Sun Wu Kong



Sun Wu Kong

Meaning: Wu - Awareness

               Kong - Vacuity

Origin: Pu Ti Zu Shi, the Taoist immortal who taught him the way of immortality and magic, gave Wu Kong this name when he became his disciple. There is a little story behind the surname 'Sun'. In chinese, 'hu sun' is a word for monkey. 'Hu' is made up of the characters 'gu', meaning 'old' and 'yue', meaning 'moon', and with the symbol (we call it bu shou but there's no English equivalent) used in animal names at the left. Old and moon carries negative connotations (moon symbolises yin, negativity) so Pu Ti Zu Shi choose 'sun' as the monkey's surname. If you take away the animal symbol, you get the character 'sun', that is, a different 'sun' meaning 'grandchildren'. It is made up of the characters 'zi', meaning 'child' or 'children' and 'xiao', meaning 'little' or 'small'. Better than old moon, at least. So Pu Ti Zu Shi gave Wu Kong the surname Sun. And he's carried it proudly ever since. ^_^


Variations: Sun Wukong, Sun-Wukong, Sun-Wu-K'ung, Sun-Wu-Kong


English name(s): Monkey


Japanese pronunciation:

Sun Wu Kong - Son Goku





Roughly 850 at the time of the pilgrimage.



- Demonic Immortal (Yao Xian).

- Stone Monkey (Shi Hou).


Original Location

Water Curtain Cave (Shui Lian Dong), Mountain of Flower and Fruit (Hua Guo Shan).

Country: Aolai Kingdom*

Continent: Dong Sheng Shen Zhou (the eastern continent)


* I strongly suspect that this refers to Japan, as it is situated on the far reaches of the Eastern Sea. Anyway, it doesn't matter if geographically, Wu Kong's not from China, because his personality is symbolic of the Chinese as a people. Helping people in need, putting 'face' and honour high on his priority list, and a certain tendency to shy away from reality are just a few of the identifying traits.



Titles/Other Names

(1) Handsome Monkey King (Mei Hou Wang)

His title when he became king of the monkeys.


(2) Bi Ma Wen

His title as head of the Heavenly Stables when he first went to Heaven. But when he found out that it had no rank whatsoever, he left the post in anger. From then on, he always hated it when anyone called him by that name.


(3) Great Sage Equal of Heaven (Qi Tian Da Sheng)

When he returned to Flower Fruit Mountain after leaving his post as Bi Ma Wen, two single-horned demon kings came to him and suggested that he take the title of Great Sage Equal of Heaven. Wu Kong was very receptive of this idea and called himself by that title from then on. Afterwards, when he defeated all the Heavenly generals sent to capture him, the Jade Emperor (ruler of Heaven) gave him the post of Great Sage Equal of Heaven to placate. It was, of course, an empty post with no work for Wu Kong to do.

Japanese pronunciation: Seiten Taisei


(4) Sun Xing Zhe

Tang San Zang gave Wu Kong the name of Xing Zhe (traveling monk) when he became his disciple. The author uses this form of address for him throughout the pilgrimage (mostly he just uses 'Xing Zhe').


(5) Hun Yuan Yi Qi Shang Fang Tai Yi San Xian (or simply Tai Yi San Xian)

Wu Kong's rank as an immortal. Wu Cheng En didn't elaborate, but from what I gather, it's neither very high nor very low.


(6) Buddha of Victorious Battles (Dou Zhan Sheng Fo)

This was his name when he finally attained Buddhahood or zheng guo. Really suits him, don't you think? ^_^


(7) Sun Hou Zi

'Hou zi' is chinese for 'monkey'. So, literally, 'Monkey Sun'. A kind of informal form of address with little or no respect. Sometimes the author refers to him with this form of address.

Variations: Sun-Hou-Tze




Magic Golden-Clasped Rod (Ru Yi Jin Gu Bang)

Origin: Wu Kong got it from the Dragon King of the Eastern Sea.

