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Sun Wukong

Sun Wukong

Overview
Sun Wukong also known as the Monkey King is a main character in the classical Chinese
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

 epic novel Journey to the West
Journey to the West
Journey to the West is one of the Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese literature. It was written by Wu Cheng'en in the 16th century. In English-speaking countries, the tale is also often known simply as Monkey. This was one title used for a popular, abridged translation by Arthur Waley...

. In the novel, he is a monkey born from a stone who acquires supernatural powers through Taoist practices. After rebelling against heaven and being imprisoned under a mountain by the Buddha, he later accompanies the monk Xuanzang
Xuanzang (fictional character)
The fictional character Xuanzang is a central character of the classic Chinese novel Journey to the West.For most of the novel he is known as Táng-sānzàng, the title Sānzàng referring to his mission to seek the Sānzàngjīng, the "Three Collections of Scriptures"...

 on a journey to retrieve Buddhist sutra
Sutra
Sūtra is an aphorism or a collection of such aphorisms in the form of a manual. Literally it means a thread or line that holds things together and is derived from the verbal root siv-, meaning to sew , as does the medical term...

s from India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

.

Sun Wukong possesses an immense amount of strength; he is able to lift his 13,500 jīn
Catty
The catty , symbol 斤, is a traditional Chinese unit of mass used across East and Southeast Asia, notably for weighing food and other groceries in some wet markets, street markets, and shops. Related units include the picul, equal to 100 catties, and the tael, which is of a catty. A stone is a...

 (8,100 kg or 17,881 lbs) staff with ease.
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Encyclopedia
Sun Wukong also known as the Monkey King is a main character in the classical Chinese
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

 epic novel Journey to the West
Journey to the West
Journey to the West is one of the Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese literature. It was written by Wu Cheng'en in the 16th century. In English-speaking countries, the tale is also often known simply as Monkey. This was one title used for a popular, abridged translation by Arthur Waley...

. In the novel, he is a monkey born from a stone who acquires supernatural powers through Taoist practices. After rebelling against heaven and being imprisoned under a mountain by the Buddha, he later accompanies the monk Xuanzang
Xuanzang (fictional character)
The fictional character Xuanzang is a central character of the classic Chinese novel Journey to the West.For most of the novel he is known as Táng-sānzàng, the title Sānzàng referring to his mission to seek the Sānzàngjīng, the "Three Collections of Scriptures"...

 on a journey to retrieve Buddhist sutra
Sutra
Sūtra is an aphorism or a collection of such aphorisms in the form of a manual. Literally it means a thread or line that holds things together and is derived from the verbal root siv-, meaning to sew , as does the medical term...

s from India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

.

Sun Wukong possesses an immense amount of strength; he is able to lift his 13,500 jīn
Catty
The catty , symbol 斤, is a traditional Chinese unit of mass used across East and Southeast Asia, notably for weighing food and other groceries in some wet markets, street markets, and shops. Related units include the picul, equal to 100 catties, and the tael, which is of a catty. A stone is a...

 (8,100 kg or 17,881 lbs) staff with ease. He is also superbly fast, able to travel 108,000 li
Li (unit)
The li is a traditional Chinese unit of distance, which has varied considerably over time but now has a standardized length of 500 meters or half a kilometer...

 (54,000 kilometers or 33,554 mi) in one somersault. Sun knows 72 transformations, which allows him to transform into various animals and objects; he has trouble, however, transforming into other people, because 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 either into a clone of the Monkey King himself, or various weapons, animals, and other objects. He also knows spells that can command wind
Wind
Wind is the flow of gases on a large scale. On Earth, wind consists of the bulk movement of air. In outer space, solar wind is the movement of gases or charged particles from the sun through space, while planetary wind is the outgassing of light chemical elements from a planet's atmosphere into space...

, part water
Water
Water is a chemical substance with the chemical formula H2O. A water molecule contains one oxygen and two hydrogen atoms connected by covalent bonds. Water is a liquid at ambient conditions, but it often co-exists on Earth with its solid state, ice, and gaseous state . Water also exists in a...

, conjure protective circles against demon
Demon
call - 1347 531 7769 for more infoIn Ancient Near Eastern religions as well as in the Abrahamic traditions, including ancient and medieval Christian demonology, a demon is considered an "unclean spirit" which may cause demonic possession, to be addressed with an act of exorcism...

s, and freeze humans, demons, and gods alike.

The origin of Sun Wukong is considered by some American, Chinese, and Indian scholars to be influenced by both the Hindu deity Hanuman
Hanuman
Hanuman , is a Hindu deity, who is an ardent devotee of Rama, a central character in the Indian epic Ramayana and one of the dearest devotees of lord Rama. A general among the vanaras, an ape-like race of forest-dwellers, Hanuman is an incarnation of the divine and a disciple of Lord Rama in the...

 from the Ramayana
Ramayana
The Ramayana is an ancient Sanskrit epic. It is ascribed to the Hindu sage Valmiki and forms an important part of the Hindu canon , considered to be itihāsa. The Ramayana is one of the two great epics of India and Nepal, the other being the Mahabharata...

and elements of Chinese folklore.

