Sun Wukong


Sun Wukong
Sun Wukong
Sun Wukong and Jade Rabbit.jpg
Sun Wukong depicted in Yoshitoshi's One Hundred Aspects of the Moon, 1889.
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese
Simplified Chinese
Japanese name
Hiragana そん ごくう
Korean name
Hangul 손오공
Thai name
Thai เห้งเจีย
RTGS Heng Chia (from a Hokkian pronunciation of "行者" (Xíng Zhě))
Vietnamese name
Vietnamese Tôn Ngộ Không

Sun Wukong (simplified Chinese: 孙悟空; traditional Chinese: 孫悟空; pinyin: Sūn Wùkōng), also known as the Monkey King is a main character in the classical Chinese epic novel Journey to the West (Chinese: 西遊記; pinyin: Xīyóujì). 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 on a journey to retrieve Buddhist sutras from India.

Sun Wukong possesses an immense amount of strength; he is able to lift his 13,500 jīn (8,100 kg or 17,881 lbs) staff with ease. He is also superbly fast, able to travel 108,000 li (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, part water, conjure protective circles against demons, and freeze humans, demons, and gods alike.[1]

The origin of Sun Wukong is considered by some American, Chinese, and Indian scholars to be influenced by both the Hindu deity Hanuman from the Ramayana and elements of Chinese folklore.[2][3][4]

Contents

Background

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. He was able to acquire human speech and manners through his travels.[1]

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).[5] 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 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 (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.[1]

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 (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 (鎖子黃金甲), a phoenix-feather cap (鳳翅紫金冠 Fèngchìzǐjinguān), and cloud-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 Spirit King (獼猴王) and the Marmoset Spirit King (


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