Apeing the Monkey King: portraying Sun Wukong in TV, film and games
By Globaltimes.cn, Published: 2015-07-21 19:33:05
Movies and TV Series: China

1982 Journey to the West, 1998 Journey to the West II

Broadcast 3,000 times in its entirety, the 1982-version of Journey to the West the most-broadcast TV series of all time, according to people.com.cn. In this version, Sun Wukong is played by Liuxiao Lingtong (aka Zhang Jinlai). Photo:kaixin001.com
Editor's Note:
The Chinese 3D animated film Monkey King: Hero Is Back is the surprise hit of the summer, taking in 400 million yuan ($64.4 million) in its first week since its July release, according to people.cn. Drawing heavily from the Chinese classic Journey to the West, the main storyline centers around its half-primate hero Sun Wukong. Together with his sidekicks Zhu Bajie and Sha Wujing, Sun protects their master Tang Seng on his journey to bring back Buddhist scriptures from India. The film’s creative depiction of the Monkey King contributed greatly to its success. Check out this list of past Sun Wukong from around the world.

1995 A Chinese Odyssey Part Two: Cinderella

Compared with Liuxiao Lingtong, Stephen Chow’s interpretation reshapes Sun Wukong into a humorous and cynical character, which resonated with post-80s Chinese. Photo:mtime.com
2013 Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons

This Monkey King, played by Ge Xingyu, is known as the “ugliest” of all the Sun Wukong. Photo:mtime.com

1978 Journey to the West

In the Japanese TV version of Journey to the West , Sun Wukong is played by the famed Japanese singer, Masaaki Sakai. Photo:monkeyheaven.com
2006 Journey to the West

In Japanese versions of Journey to the West, characters and settings differ dramatically from the original story. For instance, in both the 1978 and 2006 versions, the monk Tang Seng is portrayed as female. Photo: spcnet.tv

2011 Supermonkey Returns

In the Korean version, Tang Seng falls in love with the Monkey King. Photo:mtime.com
The US

2001 The Lost Empire

This US-Germany co-production made for television was written to feature an American journalist, Nick Orton, who gets lost in the ancient Chinese world. There he meets Sun Wukong, Zhu Bajie and Sha Wujing. Eventually he falls in love with Avalokitesvara, or Guanyin, the Buddhist goddess of mercy. Photo:douban.com
2008 The Forbidden Kingdom

In this version, Jet Li stars as Sun Wukong, who after being trapped under a stone for 500 years is finally released by Jason Tripitikas, a kung fu movie fan. Photo:mtime.com
2015 Into the Badlands

This US TV series inspired by Journey to the West tells of a great warrior (played by Daniel Wu) who protects a young boy from danger in his quest to reach enlightenment. Photo:amc.com

2011 League of Legends

In the well-known MMORPG League of Legends, Sun Wukong is portrayed as a great warrior of tremendous strength. Photo:leagueoflegends.com
2010 Enslaved: Odyssey to the West

In Enslaved(Ninja Theory Studio), Tang Seng is a woman who wants to escape from a world of disorder that uses magic to enslave Sun Wukong as her bodyguard. Photo:ign.com
Animation and Cartoons: China

1961-1964 Havoc in Heaven

This classic animated film marks an achievement for the Chinese animation industry. In this film inspired by traditional Chinese art forms, Sun Wukong embodies the rebellious spirit that has influenced generations of Chinese. Photo:mtime.com
1999 Journey to the West: Legends of the Monkey King

Produced by China Central Television, this made-for-children series portrays Sun Wukong as extremely positive, sometimes overly so, but is still considered a classic in China. Photo:mtime.com
2015 Monkey King: Hero Is Back

After being confined for 500 years by the Buddha, Sun Wukong is released by a child Tang Seng. The two then embark on adventures together on an introspective path of self-liberation. In this version, Sun Wukong is portrayed as a mortal who struggles to break from the chains of fear and weakness. Photo:mtime.com

1986 Dragon Ball

In the Japanese anime series Dragon Ball, Sun Wukong is portrayed by illustrator Akira Toriyama as a great warrior from outer space. He prevents Earth from being destroyed several times to become one of the strongest warriors in the universe. Photo:mtime.com
1988 The Record of Nobita's Parallel Visit to the West

After the robo-cat Doraemon accidentally plunges the world into chaos with his time machine, Nobita attempts to set the world right again by taking on the role of Sun Wukong and accompanying Tang Seng on his journey for the holy Buddhist scriptures in Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907) China. Photo:mtime.com
1999 Saiyuki

Illustrator Kazuya Minekura portrays Sun Wukong as a 500-year-old childlike monster that friendly, cheerful and even na?ve sometimes, until his golden headband is removed. He then turns into a ruthless killing machine (left). Tang Seng also gets a makeover in this series, where he is depicted as a jeep-driving, revolver-toting warrior. Photo:saiyuki.wikia.com
2003 Son-goku the Monkey

Animator Osamu Tezuka gives Sun Wukong a new origin story. Instead of being born from a giant stone, Sun was created by an evil spirit who initially wants to use him as a deadly weapon. However, the rebellious Monkey King does not accept his fate and fights for his freedom. Photo:mtime.com
2006 Paprika

In this animated film by director Satoshi Kon, psychologist Atsuko Chiba can step into the heads of his patients to becomes Paprika, a “dream detective” that can change her form at will. Pictured is Atsuko Chiba transforming into Sun Wukong to escape from enemies. Photo:douban.com

1990 The Flying Superboard

A skateboarding Sun befriends a SUV-driving Tang Seng, a treasure-hunting Sha Wujing and bazooka-toting Zhu Bajie. Photo:mtime.com
The US

2013 RWBY

In the US Web animation series RWBY, Wukong is a blond man that, while not a monkey, stays true to the original Chinese novel with his weapon of choice –a magic staff. Photo:wikia.com