Birth and early life


Sun Wukong was born from a mythical stone formed from the primal forces of chaos, located on the Mountain of Flowers and Fruit (hua guo shan). After joining a clan of monkeys, he earned their respect by discovering the Water Curtain Cave (shui lian dong) 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 (handsome monkey king). He soon realized that despite his power over the monkeys, he was still only mortal. Determined to find immortality, he traveled on a raft to civilized lands, where he found and became the disciple of a Taoist immortal Bodhi
Bodhi
Bodhi is both a Pāli and Sanskrit word traditionally translated into English with the word "enlightenment", but which means awakened. In Buddhism it is the knowledge possessed by a Buddha into the nature of things...

. He was able to acquire human speech and manners through his travels.

Bodhi was initially reluctant to take him because he was not human; but the monkey's pertinacity impressed the patriarch. It was from him that the monkey received his official name Sun Wukong ("Sun" implies his origin as a monkey, and "Wukong" means aware of emptiness
Shunyata
Śūnyatā, शून्यता , Suññatā , stong-pa nyid , Kòng/Kū, 空 , Gong-seong, 공성 , qoγusun is frequently translated into English as emptiness...

). Soon, his eagerness and intelligence made him one of the favorite disciples of the patriarch, whose guidance and training taught the monkey a number of magic arts. He acquired the powers of shapeshifting
Shapeshifting
Shapeshifting is a common theme in mythology, folklore, and fairy tales. It is also found in epic poems, science fiction literature, fantasy literature, children's literature, Shakespearean comedy, ballet, film, television, comics, and video games...

 known as the "72 transformations", supposedly the more versatile and difficult set of skills that allows him to transform into every possible form of existence, including people and objects. He also learned about cloud-traveling, including a technique called the Jīndǒuyún (cloud-somersault), which covers 108,000 li
Li (unit)
The li is a traditional Chinese unit of distance, which has varied considerably over time but now has a standardized length of 500 meters or half a kilometer...

(54,000 km or 33,554 mi) in a single flip. Finally, he could transform each of the 84,000 hairs on his body into inanimate objects and living beings, or even clones of himself. Sun Wukong became proud of his abilities, and began boasting to the other disciples. Bodhi was not happy with this, and cast him out of his temple. Before they parted, Bodhi ordered that Sun Wukong promise never to tell anyone how he acquired his powers.

At the Mountain of Flowers and Fruit, Sun Wukong established himself as one of the most powerful and influential demons in the world. In search of a weapon worthy of himself, Sun Wukong traveled into the oceans, where he acquired the Golden-banded staff Ruyi Jingu Bang, which could change its size, multiply itself, and fight according to the whim of its master. It was originally used by Dà-Yǔ to measure ocean depth and later became the "Pillar that pacifies the oceans", a treasure of Ao Guang, the "dragon-king of the Eastern Seas". It weighed 13,500 jin
Chinese units of measurement
Chinese units of measurement are the customary and traditional units of measure used in China. In the People's Republic of China, the units were re-standardised during the late 20th century to make them approximate SI units. Many of the units were formerly based on the number 16 instead of 10...

(8.1 tons). Upon Sun Wukong's approach, the pillar started to glow, signifying that it had found its true master. Its versatility meant that Sun Wukong could wield it as a staff and keep it inside his ear as a sewing needle. This drove fear into the magical beings of the sea and threw the sea itself into confusion, since nothing but the pillar could control the ebb and flow of the ocean's tides. In addition to taking the magical staff, Wukong also defeated the dragons of the four seas in battle and forced them to give him golden chain mail
Chain Mail
"Chain Mail" is a single by Mancunian band James, released in March 1986 by Sire Records, the first after the band defected from Factory Records. The record was released in two different versions, as 7" single and 12" EP, with different artworks by John Carroll and, confusingly, under different...

 (鎖子黃金甲), a phoenix
Phoenix (mythology)
The phoenix or phenix is a mythical sacred firebird that can be found in the mythologies of the Arabian, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, Chinese, Indian and Phoenicians....

-feather cap (鳳翅紫金冠 Fèngchìzǐjinguān
Fèngchìzǐjinguān
Fèngchìzǐjinguān or phoenix feather cap, or more appropriately the crown of the feathers of the Fenghuang, was one of the treasures of the dragon kings that is obtained by Sun Wukong in the story Journey to the West. It is described as a circlet of red gold adorned with phoenix feathers...

), and cloud
Cloud
A cloud is a visible mass of liquid droplets or frozen crystals made of water and/or various chemicals suspended in the atmosphere above the surface of a planetary body. They are also known as aerosols. Clouds in Earth's atmosphere are studied in the cloud physics branch of meteorology...

