Monkey Craze

The lunar new year of 2016, or the Year of the Monkey according to Chinese zodiac, kicked off on Monday, February 8th. This new year is perhaps the most beloved of all to the Chinese, even more popular than the Year of the Dragon, mainly because the humanoid animal ties to the Monkey King, a folklore character and supernatural being that has fascinated the Chinese for centuries. The Monkey’s story was loosely based on the pilgrimage of Xuanzang (玄奘), a monk who took the Silk Road in the early Tang dynasty to obtain original Buddhist scriptures from India. In folk imagination as well as in Journey to the West (西游记, hereafter Journey), a Chinese novel published in the sixteenth century, Monkey is a rebel-turned disciple and escort of a fictionalized Xuanzang, who is destined to conquer eighty-one ordeals before attaining Buddhahood. Hero and trickster rolled into one, brave and defiant, funny but flawed, Monkey has been a perennial source of inspiration for every medium and format of literature, art, and entertainment ranging from shadow plays to children’s literature to video games. Journey has also circulated widely in Japan and other East and Southeast Asian countries. To celebrate the Year of the Monkey, we gingerly awakened more than a dozen monkeys from the stacks of the Cotsen Children’s Library and invite them to greet the world–gingerly, because, if you are familiar with Journey, Monkey is known to wreak havoc when rubbed the wrong way.

Monkey King From the Chinese Collection

The Illustrated and Annotated Journey to the West

The Illustrated and Annotated Journey to the West (繪圖加批西遊記). 上海: 共和書局, 1919. 8 volumes. (Cotsen 75021)

Monkey (lower left) as depicted in an illustrated version of the Journey published in the early Republic of China. Other figures in the picture include his master Xuanzang, his fellow disciples Pigsy and Sandy, Emperor Taizong of Tang, and Chancellor Wei Zheng.

Journey to the West

Journey to the West (西遊記). China, [1920s?] Hanging scrolls. (Cotsen 72805)

One panel from a set of hanging scrolls illustrates a scene from Chapter 3 of Journey, “The Four Seas and Thousand Mountains All Bow to Submit.” Wild beasts and demon kings come to pay homage to Monkey, after he successfully obtains weapons for his monkey kingdom. Their outfits closely resemble costume of traditional Chinese opera.
Little Friends 1956

Little Friends (小朋友). 1956, no. 6. Cover art by Ye Jun (叶軍) and Dong Tianye (董天野). (Cotsen 153026)

First launched in Shanghai in 1922, Little Friends is the longest-running children’s magazine in China. The cover of this issue depicts the legendary battle between Monkey and Erlang, a deity.

Drawing for Young People (少年儿童图画). Volume 7. 上海: 少年儿童出版社, 1963. "The Show is On!" by Yao Zhongyu. (Cotsen 63786)

Drawing for Young People (少年儿童图画). Volume 7. 上海: 少年儿童出版社, 1963. “The Show is On!” by Yao Zhongyu. (Cotsen 63786)

A picture in a fine arts textbook for the fourth grade in elementary school. Two children play puppet theatre on a make-shift stage, admired by a loyal audience that is their toys. Monkey, the main character of the show, wears a facial mask in the signature style of Peking Opera.

The Diary of Lei Feng

The Diary of Lei Feng (雷鋒日記). 北京: 解放軍文艺社, 1963. (Cotsen N-000034)

The heroic Monkey even found his way into another hero’s diary. Lei Feng (1940-1962) was a soldier of the People’s Liberation Army of China and, after his death from an accident, was characterized as a selfless Communist for the entire nation to emulate. In his posthumously published diary, Lei commented on Monkey Thrice Subdues the White-Bone Demon, a movie he watched in February 1962. He analyzed each character in the political context of Communism-Imperialism conflicts and concluded that a feisty and sharp-eyed Monkey has a lot to teach about fighting revisionist enemies.