Weight: 13500 catties, about 8100 kg.

Size: Unlimited. It can grow as tall as the sky or shrink to the size of a needle at will. Wu Kong likes to keep it in his ear when he's not using it. Occasionally, he uses it to sew his clothes.

Japanese pronunciation:

Ru -Nyo

Yi - I

Jin - Kin

Gu - Kou

Bang - Bou


Thus: Nyoikinkoubou



Magical Powers

(1) 72 Transformation (72 Bian)

Allows him to transform himself into anything and anyone. Wu Kong uses it a lot, in all imaginable ways!

Variation 1

He can change all of his hairs into any object, person or animal. After use, he can change them back  to hairs.

Variation 2: Body Outside of Body Spell (Shen Wai Shen Fa) 

He can amass an army in a few seconds by changing tufts of his hair into monkeys who are capable of fighting.

Variation 3

Allows him to transform one object into another object by chanting a spell and spitting blood on the object. In the case of changing an object into people, he completes the illusion by giving the fakes very simple abilities of speech and movement.

Variation 4

He can multiply his head and hands so that he has three heads and six arms. He also multiplies his magic rod so that he can use three rods at the same time. This is very useful in fighting off crowds of enemies.

Variation 5

He can transform a hair into a fake Wu Kong, freeing his true self to go elsewhere.

Variation 6

He can change his single magic rod into thousands of them which can be used for attacking multiple enemies.


(2) Somersault Cloud (Jin Dou Yun)

Allows him to fly over a distance of 108000 li in one somersault.

Note: Thanks to a reader (J.N.) who commented, we can now ascertain that one li roughly equals 0.5 km.

Japanese pronounciation:

Jin Dou Yun - Kintouun



For how long a li really is in this context, I can't find an exact
answer either. How long a li is changed through time in the
Chinese history. Today, one li is exactly 0.5km. And according
to (in Chinese),
it was either 0.8316 / 2 = 0.4158km or 1.152/2 = 0.576km,
or something not far away from the two in the history. So I guess
one li is probably less than one km in this context and all other


Therefore, 108000 li roughly equals 54000km. ^o^ Thanks, J.N.!


(3) Body Freezing Spell

I can't believe I forgot this. =_= This is one of Wu Kong's most important powers, the body freezing spell. With a single syllable and a point of his finger, he can magically freeze anyone into immobility. I've never seen him use this on his enemies though, you know, the big bad demon bosses and all that, but he does use it frequently on the minor demons, so I surmise that this spell is only effective on people with weak magical powers.


(4) Water Avoidance Charm (Bi Shui Jue)

Allows him to survive in deep waters. A major drawback is that he can't fight while using this charm.


(5) Fire Avoidance Charm (Bi Huo Jue)

Allows him to go through fire unharmed. This charm doesn't have the Water Avoidance Charm's drawback.


(6) Wind

He can induce very strong winds and windstorms.


(7) Lock-Breaking Spell (Jie Suo Fa)

With a point from his finger or magic rod, all locks will open automatically.


(8) Summoning

He can summon the local gods of any place he goes, that is the Earth Gods, Mountain Gods, River Gods, and the like.


(9) Protective Circle

He can build a protective, albeit invisible wall by drawing a circle on the ground with his magic rod. Anyone staying inside the circle will be safe from harm as long as they don't go out. The one time he used it, San Zang was stupid enough to listen to Ba Jie and ignore Wu Kong's instructions and ended up being captured by a demon.





(1) Fiery Golden Eyes (Huo Yan Jin Jing)

When he was burnt in Lao Zi's furnace for 49 days, he sat in a place where there was only smoke, but no fire. Thus he managed to survive the burning, but his eyes were smoked into Fiery Golden Eyes. This enables him to see as far as a thousand li in the day and five, six hundred li at night. Furthermore, he can see through any disguise, illusion, or transformation.