-walking boots (藕絲步雲履 Ǒusībùyúnlǚ).

Upon his triumphant return, he demonstrated the new weapon to his followers, growing his size in proportion to the original length of the staff. The uproar drew attention of other beastly powers who sought to ally with him. Sun Wukong formed a fraternity with the Bull Demon King (牛魔王), the Saurial Demon King (蛟魔王), the Roc Demon King (鵬魔王), the Lion Spirit King (獅狔王), the Macaque
Macaque
The macaques constitute a genus of Old World monkeys of the subfamily Cercopithecinae. - Description :Aside from humans , the macaques are the most widespread primate genus, ranging from Japan to Afghanistan and, in the case of the barbary macaque, to North Africa...

 Spirit King (獼猴王) and the Marmoset
Marmoset
Marmosets are the 22 New World monkey species of the genera Callithrix, Cebuella, Callibella, and Mico. All four genera are part of the biological family Callitrichidae. The term marmoset is also used in reference to the Goeldi's Monkey, Callimico goeldii, which is closely related.Most marmosets...

 Spirit King (𤟹狨王).

Sun Wukong then defied Hell's attempt to collect his soul. Instead of reincarnating like all other living beings, he wiped his name out of the "Book of Life and Death" and with it the names of all other monkeys known to him. The Dragon Kings and the Kings of Hell then decided to report him to the Jade Emperor
Jade Emperor
The Jade Emperor in Chinese folk culture, is the ruler of Heaven and all realms of existence below including that of Man and Hell, according to a version of Taoist mythology. He is one of the most important gods of the Chinese traditional religion pantheon...

 of Heaven.

Havoc in the Heavenly Kingdom



Hoping that a promotion and a rank amongst the gods would make him more manageable, the Jade Emperor
Jade Emperor
The Jade Emperor in Chinese folk culture, is the ruler of Heaven and all realms of existence below including that of Man and Hell, according to a version of Taoist mythology. He is one of the most important gods of the Chinese traditional religion pantheon...

 invited Sun Wukong to Heaven, where the monkey believed he would receive an honorable place as one of the gods. Instead, he was made the Protector of the Horses to watch over the stables, which was the lowest job in heaven. When he discovered this, Sun Wukong rebelled and proclaimed himself the "Great Sage, Equal of Heaven", and allied with some of the most powerful demons on earth. Then he got revenge by setting the Cloud Horses free. The Heavens' initial attempt at subduing the Monkey King was unsuccessful, and they were forced to recognize his title; however, they tried again to put him off as the guardian of Heavenly Garden. When he found that he was excluded from a royal banquet that included every other important god and goddess, Sun Wukong's indignation again turned to open defiance. After stealing Xi Wangmu
Xi Wangmu
Xi Wangmu, literally Queen Mother of the West , is an ancient Chinese goddess, also known in Japan and Korea. Her origins can be traced back to oracle bone inscriptions of the 15th century BCE that record sacrifices to a "western mother". Even though these inscriptions illustrate that she predates...

's "peaches of immortality", Lao Tzu's "pills of longevity", and the Jade Emperor
Jade Emperor
The Jade Emperor in Chinese folk culture, is the ruler of Heaven and all realms of existence below including that of Man and Hell, according to a version of Taoist mythology. He is one of the most important gods of the Chinese traditional religion pantheon...

's royal wine, he escaped back to his kingdom in preparation for his rebellion.

Sun Wukong later single-handedly defeated the Army of Heaven's 100,000 celestial warriors - each fight an equivalent of a cosmic embodiment, including all 28 constellations, four heavenly kings
Four Heavenly Kings
In the Buddhist faith, the Four Heavenly Kings are four gods, each of whom watches over one cardinal direction of the world.The Kings are collectively named as follows:...

, and Nezha
Nezha (deity)
Nezha, Na Zha or Nata . He was then given the title "Third Lotus Prince" after he became a deity.Modern scholarship has shown that he is based on two figures from Hindu mythology, namely Nalakubar and Krishna....

, the son of Li Jiang Jun who proved himself worthy - and proved himself equal to the best of Heaven's generals, Erlang Shen
Erlang Shen
Erlang Shen , or Erlang is a Chinese God with a third truth-seeing eye in the middle of his forehead.Er-lang Shen may be a deified version of several semi-mythical folk heroes who help regulate China's torrential floods, dating variously from the Qin, Sui and Jin dynasties...

. Eventually, through the teamwork of Taoist and Buddhist forces, including the efforts from some of the greatest deities, Sun Wukong was captured. After several failed attempts at execution, Sun Wukong was locked into Lao Tzu's eight-way trigram cauldron to be distilled into an elixir by the most sacred and the most severe samadhi
Samadhi
Samadhi in Hinduism, Buddhism,Jainism, Sikhism and yogic schools is a higher level of concentrated meditation, or dhyāna. In the yoga tradition, it is the eighth and final limb identified in the Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali....

 fires. After 49 days, the cauldron was opened and Sun Wukong jumped out, stronger than ever. He now had the ability to recognize evil in any form through his huǒyǎn-jīnjīng (火眼金睛) (lit. "fiery-eyes golden-gaze"), an eye condition that also gave him a weakness to smoke, and proceeded to destroy Heaven's remaining forces.

