Contrary to what one might think, Asian culture is very present around us, and even in the West. If you doubt it, you will be surprised.
The legend of the Monkey King is one of the most famous of Chinese culture. It comes from the novel ‘The Journey to the West’ (Xiyouji 西遊記), published in the 16th century under the Ming Dynasty, which is one of the four great classic novels of Chinese literature.
It is Wu ChengEn (吳承恩) who would have written novel, which at the base had 41 chapters, which later grafted about twenty others.
The Monkey King, in Chinese ‘Sun Wukong’ (孙悟空) or ‘Son Gokū’ in Japanese, is an extremely strong and fast character. He is endowed with many magical powers, immortality and has a magic weapon in the shape of a stick. He is mischievous and not very popular because of his angry and spooky temperament.
Brief summary of the legend
The Monkey King was born from a magic rock struck by lightning. After bravely crossing a waterfall, he discovered a new world where he became the leader. He then left in search of immortality and after 10 years of travel, met a master taoiste named Sudobhi, which he became the disciple. He quickly learned the secret of 72 transformations, how to fly, and finally immortality.
After being expelled by the master because of his arrogance, he created his own army and seeking to become stronger, stole the dragon king’s ‘magic stick’, which he made furious. The dragon king sent a complaint to heaven, to the ‘Emperor of Jade’. One day when he was drunk, the Monkey King was taken away by two emissaries from the underworld because his time on earth was over. But the Monkey King forced the 10 kings of the underworld to drop his name from the list, which earned him a new complaint in heaven.
After trying to calm the Monkey King, by giving him a ‘title’ in heaven and responsibilities, the ‘Jade Emperor’ furious of his behavior, sent powerful characters to fight him, and tried all sorts of things to get rid of him, but without success. Furious, the monkey king decided to destroy everything in heaven, which triggered the intervention of the Buddha. Finally the Monkey King was imprisoned under the ‘Five Fingers Mountain’ (Wuzhishan).
500 years later, Buddha asked a pious monk to find sacred writings, to bring them back to China. This monk, Sanzang, joined with other characters (a dragon, a ‘Sandy’ monster, a pig and an ogre) to protect him. He also delivered the monkey king and made him his disciple …
The Monkey King today
There are a lot of series, movies, anime, games telling the legend of the Monkey King in Asia. Almost every year, a new director embarks on a new remake.
Regarding the West, we find the Monkey King in well-known manga. In ‘One Piece’, the character ‘Monkey D Luffy’ is inspired by Sun Wukong. In ‘Dragon Ball’, his GoKu (the name of the monkey king in Japanese) has a tail and turns into a giant monkey when he looks at the moon. ‘Naruto’, also refers 2 times to the Monkey King: the king of the Enma monkeys, turns into an indestructible stick similar to that of Sun Wukong and His Goku is the real name of the Yonbi, the four-tailed demon.
There are also many video games that allude to this legend. We could quote for example: ‘Diablo III’, a set for the monk bears the name ‘Sunwuko’, of a monkey king trained by monks, specialist in the handling of the stick. In ‘League of Legend’, Wukong is inspired by Sun Wukong and also has a baton when he dances. In ‘World of Warcraft’, the Monkey King is the keeper of a prodigious stick …
In short, as you will have seen, the Asian legend of the Monkey King is everywhere!