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Monkey King
Sun Wukong
19th century illustration of Sun Wukong
In-universe information
BirthplaceFlowers and Fruit Mountain
SourceJourney to the West, 16th century
AbilityImmortality, 72 Bian (Morphing Powers), Jin Dou Yun (Cloud Surfing), Jin Gang Bu Huai Zhi Shen (Superhuman Durability), Jin Jing Huo Yan (True Sight)
WeaponRuyi Jingu Bang/Ding Hai Shen Zhen
Master/ShifuTang Sanzang
Sun Wukong
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese孫悟空
Simplified Chinese孙悟空
Literal meaningAwakened to Emptiness or Awakened to Void
Burmese name
Burmeseမျောက်မင်း (စွန်းဝူခုန်း)
IPA[mjaʊʔ mí̃] (Myouk Minn)
Vietnamese name
Vietnamese alphabetTôn Ngộ Không
Chữ Hán孫悟空
Thai name
RTGSSun Ngokhong
Korean name
Japanese name
Hiraganaそん ごくう
Malay name
MalaySun Wukong
Indonesian name
IndonesianSun Go Kong
Khmer name
Khmerស៊ុន អ៊ូខុង
UNGEGN: Sŭn Ukhŏng
ALA-LC: S′un ʿ′ūkhung
IPA: [sun ʔuːkʰoŋ]

The Monkey King or Sun Wukong (simplified Chinese: 孙悟空; traditional Chinese: 孫悟空; pinyin: Sūn Wù Kōng) is a literary, and religious figure best known as one of the main players in the 16th-century Chinese novel Journey to the West (traditional Chinese: 西遊記; simplified Chinese: 西游记).[1] In the novel, Sun Wukong is a monkey born from a stone who acquires supernatural powers through Taoist practices. After rebelling against heaven, he is imprisoned under a mountain by the Buddha. After five hundred years, he accompanies the monk Tang Sanzang (唐三藏) riding on the White Dragon Horse and two other disciples, Zhu Bajie and Sha Wujing, on a journey to obtain Buddhist sutras from the West (Central Asia and India), where Buddha and his followers dwell.

Sun Wukong possesses many abilities. He has amazing strength and is able to support the weight of two heaven mountains on his shoulders while running "with the speed of a meteor".[2] He is extremely fast, able to travel 108,000 li (54,000 km, 34,000 mi) in one somersault. He has vast memorization skills and can remember every monkey ever born. As king of the monkeys, it is his duty to keep track of and protect every monkey. Sun Wukong also acquires the 72 Earthly Transformations, which allow him to access 72 unique powers, including the ability to transform into animals and objects. He is a skilled fighter, capable of defeating the best warriors of heaven. His hair has magical properties, capable of making copies of himself or transforming into various weapons, animals and other things. He also shows partial weather manipulation skills, can freeze people in place, and can become invisible.[3]

The supernatural abilities displayed by Wukong and some other characters were widely thought of "magic powers" by readers at the time of Journey to the West's writing,[4] without much differentiation between them despite the various religious traditions that inspired them and their different and varied functions, and were often translated as such in non-Chinese versions of the book.


The golden statues at the Rua Yai City Pillar Shrine in Suphan Buri, Thailand

As one of the most enduring Chinese literary characters, the Monkey King has a varied and highly debated background and colorful cultural history. His inspiration might have come from an amalgam of influences, generally relating to religious concepts.[citation needed]

One source for inspiration came from differing ways gibbons were worshipped during the Chinese Chu kingdom (700–223 BC), and various legends about gibbons and monkeys in Chu and its successors.[5] These legends and religious practices, alongside doctrine from Taoist organizations that reinforced them and combined elements from all five kinds of traditional religious Taoism[broken anchor],[citation needed] gave rise to stories and art motifs during the Han dynasty, eventually contributing to the Monkey King figure.[5]

Some believe the association with Xuanzang is based on the first disciple of Xuanzang, Shi Pantuo [zh].[citation needed]

Hu Shih first suggested that Wu Cheng'en was possibly influenced by the Hindu deity Hanuman from the Ramayana in his depictions of the Monkey King,[6][7] via stories passed by Buddhists who travelled to China.[8] However, others such as Lu Xun point out there is no proof that the Ramayana has been translated into Chinese or was accessible to Wu Cheng'en.[9] Instead, Lu Xun suggested the 9th-Century Chinese deity Wuzhiqi, who appears as a sibling of Sun Wukong in older Yuan Dynasty stories, as another potential inspiration.[9]

Sun Wukong may have also been influenced by local folk religion from Fuzhou province, where monkey gods were worshipped long before the novel. This included the three Monkey Saints of Lin Shui Palace. Once fiends, they were subdued by the goddess Chen Jinggu, the Empress Lin Shui. The three were Dan Xia Da Sheng (丹霞大聖), the Red Face Monkey Sage, Tong Tian Da Sheng (通天大聖), the Black Face Monkey Sage, and Shuang Shuang San Lang (爽爽三聖), the White Face Monkey Sage.[10] The two traditional mainstream religions practiced in Fuzhou are Mahayana Buddhism and Taoism. Traditionally, many people practice both religions simultaneously. However, the roots of local religion dated back many years before the institutionalization of these traditions.[citation needed]

These diverse religions embodied elements such as gods and doctrines from different provincial folk religions and cultures, such as totem worship and traditional legends. Though there are primarily two main religions in China since it is so big, different folk stories will vary from towns, cities, and provinces with their own myths about different deities. Sun Wukong's religious status in Buddhism is often denied by Buddhist monks both Chinese and non-Chinese alike, but is very welcomed by the general public, spreading its name around the world and establishing itself as a cultural icon.