Imprisonment


With all of their options exhausted, the Jade Emperor and the authorities of Heaven appealed to the Buddha
Gautama Buddha
Siddhārtha Gautama was a spiritual teacher from the Indian subcontinent, on whose teachings Buddhism was founded. In most Buddhist traditions, he is regarded as the Supreme Buddha Siddhārtha Gautama (Sanskrit: सिद्धार्थ गौतम; Pali: Siddhattha Gotama) was a spiritual teacher from the Indian...

, who arrived from his temple in the West. The Buddha made a bet with Sun Wukong that he (Sun Wukong) could not escape from his (Buddha's) palm. Sun Wukong, knowing that he could cover 108,000 li in one leap, smugly agreed. He took a great leap and then flew to the end of the world in seconds. Nothing was visible except for five pillars, and Wukong surmised that he had reached the ends of Heaven. To prove his trail, he marked the pillars with a phrase declaring himself "the great sage equal to heaven" (and in other versions, urinated on the pillar he signed on). Afterward, he leaped back and landed in the Buddha's palm. There, he was surprised to find that the five "pillars" he had found were in fact the five fingers of the Buddha's hand. When Wukong tried to escape, the Buddha turned his hand into a mountain. Before Wukong could shrug it off, the Buddha sealed him there using a paper talisman on which was written the mantra
Mantra
A mantra is a sound, syllable, word, or group of words that is considered capable of "creating transformation"...

 Om Mani Padme Hum
Om mani padme hum
is the six syllabled mantra particularly associated with the four-armed Shadakshari form of Avalokiteshvara , the bodhisattva of compassion...

in gold letters, wherein Sun Wukong remained imprisoned for five centuries.

Disciple to Xuanzang



Five centuries later, the Bodhisattva
Bodhisattva
In Buddhism, a bodhisattva is either an enlightened existence or an enlightenment-being or, given the variant Sanskrit spelling satva rather than sattva, "heroic-minded one for enlightenment ." The Pali term has sometimes been translated as "wisdom-being," although in modern publications, and...

 Guanyin went out in search for disciples that could protect a pilgrim from the East to journey to India to retrieve the Buddhist sutras
Sutra
Sūtra is an aphorism or a collection of such aphorisms in the form of a manual. Literally it means a thread or line that holds things together and is derived from the verbal root siv-, meaning to sew , as does the medical term...

. In hearing this, Sun Wukong offered to serve this pilgrim, Xuanzang
Xuanzang (fictional character)
The fictional character Xuanzang is a central character of the classic Chinese novel Journey to the West.For most of the novel he is known as Táng-sānzàng, the title Sānzàng referring to his mission to seek the Sānzàngjīng, the "Three Collections of Scriptures"...

, a monk of the Tang Dynasty
Tang Dynasty
The Tang Dynasty was an imperial dynasty of China preceded by the Sui Dynasty and followed by the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period. It was founded by the Li family, who seized power during the decline and collapse of the Sui Empire...

, in exchange for his freedom. Guanyin understood that the monkey would be hard to control, and therefore gave Xuanzang
Xuanzang (fictional character)
The fictional character Xuanzang is a central character of the classic Chinese novel Journey to the West.For most of the novel he is known as Táng-sānzàng, the title Sānzàng referring to his mission to seek the Sānzàngjīng, the "Three Collections of Scriptures"...

 a gift from the Buddha: a magical headband which, once Sun Wukong was tricked into putting it on, could never be removed. With a special chant, the band would tighten and cause unbearable pain to the monkey's head. To be fair, she also gave Sun Wukong three special hairs, which could be used in dire emergencies. Under Xuanzang's supervision, Sun Wukong was allowed to journey to the West.

Throughout the epic Journey to the West
Journey to the West
Journey to the West is one of the Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese literature. It was written by Wu Cheng'en in the 16th century. In English-speaking countries, the tale is also often known simply as Monkey. This was one title used for a popular, abridged translation by Arthur Waley...

, Sun Wukong faithfully helped Xuanzang on his journey to India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

. They were joined by "Pigsy" (猪八戒 Zhu Bajie
Zhu Bajie
Zhu Bajie, also named Zhu Wuneng, is one of the three helpers of Xuanzang in the classic Chinese novel Journey to the West. He is called "Pigsy" or "Pig" in many English versions of the story....

) and "Sandy" (沙悟浄 Sha Wujing
Sha Wujing
Shā Wùjìng is one of the three disciples of Xuánzàng in the classic Chinese novel Journey to the West, although versions of his character predate the Ming novel. In the novels, his background is the least developed of the pilgrims and he contributes the least to their efforts...

