Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons

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Journey to the West:
Conquering the Demons
Directed by Stephen Chow
Produced by
  • Stephen Chow
  • Wang Zhonglei
Written by
  • Stephen Chow
  • Derek Kwok
  • Xin Huo
  • Yun Wang
  • Fung Chih Chiang
  • Lu Zheng Yu
  • Lee Sheung Shing
  • Y.Y. Kong
Music by Raymond Wong
Cinematography Sung Fai Choi
Edited by Chi Wai Chan
Distributed by Edko Films
Release dates
  • 7 February 2013 (2013-02-07) (Hong Kong)
  • 10 February 2013 (2013-02-10) (China)
Running time
110 minutes
Country China[1]
Hong Kong
Language Mandarin[2]
Box office US$215 million[3]

Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons[1][4] (Chinese: 西遊·降魔篇) is a 2013 fantasy comedy film co-written, produced, and directed by Stephen Chow. The movie was first announced in July 2011 and was released on February 10, 2013 in China.[1] The film is a loose comedic re-interpretation of the novel Journey to the West, a Chinese literary classic written by Wu Cheng'en.


The movie takes place before Tang Sanzang got his disciples and embarked on the Journey to the West.

A young village girl plays by the river and her father frightens her by pretending to be a fish demon, although he is then killed by a mysterious underwater creature. A Taoist priest kills a giant manta ray and insists the demon is dead. Buddhist demon hunter Sanzang appears to warn the animal is not the true demon but is violently ignored. The demon reemerges and kills a number of villagers but Sanzang is able to beach the fish-like demon, which turns into a man. Sanzang then opens a book of nursery rhymes and begins to sing to the man. The man feels harassed and attacks Sanzang but another demon hunter, Duan appears and captures him in her cloth, turning him into a puppet. Sanzang reveals to Duan that his master taught him a humanist approach and to use nursery rhymes to coax goodness out of demons, a tactic Duan scoffs at. Disillusioned, Sanzang meets back up with his master and bemoans his lack of capabilities in comparison to more aggressive demon-hunters such as Duan. His master reaffirms his philosophy of trying to reform evil demons and sends him off again, telling him to find "enlightenment."

A couple enters an empty restaurant but the chef reveals himself to be a pig demon and kills them. Sanzang comes to the same restaurant, this time apparently filled with people. However, Sanzang sees through the illusion and recognizes them as reanimated corpses of the demon's victims, as well as the demon's iconic nine-pronged weapon. Sanzang gets into a battle with one of the corpses but Duan arrives and destroys all of them. Duan then battles the demon. In the ensuing battle, the building collapses and Sanzang and Duan retreat as the demon is momentarily injured. Duan then develops a strong limerence towards Sanzang after being impressed by his selfless ideals. She wishes to kiss him, but he quickly flees, not wishing to deal with romantic love in his quest for nirvana.

Sanzang's master advises him to tame the Monkey King demon Sun Wukong (trapped by Buddha) to subdue the pig demon. That night, he is captured by a gang that had also subdued Duan. It is later revealed to be a ploy orchestrated by Duan to trick Sanzang into sexual intercourse. After Sanzang rejects her again, she has him imprisoned. The pig demon reappears and injures Duan but is chased off by a trio of rivaling demon-hunters. Duan views Sanzang's concern for her injuries as a romantic attraction. After Sanzang refuses her advances again, she destroys his book of nursery rhymes and he promptly leaves.

After days of traveling, Sanzang finally discovers the hole where Monkey King was trapped in for five-hundred years. Monkey King informs him to use a dancer under the full moon as bait. Duan appears and volunteers to dance. The pig demon appears and falls into Monkey King's hole, turning into a miniature pig, which Duan turns into a puppet. Duan then gives both the fish and pig puppets to Sanzang and offers her golden ringed weapon as an engagement band, but he rejects her again. She leaves after returning his nursery rhyme book, which he does not realize has accidentally been turned into a sutra as a result of Duan (who cannot read) mixing up the words.

