The Monkey King

San Francisco’s Chinatown has so many great murals; I only found a few on my visit, but this one especially got my attention! It wasn’t until after I’d returned home that I realized why it seemed vaguely familiar.

Besides the English news on CCTV 9, my favorite show is on BTV 3. It’s called The Monkey King, a fantasy show, live action, about a monk who rides a white horse and his three apprentices: the pig-faced man, the strong man, and a yellow monkey Kung Fu fighter. They seem to be on some sort of endless journey and encounter a variety of enemies. Last night, the bad purple giant’s head turned into a lion’s head and he swallowed the yellow monkey, who eventually escaped by making the purple giant throw up — Peter James Froning, in Letter from China

A few years ago I discovered an audiobook on Podiobooks (now Scribl) titled Letter from China. The letters were written by Peter James Froning, a Procol Harum fanatic who spent a year (2001-2002) teaching English at the North China University of Technology in Beijing. His daily experiences of culture clash and his warm relationships with the students are both hilarious and touching. I find myself listening to this audiobook again and again; it’s also available as a paperback from Amazon (and probably a few other places as well). If you can find the book, read or listen to it; I promise you’ll love it.

It turns out that The Monkey King is based on a classic of Chinese literature called Journey to the West. The story has been retold in many forms; it has been performed by the Peking Opera, and now is even available as a video game. I’m hoping to find a video of the version that Peter enjoyed watching on Chinese television!

On TV this week… The Monkey King has finished its run. Very disappointing for me. They ended up going to heaven, as it turns out, and flew away on individual little clouds. I asked somebody why it didn’t go into reruns, and the reply was ‘Huh?’ Now I am waiting for Monkey King: The Lost Episodes. I don’t think it will happen — Peter James Froning, in Letter From China

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