Monkey King

Posted : admin On 8/22/2021


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Magical Monkey King. According to the legend, the Monkey King is born from the earth known as the stone monkey and fertilized by the grace of Heaven. After he proved to be the only monkey who dare to go through the Water Curtain on the Mountain of Flowers and Fruit and set up a kingdom on Earth, he was crowned as the Monkey King.

A Brief Introduction

“I need no introduction” [Proceeds to introduce himself] – Monkey King [1]

Sun Wu Kong, also known as The Monkey King is a character that most people know of from the 16th century Chinese novel by the name of Journey To The West.[2]

Throughout the novel, the Monkey is one of the monk Tang Sanzang’s guardians and followers on his journey to India. As the Monkey King, Wukong possess extraordinary power: immense strength, ability to travel using clouds, immortality, shape shifting abilities and possession of a giant staff that he can expand and shrinks at his command. Essentially, the 16th century Superman.[3]

Monkey King- The Origin

Though most people know the Monkey King from the novel Journey To The West, not many realize that the novel isn’t where Sun Wukong originates from, or at least Journey To The West itself wasn’t the first story where magical monkeys that live in the mountains were mentioned. Much like how the monk from Journey To The West, Tang Sanzang was based on the real monk Xuanzang from the Tang dynasty in the 7th century, with his journey to India being the inspiration to the novel Journey to The West; the Monkey King could potentially be based on another monkey from a different story that was created before the publication of Journey To The West.

Meir Shahar believes that Sun Wukong is based on the legend of Huili.[4]Dell inspiron wifi driver download.

The Huili’s legend takes place in the year 330 (4th century) about the Buddhist master Huili who:

  • Has a magical monkey as a disciple.
    • The monkey lived in the mountain same as Wukong.
    • Submits to the monk Huili just like Wukong submitting to Sanzang.
  • Both characters travel between China and India together.
    • Both reach the mountain Sakyamuni (Buddha’s abode)
  • Monkeys from the Lingyin Monastery bare the name “Sun” similar to Sun Wukong.[5]

Though Huili’s legend takes place in the 4th century, poems and songs about the saga wasn’t written until the Tang period, taking place between the year 618-907. There are minor differences that distinguish Huili’s Legend from Journey To The West. For instance, Huili and his monkey disciple travels eastward rather than westward from China to India.[6]

Does this make Huili’s Legend the origin of Wukong? Not really, since there is no concrete evidence that links them together. What this information does tell us, is that Wukong isn’t the first magical monkeys ever recorded in Chinese History and that the Monkey King is heavily influenced by previous work of literature way before the 16th century.

Monkey king alameda
Sun Wukong= Hanuman

Influences on the Monkey may come from but are not limited to China alone. This is because around the 11th century in India, Valmiki, author of the epic Ramayana made a character that similar to the Monkey King called . But is the Monkey King influenced by Hanuman or is it the other way around?[7]

Sun Wukong (Journey to the West)Hanuman-Ramayana
Character in a 16th century novelEpic character from 11th century
Both Monkey possesses human features and magical abilities
Wukong travel through air by riding on clouds.Hanuman travel through air by jumping at great heights from one place to another.
Can expand and shrink his staff at willCan expand and shrink his body at will
Followers and guardian of Tang SanzangFollowers and guardians of Rama

Regardless of these similarities, historical researchers can’t reach a common ground on whether or not Journey To The West was heavily influenced by Valmiki’s Ramayana.[8] So unless there is clear evidence that shows the author of JTTW, Wu Cheng’en, admitting that his novel was directly influenced by Valmiki’s Ramayana, there is no definitive comparison that can be made between the two characters. Potentially, the similarities that these two characters possess might come from oral literature and instead of a written story, it could be an opera or storytelling session that constantly modified every time it is performed.[9]

Journey to America

This sections aims to list a number of American media adaptations in comparison to the original novel, in order to figure out what about the character has changed.

Despite coming from an old novel, Wukong remains an iconic character to this day (specifically in Asia). The character is constantly being referenced in different form of media. On top of character like Son Goku from Dragon Ball[10] and the monster Infernape from Pokemon,[11] a brand new adaptation of the character called Monkey King- The Volcano is coming out this 2019. The King remains a well-known character specifically China as a cultural icon, due to his transformation in the story from an immoral trickster into a heroic Buddhist disciple by the end of the story. His faithfulness to Sanzang and their journey helps promotes the religion Buddhism in China.[12]

Due to the character popularity, Wukong was bound to be introduced to the American culture sooner or later. So how is The Monkey King portrayed American culture and how does it differ from the Chinese Novel?