(2) Fighting

He possesses supernatural strength, so much that he feels that only a 8100kg metal rod is suitable for him. This strength and his natural agility gives him an edge in fights. He is efficient in unarmed combat and using various kinds of weapons, though his favored weapon is his magic rod.


(3) Immortality and Invincibility

Wu Kong is immortal. Not only that, his 72 Transformations gives him 72 extra lives. Because he stole and ate peaches and golden pills of immortality, his body can be invulnerable to all attacks. He likes to intimidate others with this ability. He'll just bare his neck and dare you to attack him. And if you do, it's just like attacking a mountain of rock - the weapon just bounces off. He can cut open his stomach, take out his intestines, and put them back again. If his head is cut off, he can reattach it or just grow it back again, without even the hint of a scar. He can bathe in a pot of boiling oil as if it was just a hot spring. ^_^ How cool is that?


(4) Knowledge and Intelligence

From the looks of it, Wu Kong studied very hard at school, uh, I mean at Pu Ti Zu Shi's cave. He knows a lot about anything related to magic - like the energy change in moon phases, types of demon influence, Yin and Yang, the five elements (wu xing), the eight symbols (ba gua), etc. etc. He is also a very clever guy - always thinking up different ways to trick and defeat other demons.


(5) Horses

Don't forget that Wu Kong was once the Bi Ma Wen. The glorified stable boy of Heaven. >D He excels at taking care of horses and most horses obey him instinctively.


(6) Healing and Medicine

Wu Kong is a skilled doctor as he studied traditional medicine with his first master. Regretfully, he only utilizes this ability on one occasion to diagnose and cure an emperor's sickness.




He was born from a rock on the summit of Flower Fruit Mountain of the Eastern Continent and lived with the monkeys there. One day, they decided to follow a stream to its source - a waterfall. The monkeys decided that whoever was brave enough to jump through the waterfall would become their king. The stone monkey went through the waterfall unscathed and discovered a huge cave behind the waterfall. 'Water Curtain Cave' (there were a few other words but all you need to know are these three) was inscribed in stone there. Thus, from then onwards, the monkeys made their home in the Water Curtain Cave, and made the stone monkey their king with the title of 'Handsome Monkey King'.


Three hundred years passed in happiness but one day, the stone monkey left on a raft to search for a way to immortality. He floated across the sea and came to the Southern Continent, where he learnt to speak and walk like a human. Eight or nine years passed before he crossed another ocean to come to the Western Continent, where he eventually found an immortal and learnt the way of immortality and some magical powers (fa li). After about twelve years of training, he returned to Flower Fruit Mountain.


After that, he amassed a massive army of 47000 monkeys. All the other demons who were living on Flower Fruit Mountain came to pay homage to him. Then he managed to cause trouble in Hell and for the Dragon Kings who lodged complaints against him to Heaven. Tai Bai Jin Xing, God of Venus asked the Jade Emperor to pardon Wu Kong and give him a post in Heaven, which was the post of Bi Ma Wen. Wu Kong left the post in anger when he found out it had no rank. The Jade Emperor ordered the Heavenly troops to capture Wu Kong. Wu Kong beat them all, naturally. Venus asked the Jade Emperor to pardon him again, and let him have the post of Great Sage Equal of Heaven.


He was then put in charge of the peach orchard, for fear that he would cause trouble if he had nothing to do. Wu Kong couldn't resist the temptation and ate all the ripe, big  peaches of immortality. This was the first offence in a string of crimes. Next, when he found out that he wasn't invited to the Peach Banquet held by the Empress, he went to it before anyone arrived and finished off all the food and wine. Then, he reached the Tai Shang Lao Jun/Lao Zi's home in a drunken stupor and ate his precious golden pills of immortality. Once he did this, he knew that he was in big trouble and went back to Flower Fruit Mountain immediately.


