Wednesday, 17 February 2016

A Very Special Monkey

For those who are not familiar with the Chinese zodiac signs, I wrote about it in this post.  This year being the Year of the Monkey, I decided to introduce Tiger to one of the Chinese classics, Journey to the West ( 《西游记》)

As with many Chinese children, Tiger's first introduction to this Chinese classic is through animation:

After seeing him become enamoured with the cartoon above, I told Tiger that the cartoon shows only a very selection of the monkey's journey, and that it is part of a very long Chinese novel.  He immedidately asked me get him the story.  I got him the abridged, single-book version of the classic to see how he got on with the story.  At 528 pages, the abridged version gives a good overview of the actual novel but when I asked Tiger whether he read about the characters' encounters with certain demons, Tiger realised that there are many juicy and interesting adventures that are being left out, so he asked me to get him the unabridged, four-volume version:
  1. Volume 1 - 576 pages
  2. Volume 2 - 424 pages
  3. Volume 3 - 464 pages
  4. Volume 4 - 440 pages
Seeing Tiger read this Chinese classic novel in English translation (I read the original Chinese version) brings back memory of my own experience of reading Pride and Prejudice in Chinese translation at about 12 years old.   Obviously it is always preferable to read a story in its original language as certain linguist nuances and subtleties are often lost in in the translation process, but where one's language skills are not up to the required standard to allow one to read the original text, then finding a good translated version is the next best thing to do.

When Tiger has read the four books through twice (it took him about a week), I showed him a TV series based on the book.  While this classic has been adapted into movies and other performances many times over the years (the latest one being a new movie based on one of the major adventures from the book):

the 1986 TV version is the one that I think stays closest to the original novel, and the actor who played the monkey is acknowledged as unsurpassed in his interpretation of the character:

Journey to the West is the most popular, accessible of the four major Chinese classics.  Even those who have not read the book would know about a number of the fantastical adventures of the main characters in the story.  However, although the story is written in the form of a historical fantasy/myth, the story has a much deeper, spiritual meaning to it, in a very similar way that The Lord of the Rings is so much more than a fantasy story. 

The following video is rather appropriate as a new year wish from me to you: may your year be full of wonderful adventures!  I know mine will be!

(I know those are apes in the video but they belong to the same primate family as monkeys.  Besides, they make me laugh, so that'll do for Chinese New Year.  I'm sure Sun Wukong would approve!)

*Disclosure: some links are affiliate links, which means I earn a commission if you click through and buy something.

This post is linked up to:
  1. Collage Friday
  2. Multicultural Kid Blogs
  3. Hip Homeschool Hop 2/16/16 - 2/20/16
  4. Finishing Stron #77
  5. Weekly Wrap-Up: The one that started with an amazing Valentine gift


  1. Goodness, Tiger's thirst for knowledge knows no bounds! :D I love the freedom-fighting monkey in Journey to the West. I'm going to share your post with all its great links with Cordie, I know she'll enjoy them all too. Thank you, Hwee, and may your new year be full of wonderful adventures, too!

    1. You're very welcome, Lucinda. Journey to the West is a very engaging story on many levels, and the monkey represents hope and the Chinese people's wish for freedom. I hope Cordie enjoys the story as much as we do! :-)

  2. I LOVE this. We live in a neighborhood among many Asian cultures (wishing people a happy lunar new year is the norm, and we spent the day with pH learning about the different years (and traits). (I really love the juxtaposition of the Chinese translation of P&P with Tiger reading Journey to the West!) A bit late, but happy new year!

    1. Thank you for your well wishes, qH! Chinese New Year is the most important festival in the Chinese year, so I try to do something special for it each year. It's such a different tradition from what the West is used to, and I'm very glad to see that there is so much interest to learn about this festival. :-)

  3. This post is exactly what I love about the home school blogging community. We can each learn from one another. I had never heard of this classic and whilst we would probably never had ploughed through all four books the abridged version would have been great to read when we were studying China. I'll have to include it when my littles do it! Thanks for sharing :)

    1. You're very welcome, Claire. :-) I don't expect many non-Chinese to work through the unabridged version of the Chinese classics unless they're very interested! One would be busy enough working through all the wonderful English classics! :-)


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