Posts Tagged ‘sun wukong’

Monkey takes New York

My family and I just returned from a trip to New York, where we had the pleasure of seeing Monkey: Journey to the West at Lincoln Center. Produced by Blur’s Damon Albarn, Jamie Hewlett and Chen Shizheng, who directed The Bonesetter’s Daughter by San Francisco Opera, the show is a lively and extravagant interpretation of the legend of the Monkey King. Full of acrobatics, martial arts, animated sequences, and a soundtrack that combines Chinese pop with ethereal Philip Glass-style sounds and Buddhist chanting, the show had moments of true beauty and of real hilarity, though it may be hard to follow for those not already familiar with the story. My five and eight-year-old loved it – especially the eight-year-old who knows the story of Sun Wukong inside and out. The production is composed of a series of acts which depict some of the well-known chapters from the legend and introduces many of the key characters, including a fabulous Sun Wukong, Zhu Bajie (Pigsy) and the monk Tripitaka who is leading them to India to find Buddhist scriptures. The Monkey character is slightly darker and more ill-behaved than the cuter, more mischievous depictions in many of the Chinese productions we have seen, but I thought he made the story more compelling. It is all in Chinese with English subtitles. Hewlett, who with Albarn created the virtual band Gorillaz, has produced a couple of short films based on the show:

The full website for the show is here and you can read reviews in the New York Times, Variety and The Guardian.

My children have watched, and loved, the animated version of the Journey to the West produced by CCTV, but inspired by the New York show, I am now going to make it a family project to watch the full TV serial which has been popular in China. Here’s episode 1:


Creative Chinese Character Art

Just came across these beautiful images composed of Chinese characters. Can’t wait to show my Monkey King-obsessed son this one tomorrow:


Sun Jingxiu reads Monkey King

As I’ve mentioned before, the legend of the Monkey King is a favorite in our house. Before a recent long flight, I searched iTunes (which, if you search hard enough, has quite a bit of material in Chinese for kids) for something to keep L entertained, and found a recording of the complete Monkey King (Journey to the West or 西游记) by famed storyteller Sun Jingxiu (孙敬修). Generations of Chinese children have listened to “Grandpa Sun” tell the story of Sun Wukong in his heavy Beijing accent without any special effects, cutesy voices, or annoying music; his recording keeps my five-year-old enthralled for hours at a time and often makes him laugh out loud. Highly recommended for quiet rest times, long car trips, or rainy indoor days.

To find it, search the iTunes store for “Sun Jingxiu.” Currently they only have Volumes 1 & 3, but the whole set can also be purchased on Amazon. Segments of the story can also be heard for free via Chinese video-sharing site Tudou. The first section is here.


King of All Monkeys

With a four-year-old boy in the house, we spend a lot of time talking about, dressing up as, watching, and otherwise channeling the great spirit of Sun Wukong, the Monkey King. L and his Baba spend many hours telling the numerous, intricate stories from the epic Journey to the West, and the full DVD set of the CCTV animated mini-series (52 episodes), provided by an uncle in Shenzhen, is just about the only movie or TV L watches. He loves the characters: A magical, omnipotent but mischievous monkey; his traveling companions a Buddhist monk, a pig, and a white dragon horse, and all the creatures they encounter on their way to India, where they have been sent to retrieve Buddhist scriptures.

We have many books which tell stories of Sun Wukong’s adventures. L’s favorite, which has beautiful illustrations with tales adapted into short but detailed stories easily digested by four-year-olds, is published by the Shanghai Century Publishing Group (上海世纪出版集团少年儿童出版社) and is hard to find outside of China. But another favorite that is in both English and Chinese, and is more widely available here (including from Amazon) is Tang Monk Disciples Monkey King. This is part of a series by the same authors.

The CCTV-produced animated series is a rich, beautifully conceived piece of work which, with 52 episodes, provides endless entertainment. The full set can be bought on VCD through ChinaSprout. L has memorized and frequently belts out the theme songs from the series. Clips of the songs are on YouTube (see below). Read the rest of this entry »