), both of whom offered to accompany the priest in order to atone for their previous crimes. It was later revealed that the priest's horse was in fact a dragon
Dragon
A dragon is a legendary creature, typically with serpentine or reptilian traits, that feature in the myths of many cultures. There are two distinct cultural traditions of dragons: the European dragon, derived from European folk traditions and ultimately related to Greek and Middle Eastern...

 prince. Xuanzang's safety was constantly under threat from demons and other supernatural beings (who believed that his flesh, once consumed, would bring them longevity), as well as from bandits, wherefore Sun Wukong often acted as his bodyguard and given free access to the powers of Heaven to combat these threats. The group encountered a series of eighty-one tribulations before accomplishing their mission and returning safely to China
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

. There, Sun Wukong was granted Buddhahood
Buddhahood
In Buddhism, buddhahood is the state of perfect enlightenment attained by a buddha .In Buddhism, the term buddha usually refers to one who has become enlightened...

 for his service and strength.

Celebrations and festivals


The Sun Wukong festival is celebrated on the sixteenth day of the eighth lunar month
Lunar month
In lunar calendars, a lunar month is the time between two identical syzygies . There are many variations. In Middle-Eastern and European traditions, the month starts when the young crescent moon becomes first visible at evening after conjunction with the Sun one or two days before that evening...

 on the Chinese calendar
Chinese calendar
The Chinese calendar is a lunisolar calendar, incorporating elements of a lunar calendar with those of a solar calendar. It is not exclusive to China, but followed by many other Asian cultures as well...

. Festivals feature recreations of his ordeals such as walking on a bed of coals and climbing a ladder of knives.

In Hong Kong
Hong Kong
Hong Kong is one of two Special Administrative Regions of the People's Republic of China , the other being Macau. A city-state situated on China's south coast and enclosed by the Pearl River Delta and South China Sea, it is renowned for its expansive skyline and deep natural harbour...

 the festival is celebrated at the Buddhist Temple in the Po Tat Estate
Po Tat Estate
Po Tat Estate , formerly called Po Lam Road Housing Development , is a public housing estate at the junction of Po Lam Road and Sau Mau Ping Road in Sau Mau Ping, Kwun Tong, Kowloon, Hong Kong, near Sau Mau Ping Estate and Tseung Kwan O Tunnel...

 area of Sau Mau Ping
Sau Mau Ping
Sau Mau Ping is an area in eastern New Kowloon, Hong Kong.Its Chinese name was formerly So Mau Ping , but this was often mis-rendered So Mo Ping , meaning a place to 'visit one's ancestors'. In fact, during World War II, much of the area was used as a cemetery...

, which contains a shrine to Sun Wukong.

In politics


Mao Zedong
Mao Zedong
Mao Zedong, also transliterated as Mao Tse-tung , and commonly referred to as Chairman Mao , was a Chinese Communist revolutionary, guerrilla warfare strategist, Marxist political philosopher, and leader of the Chinese Revolution...

 consistently used Sun Wukong as a role model, and often spoke about the good example of the Monkey King, citing "his fearlessness in thinking, doing work, striving for the objective and extricating China from poverty".

Influence


In spite of their popularity (or perhaps because of it), legends regarding Sun Wukong have changed with Chinese culture. The tale with Buddha
Gautama Buddha
Siddhārtha Gautama was a spiritual teacher from the Indian subcontinent, on whose teachings Buddhism was founded. In most Buddhist traditions, he is regarded as the Supreme Buddha Siddhārtha Gautama (Sanskrit: सिद्धार्थ गौतम; Pali: Siddhattha Gotama) was a spiritual teacher from the Indian...

 and the "Pillars" is a prime example, and did not appear until Buddhism
Buddhism
Buddhism is a religion and philosophy encompassing a variety of traditions, beliefs and practices, largely based on teachings attributed to Siddhartha Gautama, commonly known as the Buddha . The Buddha lived and taught in the northeastern Indian subcontinent some time between the 6th and 4th...

 was introduced to China
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

 during the Han Dynasty
Han Dynasty
The Han Dynasty was the second imperial dynasty of China, preceded by the Qin Dynasty and succeeded by the Three Kingdoms . It was founded by the rebel leader Liu Bang, known posthumously as Emperor Gaozu of Han. It was briefly interrupted by the Xin Dynasty of the former regent Wang Mang...