Birth and early life of Sun Wukong

Depiction of the Forbidden Temple's Sun Wukong as depicted in a scene in a Peking opera

According to Journey to the West, the Monkey King is born from a strong magic stone that sits atop the Mountain of Flowers and Fruit. The stone is said to receive the nurture of heaven (yang), which possesses a positive nature, and earth (yin), which possesses a negative nature, and thus is able to produce living beings (according to Taoist philosophies). The stone develops a magic womb, which bursts open one day to produce a stone egg about the size of a ball.[citation needed]

When the wind blows on the egg, the egg becomes the stone monkey. As his eyes move, two beams of golden light shoot toward the Jade palace and startle the Jade Emperor. When he sees the light he orders two of his officers to investigate. They report the stone monkey, and that the light is dying down as the monkey eats and drinks. The Jade Emperor believes him to be nothing special.

On the mountain, the monkey joins a group of other wild monkeys. After playing, the monkeys regularly bathe in a stream. One day, they decide to seek the source of the stream and climb the mountain to a waterfall. They declare that whoever goes through the waterfall, finds the stream's source, and comes out again will become their king. The stone monkey volunteers and jumps into the waterfall.

The Monkey King finds a large iron bridge over rushing water, across which is a cave. He persuades the other monkeys to jump in also, and they make it into their home. Sun Wukong then reminds them of their prior declaration, so they declare him their king. He takes the throne and calls himself Handsome Monkey King (美猴王). This happiness does not last. When one of his older monkey friends dies, the Monkey King is very upset. He decides to strike out from his island on a self-made raft, in search of an Immortal to teach him how to beat death.

He comes ashore and wanders around. Humans see him and flee, uncertain of his ape-like appearance. He takes some clothes that were left out to dry and continues on foot. His face hidden by a hood, he travels through towns and sees many examples of human degeneracy and vice. He continues on and into a forest. The Monkey King hears a Woodcutter singing an interesting song, and when questioning the Woodcutter about the origin he learns it was taught to the Woodcutter by an Immortal who resides in the forest.

The Monkey King comes to the entrance of a temple in which a magical Taoist martial artist named Puti Zushi resides. Puti Zushi initially refuses to let him in, but the Monkey King refuses to leave and waits outside the entrance for months. Puti Zushi is impressed by the Monkey King's persistence, and allows him to enter. He accepts the Monkey King as a student and teaches him advanced Taoist practices, including the Way of Immortality, which he tells Sun Wukong it was his destiny to know. He later advises Sun Wukong never to needlessly show off his skills, because others might ask him to teach them, and if he does teach them, they may go on to cause trouble, but if he doesn't teach them, they will resent him for it. He then forbids Sun Wukong from ever revealing who it was that taught him, and the loyal Monkey King promises never to reveal the identity of his Master. With that, Sun Wukong wakes up to find himself back in the forest, realizing that the many years he spent learning the Way had taken place in some form of compressed time trance. Later, whenever Sun Wukong is asked about his powers and skills, he honestly replies that he learned everything in his dreams.

After the Monkey King returns, he learns that a demon called the Demon King of Confusion is kidnapping the monkeys of the Mountain of Flowers and Fruit to use as slaves. He subsequently kills the demon and his minions, saving the kidnapped monkeys. He also brings the entire weapon storage of a nearby country for his subjects but is unable to find a weapon fit for himself. Upon hearing that Dragon Kings possess many treasures, he travels the oceans and finds the palace of a Dragon King. At the entrance, Sun Wukong asks for an introduction, but Dragon King Ao Guang tells his guards to turn him away. Sun Wukong barges in anyway, brushing off protests from the guards, insisting the Dragon King must be confused to turn away a fellow King. Inside, he introduces himself and encourages the Dragon King to give him a weapon. Quickly realizing Sun Wukong is quite formidable, the Dragon King feigns willingness and hospitality, ordering his underlings to bring out weapon after weapon. Sun Wukong tests each weapon, but none are robust enough for the Monkey King, who is unhappy with the situation. Sun Wukong then acquires the golden-banded staff Ruyi Jingu Bang/Ding Hai Shen Zhen (如意金箍棒/定海神针), the stabilizer of the Four Seas and a treasure of Ao Guang, the dragon-king of the Eastern Seas. The Monkey King is the only creature strong enough to wield the staff-like weapon and there is an instant affinity between them. The golden-banded staff can change its size, elongate, fly, and attack opponents according to its master's will. It weighs 13,500 jīn or 7960 kg. When not wielding the weapon, the Monkey King shrinks it down to the size of a sewing needle and stores it in his ear.