Sun Wukong Wreaks Havoc in the Atomic World (孙悟空大闹原子世界) / Guo Yishi (郭以实); illustrated by Yan Shanchun (阎善春). 上海: 少年儿童出版社, 1980. (Cotsen 42623)

Sun Wukong Wreaks Havoc in the Atomic World (孙悟空大闹原子世界) / Guo Yishi (郭以实); illustrated by Yan Shanchun (阎善春). 上海: 少年儿童出版社, 1980. (Cotsen 42623)

Will his ancient magic power keep Monkey invincible in a futuristic world driven by atomic science? We shall find out from this science fiction published in post-Cultural Revolution China, after its new leader Deng Xiaoping navigated the nation away from class struggle and emphasized science and technology as forces of productivity.

Seventy-two Transformations (七十二变) / by Su Gang (苏刚). 成都: 四川人民出版社, 1980. 14 leaves. (Cotsen B-000003)

Seventy-two Transformations (七十二变) / by Su Gang (苏刚). 成都: 四川人民出版社, 1980. 14 leaves. (Cotsen B-000003)

This split-page book is based on one of Monkey’s famous powers: transformation. He would have been an A+ student if he were in Professor McGonagall’s Transfiguration class, because he excels in freely transforming himself into any age, gender, species, object, and size. During the treacherous pilgrimage, Monkey has to resort to his transformation skills often to save everybody’s skin. Each of the 14 leaves of the book is divided into three parts: head, upper body, and lower body. The preface informs young readers that, instead of the proverbial 72 transformations that Monkey is known to be capable of, this book allows him to achieve 2,744 types of shapeshifting. Is that true? You do the math.

Sun Wukong (孙悟空). 1985, no. 2. 北京: 中国电影出版社. (Cotsen 90239)

Sun Wukong (孙悟空). 1985, no. 2. 北京: 中国电影出版社. (Cotsen 90239)

That Monkey’s name “Sun Wukong” was adopted by a children’s magazine in 1980 as its title attests his lasting charm. Published by China Film Press, Sun Wukong was a bimonthly pictorial magazine devoted to animated films and comic strips. Its main offering was animated spin-offs printed in full color, which must have been welcomed during much of the 1980s, when household ownership of television sets in China was so low that many Chinese used to gather at a neighbor’s house to watch TV. Cotsen’s copy of the magazine was formerly part of the collection of an elementary school library in Beijing.

Journey to the West: Wukong Takes in Bajie (西游记: 悟空降八戒). [1980s] 11 sheets. (Cotsen 92466)

Journey to the West: Wukong Takes in Bajie (西游记: 悟空降八戒). [1980s] 11 sheets. (Cotsen 92466)

The episode in which Monkey takes in Pigsy as his fellow disciple is the subject matter of a set of ten postcards issued by the Nanjing Post Office in the 1980s. Cotsen’s holding is the original art work, which was outlined in pen and colored. The visual style of Monkey and Pigsy are vaguely reminiscent of shadow puppets.
Little Friends (小朋友). 1985, no. 10. "Golden Snub-Nosed Monkeys Visit Japan," papercutting by Kuromiya Masae (黒宮正栄). (Cotsen 153026)

Little Friends (小朋友). 1985, no. 10. “Golden Snub-Nosed Monkeys Visit Japan,” papercutting by Kuromiya Masae (黒宮正栄). (Cotsen 153026)

As a segue into Monkey in the Japanese collection, this last picture was created by a Japanese papercutting artist but published in the Little Friends magazine in China. Two amiable-looking monkeys fly towards Mount Fuji through a sky that rains cherry blossom petals. The image refers to an exhibition of endangered golden snub-nosed monkeys sent from China to Japan as part of animal diplomacy. A subtle reference to the Monkey King–traveling by riding a cloud is another of Monkey’s famous skills–sweetens the message of Sino-Japanese friendship, because it implies that these monkey ambassadors would be warmly received in Japan, just like the legend of Monkey had become part of Japanese popular culture. The two countries experienced a honeymoon period during the 1980s, when Chinese public memory of Japanese war crimes remained dormant and Japan’s wartime atrocities and responsibilities had not begun to dominate public discourse on Sino-Japanese relations.

