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The Monkey King

The Monkey King

Sun Wukong, also known as the Monkey King, is a main character in the classical Chinese epic novel Journey to the West written by Wu Cheng'en. One of the most enduring Chinese literary characters, Sun Wukong has a varied background and colorful cultural history.


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Allison Chen

Allison Chen

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It’s a bit like “Harry Potter on Facebook,” a hilarious send-up in which characters from the popular book series exchange comments via the social networking platform. After Mr. Ponder posted fictitious Weibo exchanges featuring China’s Four Great Classical Novels—Romance of the Three Kingdoms (@三国微博), Journey to the West (@西游记微博), Water Margin (@水浒微博), and Dream of the Red Chamber (@红楼微博) — Mr. Ponder’s follower number surged to over 200,000 almost overnight.

Some of Mr. Ponder’s fiction cleverly integrates original works with contemporary trends in China’s social media. For example, in Journey to the West, hero and Monkey King Sun Wukong meets his evil twin brother, who claims to be the true Monkey King. Enraged, Sun challenges his brother to a duel.

Article: Chinese Author Reinvents ...
Source: Tea Leaf Nation

Zhang explained that his Monkey King theme park would be the first of its kind in a country where amusement parks are based on foreign concepts, such as the Happy Valley franchise that offers thrill rides similar to Magic Mountain. Although Zhang’s park would focus on characters steeped in Chinese culture, he also plans to draw from the Disney-like film production sets he built in China. His 11 “movie cities” were used for his films and have become tourist attractions.

“I hope to one day partner the Monkey King theme park with the Disney theme park in Shanghai,” he said.

Article: University of Southern Ca...
Source: USC News

Is Sun Wukong's character from indigenous monkey figures or does his origins stem from Hanuman? I have demonstrated in this paper that Sun Wukong is a product of both. Through centuries of trade the Rama tradition found its way into China. The existing monkey legends and tales that circulated orally throughout central China provided a foundation on which corrupted and distorted fragments of the Rama saga could be added. By the time the extant "Journey to the West" was written, Wu Cheng'en had a large oral tradition to draw upon for his epic-novel.

Article:   Indigenous or Foreign? A …
Source:  Offline Book/Journal

The question of the origins of Sun Wukong, the supernatural monkey hero of the novel "Journey to the West" and one of the most beloved figures in Chinese popular religion and culture, has been at the center of scholarly debate for seven decades. In their search for this monkey disciple's prototype, scholars have examined a wide variety of monkey lore both within China and throughout Asian. Numerous monkeys have been proposed,some of which share motifs with Sun Wukong, yet none has been accepted by a majority of scholars as a satisfactory prototype.

Article:   The Lingyin Si Monkey Dis…
Source:  Offline Book/Journal

These novels often serve as a unifying source for oral literature and drama across regional, linguistic, and temporal barriers. Shahar argues that the written vernacular plays an important role in the pantheon's transmission because of its relationship to oral literature and drama. The novels reached every segment of late imperial society because they served as sources for storytellers and playwrights. Thus, those who could not read the "Journey to the West" heard Sun Wukong's adventures as narrated by storytellers or saw them enacted on stage. Often deriving from oral literature and drama in the first place, novels would in turn influence oral and dramatic performances.

Article:   Shahar: Unruly Gods
Source:  Offline Book/Journal

Of course, all these novels were also read by members of the literati, and Brandauer's tour-de-force explanation of violence in the Buddhist xiyou novels as rooted in Mahayanist idealism is convincing at the Mahayanist philosophical level of sophistication. But people who simply read the novel as entertainment, or who read the comic books derived from it, or who watch the operas, puppet shows, and now television serials, are probably taking the violence much more literally, thereby missing the subtle philosophical message intended by the author. Certainly Red Guards who used magic monkey Sun Wukong as a metaphor for their own rampages during the Cultural Revolution missed the point about Buddhist idealism entirely.

Article:   Violence in China: Essays…
Source:  Offline Book/Journal

At the end of the novel, after the pilgrims return to China with Buddhist scriptures, each disciple achieves enlightenment to the status befitting his character. The monk Xuanzang and Sun Wukong both achieve Buddha status, and Sandy becomes an Arhat. Pigsy, however, never fully learns to be free of his base desires. At the end of his journey, he is rewarded for his service with a position as an altar cleaner – the eater of leftover offerings.

Article: Monkey Magic - Journey to...
Source: The Epoch Times

In China, monkeys are frequently seen in conjunction with peaches (symbols of long life and immortality) because of the popular story "Journey to the West", which is frequently depicted in folk art and the shadow theater. An allegory of striving for enlightenment, the tale describes an actual journey of a Chinese Buddhist monk to India during the Tang Dynasty. Sun Wukong, king of the monkeys, is a central character in the story, which suggests that anyone can become an immortal. Sun Wukong managed the feat by breaking the rules and was chastised by the goddess Kuanyin who demanded that the monkey king accompany and protect the monk Xuan Zhuang on his journey.

Article:   Continuum Ency of Animal …
Source:  Offline Book/Journal

Wukong possesses immense strength, being able to wield his 8,000kg (~17,600 pounds) magic weapon with ease. He has superb speed, traveling 54,000 kilometers (~33,550 miles) in one somersault. Sun knows 72 transformations, which allow him to transform into various animals and objects. He is a skilled fighter, capable of holding his own against the best generals of heaven. Each of his hairs possesses magical properties, and is capable of transforming into a clone of Sun Wukong himself, or various weapons, animals and other objects. He also knows various spells in order to command wind, part water, conjure protective circles against demons, freeze humans, demons, and gods alike.

Article: Monkey King ...
Source: Journey to the West with ...

Written in the Ming Dynasty (16th centur y), Journey to the West is considered to be one of the four great classical novels of Chinese literature, the others being Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Water Margin and Dream of the Red Chamber. Since Journey to the West’s publication, it has been and continues to be the most popular story told in Chinese households. Numerous television series, screenplays and operas have been adapted from the original text. In fact, some actors of Chinese opera mould their entire career around playing one character from the novel.

Article: Monkey Magic - Journey to...
Source: The Epoch Times

Far across the Eastern Sea, on the island called the Mountain of Flowers and Fruit, a magic boulder had sat on the mountain's peak since the creation of the world. Bathed in the energies of Earth and Heaven, quickened by the light of Sun and Moon, the stone became fertile, and at last cracked open to release its young.

From this stone egg emerged a full-grown monkey. As it gazed about and above, golden light shot from its eyes to the farthest reaches of Heaven and Earth.

Article:   The Monkey King: A Superh…
Source:  Offline Book/Journal