Thursday, September 11, 2008

Sun Wukong

Sun Wukong , known in the West as the Monkey King, is the main character in the classical epic novel ''Journey to the West''. In the novel, he accompanies the monk on the journey to retrieve Buddhist sutras from India.

Sun Wukong possesses incredible strength, being able to lift his 13,500 Ruyi Jingu Bang with ease. He also has superb speed, traveling 108,000 li in one somersault. Sun knows 72 transformations, which allows him to transform into various animals and objects; he is, however, shown with slight problems transforming into other people, since he is unable to complete the transformation of his tail. 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 the Monkey King 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, to name a few. Unlike most gods, he earned his immortality through battling heaven and earth.


Birth and early life

Sun Wukong was born from a mythical stone formed from the primal forces of chaos, located on the . After joining a clan of monkeys, he earned their respect by discovering the behind a large waterfall; the clan made it their new home. The other monkeys honored him as their king, and he called himself ''Měi Hóuwáng'' . However, he soon realized that despite his power over the monkeys, he was just like them, and was not beyond mortality. Determined to find immortality, he traveled on a raft to civilized lands, where he found and became the disciple of a / Patriarch Bodhi. He was able to acquire human speech and manners through his travels.


In spite of their popularity , legends regarding Sun Wukong have changed with the ebb and flow that is Chinese culture. The tale with and the "Pillars" is a prime example, and did not appear until Buddhism was introduced to China during the Han Dynasty. Various legends concerning Sun Wukong date back to before written Chinese history. They tend to change and adapt to the most popular Chinese religion of a given era.

* Some scholars believe that the character Sun Wukong was partly based on Hanuman, the "monkey god" of Hinduism described in a book by the historical Sanzang. Wukong became so well known in China that he was once worshiped by some as a real god.
* Jamie Hewlett and Damon Albarn's Chinese opera "" is based on the legend of the Monkey King. They were subsequently commissioned by the BBC to produce a two minute animated film to promote their coverage of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, which features the characters involved in various sporting activities.
* There are some scholars who believe this character may be originated from the first disciple of Xuan Zang, .
* Sun Wukong is so prominent in ''Journey to the West'' that the famous translation by Arthur Waley entitled '''', leading to other versions of ''Journey to the West'' also being called ''Monkey'', such as the Japanese television show, ''''.
* The phrase "You burst out from a stone" has become one of the common excuses used by Chinese parents when answering the "where do babies come from" question.
* Sun Wukong is said to be the influence behind the creation of various Monkey Kung Fu styles.

In his book ''The Shaolin Monastery'' , Tel Aviv University Prof. Meir Shahar claims that Sun influenced a legend concerning the origins of the Shaolin staff method. The legend takes place during the Red Turban Rebellion of the Yuan Dynasty. Bandits lay siege to the monastery, but it is saved by a lowly kitchen worker wielding a long fire poker as a makeshift . He leaps into the oven and emerges as a monstrous giant big enough to stand astride both Mount Song and the imperial fort atop Mount Shaoshi . The bandits flee when they behold this staff-wielding titan. The Shaolin monks later realize that the kitchen worker was none other than the Monastery's guardian deity, Vajrapani, in disguise. Shahar compares the worker's transformation in the stove with Sun's time in Laozi's crucible, their use of the staff, and the fact that Sun and his weapon can both grow to gigantic proportions.

Names and titles

Sun Wukong is known as ''Syun Ng Hung'' in , ''Son Oh Gong'' in , ''T?n Ng? Kh?ng'' in , ''Son Gokū'' in and ''Sun Go Kong'' in ''Hanuman Sun Wukong'' in Cambodian

Listed in the order that they were acquired:
;''Shí Hóu'' : Meaning the "Stone monkey". This refers to his physical essence, being born from a piece of rock after millennia of incubation on the Bloom Mountains/Flower-Fruit Mountain.
;''Měi Hóuwáng'' : Meaning "Handsome Monkey-King", or Houwang for short. The adjective ''Měi'' means "beautiful, handsome, pretty"; it also means "to be pleased with oneself", referring to his ego. ''Hóu'' also highlights his "naughty and impish" character.
;''Sūn Wùkōng'' : The name given to him by his first master, Patriarch Bodhi. The surname ''Sūn'' was given as an in-joke about the monkey, as monkeys are also called ''húsūn'' , and can mean either a literal ''or'' a figurative "monkey" . The surname ''sūn'' and the "monkey"-''sūn'' only differs in that the latter carries an extra "dog" to highlight that 猻 refers to an animal. The given name ''Wùkōng'' means " ". This is translated into Japanese as ''Son Gokū''.
;''Bìmǎwēn'' : The title of the keeper of the Heavenly Horses, a punning of ''bìmǎwēn'' . A monkey was often put in a stable as people believed its presence could prevent the horses from catching illness. Sun Wukong was given this position by the Jade Emperor after his first intrusion into Heaven. He was promised that it was a good position to have, and that he, at least in this section, would be in the highest position. After discovering it was, in actuality, one of the lowest jobs in Heaven, he became angry, smashed the entire stable, set the horses free, and then quit. From then on, the title bìmǎwēn was used by his adversaries to mock him.
;''Qítiān Dàshèng'' : Meaning "Great Sage, Equal of Heaven". Wùkōng demanded this title from the Jade Emperor and was eventually granted it. This is translated into Japanese as ''seiten-taisei'' . The title originally holds no power, though it is officially a high rank. Later the title was granted the responsibility to guard the Heavenly Peach Garden, due to that many Heavenly Officials noticed that Sun Wukong had nothing to do.
;''Xíngzhě'' : Meaning "ascetic", it refers to a wandering monk, a priest's servant, or a person engaged in performing religious austerities. Xuanzang calls Wukong ''Sūn-xíngzhě'' when he accepts him as his companion. This is translated into Japanese as ''gyōja'' .
;''Dòu-zhànshèng-fó'' : "Battle-Mystic-Buddha". Wukong was given this name once he ascended to buddhahood at the end of the Journey to the West. This name is mentioned during the Chinese Buddhist evening services, specifically during the eighty-eight Buddhas repentance.

In addition to the names used in the novel, the Monkey King has other names in different languages:
*''K?u-chê-thian'' in : "Monkey, Equal of Heaven".
*''Maa5 lau1 zing1'' in : "Monkey Imp"
*''Saiten Taisei Son Goku'' in : "Great Sage Equal of Heaven"

Appearances in other media

Sun Wukong has been a staple character in many forms of media from many East Asian countries.

Film and television

Many actors including Masaaki Sakai, Liu Xiao Ling Tong, Stephen Chow, Yueh Hua , and Dicky Cheung have portrayed Sun in films and television shows. Jet Li portrays the character in the 2008 movie ''The Forbidden Kingdom'', which condenses many of the elements of his character into a single narrative.

In 1985, filmmaker wrote an early draft for the third Indiana Jones film , which featured the Monkey King. In Columbus' first draft Sun Wu Kung is benevolent deity and god to a city of pygmies and apes in Africa; but in the second draft he is a villain. George Lucas eventually decided the character was too unrealistic The script was leaked online in 1997, and many believed it was an early draft for the as the date was mistakenly printed as 1995..

The anime, ''Saiyuki'', portrayed the monkey king as Son Goku. Kazuya Minekura, the author of the manga, took the legend and made alterations to appeal to a teenage audience.

The manga and anime series Dragon Ball was based on ''Journey to the West'', and the protagonist was named . However, while Goku had a few items in his posession similar to the Monkey King , he appeared to be more human than monkey , and his initial mischievous behavior stems from his youth and innocence, rather than from arrogance and sometimes outright malice.

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