The Monkey King Sun Wukong

Artist: Kubo Shunman 窪俊満 (1757-1820)
Historical period(s)
Edo period, 1812
Woodblock print; ink and color on paper
H x W (overall): 21 x 13.6 cm (8 1/4 x 5 3/8 in)
Credit Line
The Anne van Biema Collection
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view

Woodblock print

Anne van Biema collection, cloud, Edo period (1615 - 1868), Japan, king, monkey, poems, surimono, WWII-era provenance
Provenance information is currently unavailable

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. Carpente

Published References
  • Ann Yonemura with contributions by et al. Masterful Illusions: Japanese Prints from the Anne van Biema Collection. Seattle and Washington. cat. no 98, pp. 252-253.
Collection Area(s)
Japanese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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