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How the Monkey King escaped the underworld - Shunan Teng

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The Monkey King, a legendary troublemaker hatched from stone and schooled in divine magic, had stolen the Dragon Lord’s most treasured weapon: a magical staff. Returning to his kingdom to show off his treasure to his tribe of warrior monkeys, he finds himself caught in the clutches of two soul collectors, dragging him to his death. Shunan Teng details the Monkey King’s journey to the underworld.

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TED-Ed Animations feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Are you an educator or animator interested in creating a TED-Ed Animation? Nominate yourself here »

Meet The Creators

  • Educator Shunan Teng
  • Director Mohammad Babakoohi, Yijia Cao
  • Narrator Bethany Cutmore-Scott
  • Storyboard Artist Mohammad Babakoohi
  • Animator Elahe Baloochi
  • Art Director Mohammad Babakoohi, Yijia Cao
  • Compositor shahryar taghipour
  • Sound Designer Epidemic sound
  • Music Epidemic sound
  • Director of Production Gerta Xhelo
  • Editorial Producer Alex Rosenthal
  • Producer Bethany Cutmore-Scott
  • Associate Editorial Producer Dan Kwartler
  • Script Editor Iseult Gillespie
  • Fact-checker Eden Girma
  • See more
Additional Resources for you to Explore
Sun Wu Kong, the mischief and adventurous Monkey King, is a beloved character made popular by the novel Journey to the West. This 16th century novel is one of China’s Four Great Classical Novels. Learn more about the background and influence of the novel here.

Our short story of Monkey King’s adventure in the underworld mostly comse from chapter three of the novel and refers to the earlier chapters of the novel. Some of the complete translations of the novel can be found on Amazon.
https://www.amazon.com/dp/7119016636/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_dp_U_XC2pEbDYP09PAhttps://www.amazon.com/dp/0226971325/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_dp_U_NF2pEbYRWX0EJ
Or here’s an open source translation in PDF.

Stories in Journey to the West are a source of great inspiration to many traditional operas and modern day TV shows and films. Adventures of the Monkey King at the beginning of the novel are especially popular with children. Who didn’t want to be the free-spirited Monkey King who has a weapon that obeys only his order, with the coolest magic and martial arts, is brave, funny, warm-hearted, and fights unjust rules!

A carton made in the 1960s tells the story of the Monkey King raising havoc in heaven. This classic is still as good as it ever was. You can now watch it with English subtitles on YouTube.

A low budget but highly praised TV adaptation of the novel can now also be found on YouTube.

The actor, Liu Xiao Ling Tong, who portrait the Monkey King came from a three-generation family that is known for portraying the Monkey King in Peking Opera. You can see many elements of Peking Opera performance in his TV acting.

The historic background of Journey to the West is set in Tang Dynasty (618 – 907 AD) and has been largely inspired by a narrative of a Tang Buddhism monk who is portrayed as one of the main fictional characters in the novel. This narrative is one of the many incredible books and sutras the monk authored and/or translated. These books and sutras greatly expanded the influence of Buddhism in China and incubated the sect of Chinese Buddhism that further expands the influence of Buddhism to the region. Learn more about this great narrative and the epic life of the monk (Tang) Xuan Zang (Tang Seng) here.

Visual Notes:
The death lord who is at the front is wearing the bead style headdress. The number of threads and beads represents the regal status of the wearer. Usually it’s 12, 9, 7, 5 threads depends on the level of the lords, with 12 threads being reserved for the emperor or the king of kings himself. In some dynasties, the emperor also worn different number of threads depends on the level of affair he attends - the more solemn the occasion, the more threads he wears. There are very detailed rules regarding the number, the size and the distance and the material of the beads (usually jade or other precious stones). The headdress covers half of the wearer’s face to create a sense of boundary and hierarchy. It also reminds the wearer to always face forward and maintain composure for turning the head will cause the headdress to make sound. 9 or 7 threads are common in depiction of the death lord, who is fictional.


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About TED-Ed Animations

TED-Ed Animations feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Are you an educator or animator interested in creating a TED-Ed Animation? Nominate yourself here »

Meet The Creators

  • Educator Shunan Teng
  • Director Mohammad Babakoohi, Yijia Cao
  • Narrator Bethany Cutmore-Scott
  • Storyboard Artist Mohammad Babakoohi
  • Animator Elahe Baloochi
  • Art Director Mohammad Babakoohi, Yijia Cao
  • Compositor shahryar taghipour
  • Sound Designer Epidemic sound
  • Music Epidemic sound
  • Director of Production Gerta Xhelo
  • Editorial Producer Alex Rosenthal
  • Producer Bethany Cutmore-Scott
  • Associate Editorial Producer Dan Kwartler
  • Script Editor Iseult Gillespie
  • Fact-checker Eden Girma
  • See more