In addition to taking the magical staff, the Monkey King encourages the Dragon King to gift him attire fit for a King. The Dragon King calls upon the other major Dragon Kings for assistance to source this for Sun Wukong, and they arrive and give Sun Wukong a golden chain mail shirt (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). The phoenix-feather cap was one of the treasures of the dragon kings, a circlet of red gold adorned with phoenix feathers. Traditionally, it is depicted as a metal circlet with two striped feathers attached to the front, presumably the signature plumage of the Fenghuang or Chinese phoenix. Sun Wukong thanks the Dragon Kings and leaves happy.

Upon his return to the mountain, Wukong demonstrates the new weapon to his monkey tribe and draws the attention of other beastly powers, who seek to ally with him. He forms a fraternity, the Seven Sages (七聖), with the Bull Demon King (牛魔王), the Saurian Demon King (蛟魔王), the Single-horned Demon King (单角魔王), the Roc Demon King (鵬魔王), the Lion Spirit King (獅狔王), the Macaque Spirit King (獼猴王)--not to be mistaken for the Six Eared Macaque--and the snub-nosed monkey Spirit King (禺狨王).

The Monkey King, now sentenced to death for extorting the Dragon Kings, then defies Hell's attempt to collect his soul. He wipes his name out of the Book of Life and Death, a collection of books claimed to have every name of every mortal alive and the ability to manipulate lifespan, along with the names of all monkeys known to him. The Dragon Kings and the Kings of Hell report him once again to the Jade Emperor.[3] The heavenly army uses everything, even trying to erase him from existence altogether, but ultimately fails.

Havoc in Heaven


Hoping that a promotion and a rank amongst the gods will make him more manageable, the Jade Emperor invites the Monkey King to Heaven. The Monkey King believes he is receiving an honourable place as one of the gods as he is told he will be made 'Protector of the Horses' (a fancy term the Heavens coined for a stable boy), the lowest job in heaven. When he discovers the importance of status in Heaven, and how he has been given the lowest position, the Monkey King sets the Cloud Horses free from the stable, then returns to his own kingdom and proclaims himself The Great Sage, Heaven's Equal.

The Heavens reluctantly recognize his self-proclaimed title after Gold Star advises the Jade Emperor against rushing into military action against the 'brash, rude and impudent'[citation needed] monkey, warning that failing to defeat Monkey would harm the reputation of Heaven. Gold Star advises the Jade Emperor to superficially appease Sun Wukong's vanity while treating him as a pet, and invite him back to Heaven to keep him from causing trouble on earth. The Jade Emperor agrees after Gold Star laughs that, in reality, the fanciful title is a meaningless joke revealing Sun Wukong's overconfidence and ignorance of the important workings of Heaven.

Sun Wukong suspects a trap but is happy when Gold Star, acting as an envoy, addresses him as the Great Sage Equal of Heaven and presents him with official papers. Gold Star tells Sun Wukong he's been granted a far more important position as 'Guardian of the Heavenly Peach Garden,' which peach-loving Sun Wukong accepts. Later, when seven heavenly maidens are sent by Queen Mother Xi Wangmu to pluck peaches for the Royal Banquet, Sun Wukong discovers every important god and goddess has been invited to the banquet except for him. When he tells the maidens he is the Great Sage Equal of Heaven, the maidens giggle, replying that everyone in Heaven knows he is merely an immortal who tends to the peach garden. The Monkey King's indignation then turns to open defiance.

During the preparations for the Royal Banquet, Sun Wukong sneaks in to taste the fine foods and drink royal wine. In a tipsy state, the Monkey King roams Heaven while all the gods and goddesses are on their way to the banquet. He reaches high levels of the palace that the authorities of Heaven leave unguarded, for they can only be accessed by deities of the highest and purest spiritual power. Upon realizing that he is at the top of the 33 layers of the heavenly palace, Sun Wukong steals and consumes Laozi's Pills of Immortality and Xi Wangmu's Peaches of Immortality, takes the remainder of the Jade Emperor's royal wine, and then escapes back to his kingdom in preparation for his rebellion.

The Jade Emperor refuses to accept Gold Star's counsel to find another peaceful way to deal with Sun Wukong and orders his forces to mobilize. Laughing continuously and fully enjoying himself, and with a combination of martial prowess, guile, and quick-witted creative responses to many different types of powerful Heavenly weapons used against him, the Monkey King single-handedly defeats the Army of Heaven's 100,000 celestial warriors, all 28 constellations, Nezha, and all of the Four Heavenly Kings. Then Guanyin, the Boddhisattva of Mercy, and her disciple Muzha/Moksha arrive. Guanyin sends Muzha to inspect the situation and fight Sun Wukong. Muzha is defeated, and then Guanyin suggests the Jade Emperor's nephew Erlang Shen fight Wukong. Wukong and Erlang are evenly matched and eventually, both turn into terrifying figures, which scares Wukong's monkey army away. Sun Wukong is disheartened and turns into a fish to run away, then both of them keep shapeshifting to turn into more powerful things than the other, finally, Laozi throws his Diamond Jade ring at Wukong from behind while he is fighting, knocking him senseless and enabling Erlang to bind him up.

After several failed attempts at execution, Sun Wukong is locked into Laozi's eight-way trigram crucible for 49 days in order to be distilled into an elixir by samadhi fires; this will allow Laozi to regain his pills of longevity. The fire of the crucible is hot enough to burn beings of so much unspeakable power, that they rival Buddha himself.