Monkey King successfully tricks Sanzang into removing the seal on his prison. The three demon hunters appear to catch Monkey King but he kills them all after a brutal fight. Injured, Sanzang then begins to pray to Buddha, and in retaliation Monkey King scalps the hair from his head. Duan arrives to save Sanzang, enraged and attacks but the Monkey King mortally injures her. Sanzang finally tells Duan he loves her. Monkey King proceeds to destroy her body, but Sanzang reads chants from the sutra, summoning Buddha to defeat Monkey King. Sanzang then places Duan's golden ring atop Monkey King as his iconic restrictive headband.

Sanzang tells his master that his suffering due to Duan's loss has helped him to enlightenment. Sanzang is then instructed to journey west for the Buddhist sutras of Leiyin Temple, and it is shown that the Water Demon, Pig Demon, and Monkey King have been tamed and turned into humans named, respectively, Sandy, Pigsy, and Sun Wukong. As they hike across the desert, Sanzang looks across the sand and sees an image of Duan.


Box office[edit]

The film set several records at the Chinese box-office. The film was released on February 10, 2013 in China and opened to 78 million Yuan ($12.5 million) on its first day, thus overtaking the 70 million yuan ($11.2 million) opening-day record set by Painted Skin: The Resurrection on June 28, 2012 as the biggest opening-day gross for a Chinese film.[5] On February 14, 2013, the film grossed 122 million yuan ($19.6 million) and thus overtook the record of 112 million yuan by Transformers: Dark of the Moon as the biggest single-day gross by a film in China's box-office history.[6][7] The film set an opening record in China with $92.46 million.[8]

To date, the film has grossed US$205 million in China,[9] US$3.6 million in Hong Kong,[10] US$3.2 million in Malaysia,[10] and US$1.8 million in Singapore.[10]

Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons grossed a total of US$215 million worldwide, making it highest grossing Chinese-language film ever.[3]

Critical reception[edit]

The film was well received by critics. At Rotten Tomatoes, the film received a rating of 92% based on 24 reviews,[11] while according to Metacritic, the film has received an average score of 68, based on 13 reviews.[12]

Edmund Lee of Screen International describes the film as "a thoroughly entertaining action comedy."[1] Andrew Chan gave the film 9/10 and writes, "Stephen Chow latest revisit to “Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons” is a highly entertaining affair. From the get go, the audience is treated with Chow famed exaggerated style of comedy."[13]

Possible sequel[edit]

Derek Kwok reported in March 2013 that there were ongoing discussions about a script for a sequel with Stephen Chow, who may appear in it himself.[14] The film has a reported budget of around US$64 million. Production could start in August 2015 with a possible release during the 2017 Chinese New Year.[15]


  1. ^ a b c d Edmund Lee (2013-02-04). "Journey To The West: Conquering The Demons". Screen International. 
  2. ^ NEW CHINESE ODYSSEY (2013). Hong Kong Cinemagic.
  3. ^ a b "Top 10 Chinese films in 2013 - "Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons" (西游降魔篇)". 
  4. ^ "Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons (2013)". Hong Kong Movie Database. 
  5. ^ Stephen Chow's Journey to the West continues to break box-office records
  6. ^ Valentine’s Day Treats Chinese Exhibitors with Love; “Journey” Obliterates Single-Day Record
  7. ^ Domestic Comedies Dominate Holiday Box Office
  8. ^ Nancy Tartaglione (June 30, 2014). "Update: Intl Box Office: Boosted By China, ‘Transformers’ Crushes $202.1M Says Paramount For Biggest 2014 Offshore Bow; ‘Breakup Guru’ Woos; ‘Dragon’ Still Flying". Retrieved November 18, 2014. 
  9. ^ Bai Shi (Beijing Review) (9 February 2014). "Hollywood Takes a Hit". EntGroup Inc. Retrieved 10 February 2014. 
  10. ^ a b c
  11. ^ "Journey To The West (2014)". Rotten Tomatoes. 
  12. ^ "Journey to the West : Reviews". Metacritic. CNET Networks, Inc. Retrieved April 14, 2014. 
  13. ^ Andrew Chan (8 February 2013). "Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons". [HK Neo Reviews]. 
  14. ^ ihktv (22 March 2013). "Stephen Chow may Star in Journey to the West Sequel". Asian Pop News. Retrieved 5 October 2013. 
  15. ^ Clifford Coonan (2 February 2015). "Stephen Chow and Tsui Hark in Talks to Collaborate on 'Journey to the West' Sequel For Alibaba Pictures". Retrieved 3 February 2015. 

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