The Emperor in Hell (狱里的皇帝)

The Emperor in Hell (狱里的皇帝)

A Story in Simplified Chinese and Pinyin, 600 Word Vocabulary Level, Journey to the West Book #5

This, the 5th book in our “Journey to the West” series, starts innocently enough, with two good friends chatting as they walk home after eating and drinking at a local inn. One of the men, a fisherman, tells his friend about a fortuneteller who advises him on where to find fish. This seemingly harmless conversation between two minor characters triggers a series of events that eventually cost the life of a supposedly immortal being, and cause the great Tang Emperor himself to be dragged down to the underworld. He is released by the Ten Kings of the Underworld, but is trapped and must escape with the help of a deceased courtier named Cui Jue.  This book is by far the darkest and most frightening of all the stories we’ve told so far, with a series of horrifying visions of after-death punishment of evildoers that are reminiscent of those in Dante’s Inferno.

This book is based on  Journey to The West (西游记, xī yóu jì), an epic novel written in the 16th Century by Wu Chen’en. The novel is loosely based on an actual journey by the Buddhist monk Tangseng (called Xuanzang and Sanzang in earlier books), who traveled from the Chinese city of Chang’an westward to India in 629 A.D. and returned 17 years later with priceless knowledge and texts of Buddhism. Over the course of the book the band of travelers face the 81 tribulations that Tangseng had to endure to attain Buddhahood.

All of the stories in this series are all written in simple language suitable for intermediate Chinese learners. Our core vocabulary is the 600 words of HSK-3, plus all the words that were introduced in the previous books of the series. All these words are in the glossary at the back of the book.  Whenever we introduce a new word or phrase, it’s defined in a footnote on the page where it first appears, and it also appears in the glossary.

In the main body of the book, each page of Chinese characters is matched with a facing page of pinyin. This is unusual for Chinese novels but we feel it’s important. By including the pinyin, as well as a full English version and glossary at the end, we hope that every reader, no matter what level of mastery they have of the Chinese language, will be able to understand and enjoy the story we tell here.

Free audio versions of all books in this series are available on YouTube.  Go to and search for the Imagin8 Press channel to find all of our free audiobooks.  Or just click the “Listen Free on YouTube” link on this page, or use the “Download” link to download the audiobook to your computer.