However, when the cauldron is opened 49 days later, the Monkey King jumps out, having survived by hiding in a corner marked by the wind trigram, where there is less fire. In fact, the heat from the samadhi fires has reinforced his bodily frame, making him stronger than ever before and impervious to greater damage. The heat also gives him a new ability; the Monkey King can now recognize evil with his new huǒyǎn-jīnjīng (火眼金睛, lit.'fiery eyes and golden pupils'). Sun Wukong then proceeds to destroy the crucible and makes his way to Heaven's main chamber to confront the Jade Emperor and his senior advisors.



The Jade Emperor and the authorities of Heaven appeal to the Buddha, who arrives from his temple in the West in person. After listening to Sun Wukong, who makes a case that he should be the new Jade Emperor, the Buddha makes a bet that the Monkey King cannot escape from his palm. The Monkey King smugly accepts the bet. He leaps and flies all the way to the edge of the universe. Seeing nothing there but five towering pillars, the Monkey King believes that he has reached the end of all existence. To prove his trail, he marks a pillar with a phrase declaring himself the Great Sage Equal to Heaven and urinates on the middle pillar. He then leaps back and returns to Buddha's palm to claim his victory in winning the bet. Sun Wukong is then very surprised to find that the five "pillars" he found are merely fingers of the Buddha's hand, finding it impossible to believe. When the Monkey King tries to escape the palm, Buddha turns his hand into a mountain of rocks, sending Sun Wukong hurtling back down to earth. Before the Monkey King can lift the mountain off, the Buddha seals him there, using a paper talisman bearing the mantra, Om Mani Padme Hum, in gold letters. The Monkey King remains imprisoned in stocks for five hundred years to 'learn patience and humility,'[citation needed] with only his head and hands protruding from the base of the mountain. The Buddha arranges two earth spirits to feed the Monkey King iron pellets when he is hungry, and molten copper when he is thirsty.[3]

Disciple to Tang Sanzang

Sun Wukong with Tang Sanzang
Sun Wukong fighting a wind demon

Five hundred years later, the Bodhisattva Guanyin searches for disciples to protect a pilgrim on a journey to the West to retrieve the Buddhist sutras. In the hearing of this, the Monkey King offers to serve the pilgrim, Tang Sanzang, a monk of the Tang dynasty, in exchange for his freedom after the pilgrimage is complete. Understanding Sun Wukong will be difficult to control, Guanyin gives Tang Sanzang a gift from the Buddha: a magical circlet which, once the Monkey King is tricked into putting it on, can never be removed. When Tang Sanzang chants a certain sutra, the band will tighten and cause an unbearable headache. Guanyin gives the Monkey King three special hairs, only to be used in dire emergencies. Under Tang Sanzang's supervision, the Monkey King is allowed to journey to the West.

Throughout the novel, the Monkey King faithfully helps Tang Sanzang on his journey to India. They are joined by "Pigsy" (猪八戒 Zhū Bājiè) and "Sandy" (沙悟浄 Shā Wùjìng), both of whom accompany the priest to atone for their previous crimes. Tang Sanzang's safety is constantly under threat from demons and other supernatural beings, as well as bandits, as they believe that by eating Tang Sanzang's flesh, one will obtain immortality and great power. The Monkey King often acts as Tang Sanzang's bodyguard to combat these threats. The group encounters a series of eighty-one tribulations before accomplishing their mission and returning safely to China. During the journey, the Monkey King learns about virtues and the teachings of Buddhism. There, the Monkey King attains Buddhahood, becoming the "Victorious Fighting Buddha" (鬥戰勝佛 Dòu-zhànshèng-fó), for his service and strength.[3] The Monkey King is revealed to know about the fate of Tang Sangzang and also of his knowledge in many other things, as on three occasions he knew that the monk was supposed to suffer and he also cured a king who had been ill for many years, and knew properties of herbs no one knew of.

Names and titles


Sun Wukong is known/pronounced as Suen Ng-hung in Cantonese, Son Gokū in Japanese, Son Oh Gong in Korean, Sun Ngō͘-Khong in Minnan, Tôn Ngộ Không in Vietnamese, Sung Ghokong or Sung Gokhong in Javanese, Sun Ngokong in Thai, "Wu Khone" in Arakanese and Sun Gokong in Malay and Indonesian.

Painted mural depicting Sun Wukong (in yellow) and other main characters of the novel

Listed in the order that they were acquired:

