Saturday, March 28, 2009

Monkey, Aware of Emptiness

The boys and I were puttering in the backyard after dinner tonight, ostensibly working in the garden. ("How can we call it a garden when we haven't done any work on it since last year?" asked L)

R picked up one of the many bamboo poles and began to pose with it and thrust it about as a weapon against imaginary enemies. I heard him announcing his powers. I realized he was not showing off his finesse with a light saber, but what I did hear surprised me. "Did you say you're Shah Rukh Khan?"

"No," said R. "I said Sun WuKong!"

"Yeah, dude, you're Sun WuKong!" shouted L, and went over to instruct R on the finer points of wielding Sun WuKong's cudgel.

In Chinese, Sun either means or implies "monkey," and WuKong is his Buddhist name, which means "aware of emptiness," or more precisely, ""the one who has Achieved the Perfect Comprehension of the Extinction of both Emptiness and non-Emptiness." 孫悟空, also known as the Monkey King, is the hero of the classical Chinese novel of the 16th century, Journey to the West.

I picked up several volumes of a 34-volume illustrated version of the novel at the Salvation Army. We've been reading them before bedtime this week. The illustrations are terrible-- turns out, this collection is likely the print adaptation of Shangai Animation Film Studio's 1960's animated series based on the novel. The books were released in English in the 1980s, about the time the animated series was released on video.

Monkey can fly (well, leap 54,000 kilometers in a single bound), transform himself, is on a mission (to escort the Tang Priest Xuanzang to the West to obtain Buddhist Scriptures), and beats the tar out of evil spirits and demons. In short, he's a superhero, albeit one that has a tail and take his marching orders from Kuan-Yin, the Goddess of Compassion.

Sorry, Yoda. The Force is with Monkey.

Power Ranger or Chinese immortal?

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