17 Dec 2012

Journey To The West

So you're fully aware by now that The Chinese State Circus is kind of a big deal around here. With their 2013 tour already receiving a great number of ticket sales, we thought we'd give you a little bit more of a glance into some of the history and culture surrounding the show. Not only is the Chinese State Circus one of the most awe inspiring live stage shows you can see (and calling it just a 'show is somewhat of an understatement!) but it's also one of the most perfected circus acts from around the globe. Their circus performers are acrobatics who literally eat, sleep and breathe enthusiasm for the acrobatic and skilled choreography of the shows. Acrobatic's has played an important role in cultural exchanges between China and other nations and in the past 35 years, Chinese acrobatic troupes have toured more than 100 countries and regions throughout the world. Their excellent performances were warmly welcomed and highly appreciated by the people of various countries. The Chinese State Circus was an idea started back in the 1990’s after Gandey World Class Productions director Phillip Gandey witnessed a group of Oriental acrobats performing to great acclaim at the Monte Carlo Circus Festival. He was astounded at the quality, depth and sheer diversity of such Chinese Acrobatic Troupes. After working out the logistics of transporting 45 artistes, plus directors, interpreters and five tonnes of props half-way around the world – the rest as they say is history!
Making a regular appearance in the performances is the 'Monkey King' who is a character that is consistent not only in the Chinese State Circus shows, but also Chinese folklore. Also referred to as 'Sun Wukong' but more often just 'Monkey' he is a character that originates from the classical Chinese novel Journey to the West, which is one of the Four Great Classical Novels in Chinese literature, written in the 16th century during the Ming Dynasty and attributed to Wu Cheng'en. The original story is an action packed read:

''After rebelling against heaven and being imprisoned under a mountain by the Buddha, Monkey later accompanies the monk Xuanzang on a journey to retrieve Buddhist sutras from India. Monkey possesses an immense amount of strength; he is able to lift his 13,500 jīn (8,100 kg) staff with ease. He is also superbly fast, able to travel 108,000 li  (33,554 miles) in one somersault. He is a skilled fighter, capable of holding his own against the best generals of heaven. Each of his hairs possesses magical properties, and is capable of transforming either into a clone of the Monkey King himself, or various weapons, animals, and other objects. He also knows spells that can command wind, part water, conjure protective circles against demons, and freeze humans, demons, and gods alike'' - {source}

What CAN'T Monkey do??!! Over the years the character of the Monkey King has been reanimated into life by various sources. It's quite interesting how versatile one character can become and how writers and producers alike have captured the original story but breathed new life into the legend time and time again.
 
My favourite adaptation of Monkey is the mind bending 70's TV Show 'Monkey Magic'- a Japanese television drama based on the classic sixteenth century Chinese novel. Monkey Magic followed the Monkey King on his adventures and the theme tune's catchy opening begins with the line 'Born from an egg on a mountain top'... A Monkey, from an egg? As I said - mind bending! An entertaining show with even more entertaining dubbing from the Japanese version into the English speaking one. Managing to release 52 episodes of madness, it's quite hard to find on the TV regularly any more but you can catch it on DVD if you don't want to miss out!
Jamie Hewlett and Damon Albarn (both of Gorillaz fame) produced this 2008 short film as part of the marketing campaign for the Olympics. Inspired by the stage adaptation put by Chen She-zheng, which both Hewlett and Albarn were heavily involved with the production of.  Taking on a illustrated format in this short named 'Journey to the East' the essence of Monkey has been captured in a unique style yet still remains true to the original by showcasing Monkey in his distinctive yellow outfit and usual props. It seems the character of Monkey has been influential in many films, series and cartoons and these examples are simply scratching the surface of his never ending inspiration!! 
To see our 'Monkey King' in action, you can see the full list of venues and dates on the Chinese State Circus website. An amazing day out for all the family next year kicking off in Scotland at the end of the January. The children can experience the magic of a live circus show and the parents can wow them with their new found knowledge of the shows history too! 
See:
for more details.