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Learn the missing cultural background in ‘Monkey King: Hero Is Back’

journey to the west, characters in monkey king, chinese to english

Recently a Chinese movie called 西游记之大圣归来 in Chinese, or Monkey King: Hero Is Back in English becomes a hit in China. The name 大圣 is short for 齐天大圣, which is another name for 孙悟空, the "Monkey King" character from Journey to the West.

最近一部中国影片"西游记之大圣归来 (xī yóu jì zhī dà shèng guī lái)" (英文名叫Monkey King: Hero Is Back)在中国尤为火爆。"大圣 (dà shèng)"是"齐天大圣 (qí tiān dà shèng)"的缩写,也是"孙悟空 (sūn wù kōng)"的另一个叫法,它是《西游记》里的一个角色。


Have you lost yet? This is actually a pretty good movie, with high-quality animation, but it's written for a Chinese audience, and as such has a lot of cultural assumptions built in. Although the Journey to the West is a classic that every native-born Chinese person is intimately familiar with, but for foreigners who try to understand the story, it is a bit of a disadvantage.



Pretty much every Chinese person, young and old, knows that Journey to the West has 4 main heroes (plus a horse). One annoying thing is that each character has multiple Chinese names and multiple English translations of those names. The following names given in bold are the ones used the most by Chinese.



唐僧 (táng sēng), AKA 唐三藏 (táng sān zàng), 玄奘 (xuán zàng), or Tripitaka in English. He's a Buddhist monk on a mission to retrieve the sacred sutra from the West. He's the one that always wears the tall hat.

唐僧 (táng sēng),也叫做"唐三藏 (táng sān zàng)"、" 玄奘 (xuán zàng)",或英文里的"Tripitaka"。他是一名佛教僧人,被派遣至西天取回佛经。他就是那个一直戴着高礼帽的人。


孙悟空 (sūn wù kōng), AKA 齐天大圣 (qí tiān dà shèng), or the Monkey King, also called just "Monkey" in some translations. He's a badass rebel with an attitude that can do all sorts of magic, including taking on 72 different forms.

孙悟空 (sūn wù kōng),也叫做"齐天大圣 (qí tiān dà shèng)"或"Monkey King",有些翻译也直接译成"Monkey"。它是个喜欢到处惹是生非的叛逆者,他认为自己会使用各种各样的法术,有72变。


猪八戒 (zhū bā jiè), AKA "Pigsy." Once an immortal, but now a greedy pig-man with magical powers, but only 36 forms.

猪八戒 (zhū bā jiè),也叫做"Pigsy"。他曾是个神仙,不过已经被贬成一个长着猪的模样的人,会法术,但只有36变。


沙悟净 (shā wù jìng), AKA 沙僧 (shā sēng), 沙和尚 (shā hé shàng), or Friar Sand. Also a fallen immortal, he's in the shape of a man, but he only knows 18 forms. He seems to be the lackey of the group, and is often seen carrying everyone's luggage.

沙悟净 (shā wù jìng),也叫做"沙僧 (shā sēng)"、"沙和尚 (shā hé shàng)"或者"Friar Sand"。他也是个被贬的神仙,他有着正常男人的躯体外形,不过只会18变。他貌似是队伍里的随从,经常以扛着每个人的行李的形象出现。


白龙马 (bái lóng mǎ), AKA 玉龙 (yù lóng), a white dragon and son of the Dragon King. Takes the form of Tang Seng's steed as atonement for a crime.

白龙马 (bái lóng mǎ),也叫做"玉龙 (yù lóng)",他是一只白色的龙,龙王的儿子。他化作唐僧的坐骑,以弥补自己的罪过。


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