry courses through the novel, which underlies both the conflicts that Monkey initiates and the ones he meets head on. Two types of being, immortal (xian 仙) and demon (yao 妖), are in special need of unfolding. Originating in ancient times, they remain as expansive and malleable as ever in Journey to the West, in which Monkey alternates between the two even after his subjugation.

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