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The Monkey King Sun Wukong
1812

Kubo Shunman , (Japanese, 1757-1820)
Edo period

Woodblock print; ink and color on paper
H: 21.0 W: 13.6 cm
Japan

The Anne van Biema Collection S2004.3.200

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The monkey king, Sun Wukong (Japanese, Son Goku), became a popular character in Japan when the Chinese novel Journey to the West (Chinese, Xiyou ji; Japanese, Saiyvki) was translated and published during the Edo period. Accompanying the monk Tripitaka on his journey to India to acquire sutras (sacred texts), Sun Wukong battles a wide range of demons, goblins, enchantresses, and monsters. This surimono, which is also a calendar print for the "monkey" year 1812, shows the monkey king standing on a cloud that can instantly transport him over great distances. In his hand is an iron weapon that can shrink and fit behind his ear. He is also able to transform his fur into a troop of monkeys, shown below, who are cleverly arranged to indicate the long and short months of the year. Two poems read:

As spring arrives
large and small blossoms
of plum burst forth,
while monkeys appear
in a garden of delights.
-Noki no Shiraume

Translation of poems by John T. Carpenter