  • American Literature: The novel Tripmaster Monkey written in 1989 is one of the first examples of the Monkey King being presented to American readers. Fusing two great Chinese literature into a theatre play, where in the novel the main character Wittman herself is playing both the character Guan Yu (from ) and Sun Wukong at the same time.[13]
  • TV adaptation: The Lost Empire is one of the first TV adaptations that introduce the Monkey King to the American’s big screen in 2001. The story involves an American businessman Nicholas Orton who was sent back to the past to save the world.[14]
  • Movie Adaptation: The Forbidden Kingdom made in 2006, similar to The Lost Empire, is a movie about an American man who was sent back to the past in order to save the world. The main character name . In the film, Tripitaka acts as an embodiment of the monk Sanzang as he carries out the monk journey in the novel.[15]
  • New TV Adaptation: Last but not least, the most recent Netflix adaptation of the Monkey King in 2018, New Legends of Monkey presents the most simplistic version of Journey to the West to America yet. The female Sanzang travels with her companions Monkey, Sandy and Pigsy on a journey to save the world from demons.[16]

Based on these adaptations, what similarities can you point out from the pictures below?

Detailed Answer: Apart from the novel adaptation in 1989, all the character above are white men who, regardless of whose roles they play in the adaptation are always depicted as “the white savior”. These changes makes the Monkey King seems inferior to the “main character”. Though it is true that the Monk Sanzang has full control over his disciple the Monkey King, it is a different matter for these adaptations since they are modernized. In The Lost Empire, the character Orton is a powerful representation of Tang Sanzang who is independent from Wukong. Besting the Monkey King in both brain and brawn, the story undermines the Monkey King’s power and role as a guardian within the story. The same pattern of storytelling is seen in The Forbidden Kingdom, where the character Tripitaka travels to save the imprisoned Monkey King. Aside from making Sanzang, the support character into the main character, some adaptation would do the opposite by making Sun Wukong himself weaker. Much like the new Netflix Adaptation, New Legends of Monkey, the Monkey King himself has lost all of his powers along with his staff, retaining only his martial arts skills. This ultimately makes the character Monkey King more “human” than godlike.

Simply put, through his journey to America. The Monkey King’s Americanization has made him weaker as Hollywood tries to reshape the character entirely. However, whether or not fans like these changes is a whole different matter.

  • Wu Cheng’en. Journey To The West. 1st ed. Ming Dynasty China, 1592.
  • Dota 2 (version 7.21). Windows/Mac/Linux. Washington: Valve Corporations, 2013.
  • The New Legends Of Monkey. Directed by Gerard Johnstone. Australia: Netflix, 2018, DVD.
  • The Lost Empire. Directed by Peter MacDonald. America: NBC, 2001, film.
  • Mair, Victor. 1989. “”Suen Wu-Kung= Hanumat? The Progress Of A Scholarly Debate”. In Zhongyang Yanjiuyuan Di Er Jie Guoji Hanxue Huiyi Lunwenji (Proceedings Of The Second International Conference On Sinology). Taipei: Academia Sinica, 1989, 659-752.
  • The Forbidden Kingdom. Directed by Rob Minkoff, Hollywood: Lionsgate, 2008, film.
  • Taken. Directed by Pierre Morel. Hollywood: 20th Century Fox, 2012, film.
  • Pearson, J. Stephen. “The Monkey King In The American Canon: Patricia Chao And Gerald Vizenor’s Use Of An Iconic Chinese Character”. Comparative Literature Studies 43: 3 (2006), 355-374. doi:10.1353/cls.2007.0007.
  • Shahar, Meir. “The Lingyin Si Monkey Disciples And The Origins Of Sun Wukong”. Harvard Journal Of Asiatic Studies 52: 1, (1992). doi:10.2307/2719331.
  • Pokemon. Created by Tajiri Satoshi. Tokyo, Japan: Nintendo, 1996, DVD.
  • Dragon Ball. Directed by Akira Toriyama. Nagoya, Japan: Bird Studio, 1984, film.
  1. Video game Dota 2 (version 7.21). Windows/Mac/Linux. Washington: Valve Corporations, 2013. ↵
  2. Wu Cheng'en. Journey To The West. Ming Dynasty China, 1592. ↵
  3. Meme source photo: Morel, Pierre. 2012. Taken. Film. Hollywood: 20th Century Fox, Monkey King added with Photoshop by Phuc Nguyen. ↵
  4. Meir Shahar, 'The Lingyin Si Monkey Disciples And The Origins Of Sun Wukong', Harvard Journal Of Asiatic Studies 52 (1), 194. ↵
  5. Ibid., 202-03 ↵
  6. Ibid., 223 ↵
  7. Victor Mair, 'Suen Wu-Kung= Hanumat? The Progress Of A Scholarly Debate'. In Zhongyang Yanjiuyuan Di Er Jie Guoji Hanxue Huiyi Lunwenji (Proceedings Of The Second International Conference On Sinology) (Taipei: Academia Sinica: 1989), 660. ↵
  8. Mair, 1989. ↵
  9. Ibid., 729. ↵
  10. Toriyama, Akira. Dragon Ball. Film. Nagoya, Japan: Bird Studio, 1984. ↵
  11. Tajiri, Satoshi. Pokemon. DVD. Tokyo, Japan: Nintendo, 1996. ↵
  12. J. Stephen Pearson, 357. ↵
  13. Pearson, 359. ↵
  14. Peter MacDonald, The Lost Empire, Film. America: NBC, 2001. ↵
  15. Rob Minkoff, The Forbidden Kingdom. (Film, Hollywood: Lionsgate, 2008). ↵
  16. Gerard Johnstone, The New Legends Of Monkey. (DVD, Australia: Netflix, 2018). ↵