Shí Hóu (石猴)
Meaning the "Stone monkey." This refers to his physical essence, being born from a sphere of rock after millennia of incubation on the Bloom Mountains/Flower-Fruit Mountain.
Měi Hóuwáng (美猴王)
Meaning "Handsome Monkey-King," Houwang for short. The adjective Měi means "beautiful, handsome, pretty". It also means "to be pleased with oneself," referring to his ego. Hóu ("monkey") also highlights his "naughty and impish" character.
Sūn Wùkōng (孫悟空)
The name given to him by his first master, Patriarch Bodhi (Subodhi). The surname Sūn was given as an in-joke about the monkey, as monkeys are also called húsūn (猢猻), and can mean either a literal or a figurative monkey (or a macaque). The surname sūn () and the "monkey" sūn () only differ in that the latter carries an extra "dog" (quǎn) radical to highlight that refers to an animal. The given name Wùkōng means "awakened to emptiness," sometimes translated as Aware of Vacuity.
Bìmǎwēn (弼馬溫)
The title of the keeper of the Heavenly Horses, a punning of bìmǎwēn (避馬瘟; lit. "avoiding the horses' plague"). A monkey was often put in a stable, as people believed its presence could prevent the horses from catching illness. Sun Wukong was given this position by the Jade Emperor after his first intrusion into Heaven. He was promised that it was a good position to have and that he would be in the highest position. After discovering it was one of the lowest jobs in Heaven, he became angry, smashed the entire stable, set the horses free, and then quit. From then on, the title bìmǎwēn was used by his adversaries to mock him.
Qítiān Dàshèng (齊天大聖)
Meaning "The Great Sage, Heaven's Equal." Wùkōng took this title suggested to him by one of his demon friends, after he wreaked havoc in heaven people who heard of him called him Great Sage (Dàshèng, 大聖). The title originally holds no power, though it is officially a high rank. The Jade Emperor later granted the title the responsibility to guard the Heavenly Peach Garden, keeping Sun Wukong busy so he would not make trouble.
Xíngzhě (行者)
Meaning "ascetic," it refers to a wandering monk, a priest's servant, or a person engaged in performing religious austerities. Tang Sanzang calls Wukong Sūn-xíngzhě when he accepts him as his companion. This is pronounced in Japanese as gyōja (making him Son-gyōja).
Dòu-zhànshèng-fó (鬥戰勝佛)
"Victorious Fighting Buddha." Wukong was given this name once he ascended to Buddhahood at the end of the Journey to the West. This name is also mentioned during the traditional Chinese Buddhist evening services, specifically during the eighty-eight Buddha's repentance.
Língmíng-shí-hóu (靈明石猴)
"Intelligent Stone Monkey." Wukong is revealed to be one of the four spiritual primates that do not belong to any of the ten categories that all beings in the universe are classified under. His fellow spiritual primates are the Six-Eared Macaque (六耳獼猴) (who is one of his antagonists in the main storyline), the Red-Bottomed Horse Monkey (赤尻馬猴; Chìkāo-mǎ-hóu), and the Long-Armed Ape Monkey (通臂猿猴; Tōngbì-yuánhóu) (neither of who make actual appearances, only mentioned in passing by the Buddha). The powers and abilities of each are equal to that of the others.
Sūn Zhǎnglǎo (孫長老)
Used as an honorific for a monk.

In addition to the names used in the novel, the Monkey King has other names in different languages:

  • Kâu-chê-thian (猴齊天) in Minnan (Taiwan): "Monkey, Equal of Heaven".
  • Maa5 lau1 zing1 (馬騮精) in Cantonese (Hong Kong and Guangdong): "Monkey Imp" (Called so by his enemies).

Known Abilities

  • Huǒ Yǎn Jīn Jīng (lit. "Fiery Eyes, Golden Pupils")
Truth-seeing Eyes, able to see through illusions
  • Shēn Wài Shēn Fǎ (lit. "Bod(y/ies) Beyond The Body") / Chuī Máo Chéng Bīng (lit. "Blow Hair Become Soldier(s)")
身外身法 / 吹毛成兵
Command "Change" (變)
  • Dìng Shēn Zhóu (lit. "Freeze Body Spell")
Paralyse Opponents
  • Tóng Tóu Tiě Bì (lit. "Copper Head, Iron Limbs")
Durable Body in Combat
  • Jīn Dǒu Yún (lit. "Somersault Cloud") / Jià Yún (lit. "Cloud-Soaring")
筋斗云 / 駕雲
Cloud Flying
  • Qī Shí'Èr Bianhua (lit. "72 Terrestrial Killers")
七十二變化 / 地煞 / 地煞數
Shapeshifting and multiple lives.
  • Fatian Xiangdi (lit. “Method of Modelling Heaven on Earth”)
Grow into a Giant
Command "Grow" (長)
  • Ānshēn Shù (lit. "Art of Taking Shelter")
Protective Circle Ward.
  • Bi Huo Jue (lit. "Fire Avoidance Charm")

Allows him to survive fire; it does not work against the True Fire of Samādhi (三昧眞火, Pinyin: Sānmèi-zhēnhuǒ).

  • Bi Shui Jue (lit. "Water Avoidance Charm")

Allows Wukong to survive deep water; however, he is unable to fight while using this ability.

  • Jie Suo Fa (lit. "Lock-Breaking Spell")

Allows Wukong, with a point a finger or his staff, to open any lock.



Sun Wukong is said to have gained immortality through seven different means, which together made him one of the most immortal and invincible beings in all of creation.

