Tang San Zang



Tang San Zang

Meaning: Tang - When he became brothers with the Emperor of Great Tang, he was given the surname of Tang.

               San Zang - Tripitaka. The name of the holy scriptures he was ordered to fetch, which are:

                                   a) Vinaya Pitaka

                                   b) Sutra Pitaka

                                   c) Abhidharma Pitaka

Origin: He became sworn brothers with the Emperor of Great Tang who then gave him this name.


Variations: Tang Sanzang


English name(s): Tang Monk, Monk of Tang, Tripitaka.


Japanese pronunciation:

San Zang - Sanzo






He started the pilgrimage when he was in his mid-thirties.



Human monk.


Original Location

Great Tang.



Titles/Other Names

(1) Xuan Zang

His Buddhist name when he became a monk.

Japanese pronunciation: Genjo


(2) Jiang Liu

Jiang means river and Liu means flow. He was named this because the head of the monastery who adopted him found him floating down a river.

Japanese pronunciation: Koryu


(3) Jin Chan Zi

His name in his previous life as a disciple of Buddha. He was reincarnated as a mortal because he disobeyed the Buddha's teachings.

Japanese pronounciation: Konzen Douji


(4) Chen

His real surname. The real life Xuan Zhuang was called Chen Yi before he became a monk. However, his given name isn't mentioned in the book itself.


(5) Tang Seng

Seng means 'monk'. So, literally, 'Monk of Tang' or 'Tang Monk'. Form of address used by the author to refer to this character throughout the pilgrimage. San Zang is also often addressed with this name by the other characters.




He has no magical powers or weapons. He can, though, memorize any scripture or teaching after one reading and meditate for 2 or 3 years nonstop if he needs to. The only ability he has that remotely resembles magic is the Band-Tightening Curse. When he chants this curse, the band on Wu Kong's head will sink into his flesh, causing him a terrible headache.




San Zang was originally Jin Chan Zi, Buddha's disciple. He was banished to earth because he was disobedient and didn't pay attention to Buddha's teachings. He was reincarnated as Mr. and Mrs. Chen's son. Below is the story of his birth and early life.


The couple were taking his grandmother to the place where Mr. Chen had recently secured a high post. On the way, the grandmother fell ill and Mr. Chen bought a carp for her. But then he noticed the carp blinking and thinking that it was a special creature, he put it back into the sea. After that, San Zang's grandmother decided to stay in an inn and asked her son and daughter-in-law to go on by themselves. Unfortunately, the two men who were in charge on the boat they took killed Mr. Chen and pushed him into the sea. One of them impersonated Chen, taking his post and wife. Mrs. Chen who was pregnant then, bore a single son, San Zang, tied him to a board and threw him into the river nearby, as she feared that the thief would kill him. He was eventually found by the head monk of a monastery and raised as Jiang Liu.


Meanwhile, Mr. Chen's spirit was revived by the Dragon King who found him, who turned out to be the carp he had released earlier. His body was preserved by a magic pearl. He stayed with the Dragon King from then on, waiting for his family to find him.


When Jiang Liu grew up, he became a monk, taking the name of Xuan Zang. One day, provoked by another monk, he asked the head monk about his heritage. Then only did the head monk show him the letter that was found on his body when he was a baby. Xuan Zang vowed to save his mother and revenge his father. Therefore he left the monastery and found his mother. She told him to go find her father, who was a powerful official. Xuan Zang's grandfather leaded troops to execute the impersonating thieves and save his daughter. Xuan Zang went to find his grandmother and brought her back to see his mother. They and other relatives went to pray for Mr. Chen on the bank of the river where he died.


Then they saw Mr. Chen's body floating towards them on the river. When they pulled him out, he started to live and breathe again. They had a happy family reunion.


Years after that, when Xuan Zang was all grown up, the Emperor of Great Tang asked him to hold a religious ceremony called 'Shui Lu Da Hui'. On the ceremony, Xuan Zang was approached by the disguised Goddess of Mercy and her disciple. They gave him a monk's staff and robe and told him to fetch the Tripitaka (San Zang) scriptures from the Western Heavens. After that they resumed their original forms and left. The emperor became sworn brothers with Xuan Zang, gave him the surname of Tang, and renamed him San Zhang after the scriptures he would fetch. Soon after that, San Zang left on his pilgrimage to the Western Heavens.




