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Talk of 'Liu Xiao Ling Tong's Artistic Life' in Goldsmith University

17 February 2015

Goldsmith University

UK Research and Development Centre for Chinese Traditional Culture


Yanfu Foundation UK

February 17, 2015, YanFu Foundation UK and UK Research and Development Centre for Chinese Traditional Culture (UKCTC) jointly organised a talk of 'Liu Xiao Ling Tong's Artistic Life' in the first Confucius Institute specialising for Dance and Performance in Goldsmith University.

Chairman of YanFu Foundation Dr Kai Liu introduced Mr Zhang Jinlai (better known as 'Liu Xiao Ling Tong' in China) before the talk:

"For anybody interested in Chinese culture or randomly asking any Chinese name a superhero in their childhood, 95% of time you will get an answer – Monkey King. Mr. Zhang from a 4 generation monkey king performance artists family, he started his role in the TV series 'Journey to West' in his early 20s and spent 17 years of time to perform the Monkey King. The 'Journey to the West' itself created history and it’s been showed repeatedly in Chinese and foreign channels for 3000 times. We all love 'Journey to the West' and Sun Wukong-the Monkey King, maybe a more personal reason is that this is a story connect to all of us. Many of us are international students or we simply come from faraway place to study and work in London. To me, 'Journey to the West' is about people left their hometown or comfort zone, embark on a journey full of difficulties and challenges to pursue a dream. In November last year, our organisation – YanFu Foundation organised the first bilingual exhibition to commemorate Yan Fu and the first group of Chinese students studied in the UK. the exhibition was opened by the Chinese Ambassador Liu Xiaoming. During my journey to prepare this exhibition, I kept thinking about 'Journey to the West'.

In fact, I found there are lot of similarities between Xuan Zang and Yan Fu, they both are regarded earliest Chinese students study overseas; they both chose translation as their career; the difference is Sanskrit and English; they were all considered to be the pioneer of intercultural communication.

In recent years, Mr Zhang Jinlai tirelessly goes to hundreds of universities and schools to give talks to promote the spirits of 'Journey to the West' and the Monkey King, Mr Zhang Jinlai fully deserves 'China-UK Friendship Envoy of Culture'.  

If we say the author of 'Journey to the West' – Mr Wu Chengen used pen and paper to create an immortal monkey king, then I would say Mr. Zhang’s contribution is to give the monkey king’s an immortal life on the screen. In the last 3 decades, the 'Journey to the West' has been adopted many times and many famous actors try to play the character of Monkey King, but never surpass the iconic character that Mr. Zhang created. ''

After Dr Kai Liu's introduction, Mr Zhang Jinlai started his excellent speech. He firstly introduced Chinese traditional monkey play to students and teachers who studied performance and dance: monkey play has three to four hundred years of history, it's time when tradition meets innovation, although drama stage changed to TV screen, but it still needs draw lessons from various local dramas, such as Sichuan opera, Shaoxing opera, Kunju opera and Peking opera. The essence of monkey play is  'singing, dialogue, acting and acrobatic combat and stature', which should follow tradition, and can not bear of making jokes. Mr Zhang was 'talking' and 'acting' at every moment, all participates gave warmest applaud and laughers. 

Mr Zhang then talked about all the obstacles when he filmed 'Journey to the West'. He was dragged by unstable very thin steel string to shoot obtaining Buddhist scripture from the Dongjiangyan riverin Sichuan. He also was required to play monkey's expression and body movement while swimming in the swift water, nearly became a martyr. All he did is only 'for good of the image of the Monkey King.'  Mr Zhang then talked about his understanding about master and three disciple: Zhu Bajie represents people's seven affections and six desires; Sha Wujing is dedicated and hard-working; Tang Sanzang has solid and faithful belief;  Sun Wukong represents spirit of bravery, courage and optimism. He also told his interpretation on 'Journey to the West' that everyone's life all contain a 'Journey to the West', everyone has a desire to Ling Mountain to seek for true scripture, and pass numerous hardships and tests in order to achieve dream, which represents the spirit of 'Journey to the West'. Mr Zhang Jinlai said that lots of people call him 'Mr Liu' or 'Mr Sun' because of his artist name of 'Liu Xiao Ling Tong' and his performance of 'Sun Wukong'. No wonder it is very difficult for people to remember his real name, even 'Liu Xiao Ling Tong' is appeared on his name card when Mr Zhang was invited to attend the 'forum of literature and arts' organised by Chinese president Xi Jinping.


At last, Mr Zhang wished students study well what suits, do not panic and fear, do better and bigger in own field, 'I possess when people don't have, I become excellent when people possess, I become precise when people are excellent, I become unique when people are precise, I become transformed when people are unique.'

After Mr Zhang finishes his talks, Chairman of YanFu Foundation Dr Kai Liu gave 4 different version of 'Journey to the West' books in English as souvenir to Mr Zhang. Mr Zhang thanked Dr Kai Liu as Mr Zhang already formed a museum about his collections and all publishes related to 'Journey to the West'. Mr Zhang gave a calligraphy of 'golden monkey wishes well' wrote by Mr Zhang, and he hoped YanFu Foundation good wishes in the future.

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