Disciple to Puti Zushi


After feeling down about the future and death, Wukong sets out to find the immortal Taoist patriarch Puti Zushi to learn how to be immortal. There, Wukong learns spells to grasp all five elements and cultivate the way of immortality, as well as the 72 Earthly Transformations. After seven years of training with the sage, Wukong gains the secret formula to immortality. It is noted that the Court of Heaven does not approve of this method of immortality.[11]

Book of Mortals


In the middle of the night, Wukong's soul is tied up and dragged to the World of Darkness. He is informed there that his life in the human world has come to an end. In anger, Wukong fights his way through the World of Darkness to complain to "The Ten Kings," who are the judges of the dead. The Ten Kings try to address the complaint and calm Wukong by saying many people in the world have the same name and the fetchers of the dead may have gotten the wrong name. Wukong demands to see the register of life and death, then scribbles out his name, thus making him untouchable by the fetchers of death, along with the names of all of the monkeys in his tribe. It is because Wukong has learned magic/magical arts as a disciple to Puti Zushi that he can scare the Ten Kings, demanding from them the book of mortals and removing his name, thus making him even more immortal. After this incident, the Ten Kings complained to the Jade Emperor.[11]

Peach of Immortality


Soon after the Ten Kings complain to the Jade Emperor, the Court of Heaven appoints Sun Wukong as "Keeper of the Heavenly Horses," a fancy name for a stable boy. Angered by this, Wukong rebels, and the Havoc in Heaven begins. During the Havoc in Heaven, Wukong is assigned to be the "Guardian of the Heavenly Peach Garden." The garden includes three types of peaches, each of which grants over 3,000 years of life. The first type blooms every three thousand years; anyone who eats it will become immortal, and their body will become both light and strong. The second type blooms every six thousand years; anyone who eats it will be able to fly and enjoy eternal youth. The third type blooms every nine thousand years; anyone who eats it will become "eternal as heaven and earth, as long-lived as the sun and moon." While serving as the guardian, Wukong does not hesitate to eat the peaches, thus granting him immortality and the abilities that come with the peaches. If Wukong had not been appointed as the Guardian of the Heavenly Peach Garden, he would not have eaten the Peaches of Immortality and would not have gained another level of immortality.[11]

Heavenly Wine


Because of Wukong's rebellious antics, Wukong is not considered as an important celestial deity and is thus not invited to the Queen Mother of the West's royal banquet. After finding out that every other important deity was invited, Wukong impersonates one of the deities that was invited and shows up early to see why the banquet is important. He immediately is distracted by the aroma of the wine and decides to steal and drink it. The heavenly wine has the ability to turn anyone who drinks it into an immortal.[11]

Pills of Longevity


While drunk from the heavenly wine, Wukong stumbles into Laozi's alchemy lab, where he finds Laozi's pills of longevity, known as "The Immortals' Greatest Treasure." Filled with curiosity about the pills, Wukong eats a gourd of them. Those who eat the pills will become immortal. If Wukong had not been drunk from the heavenly wine, he would not have stumbled into Laozi's alchemy lab and eaten the pills of longevity.[11]

Aftermath of Immortality


Following Wukong's three cause-and-effect methods of immortality during his time in heaven, he escapes back to his home at the Mountain of Flowers and Fruit. The Court of Heaven finds out what Wukong has done and a battle to capture Wukong ensues. Due to the five levels of immortality Wukong has achieved, his body has become nearly invincible and thus survives the multiple execution attempts by heaven. In the notable last execution, Wukong was placed inside Laozi's furnace in hopes that he would be distilled into the elixir of the pills of immortality. Wukong survives 49 days of the samadhi fire in Laozi's furnace and gains the ability to recognize evil; meanwhile, being refined in the crucible extracts yet more of the impurities of mortality and leaves him with another immortality. In desperation, the Court of Heaven seeks help from Buddha, who finally imprisons Wukong under a mountain, after having tricked him into agreeing to a wager. Wukong's immortality and abilities ultimately come into use after Guanyin suggests he becomes a disciple of Tang Sanzang in the Journey to the West. In the story, he protects Sanzang from evil demons who wish to eat Sanzang to achieve immortality. Wukong's own immortality protects him from the various ways the demons try to kill him, such as fighting, beheading, disembowelling, poisoning, and boiling oil.[11]

Sometime during the journey, Wukong and his companions obtain Ginseng fruit (人參果; Man-fruit), a fruit even rarer and more powerful than the Peaches of Immortality, as only 30 of them will grow off one particular tree only found on the Longevity Mountain (萬壽山) every 10,000 years. While one smell can grant 360 years of life, consuming one will grant another 47,000 years of life.

In addition to all of the immortality-granting wines and medicines that the Monkey King had consumed while in heaven, upon reaching the Buddha's temple, pilgrims were provided with Buddhist equivalents of such foods, therefore making Sun Wukong even more immortal; an 8-fold immortal.

In Xiyoubu


The brief satirical novel Xiyoubu (西遊補, "Supplement to the Journey to the West," c. 1640) follows Sun Wukong as he is trapped in a magical dream world created by the Qing Fish Demon, the embodiment of desire (情, qing). Wukong travels back and forth through time, during which he serves as the adjunct King of Hell and judges the soul of the recently dead traitor Qin Hui during the Song dynasty, takes on the appearance of a beautiful concubine and causes the downfall of the Qin dynasty, and faces King Paramita, one of his five sons born to the demoness Princess Iron Fan,[12] on the battlefield during the Tang dynasty.[13] The events of the Xiyoubu take place between the end of chapter 61 and the beginning of chapter 62 of Journey to the West.[14] The author, Tong Yue (童說), wrote the book because he wanted to create an opponent—in this case, desire-itself—that Sun Wukong could not defeat with his great strength and martial skill.[15]


