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Hey, I don't want to fight you nobody. You just go back to the Heaven Palace to pass my word. Look, I want to be Great Sage Equaling Heaven. Go back to tell Jade Emperor, if he grant me as Great Sage Equal to Heaven, I'll stop fighting. If not, I'll make a mess in the Lingxiao Palace and let him know my power!
~ Sun Wukong.

Sun Wukong is an iconic hero of Chinese folklore and the main protagonist of the 16th-century Chinese classic novel Journey to the West by the late Wu Cheng'en, and its multiple adaptations. However, in the early chapters of the story, he is a protagonist villain, who commits assault on Heaven, stealing and vandalism only to get the title of "The Great Sage Equaling Heaven". Even later in the story, when he is now Xuanzang's student, Wukong still commits some morally questionable acts, though not out of malicious intent but rather for noble intents and due to his brutal nature.

In the 1986 classic series, he was portrayed by Liu Xiao Ling Tong, and the 2011 remake, he was portrayed by Wu Yue.

Appearance

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Sun Wukong.

Sun Wukong is a monkey, who often holds his famous weapon, the Ruyi Jingu Bang. As the monkey leader of the "Mountain of Flowers and Fruit", he wears a Golden Armor, a Phoenix Helmet and Cloud-Walking Boots, and a red cape. As Xuanzang's student, he wears the monk's yellow clothes, including yellow shirt and trousers, and shorts made of the skin of a tiger that he killed shortly after being released by Xuanzang. On his head, he wears a magical circlet that cannot be removed, which was used by Xuanzang to keep him in control. The magical circlet was automatically removed once he received his Buddhahood. Wukong's appearance is considered to be ugly and terrible, to the point that seeing him could scare a normal mortal human.

Personality

Sun Wukong is extremely arrogant, due to his omnipotent abilities, and that no Heaven deity can defeat him. Even after becoming Xuanzang's student, he still retains his arrogant nature. Wukong is also a vigilantic and barbaric character, who often thinks killing is the best solution to defeat his enemies. Regardless, he is still honorable, tries to fight like a real man. Wukong is extremely protective towards his fellow monkeys and later also his master Xuanzang, has no problem of killing anyone who tries to harm them.

Biography

Origins

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Wukong as the lowest-ranking official on Heaven.

Sun Wukong was born from a magical rock formed from chaos, and by the time he was born, he befriended several other monkeys. Upon discovering a special cave in a mountain that he named the "Mountain of Flowers and Fruit", he was hailed by the other monkeys as their king, the "Handsome Monkey King". Feeling dissatisfied with his mortal life, Wukong decided to travel across the sea to achieve immortality. He eventually found and studied under the Buddhist Patriarch Bodhi, and quickly become the latter's favourite student, to the point that the Bodhi taught him 72 Di Sha transformations. However, when Wukong gloats with his fellow students about his newly acquired powers, the Bodhi banished Wukong from his temple, and insisted him to never call him "master" ever again.
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Wukong during his assault on Heaven.

Knowing that he needs a weapon, Wukong eventually found from the four Water Dragon Kings a staff that could extend to any length, and weighed about 17,857 pounds, called the Ruyi Jingu Bang, a Golden Armor, a Phoenix Helmet and Boots that allowed him to walk on clouds. To make sure he and his fellow monkeys would never die, he erased their names from the Book of Life and Death, leading to the Jade Emperor to offer him a place among the gods to stop Wukong from becoming too dangerous. Unfortunately, the job is the lowest ranking possible, caused Wukong to ally with the demons on Earth to fight Heaven, forced the deities to promote him as "The Great Sage Equal to Heaven", unknown that it was only by name. Upon not being invited to a royal banquet, Wukong once again rebelled, stole peaches, pills, and wine that would keep his immortality, and fought 100,000 Celestial Warriors. He was eventually defeated and imprisoned within Taishang Laojun's furnace, but once they believed him to be dead and opened the furnace, he escaped with the ability to recognize any evil that the fire within the furnace gave him. With no options left, the deities called to the Buddha, who tricked Wukong into being sealed away underneath a mountain with a talisman, forced him to wait for his path of redemption.

As Xuanzang's student

Wukong ready to kill

Wukong orders his fellow monkeys to fight the hunters.

