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Monkey King, also known as Sun Wukong, is a main character in the classical Chinese epic novel Journey to the West, written by Wu Cheng’en and published in the 1590s during the Ming Dynasty. It is one of the Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese literature.

Journey to the West has a strong background in Chinese folk religion, Chinese mythology and value systems; the pantheon of Taoist immortals and Buddhist bodhisattvas is still reflective of some Chinese religious beliefs today. Enduringly popular, the tale is at once an adventure story, a spring of spiritual insight, and an extended allegory in which the group of pilgrims journeying toward India represents individuals journeying toward enlightenment.

As the real hero of this novel, this resourceful, brave and humorous Monkey King has been loved for four hundred years by Chinese children and adults alike.

The Journey to the West, Revised Edition, Volume 1 The Journey to the West, Revised Edition, Volume 2
The Journey to the West, Volume 1 The Journey to the West, Volume 2

In Monkey King Wreaks Havoc in Heaven, our show-off hero is determined to prove to the Emperor of Heaven that he is more than a Protector of the Horses to watch over the stables, which was the lowest job in heaven. The story is based on the earliest chapters of the classic story Journey to the West. The main character is Sun Wukong, aka the Monkey King, who rebels against the Jade Emperor of heaven.

After a brief prologue showing Sun Wukong being born out of a rock, the first act begins on the Flower and Fruit Mountain with Wukong watching a military parade by his subjects.

Delighted with their martial prowess, he decides to put on a display himself but accidentally breaks the sabre he is using. Annoyed at being unable to find a suitable weapon for himself, an old monkey suggests that Wukong visits the Dragon King of the Eastern Sea for a possible weapon.

Wukong then dives into the sea and travels to the Dragon King’s palace where he asks for a neighbourly gift of a weapon. The Dragon King, amused by the arrogance, orders his soldiers to bring progressively heavier weapons, but Wukong dismisses them all as being too light and flimsy.

Chinese mythology: Monkey King Wreaks Havoc in Heaven Chinese mythology: Monkey King Wreaks Havoc in Heaven

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The Dragon King then takes him to a great pillar which was used by the gods to pin down the sea during the great floods. The pillar is in fact the As-you-will Cudgel, a magical staff weighing eight tons that can change size and Sun Kung happily takes the weapon.

The Dragon King, not expecting Wukong to be actually able to take the great treasure, demands it back, but Wukong rebukes him, saying that the king should not have offered it if he did not want it taken, then returns to his kingdom.

The Dragon King goes to Heaven and petitions the Jade Emperor of heaven for the return of the pillar and to punish Wukong. The Heavens’ initial attempt at subduing the Monkey King was unsuccessful, so they were forced to recognize him as the “Great Sage, Equal of Heaven”; 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.

Chinese mythology: Monkey King Wreaks Havoc in Heaven Chinese mythology: Monkey King Wreaks Havoc in Heaven

Epic battles are fought, and eventually all the lords and ladies of Heaven must run for cover as Monkey King runs amok. With all of their options exhausted, the Emperor of Heaven and the authorities of Heaven appealed to the supreme Buddha, who is the only one capable of reigning in the rampaging simian.

Based on this exciting Chinese classic folktale, a Chinese animated feature film with the same title was produced by Shanghai Animation Film Studio in the 1960s (see Monkey King Wreaks Havoc in Heaven (1961, 1964) in Chinese animation – masterpiece of Chinese culture and art, part 2).

The animation movie Monkey King Wreaks Havoc in Heaven won the best animation film in the second Hundred Flower Awards and is regarded as one of the most successful animations for it creates a cartoon hero Sun Wukong, who has become a household name in China. Even today, it is still the pride for all the Chinese people who make and love animated films.

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Chinese mythology: Monkey King Wreaks Havoc in Heaven
Chinese folktale: The Snail Girl

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