Monkey King From the Japanese Collection

Shelves and shelves of Monkey King stories or editions and adaptations of Journey to the West in the Cotsen Children's Library. Photo taken from Cotsen's Japanese section.

Shelves and shelves of Monkey King stories or editions and adaptations of Journey to the West in the Cotsen Children’s Library. Photo taken from Cotsen’s Japanese section.

The earliest Japanese translations of Journey in the Cotsen Children’s Library were dated in the 1780s. Monkey’s story has inspired illustrated editions, retellings, sequels, playing cards, sugoroku games, and media adaptations in Japan.

Journey to the West

Journey to the West (繪本西遊記初編) / translated by Kutsuki Sanjin (口木山人); illustrated by Ōhara Tōya (大原東野). [大坂]: 前川文榮堂, [1806?]. (Cotsen 90024)

Xuanzang, Monkey, and Pigsy as imagined in one of the earliest illustrated Japanese editions of Journey.
Journey to the West (西遊記) / by Nakagawa Ryūgai (中川史英); illustrated by Yoshimoto Yuki (吉本有機). 東京: 富里昇進堂發行, 1910. (Cotsen 99402)

Journey to the West (西遊記) / by Nakagawa Ryūgai (中川史英); illustrated by Yoshimoto Yuki (吉本有機). 東京: 富里昇進堂發行, 1910. (Cotsen 99402)

A picture book version of Journey. This page portrays the battle between Monkey and Princess Iron Fan. In what seems like a prescient adoption of DNA cloning technology, Monkey produces copies of himself from his own hair to outnumber enemies in desperate situations.

Sun Wukong's Journey to the West: A Sugoroku Game (孫悟空西遊記雙六) / illustrated by Tani Senba (谷洗馬). 東京: 日本飛行研究會, 1920. (Cotsen 153579)

Sun Wukong’s Journey to the West: A Sugoroku Game (孫悟空西遊記雙六) / illustrated by Tani Senba (谷洗馬). 東京: 日本飛行研究會, 1920. (Cotsen 153579)

A sugoroku gameboard based on Journey, beginning with how Monkey assumes leadership by discovering a hidden cave behind a waterfall for his fellow monkeys and ending with a visit he pays to the moon palace.

Xuanzang’s Work

Tripiṭaka. Sūtrapiṭaka. Prajñāpāramitā(大般若波羅蜜多經). Volume 429 / translated by Xuanzang. China, 1117. (Scheide Library 3.1.16)

It wouldn’t be complete to end this post without mentioning the Buddhist canons of scriptures that had spurred Xuanzang’s trek to India. Princeton University Library houses multiple editions of Tripiṭaka. Sūtrapiṭaka. Prajñāpāramitā(大般若波羅蜜多經), which Xuanzang is believed to have translated from Sanskrit into Chinese. The earliest three volumes held at Princeton were printed between AD 1112 and AD 1310 during the Song dynasty (East Asian Library and William H. Scheide Library). Volume 358 of the scripture, copied in brush pen on a scroll by a Japanese monk in AD 1259, has been shared at the Princeton University Digital Library.

Japanese Board Games at the Cotsen Children’s Library

Cotsen Children’s Library houses approximately 300 Japanese boards games published from the nineteenth century through the 1950s, a rare collection comparable to the few existing in Japan. The Japanese board game, sugoroku (すごろく or 双六), can be traced back to the twelfth century. E-sugoroku (“e” meaning picture), a variety that features illustrated game boards, became popular among Japanese commoners in the late seventeenth century. Sugoroku did not originate as a children’s game. In fact, adults used to play the game, a simple dice-based contest, for gambling. Child-oriented sugoroku grew as commercial publishing for young people expanded during the twentieth century in Japan. It became a tradition on New Year’s Day for children to play sugoroku, which children’s magazines distributed as supplements to their January issues. Still, sugoroku remained a cross-age entertainment for the first half of the twentieth century. Government agencies and the military, educators, companies, and organizations have all appropriated the format for purposes beyond play, ranging from the dissemination of information and commercial advertising to literacy education, moral and political socialization, and militarist propaganda targeting children and adults alike.