500 years later, the monk Xuanzang released Wukong from imprisonment, and took him as his student. However, even then, Wukong still committed some morally questionable acts. Firstly, when he learned that Xuanzang was given a special cite to control him by the Bodhisattva Guanyin, Wukong tried to kill Xuanzang, only for the latter to read the cite, forced Wukong to obey him from that point onwards.

Later on, when Wukong was banished away from Xuanzang's party following the Baigujing incident, he went back to the "Mountain of Flowers and Fruit", only to learn that most of his monkeys had been captured by the hunters. Angered, Wukong led the monkeys to brutally murder the hunters, skin them and their dead horses to eat, and take all the stuffs they carried during the hunt. Although this is out of noble intents, Wukong took things too far to the point that he kills all the hunters (who all are humans and may have family) while he could easily just scare them away and forbid them from ever returning to his cave. Also, when he returned to rescue his master, Wukong ordered Zhu Bajie and Sha Wujing to brutally kill the Yellow Robe Demon's two children, who were innocent. (Both of those events were cut in the 1986 version.)

Sun Wukong also once ordered Zhu Bajie to brutally kill the tree spirits just because he assumed that they might become evil later on due to being ghostly spirits (the 1986 TV series had him vandalized their place and wanted to beat their stumps, which regardless is still a villainous act), whereas the only closest thing that can be considered an offense that the tree spirits did is forcing Xuanzang to marry their girl.

Another villainous act that Wukong commited was killing the Tawny Lion Demon's entire family and burning down the latter's cave, whereas the Lion only done a very light offense, stealing their weapons, which was also due to ignorance (the 1986 TV series toned up the Lion's evil a bit, but regardless he's still not evil enough to justify Wukong's vigilantism here).

Also, he committed killing the robbers twice, again, while this is out of noble intents of protecting his master, it's still somewhat considered a villainous act as Wukong could just easily scare them away or send them to the authorities. During his third encounter with a gang of robbers who had just robbed the House of Kou (where Xuanzang's party was just visited and stayed for half of a month), Wukong finally learned his lessons and let them go free after taking back all the stuffs that they took from Mr. Kou instead of killing them.

After the journey has been succeeded, Wukong had purged himself out of all of his evil, and finally received Buddhahood as a result.

Powers and Abilities

  • 72 Di Sha transformations: Sun Wukong possesses 72 Di Sha transformations, can shapeshift into whatever form he wants. However, one weakness of this power is that when transforming into a humanoid being, his lower body would remain the same.
  • Fire Eyes: Due to being imprisoned within Taishang Laojun's furnace for a long time, Wukong possesses Fire Eyes that allow him to see all evil and through anyone's cover.
  • Master hand-to-hand combatant: Sun Wukong possesses very great hand-to-hand combat skills.
  • Solid body: Due to being born from a magical rock, and was imprisoned inside Taishang Laojun's furnace for a long time, Wukong's body is very solid, and no normal weapon can harm him.
  • Immortality: Along with 72 Di Sha transformations, the Bodhi also gave Wukong the way to learn immortality.
  • Ruyi Jingu Bang: Wukong's famous weapon is the Ruyi Jingu Bang, which he can change its size into whatever he wants. Due to the staff's height, anyone who is hit by it often would die right away, and normal people cannot hold it.

Gallery

Trivia

  • Even as a villain, Sun Wukong is considered to be among the most popular villains of Journey to the West, and his actions of assaulting and wrecking havoc on Heaven had became widely known as one of his most famous deeds.
    • By default, Wukong is the first villain to appear in the story. However, since he was not a villain until when he started to fight Heaven, the Demon King of Confusion is the first villain to appear in the story.

Navigation

           Journey to the West Villains

Azure Lion Demon | Baigujing | Bull King | Golden and Silver Horned Kings | Golden Cicada | Golden Winged Great Peng | Grand Saint of Nine Spirits | Hun Dun the Demon King | King of Spiritual Touch | King of the Southern Hill | Kings of Cold, Heat and Dust Protection | Lady Earth Flow | Nine Headed Bug | Princess Iron Fan | Red Boy | Ruler of the Kingdom of Miefa | Sai Tai Sui | Sha Wujing | Single Horned Rhinoceros King | Six Eared Macaque | Sun Wukong | Tawny Lion Demon | The Butler of the Kou family | Tuolong | Wansheng Dragon King | Yellow Robe Demon | Yellow Toothed Elephant Demon | Zhu Bajie

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