When the Jade Emperor found out, he ordered his Heavenly Troops to wage war on Flower Fruit Mountain. Eventually he was captured and brought back to Heaven for punishment.


It was discovered soon enough that no weapon could harm him so Tai Shang Lao Jun burnt him in his furnace for 49 days. Wu Kong survived and when he escaped, he wrecked havoc in Heaven, fighting off all the Heavenly soldiers by himself. But then Lord Buddha came and crushed him underneath his palm, which turned into the Mountain of Five Elements (Wu Xing Shan). Wu Kong was imprisoned underneath the mountain for 500 years before Tang San Zang came and let him out. He became Tang San Zang's first disciple.




Basically, he's an evil demon with a bad ass attitude who goes around killing off humans for no reason at all. (^_^;) Just kidding!


He's a very good impromptu poet... But then, virtually all the characters in Xiyouji, from goddess to immortal, from demon to human, from Taoists to Buddhists, everyone bursts into poems at whim. How would I love to do that ... (sighs dreamily) But then, it may be because Wu Cheng En is obsessed with poems. He likes to indulge himself and characters with poetry. In one instance, there was a woodcutter and a fisherman competing with impromptu poems about how beautiful the woods or the rivers were. It lasted three pages long and the only point was that one of them gave a passing water guardian (ye cha) one single bit of information. (sigh) Then there was this whole chapter dedicated to San Zhang and demons making up poems on the spot... But I digress.


Anyway, Wu Kong likes to make poems especially when he sees beautiful scenery. And I tell you he absolutely loves scenic views. Once he and Ba Jie were sneaking into a royal garden and he started squealing and jumping around when he saw the oh-so-pretty trees and flowers. And yes, he made up a poem about it on the spot. (shakes head) Talk about obsessed. (-_-) 


His favorite food is peaches. His favorite colour is pink... just kidding! His favorite person - Tang San Zang? Perhaps. He loves to tease and play tricks on Ba Jie, who hates him because of it.


Wu Kong¨s most prominent personality trait is bravery and fearlessness. There are conflicting views on that, though. Some say he is defiant and bold just because he is powerful, and he knows that no one can defeat him. Power abuse, anyone? Well, there is a little truth in this. Proof? Once when he lost his magic rod, he became much more polite to the Jade Emperor when asking for assistance. He even made a small bow, which is extremely respectful by Wu Kong¨s standards! But then it's not entirely true either. When he was still practically a child, he jumped through a huge, thundering waterfall without a second thought - and he was powerless to defend himself at the time. Does this not show pure courage? And he went across oceans and continents alone to find an immortal who could teach him. That takes a lot of courage, as well as determination and willpower. But after five hundred years and he was on the pilgrimage, there was one occasion when he complained to the Goddess of Mercy that it was too dangerous, there were demons by the millions and what if he died before attaining zheng guo (Buddha status)? He couldn't do it. The Goddess had to give him three life-saving hairs that would change into objects which could help him out of a life and death situation. Only then was he satisfied. Does that mean that after the years he had become cowardly? Perhaps not. As a matter of fact, he really did nearly die during the course of the journey, so his fears were not completely unfounded. Wu Kong is afraid of nothing except death, as can be proved by his search for immortality. Thus, we can justify and forgive this `act of cowardice¨, which was possibly just an `act of prudence¨.    


Another interesting aspect of his personality is the development of his relationship with Tang San Zang. At first, he was extremely grateful to San Zang because he saved him from the Mountain of Five Elements and became his disciple obligingly. But when Wu Kong killed six bandits who meant to kill them and take their belongings, San Zang became very angry and scolded him. Wu Kong gets infuriated when people scold him so he took off, leaving San Zang alone in the wilderness. The Goddess of Mercy gave San Zang a golden band and taught him the Band-Tightening Spell, which would make the golden band shrink. When Wu Kong came back finally, he put on the band, not knowing what it was. San Zang chanted the Band-Tightening Spell, which made the band tighten on his head, causing him terrible pain. San Zang asked him if he would be obedient from then on and Wu Kong replied yes. But actually he was still enraged and tried to kill San Zang with his magic rod, only stopping when San Zang chanted the spell again. Thus, it can be said that Wu Kong was tortured into obedience to San Zang. Um... (sweat) 'Tortured' seems too strong a word, maybe 'forced' would be better.