Sun Wukong's shrine at Thien Hau Temple, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
  • Sun Wukong statue and shrine at Waterloo Street, Singapore.
    Sun Wukong statue and shrine at Waterloo Street, Singapore.
    In The Shaolin Monastery (2008), Tel Aviv University Professor Meir Shahar claims that Sun influenced a legend concerning the origins of the Shaolin staff method. The legend takes place during the Red Turban Rebellion of the Yuan dynasty. Bandits lay siege to the monastery, but it is saved by a lowly kitchen worker wielding a long fire poker as a makeshift staff. He leaps into the oven and emerges as a monstrous giant big enough to stand astride both Mount Song and the imperial fort atop Shaoshi Mountain (which are five miles apart). The bandits flee upon seeing him. The Shaolin monks later realize that the kitchen worker was the Monastery's local guardian deity, Vajrapani, in disguise. Shahar compares the worker's transformation in the stove with Sun Wukong's time in Laozi's crucible, their use of the staff, and the fact that Sun Wukong and his weapon can both grow to gigantic proportions.[16]
  • Chinese DAMPE satellite is nicknamed after Wu Kong. The name could be understood as "understand the void" literally, relates to the undiscovered dark matter.[17]

Television, comics and animation

Cartoon-style models of Monkey King on the streets of Lianyungang
  • The character of Monkey in Netflix's The New Legends of Monkey (2018–2020), portrayed by Chai Hansen, is based on Journey to the West by Wu Cheng'en.
  • The character of Son Goku in Dragon Ball is based on Sun Wukong, as attested by his monkey tail, staff, and name (which is simply the Japanese reading of the same name in Chinese: "孫悟空").[18]
  • The manga-anime series Saiyuki's Sun Wukong counterpart also uses the Japanese reading Son Goku.
  • The character of Mushra in the Toei Animation anime Shinzo is based on Sun Wukong, retaining the character's golden headband and telescoping staff.
  • The character of Monkey in the 1978 Japanese television series Monkey is based on Sun Wukong.
  • The character of Kongo in Monkey Magic is based on Sun Wukong.
  • In the webtoon The God of High School and its derivative media, the protagonist Mori Jin is based on the God Sun Wukong.[19]
  • The character Sun Wukong in RWBY is based on the lore; but instead of using his hair to make the clones, he can make the clones using RWBY's magic system.[20]
  • The character of Sun Wukong, explicitly said to be the trickster of legend, plays a major role in the DreamWorks animated series Kung Fu Panda: The Paws of Destiny.
  • The main characters of Spaceketeers and Force Five are based on the Monkey King. They wear a golden band around their heads that is controlled by the princess, and which may induce agony as well. The golden band is also his primary weapon, a long javelin that decreases in size and shape.
  • Marvel Comics features their own version of Sun Wukong. This version was a crime lord, styled after the famed character, who steals the original staff and encounters the spirit of the real Monkey King. After being punished by being sent to hell, he escapes and decides to devote himself to fighting evil as repentance.
  • DC Comics' Sun Wukong has a human son named Marcus Sun who discovers his parentage and takes up the superhero codename of Monkey Prince.
  • The 2020 cartoon Lego Monkie Kid depicts a new generation of the classic tale where a delivery boy named MK is chosen to be Sun Wukong's successor, calling himself the "Monkie Kid".
  • In 2021, Sunrise Inc. has released an animation series SD Gundam World Heroes,[21] under the SD Gundam franchise. in which feature Sun Wukong as a protagonist along with other mythical characters in novels.
  • The storyline of the 2023 film The Monkey King is derived from the origin stories of the Monkey King, ending with his release from imprisonment.[22]
  • The 2023 TV series American Born Chinese features the character Sun Wukong, played by Daniel Wu.
  • The novel Omniscient Reader's Viewpoint features their own version of Sun Wukong. He is a constellation that goes by the modifier of Prisoner of the Golden Headband, Great Sage, Heaven's Equal.

Video games

  • In Dota 2, there is a hero called Monkey King. His backstory also roughly follows the story of Journey to the West.[23]
  • In Heroes of the Storm, a legendary skin is based on Sun Wukong.[24]
  • League of Legends has a champion based on and named after Wukong.[25]
  • Warframe features a playable character named Wukong, who is modelled on the Monkey King and possesses abilities based on those described in Journey to the West.[26]
  • In Mobile Legends: Bang Bang, the character Sun is based on Sun Wukong.[27]
  • In Honor of Kings, the character Sun Wukong is based on the Monkey King.[28]
  • Sun Wukong is one of twelve mythological heroes that civilizations can summon in Civilization VI's Heroes and Legends Mode.[29]
  • Sun Wukong is the primary protagonist in the upcoming action role-playing video game Black Myth: Wukong, referred to in game as "the Destined One" (天命人). The game will be based on Journey to the West and is set to release on August 20, 2024.[30]


  • Sun Wukong is the inspiration and titular character of K-Pop boy group Seventeen's song "Super" (손오공).
  • Journey to the West was adapted into the stage musical Monkey as a collaboration between Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett (comprising the band Gorillaz) and Chinese actor and director Chen Shi-Zheng. Originally staged as an opera, Albarn released a Gorillaz-style album Monkey which takes its name from Sun Wukong.


