Our family has embarked on virtual travels to various countries and regions. To explore these countries and their cultures, we have followed along with the festivals, cooked and eaten traditional foods, learned of traditional handicrafts with hands on exploration, along with many activities to immerse ourselves. Chronicled here are some of these activities.

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Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Chinese Legend: The Monkey King

The Monkey King - A Trickster Tale from China

Born from a rock, king to a band of monkeys, with many magical powers and incredible strength, Sun Wukong, The Monkey King, is no ordinary monkey. 

Sun Wukong, one of the most loved and known characters in Chinese literature, is one of the main characters in "Journey to the West", a 16th century Ming dynasty epic story, which is considered one of the four great classic novels of Chinese literature. 

The Monkey King is extremely strong and fast - in fact he can travel 180,000 miles in one somersault. He is defiant and bold, openly rebelling against the authorities of Heaven, regularly playing pranks on the gods and tricking enemies to protect those in his care or company. He even tricked his way out of the book of mortality, achieving the immortality he deeply desired. His greatest weaknesses are pride and believing himself invincible. For his mischief, Buddha imprisoned him for 500 years after Sun Wukong failed at a challenge he believed to be an easy win. He redeemed himself on a quest riddled with adventure accompanying a monk to retrieve Buddhist scriptures. 

The legend of the Monkey King has and continues to be adapted in many forms, such as in Chinese opera, animationsMarvel comics,  and a major motion picture.

Here are the picture books we read with retellings of the adventures of the Monkey King:

The Making of Monkey King (Adventures of Monkey King, 1) by Robert Kraus & Debby Chen

This book is the first in the "Adventures of the Monkey King Series", and it was our favorite telling of the Monkey King's adventures. Because it is part of a series, the story is not too condensed, and the first book tells of this trickster's beginnings: being born of a rock, crowned king, schooled by an immortal master and fighting the Demon of Chaos. We are looking forward to reading what adventures he will meet next.

Monkey King  by Ed Young

This book is a very simplified rendition of the Monkey King's adventures. The paper cut illustrations are gorgeous, and there are open fold pages that add greatly to the presentation,making the scene wider or taller. Written for younger kids (grades K-4), it is a simple introduction to the Monkey King.

You could also re-enact some of the Monkey King's adventures with shadow puppets: Asian Art Museum has a printable Monkey King shadow puppet template you can find here (on page 4). Find our tutorial on how to make Chinese shadow puppets here.

If you'd like to read more about Trickster Tales, Kid World Citizen has a round up post of trickster tales from around the world.

I've linked up this post to these blog hops of book reviews at
 the Kid Lit Blog Hop  and Booknificient

Kid Lit Blog Hop

Books are a wonderful way to experience new worlds and ideas. Our house is filled with books, most of which are borrowed from our public library. Public libraries are an incredible resource, making books accessible to everyone, and we highly encourage everyone to discover theirs. If you are hoping to build your own home library, I've made it easy by including a link to Amazon through the book titles.  Please note that I have become affiliated with them, which means that if you make a purchase, you are also supporting this website.  


  1. This sounds so interesing. My daughter began learning Mandarin because she fell in love with Chinese myths like this one (now she reads them in the original). I will have to tell her about it (and maybe pick up a copy for future grandkids).

    1. I am so impressed that your daughter took it upon herself to learn Mandarin, and is now reading the language! There are so many Chinese legends that have been turned into picture books, especially by Ed Young, you'll have many to choose from for your (future) grandkids :)

  2. I love Ed Young's books, primarily for the illustrations.
    I've still not decided what we are going to do next summer. It is between Native Americans, Africa or a summer of science. I like the idea of doing Africa beside you (of course I'd nick all your ideas!), but I think the Native Americans would be so much fun for the younger two. Decisions, decisions....!

    1. There is just so many interesting things to learn about! I would not know what to decide in your shoes either :) Native Americans would be very interesting though I think Africa for the younger two as well - especially if the whole continent! All the various tribes and tribal make up and ceremonial masks, and various drums and gourd instruments, and the varied environments and the wildlife (savanna desert...) Clearly, I've had my head in Africa :)

  3. You are featured on our Best4Future Wednesday link-up party #3!!(http://www.best4future.com/blog/best4future-wednesday-link-party-3)
    Welcome to join in us again!

    1. Thank you Lina! I will definitely be adding to your link party!

  4. Ed Young's art and books have made for some great reading at home. I would love to find this one book on the Monkey King as well.
    Thanks for sharing on Kid Lit Blog Hop!
    -Reshama @ Stackingbks

  5. I am absolutely thrilled to see your recommendations in the Kid Lit Blog Hop this week. One of my son's friends who has a Canadian father and Chinese mother had a birthday party themed around the Monkey King a couple of years ago. My son came home from the party with a Monkey King marionette. He still has it! I'll have to point his parents to your site!

    1. A monkey king marionette sounds like so much fun! We made monkey king shadow puppets which are neat. It's fun to see that classic literature created a hero for pop culture.


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