. Various legends concerning Sun Wukong date back to before written Chinese history. They tend to change and adapt to the most popular Chinese religion
Chinese folk religion
Chinese folk religion or Shenism , which is a term of considerable debate, are labels used to describe the collection of ethnic religious traditions which have been a main belief system in China and among Han Chinese ethnic groups for most of the civilization's history until today...

 of a given era. The Hindu deity Hanuman
Hanuman
Hanuman , is a Hindu deity, who is an ardent devotee of Rama, a central character in the Indian epic Ramayana and one of the dearest devotees of lord Rama. A general among the vanaras, an ape-like race of forest-dwellers, Hanuman is an incarnation of the divine and a disciple of Lord Rama in the...

 from the Ramayana
Ramayana
The Ramayana is an ancient Sanskrit epic. It is ascribed to the Hindu sage Valmiki and forms an important part of the Hindu canon , considered to be itihāsa. The Ramayana is one of the two great epics of India and Nepal, the other being the Mahabharata...

is also considered by some American, Chinese, and Indian scholars to be an inspiration for Sun Wukong.
  • Jamie Hewlett and Damon Albarn's Chinese opera "Monkey: Journey to the West
    Monkey: Journey to the West
    Monkey: Journey to the West is a stage adaptation of the 16th Century Chinese novel Journey to the West, by Wu Cheng'en. It was conceived and created by the Chinese actor and director Chen Shi-zheng with the British musician Damon Albarn and British artist Jamie Hewlett.-Development:In 2004,...

    " is based on the legend of the Monkey King. They were subsequently commissioned by the BBC
    BBC
    The British Broadcasting Corporation is a British public service broadcaster. Its headquarters is at Broadcasting House in the City of Westminster, London. It is the largest broadcaster in the world, with about 23,000 staff...

     to produce a two minute animated film to promote their coverage of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing
    Beijing
    Beijing , also known as Peking , is the capital of the People's Republic of China and one of the most populous cities in the world, with a population of 19,612,368 as of 2010. The city is the country's political, cultural, and educational center, and home to the headquarters for most of China's...

    , 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, Shi Bantuo.
  • Sun Wukong is so prominent in Journey to the West
    Journey to the West
    Journey to the West is one of the Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese literature. It was written by Wu Cheng'en in the 16th century. In English-speaking countries, the tale is also often known simply as Monkey. This was one title used for a popular, abridged translation by Arthur Waley...

    that the famous translation by Arthur Waley
    Arthur Waley
    Arthur David Waley CH, CBE was an English orientalist and sinologist.-Life:Waley was born in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, England, as Arthur David Schloss, son of the economist David Frederick Schloss...

    , entitled Monkey
    Monkey (book)
    Monkey: A Folk-Tale of China, usually known as simply Monkey, is an abridged translation of the sixteenth century Chinese classic novel Journey to the West by poet and novelist Wu Cheng'en, of the Ming dynasty...

    , led to other versions of Journey to the West, also called Monkey, among them a well-known Japanese television show.


In his book The Shaolin Monastery (2008), Tel Aviv University
Tel Aviv University
Tel Aviv University is a public university located in Ramat Aviv, Tel Aviv, Israel. With nearly 30,000 students, TAU is Israel's largest university.-History:...

 Prof. Meir Shahar
Meir Shahar
Meir Shahar , born in 1959 in Jerusalem a Professor in the Department of East Asian Studies at the Tel Aviv University.After studying at the University of Jerusalem, he studied Chinese languages in Taipei...

 claims that Sun influenced a legend concerning the origins of the Shaolin staff method. The legend takes place during the Red Turban Rebellion
Red Turban Rebellion
The Red Turban Rebellion was an uprising much influenced by the White Lotus Society members that targeted the ruling Yuan Dynasty.- Causes :...

 of the Yuan Dynasty
Yuan Dynasty
The Yuan Dynasty , or Great Yuan Empire was a ruling dynasty founded by the Mongol leader Kublai Khan, who ruled most of present-day China, all of modern Mongolia and its surrounding areas, lasting officially from 1271 to 1368. It is considered both as a division of the Mongol Empire and as an...

. Bandits lay siege to the monastery, but it is saved by a lowly kitchen worker wielding a long fire poker as a makeshift staff
Gun (staff)
The Chinese word gun refers to a long Chinese staff weapon used in Chinese martial arts. It is known as one of the four major weapons, along with the qiang , dao , and the jian , called in this group "The Grandfather of all Weapons".-Variants:There are various kinds of gun, and they include the...

. He leaps into the oven and emerges as a monstrous giant big enough to stand astride both Mount Song
Mount Song
Mount Song, known in Chinese as Song Shan , is one of the Five Sacred Mountains of Taoism and is located in Henan province on the south bank of the Yellow River in China...

 and the imperial fort atop Mount Shaoshi (which are five miles apart). The bandits flee when they behold him. The Shaolin monks later realize that the kitchen worker was the Monastery's guardian deity, Vajrapani
Vajrapani
' is one of the earliest bodhisattvas of Mahayana Buddhism. He is the protector and guide of the Buddha, and rose to symbolize the Buddha's power. Vajrapani was used extensively in Buddhist iconography as one of the three protective deities surrounding the Buddha...

, in disguise. Shahar compares the worker's transformation in the stove with Sun Wukong's time in Laozi
Laozi
Laozi was a mystic philosopher of ancient China, best known as the author of the Tao Te Ching . His association with the Tao Te Ching has led him to be traditionally considered the founder of Taoism...

