Super Hero in China: a Monkey


Pilgrimage To The West is one of the Chinese Four Great Classical Novels. The protagonist of it, Sun Wukong, is known by everyone. Probably because Super Heroes always have something to do with animals (think about Spiderman, Batman,), our Chinese super hero is a monkey.

Many heroes are orphan. Comparing with Superman who is raised by his earth’s foster parent and Spiderman leaving with his uncle and aunt, our Chinese super hero Sun Wukong is even more “orphan”— he was born from a mythical stone. By discovering the Water-Curtain Cave, he earned the monkey’s respect and hereby was honored as Měi Hóuwáng (Handsome Monkey King). Determined to find immortality, he traveled on a raft to civilized lands, where he acquired the powers of shape-shifting 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. He also learned about cloud-traveling called the Jīndǒuyún (cloud-somersault), which covers 108,000 li (54,000 km) in a single flip.

And he acquired a super weapon from Dragon King of the Eastern Seas, “As-you-will Golden-banded Cudgel”, which could change its size, multiply itself, and fight according to the whim of its master. Its versatility meant that Wukong could wield it as a staff and keep it inside his ear as a sewing needle.

To rebel the Heavenly Kingdom’s contempt on him, Sun Wukong havoced the Heavenly Kingdom. After defeating the Army of Heaven’s 100,000 celestial warriors including all 28 constellations, four heavenly kings, and Nezha, eventually, Wukong was captured through the teamwork of Taoist and Buddhist forces, including the efforts from some of the greatest deities. He 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 fires. However, after 49 days, the cauldron exploded and Wukong jumped out, stronger than ever, and got huǒyǎn-jīnjīng which enables him to recognize evil in any form.

With all of their options exhausted, the Jade Emperor appealed to the Buddha. Eventually, Wukong was sealed by the Buddha’s Wuxing mountain.

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