He is a kind and compassionate monk. Very obedient to the rules and prohibitions of Buddhism. Hates to kill anything, and this often leads him to conflict with Wu Kong, who kills everyone who wishes to harm his master, no matter if they are demons or humans. But perhaps this aversion to killing people may not be due to compassion, but fear of the laws. On one occasion when Wu Kong kills six bandits who wanted to rob and kill them, he scolds him like this: "... you have no compassion... as Buddhists we shouldn't kill even insects let alone people... luckily you killed them in this wilderness... if you killed people in towns, wouldn't I be jailed along with you?!" This hints of fear of trouble for himself, not of compassion. I'm not saying that he's not compassionate, I'm just saying that instead of the good, holy monk that some think he is, perhaps he's just a normal human, just like the rest of us.


And he may be just a little too compassionate for his own good. Various demons use this weakness to trick him, for example, the Red Child. The most often trick used is turning into some helpless person, such as a child, or an injured old man, so that San Zang will take pity on them and try to help them. This way, they are able to get close to him past Wu Kong's defences. This is because San Zang never listens to Wu Kong when he tells him the seemingly helpless people are actually demons in disguise. San Zang can be very stubborn at times... stupidly stubborn, unfortunately. He is also easily tricked or persuaded. He falls for the demons' traps every single time. Plus, he has this bad habit of always listening to Ba Jie instead of Wu Kong. Like the time when Wu Kong was away and they were protected by the magic circle, Ba Jie persuades San Zhang to leave it to find some more comfortable place. Result: They are captured by demons. And there was the time before when Wu Kong defeats the White Bone Demon. Due to the demon's trickery, San Zang thinks that Wu Kong has killed a young teenage girl (17), her old mother(80 - note the impossibility) and the old husband, which are all actually only the White Bone Demon in disguise. Being the compassionate monk that he is, he is naturally outraged and mortified as he thinks Wu Kong has killed three humans. He is on the verge of banishing Wu Kong when the old man's corpse turned into a pile of white bones. Then Wu Kong explains the truth. San Zhang has started to believe him when Ba Jie spitefully insinuates that the pile of bones is only a illusion of Wu Kong's making. San Zang, being the stupid monk he is, actually BELIEVES Ba Jie instead of Wu Kong, chants the Band-Tightening Spell again and banishes Wu Kong. Wu Kong leaves with tears in his eyes. If San Zang had more foresight, he would KNOW that Ba Jie and Wu Jing are practically useless when it come to protecting him from strong demons and refrain from banishing Wu Kong just because of Ba Jie's words. But nooooo, inexplicably, he thinks that greedy, lustful Ba Jie is more trustworthy than Wu Kong, who proves that he's almost always in the right throughout the story. You'd think after a few times he'd get the drift but this weakness persists stubbornly, resulting in a lot of pain and suffering which could have been avoided if only he listened to Wu Kong, which he seldom does. He is NOT WORTHY of Wu Kong's complete devotion! Okay, so maybe he's adequate when he's guiding Wu Kong onto the right path, the path towards salvation, moral values, things like that, but I think Wu Kong needs a master who actually trusts him and listens to him. A master who knows what's right and wrong and cooperates with Wu Kong's efforts to protect him. Evidently, San Zang is not that master, but I suppose that's necessary for the plot, which basically hinges upon San Zang getting tricked and captured every single time a demon turns up.


Lastly, San Zang is very resilient to seduction. Very. He was tested numerous times by various women -including demons- and not once did he waver. He's like the exact opposite of Ba Jie. This I can be sure of. The most he ever did was blush, and this was because he felt very uncomfortable with all the steamy looks. Oh well. Either that or he's gay. >D





*See that? San Zang was portrayed by three different people! XD I think the right-most one is cute! XD




If you have information or comments about Tang San Zang, please tell me.



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