The Monkey King

RealName: Sun Wukong (Chinese name)

Identity/Class: Supernatural being, deity

Monkey King Game

Occupation: (formerly) King of the Monkeys; (current) bodyguard toTripitaka

Affiliations: Tripitaka, Sandy,Pigsy

Enemies: Unknown

Monkey King 3

Known Relatives: All monkeys


Aliases: Great Sage Equal of Heaven, King Monkey, King of the Apes,The immortal egg.

Base of Operations: China

First Appearance: Journey to the West (c.1500), although the originallegend may date back to c 600 A.D.

Powers/Abilities: The Monkey King was born out of rock, and henceis extremely strong and durable - in fact he is totally invulnerable. Heis immortal, having gorged himself on the life-giving peaches of the JadeEmperor's sacred garden. He is also extremely smart - he learned all themagic tricks in the world from a master Taoist, so that he is now able totransform himself into seventy-two different images such as a tree, a bird,a beast of prey or a bug as small as a mosquito so as to sneak into an enemy'sbelly to fight him inside or out. He can employ clouds as vehicles allowinghim to travel 180,000 miles in a single somersault. He uses a Wishing Staffhe got from the Dragon Kings of the Oceans as his favorite weapon - it canexpand or shrink at its owner's command (he normally stores it in his earlobe).He can turns clumps of his hair into any object he desires. His fiery eyescan see through most illusions. Being made of stone, he is uncomfortableunderwater.

History:'The Nature of Monkey was Irrepressible!!' Monkey was hatched from a magicalegg on a mountain top, which had been weathered and fertilised by the elementsover many centuries. Made of stone and virtually indestructible (althoughhe still feels pain), he was crowned the Monkey King after he proved to bethe only monkey on the Mountain of Fruit and Flowers to dare go through theWater Curtain and set up a kingdom on Earth. Upon realising that he was destinedto die like everyone else, he made it his new goal to become immortal. Helocated a Taoist who taught him magic and alchemy (and how to fly on clouds).

After this he began a reign of unbelievable mischief. He bullied the DragonKings of the Oceans into giving him a Magic Wishing Staff, and the clothesto match it. He crossed off his name and the names of all his monkey subjectsfrom the 'Monkey File' in the Register of the Quick and the Dead, thus renderingall his original subjects immortal as well. When Heaven sent down peopleto punish him for these escapades he beat them up and sent them back. Emboldenedby this success, he then went to Heaven himself and demanded the title 'GreatSage - Equal of Heaven' - which he got (but with no salary to go with it)as it was decided the easiest way to contain his mischief was to trick himinto staying in Heaven.

But even there he created chaos with his restless irreverence and irrepressiblecuriosity. Things came to a peak when he ate the peaches from the Jade Emperor'sSacred Peach Garden, making himself even more truly immortal. The Peacheswere intended for the Peach Banquet, which he then totally disrupted by makinga mess of the arrangements, drinking all the wine, eating up all the finger-food,and gobbling down the Elixir concocted by Lao Tsu for the Cinnabar Banquet.Following this debacle, he fled from Heaven, pursued by the hundred thousandsoldiers of same. When they caught up with him, but he beat them up too.It was not until Lao Tsu threw down his Diamond Snare, hitting Monkey onthe head, that the recalcitrant captured.