's crucible, their use of the staff, and the fact that Sun Wukong and his weapon can both grow to gigantic proportions.

Names and titles


Sun Wukong (孫悟空) is known/pronounced as Suen Ng Hung in Cantonese, Son Oh Gong in Korean
Korean language
Korean is the official language of the country Korea, in both South and North. It is also one of the two official languages in the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture in People's Republic of China. There are about 78 million Korean speakers worldwide. In the 15th century, a national writing...

, Tôn Ngộ Không in Vietnamese
Vietnamese language
Vietnamese is the national and official language of Vietnam. It is the mother tongue of 86% of Vietnam's population, and of about three million overseas Vietnamese. It is also spoken as a second language by many ethnic minorities of Vietnam...

, Son Gokū in Japanese
Japanese language
is a language spoken by over 130 million people in Japan and in Japanese emigrant communities. It is a member of the Japonic language family, which has a number of proposed relationships with other languages, none of which has gained wide acceptance among historical linguists .Japanese is an...

 and Sun Go Kong in Indonesian
Indonesian language
Indonesian is the official language of Indonesia. Indonesian is a normative form of the Riau Islands dialect of Malay, an Austronesian language which has been used as a lingua franca in the Indonesian archipelago for centuries....

 , and Sun Wukong in Cambodian. He is also known/pronounced Sun' Ukun in Russian
Russian language
Russian is a Slavic language used primarily in Russia, Belarus, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. It is an unofficial but widely spoken language in Ukraine, Moldova, Latvia, Turkmenistan and Estonia and, to a lesser extent, the other countries that were once constituent republics...

 and Sun Wukong in Turkish
Turkish language
Turkish is a language spoken as a native language by over 83 million people worldwide, making it the most commonly spoken of the Turkic languages. Its speakers are located predominantly in Turkey and Northern Cyprus with smaller groups in Iraq, Greece, Bulgaria, the Republic of Macedonia, Kosovo,...

.

Listed in the order that they were acquired:
Shí Hóu (石猴): Meaning the "Stone monkey". This refers to his physical essence, being born from a sphere of rock after millennia of incubation on the Bloom Mountains/Flower-Fruit Mountain.
Měi Hóuwáng (美猴王): 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 ("monkey") also highlights his "naughty and impish" character.
Sūn Wùkōng (孫悟空): The name given to him by his first master, Patriarch Bodhi
Bodhi
Bodhi is both a Pāli and Sanskrit word traditionally translated into English with the word "enlightenment", but which means awakened. In Buddhism it is the knowledge possessed by a Buddha into the nature of things...

. The surname Sūn was given as an in-joke about the monkey, as monkeys are also called húsūn (猢猻), and can mean either a literal or a figurative "monkey" (or "macaque
Macaque
The macaques constitute a genus of Old World monkeys of the subfamily Cercopithecinae. - Description :Aside from humans , the macaques are the most widespread primate genus, ranging from Japan to Afghanistan and, in the case of the barbary macaque, to North Africa...

"). The surname sūn (孫) and the "monkey"-sūn (猻) only differs in that the latter carries an extra "dog" (quǎn) radical
Radical (Chinese character)
A Chinese radical is a component of a Chinese character. The term may variously refer to the original semantic element of a character, or to any semantic element, or, loosely, to any element whatever its origin or purpose...

 to highlight that 猻 refers to an animal. The given name Wùkōng means "awakened to
Satori
is a Japanese Buddhist term for enlightenment that literally means "understanding". In the Zen Buddhist tradition, satori refers to a flash of sudden awareness, or individual enlightenment, and is considered a "first step" or embarkation toward nirvana....

 emptiness
Shunyata
Śūnyatā, शून्यता , Suññatā , stong-pa nyid , Kòng/Kū, 空 , Gong-seong, 공성 , qoγusun is frequently translated into English as emptiness...

". This is pronounced in Japanese as Son Gokū.
Bìmǎwēn (弼馬溫): The title of the keeper of the Heavenly Horses, a pun
Pun
The pun, also called paronomasia, is a form of word play which suggests two or more meanings, by exploiting multiple meanings of words, or of similar-sounding words, for an intended humorous or rhetorical effect. These ambiguities can arise from the intentional use and abuse of homophonic,...

ning of bìmǎwēn (避馬瘟; lit. "avoiding the horses' plague"). A monkey was often put in a stable
Stable
A stable is a building in which livestock, especially horses, are kept. It most commonly means a building that is divided into separate stalls for individual animals...

 as people believed its presence could prevent the horses from catching illness. Sun Wukong was given this position by the Jade Emperor
Jade Emperor
The Jade Emperor in Chinese folk culture, is the ruler of Heaven and all realms of existence below including that of Man and Hell, according to a version of Taoist mythology. He is one of the most important gods of the Chinese traditional religion pantheon...