  • Hungarian poet Lőrinc Szabó wrote his poem Szun Vu Kung lázadása ("Sun Wukong's mutiny") about Sun Wukong.[31][32]

See also



  1. ^ Shahar, Meir (2008). The Shaolin monastery: History, religion, and the Chinese martial arts. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. pp. 92–93. ISBN 9780824831103.
  2. ^ Wu Cheng'en and Anthony Yu. The Journey to the West: Vol. 2 (Chicago, Illinois: University of Chicago Press), 108-109.
  3. ^ a b c d Wu Cheng'en (1500–1582), Journey to the West, Translated by Foreign Languages Press, Beijing 1993.
  4. ^ "Journey to the West". Encyclopedia Britannica. 10 May 2023. Retrieved 22 May 2023.
  5. ^ a b Walker, Hera S. (September 1998). "Indigenous or Foreign? A Look at the Origins of the Monkey Hero Sun Wukong" (PDF). Sino-Platonic Papers. University of Pennsylvania. pp. 53–55, 77–78.
  6. ^ Walker, Hera S. (September 1998). "Indigenous or Foreign? A Look at the Origins of the Monkey Hero Sun Wukong" (PDF). Sino-Platonic Papers. University of Pennsylvania. p. 81.
  7. ^ Ramnath Subbaraman, "Beyond the Question of the Monkey Imposter: Indian Influence on the Chinese novel The Journey to the West", Sino-Platonic Papers, 114 (March 2002)
  8. ^ Yu, Anthony (2012). The Journey to the West (Revised ed.). Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. pp. Vol. I, Introduction, pages 10-17. ISBN 978-0-226-97132-2.
  9. ^ a b Lu Xun, [1] "The Historical Changes of Chinese Literature"], March 1925
  10. ^ "齊天大聖vs.丹霞大聖 @台灣多奇廟 - 探路客 部落格". www.timelog.to (in Chinese (Taiwan)). Retrieved 24 March 2021.
  11. ^ a b c d e f Wu, Cheng−en (1982). Journey to the West. Translated by Jenner, William John Francis. Beijing: Foreign Languages Press. ISBN 0835110036.
  12. ^ King Paramita is the only son to make an appearance and to be called by name in the novel. These sons did not originally appear in Journey to the West.
  13. ^ Tong, Yue, Shuen-fu Lin, Larry James Schulz, and Chengẻn Wu. The Tower of Myriad Mirrors: A Supplement to Journey to the West. Michigan classics in Chinese studies, 1. Ann Arbor: Center for Chinese Studies, The University of Michigan, 2000
  14. ^ Tong, The Tower of Myriad Mirrors, p. 5
  15. ^ Tong, The Tower of Myriad Mirrors, p. 133
  16. ^ Shahar, Meir. The Shaolin Monastery: History, Religion, and the Chinese Martial Arts. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 2008 (ISBN 0-8248-3110-1)
  17. ^ "China's new Monkey King set for journey into space". Xinhua. 16 December 2015. Archived from the original on 22 December 2015. Retrieved 27 November 2017.
  18. ^ "From Sun Wukong to Son Goku: Mythology in Graphic Novels – The Graphic Novel". September 2015.
  19. ^ "Episode 11: "lay/key"". アニメ「THE GOD OF HIGH SCHOOL ゴッド・オブ・ハイスクール」公式サイト. Retrieved 14 September 2020.
  20. ^ "RWBY episodes". roosterteeth. Retrieved 27 November 2017.
  21. ^ "SD GUNDAM WORLD HEROES | GUNDAM.INFO | The official Gundam news and video portal". SD GUNDAM WORLD HEROES | GUNDAM.INFO | The official Gundam news and video portal. Retrieved 1 July 2021.
  22. ^ Tallerico, Brian. "The Monkey King movie review & film summary (2023)". rogerebert.com. Retrieved 21 August 2023.
  23. ^ "Dota 2". Monkey King. Retrieved 4 February 2019.
  24. ^ Archived at Ghostarchive and the Wayback Machine: Heroes of the Storm Samuro Monkey King Skin announcement 风暴英雄 猴王(孙悟空)萨穆罗皮肤, retrieved 1 October 2019
  25. ^ "THE MONKEY KING WUKONG". na.leagueoflegends.com. Archived from the original on 4 September 2021. Retrieved 1 October 2019.
  26. ^ "Warframe: Wukong". Warframe. Retrieved 12 December 2019.
  27. ^ "Monkey King: Hero is Back is not the groundbreaking experience it could have been". Abacus. 28 October 2019.
  28. ^ "王者荣耀孙悟空-王者荣耀官网网站-腾讯游戏". pvp.qq.com. Retrieved 7 February 2020.
  29. ^ Civilization VI - November 2020 DLC | New Frontier Pass
  30. ^ Holiday, Charming (8 December 2023). "Black Myth: Wukong Confirms 2024 Release Date". Game Rant. Archived from the original on 10 December 2023. Retrieved 23 April 2024.
  31. ^ Szabó Lőrinc: Szun Vu Kung lázadása (SZÉKELY JÁNOS PEDAGÓGUS TÁRSAS KÖR)
  32. ^ Szabó Lőrinc: Szun Vu Kung lázadása (SzePi)