He was sentenced to be cut up into small pieces, but the soldier trying tocarry out the punishment found they couldn't injure him. So the spirits ofthe Fire Stars were sent in to burn him, but he didn't burn. The thunderspirits had even less success in trying to hurl thunderbolts at him. Thecombination of Monkey's Taoist skills, the Peaches of Immortality, the Wineof Heaven, the food and the five bowls full of the Elixir of Long Life heconsumed, had made him truly indestructible. Even when Lao Tsu put him intohis Crucible of the Eight Trigrams and heated him with alchemic fire for49 days, the only effect it had was to make Monkey's eyes permanently red.Monkey escaped and then proceeded to run amok in Heaven in a rage, smashingeverything and beating up everyone he encountered.

At this point the Buddha intervened. The Buddha made awager with Monkey, betting him that he could not jump out of Buddha's hand.Should Monkey win, he demanded the Jade Emperor's job; should he lose, thenhe would be banished to Earth for centuries to learn some humility.

Monkey cloud-flew to the end of the universe, where he saw five pink pillars,which he took to be the end of the world. On the middle pillar he wrote 'TheGreat Sage Equal of Heaven reached this place', to prove beyond any doubthe had reached this spot. Figuring it was a long trip back, and being theirrepressible individual he was, he also urinated at the base of the firstpillar. Then he returned to face the Buddha. To his shock, the Buddha informedhim he had never left Buddha's hand - and to prove it, showed Monkey thewriting on his middle finger and the distinctive smell at the bottom of hissmallest digit. Monkey tried to renege on the bet, but before he could escape,Buddha pushed him out of the Gate of Heaven, then Buddha changed his fivefingers into the five elements (metal, wood, water, fire and earth). Theybecame the five-peaked mountain under which Monkey was trapped, leaving onlyhis head and hands exposed.

After 500 years he was granted a chance to redeem himself by accompanyingholy man Tripitaka on a journey to the West as his companion and guard. Inorder to keep him under control, a band of metal was put on his head thatTripitaka could cause to tighten by muttering a chant - while this couldn'thurt the indestructible imp, it would cause him extreme pain.

Comments: The story of the Monkey King was recorded in the epic tale'Journey to the West' by Wu Ch'eng-en (1500?-1582), a scholar-official. Itis one of the best known classical Chinese novels, replete with Chinese fables,fairy tables, legends, superstitions, popular beliefs and monster stories.It was based on a true story of a famous Chinese monk, Xuan Zang (602-664).Over the space of many years he made his way on foot to what is today India,birthplace of Buddhism, where he sought the Sutra, the Buddhist holy book.On his return to China, known at that time as the Great Tang, he began totranslate the sutras into Chinese, making a significant contribution tothe development of Buddhism in China.

In the popular TV series based on the story Monkey was played by MasaakiSakai. Another version of him was played by Russell Wong (above, right) inthe US TV movie 'The Lost Empire', and by Dicky Cheung in the Hong Kong movie'Chai tin dai sing suen ng hung' (Monkey King: Quest for the Sutra). StephenChow, best known in the West for Shaolin Soccer and Kung Fu Hustle, playedthe Monkey King in both parts of the movie series 'A Chinese Odyssey' (PartOne: Pandora's Box, Part Two: Cinderella - thanks to Carlos Cruz for thislast). Jet Li played the part in The Forbidden Kingdom.

Jerry Helliker informs me that 'they made a cartoon-movie abouthim 1965 with the name 'Uproar in Heaven' (Da Nao Tian Gong) which is oneof the best cartoons ever made. They also made a tv-series in China abouthim round 1985 with Liu Xiao Lingtong in the role as Sun Wukong' (the Chineseversion of his name).

Carlos Cruz informs me that the 1965 cartoon was an anime film made by Toeianimation studios, and that it's English title was Alacazam the Great. Carlosadds 'There are also several videogames on the Monkey King, and in Capcomvs Marvel, there is a female character with a red staff that extends on hercommand. She comes on the stage on a cloud and her father the monkey kingis flying the cloud. The character's name is Son Son. There was an intergalacticanime I saw as a kid of a princes trying to get to the center of the universeto find her father. The man she hired has two sticks that come together andbecomes a staff and he can extended to his desired size, it is alsoindestructible. Because of his bad temper and mischief, she gave him a crownthat shrinks on his head causing him great pain when he misbehaves or justto control him. And there is an anime cartoon called Shinzo, which is anotherMonkey King storyline.'

Kane Turley informs me that the Anime Dragonball Z is based on the legendof the Monkey King. Thanks to Terry Hooper for the topmost image, taken fromthe 1976 comic written and drawn by Tsui Yu-on.

CLARIFICATIONS: Not to be confused with

Monkey kingdom

Monkey King Netflix

  • Monkey, a cartoon primate hero

  • Monkeyboy, a New Zealand hero

  • Monkeyman, partner of Anne O'Brien

Any Additions/Corrections? Please let me know.

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