...leaving me distracted.
The old book in question is Journey to the West.
It's been very odd and rather enlightening, as Journey to the West is one of the biggest influences on East Asian pop culture that I'm aware of.
Case in point:
One of these characters was probably largely inspired by Sun Wukong/Son Goku/Monkey, the main character of Journey to the West. The other is Monkey.
Other characters probably take a lot of inspiration from Journey to the West, such as the anime Gurren Lagann. (Key difference: The story of Gurren Lagann is like Journey to the West's prologue chapters, but one in which Monkey wins.
Another interesting thing is that if you take dialogue seriously, the world in the novel is larger than the real world-the minimum distance between China and India is around three quarters the length of the equator.
It also might possibly be older, because depending on interpretation (mine being both liberal and literal), a piece of dialogue describes the Jade Emperor, the ruler of heaven, as being at a minimum nearly 83 billion years old. (But then, a lot of Asian mythology talks about the world itself reincarnating, so who knows?)
Anyway, yeah. Crazy old book.