But, strangely, it all changed during the pilgrimage. Wu Kong seemed to grow an affection for the monk. San Zang doesn¨t deserve this. He is stubborn and cowardly. He never listens to Wu Kong when he warns that there are demons nearby and never takes his advice either. And he is weak and indecisive, always wavering under persuasion. Maybe Wu Kong only wanted to protect San Zang because by doing his he could become a Buddha. But still, he cried a lot of times over his master. The first time was when San Zang made him leave, thinking that he had killed three innocent humans when in fact they were the same demon in disguise. San Zang, being the ignorant human he was, didn't know the difference. Wu Kong paid his last respects to his master and left. It was only when he reached the Eastern Sea that he let himself cry. Then there was the time when San Zang was abducted by yet another demon, who nearly killed Wu Kong with his fire attack. The first word Wu Kong uttered upon waking up was 'Master!'. Then he wept and composed a poem on the spot describing his grief about his master and his helplessness. He does that quite a few times during the course of their journey - the poem composing as well as the crying.


Then again, he can be rather childish at times, crying over silly things. Once, he disguised himself as a small demon and was just outside the cave of the demon he wanted to trick when he realized that he would have to kou tou to the demon to perfect his disguise. A kou tou is when you get down on your knees and bow your head to the floor. It is the most honoring gesture in Chinese customs. Now, Wu Kong never kou tous to anybody. The only people he ever kou toued to were his first master who taught him magic and immortality, his current master, San Zang, and the Goddess of Mercy. He doesn't even kou tou to the Jade Emperor. It was quite humiliating for him to kou tou to a mere demon. So what do you think he did? Yup, he cried. Ah, what a sense of honour!


But perhaps I'm leading you to believe that he's a crybaby. This is definitely untrue. Wu Kong just reacts more emotionally and dramatically to some things. Actually, he has a ferocious temper. Especially when his enemies insult him, or when his master and brothers get abducted. Incidentally, when he first met Pu Ti Zu Shi, he said that if people hit or scolded him, he didn't react at all. Was it just talk, or had his personality changed yet again because he had become more powerful? Did his powers inflate his ego? Did he become more sensitive to insults and scoldings because they injure his ego? Did he acquire a sense of dignity, honour, pride, or perhaps arrogance, so that he couldn't bear any slights to his person? Whatever it is, Wu Kong is quick to fly into a temper, which gets him into trouble countless of times.


Despite that, Wu Kong has many positive aspects to his personality. For one, Wu Kong is a confident, optimistic person. He doesn't just go down when he faces hardships, he devises ways to overcome them, putting a smile on his face even when he has been defeated numerous times. Wu Kong is also a very intelligent immortal. He puts emphasis on knowing his enemies and using different strategies to defeat them. And Wu Kong is a master at that - finding out his opponent's weakness and using it. Anyway, he can ask for reinforcements virtually everywhere. His outgoing, friendly personality and his notorious reputation makes sure of that! ^_^ Wu Kong shows no mercy when it comes to evil - he eliminates all the demons the pilgrims meet on their journey. He has a strong sense of justice and during the journey, he helps out humans who face problems caused by demons, reuniting families and saving entire countries. But best of all, he has a wicked sense of humour. Poking fun at Ba Jie is just part of it. ^_^ You'll see.


In short, Sun Wu Kong symbolises hope, justice, and the fighting spirit that we all possess. He made Journey to the West the literary success it is now.







If you have information or comments about Sun Wu Kong, please tell me. Or alternatively, go to the forum to talk about him.



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