Name: Sun Wukong – the Monkey King
Tagline: Magic monkey is spawned from an egg, achieves immortality, conquers heaven but is tricked by Buddha, who forces him to go with a pilgrim to India.
Awesomeness in brief: This guy has a bit of everything! He goes around sticking it to the man, beating people with his great big metal stick, while at the same time going through a journey to enlightenment.
I first learnt about Sun Wukong in the Chinese animation film,
Havoc in Heaven – a film about a man (well, magic monkey, but same same) of the people who is tricked and bullied by the aristocratic bureaucracy of Heaven, only to out-trick and beat them at their own game. It’s a rousing film, and it wasn’t till later I saw it for the blatant communist propaganda that it was.
But I was hooked! So I borrowed the book, Journey into the West and was much surprised to find that the part I knew was a relatively small section of the book. The major part of the book describes a party of unlikely travelling companions: a pious buddhist monk, a gluttonous pig-man, a river ogre, a dragon transformed into a horse, and last but not least, Sun Wukong the Monkey King. Their quest is to travel from China to India, in order to fetch the Tripitaka, the holy scriptures of the Buddha, a task given to them by the Bodhisattva, Guanyin (the personification of the mercy of all Buddhas). In short, they are an adventuring party.
Sun Wukong is a great figure – clearly a trickster, but also a warrior, and it happens more than once that he is the one tricked.
What should you do with this: First of all, Sun Wukong and Journey into the West are for inspiration for a Chinese inspired adventuring game – Exalted is an obvious example, but it could also be an eastern inspired D&D game. Also, for an aspiring Fantasy writer, there are some good examples of how to do weird and interesting magics, and how to make challenges that can be overcome with magic.