 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 (齊天大聖): Meaning "Great Sage, Equal of Heaven". Wùkōng took this title suggested to him by one of his demon friends, after he wreaked havoc in heaven people who heard of him called him Great Sage. This is pronounced in Japanese as seiten-taisei ("great sage", dàshèng and taisei, is a Chinese and Japanese honorific). 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 the Jade Emperor keeping him busy so he won't make trouble.
Xíngzhě (行者): 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 pronounced in Japanese as gyōja (making him Son-gyōja).
Dòu-zhànshèng-fó (鬥戰勝佛): "Victorious Fighting Buddha". Wukong was given this name once he ascended to buddhahood at the end of the Journey to the West. This name is also mentioned during the traditional 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:
  • Kâu-chê-thian (猴齊天) in Minnan (Taiwan): "Monkey, Equal of Heaven".
  • Maa5 lau1 zing1 (馬騮精) in Cantonese
    Standard Cantonese
    Cantonese, or Standard Cantonese, is a language that originated in the vicinity of Canton in southern China, and is often regarded as the prestige dialect of Yue Chinese....

     (Hong Kong
    Hong Kong
    Hong Kong is one of two Special Administrative Regions of the People's Republic of China , the other being Macau. A city-state situated on China's south coast and enclosed by the Pearl River Delta and South China Sea, it is renowned for its expansive skyline and deep natural harbour...

     and Guangdong
    Guangdong
    Guangdong is a province on the South China Sea coast of the People's Republic of China. The province was previously often written with the alternative English name Kwangtung Province...

    ): "Monkey Imp" (called by his enemies)

In other media


The brief satirical novel Xiyoubu (西游补, "Supplement to the Journey to the West," c. 1640) follows Sun as he is trapped in a magical dream world created by the Qing Fish Demon, the embodiment of desire (情, qing). Sun travels back and forth through time, during which he serves as the adjunct King of Hell
Yama
Yama , also known as Yamarāja in India and Nepal, Shinje in Tibet, Yanluowang or simply Yan in China, Yeomla Daewang in South Korea and Enma Dai-Ō in Japan, is the lord of death, in Hinduism and then adopted into Buddhism and then further into Chinese mythology and Japanese mythology. First...

 and judges the soul of the recently dead traitor Qin Hui
Qin Hui (Song Dynasty)
Qin Hui or Qin Kuai was a Chancellor of the Song Dynasty in China, who is widely regarded as a traitor of the Han race for his part in the political execution of General Yue Fei...

 during the Song Dynasty
Song Dynasty
The Song Dynasty was a ruling dynasty in China between 960 and 1279; it succeeded the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period, and was followed by the Yuan Dynasty. It was the first government in world history to issue banknotes or paper money, and the first Chinese government to establish a...

, takes on the appearance of a beautiful concubine and causes the downfall of the Qin Dynasty
Qin Dynasty
The Qin Dynasty was the first imperial dynasty of China, lasting from 221 to 207 BC. The Qin state derived its name from its heartland of Qin, in modern-day Shaanxi. The strength of the Qin state was greatly increased by the legalist reforms of Shang Yang in the 4th century BC, during the Warring...

, and even faces King Paramita
Paramita
Pāramitā or pāramī is "perfection" or "completeness." In Buddhism, the pāramitās refer to the perfection or culmination of certain virtues...

, one of his five sons born to the demoness Princess Iron Fan
Princess Iron Fan
Princess Iron Fan is a fictional character from the Chinese classic novel Journey to the West. She is the wife of the Bull King and mother of Red Boy. She is a beautiful goddess living in an underground cave awaiting her husband's return, but also angry at him for his affair with a foxy vixen...

, on the battlefield during the Tang Dynasty
Tang Dynasty
The Tang Dynasty was an imperial dynasty of China preceded by the Sui Dynasty and followed by the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period. It was founded by the Li family, who seized power during the decline and collapse of the Sui Empire...

. The events of the Xiyoubu take place between the end of chapter 61 and the beginning of chapter 62 of Journey to the West. The author, Tong Yue (童说), wrote the book because he wanted to create an opponent—in this case desire—that Sun could not defeat with his great strength and martial skill.

See also


  • Journey to the West in popular culture
    Journey to the West in popular culture
    Journey to the West, and its characters, have appeared many times in works of popular culture.- Princess Iron Fan :Princess Iron Fan has appeared as an optional playable character in the Playstation game Saiyuki: Journey to the West. However, she is called Lady Tessen instead of Princess Iron Fan...

  • Monkey (TV series)
    Monkey (TV series)
    Monkey is the dubbed English language version of the Japanese television series , based on the classic sixteenth century Chinese novel Journey to the West by Wu Cheng'en. It was originally produced by Nippon Television and International Television Films in association with NHK.The series ran for...



External links

  • Sun Wukong Character Profile A detailed character profile of Sun Wukong, with character history, listing and explanations of his various names and titles, detailed information on his weapon, abilities, powers, and skills, and also a detailed explanation of his personality.