2016-02-12 09:33 ChineseTime

The Year of the Monkey is just around the corner. One of the most famous depictions of the monkey is the Monkey King in the classic Chinese novel Journey to the West.

Efforts have been made over the years to pass on the adventures of the Monkey King, along with his mentor Buddhist monk Xuan Zang, to the younger generation through animations. Here is a history of such animation productions.


Monkey King cartoons through the years

DVD cover of Princess Iron Fan. [Photo/Mtime]

Princess Iron Fan

Director: Wan brothers

Release date: Jan 1, 1941

The film is based on an episode of Journey to the West, in which the Monkey King battles the vengeful Princess Iron Fan.

The film was made by the Wan brothers, namely Wan Laiming, Wan Guchan, Wan Chaochen and Wan Dihuan, one of the first batch of animators in China. This first animated feature film made in China took three years and 237 artists to make. It was a milestone for China's history of animation, and its influences were widespread. Abroad, it prompted the then-16-year-old Tezuka Osamu, a Japanese animator and father of many renowned works including Astro Boy, to get into animation when it was exported to wartime Japan in 1942.


Monkey King cartoons through the years

A scene from Pigsy East Watermelon. [Photo/Mtime]

Pigsy Eats Watermelon

Director: Wan Laiming, Wan Guchan

Produced at the Shanghai Animation Film Studio by Wan Laiming and Wan Guchan, the film Pigsy Eats Watermelon features the character Zhu Bajie from Journey to the West. In the film, Zhu Bajie goes off to search for food for the four and discovers some watermelons. Instead of bringing the fruits back to his hungry companions, he gets greedy and enjoys the fruit all by himself. The Monkey King discovers his lies and teaches him a lesson.

The character was used since pigs are often associated with greed in Chinese culture.


Monkey King cartoons through the years

A scene from Havoc in Heaven. [Photo/Mtime]

Havoc in Heaven

Director: Wan Laiming

The four Wan brothers created the film at the height of a booming Chinese animation industry from 1961 to 1964. It was one of the longer animated colored features at the time.

The story centers on how the Monkey King causes an uproar in Heaven and his troubles with the Jade Emperor, who presides over the deities. The stylized animation, drums and percussion accompaniment used in this film is heavily influenced by the traditional performing art of Peking Opera.


Monkey King cartoons through the years

Ding Ding Zhan Hou Wang. [Photo/From the Internet]

Ding Ding Zhan Hou Wang

Director: Hu Jinqing

The Monkey King is angered by Dingding, a young boy who didn't finish watching the film Havoc in Heaven, in which he is the protagonist. He then jumps out of the television and questions Dingding, and is lectured by the boy, who holds the key to modern scientific knowledge. The Monkey King doesn't want to give in and challenges Dingding in a series of battles, mostly in places the traditional hero has never been, including beneath the sea and high up in space. The Monkey King finally admits to his ignorance when it comes to scientific knowledge and asks Dingding to teach him.


Monkey King cartoons through the years

A scene from Ren Shen Guo. [Photo/From the Internet]

Ren Shen Guo

Director: Yan Dingxian

Xuan Zang and his disciples stopped at Wuzhuang Guan on their way to the West, a place known for "ren shen guo", or Ginseng fruits, a type of rare fruit that makes people who eat them immortal. Zhu

Bajie coerces the Monkey King to steal some of the sacred fruits and gets the team into trouble until Guanyin comes to the rescue.


Monkey King cartoons through the years

A scene from Xiao Ba Jie. [Photo/Tencent]

Xiao Ba Jie

The film, made solely out of paper cut figurines, is a classic film by Shanghai Animation Film Studio.

Monkey King cartoons through the years
DVD cover of Jin Hou Xiang Yao. [Photo/Mtime]

Jin Hou Xiang Yao

Another production by Shanghai Animation Film Studio, the film brought the story of the Monkey King's three battles against the White Bone Spirit in Journey to the West to life.


Monkey King cartoons through the years

A scene from Flying Monkid. [Photo/From the Internet]

Flying Monkid

This 74-episode animated TV production initially aired in 1992. The storyline somewhat deviates from the original story, where the protagonist is not as arrogant as the images portrayed in other reproductions. The Monkid is kind, has real friends, and his own share of troubles and dreams. The adorable illustrations were also praised as one of the major revisions to the original story.

Journey to the West

In contrast to Flying Monkid, CCTV's reproduction of Journey to the West adheres more strictly to the original storyline. More than 2,000 illustrators worked to depict most of the details in the original novel from roughly 500 characters in this 52-episode animation.


Monkey King cartoons through the years

A scene from Lotus Lantern. [Photo/Mtime]

Lotus Lantern

Director: Chang Guangxi

Release date: July 30, 1999

Erlang Shen, or the second son of God, had a sister known as the Holy Mother of Mount Hua. She married a mortal scholar, Liu Yanchang, though it was forbidden for those in Heaven to marry mortals, and gave birth to a son named Chen Xiang. She was admonished by her brother for the human-deity union and imprisoned under a mountain. When Chen Xiang came of age, he split the mountain with an axe to free his mother under the guidance of the Monkey King.



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