Kodomo Asobi Sugoroku (A game on children's play), distributed as a supplement to Yōnen Gahō (Young children's pictorial), vol. 12, no. 1, on January 1, 1917.

Kodomo Asobi Sugoroku (A game on children’s play), distributed as a supplement to Yōnen Gahō (Young children’s pictorial), vol. 12, no. 1, on January 1, 1917.

The theme of this game board is children’s play. The twelve picture panels are arranged by month, each showing a leisure activity in which children would commonly be engaged during that time of the year. The panel for January (bottom right) befittingly depicts children sitting around a game board and playing sugoroku, making this piece a self-referential “sugoroku within sugoroku.” Can you spot where the dice is?

At the conference “Putting the Figure on the Map: Imagining Sameness and Difference for Children” hosted by the Cotsen Children’s Library in September 2013, we offered a workshop on sugoroku in collaboration with Setsuko Noguchi, the Japanese Studies Librarian at the East Asian Library, Princeton University. Under Noguchi’s guidance, conference participants gained a close look at a selection of game boards dating from the 1890s to 1950s. The time period saw Japan emerge as a modernized nation towards the end of the Meiji Period (1868-1912), flex her military muscle, escalate imperialistic expansion overseas, and transform politically after World War II. This blog post tries to highlight some of the gems shown in that workshop. A growing number of game boards have also been photographed. Their digital images are exhibited in “Japanese Prints and Drawings in the Cotsen Collection,” which forms part of the Princeton University Digital Library (PUDL).

Detail from Kodomo Asobi Sugoroku

Make your own dice

Densha Sugoroku (A streetcar game), distributed as a supplement to Yōnen Gahō (Young children's pictorial), vol. 19, no. 1, on January 1, 1924.

Densha Sugoroku (A streetcar game), distributed as a supplement to Yōnen Gahō (Young children’s pictorial), vol. 19, no. 1, on January 1, 1924.

What is remarkable about this game board is timing. Printed on December 3, 1923 in Tokyo, which was nearly destroyed by the Great Kanto Earthquake on September 1, 1923, the game board testifies to the resilience of its publisher, Hakubunkan. The small print on the lower-left corner indicates that Hakubunkan had relocated to a temporary office. The upper right side of the sheet is a template that can be cut out and glued into a paper dice–a thoughtful offering for those players who had the misfortune of losing this essential device in the disaster.

Literary board games

Gariba Kobitokoku Ryoko Sugoroku. Tokyo: Yoki Kodomosha, 1922. (Cotsen 99858)

Gariba Kobitokoku Ryoko Sugoroku. Tokyo: Yoki Kodomosha, 1922. (Cotsen 99858)

One type of sugoroku is the adaptation of literary works, like this spinoff of Jonathan Swift’s “A Voyage to Lilliput.” Fantasy stories and works of fiction, with their narrative arc and frequent incorporation of journeys and adventures, render them suitable inspirations for designing the route of a new board game.

Boys’ games, girls’ games

Some games, like the first two shown above, portray both girls and boys in the pictures and clearly welcome players of both genders. Other games were intended for separate gender groups, reinforcing conventional gender roles. Pre-1950 games that are about voyagers and adventures typically feature male characters. Games designed for girls can be identified by their titles, issuing bodies (girls’ magazines), and the way female figures are portrayed as being engaged in domestic and indoor activities.

Shonen Maru Sekai Isshu Sugoroku. Supplement to Shonen Sekai (Boys' world), vol. 16, no. 1. Tokyo: Hakubunkan, 1909. (Cotsen 38921)

Shonen Maru Sekai Isshu Sugoroku. Supplement to Shonen Sekai (Boys’ world), vol. 16, no. 1. Tokyo: Hakubunkan, 1909. (Cotsen 38921)

In this game, boy adventurers leave Yokohama by ship, see wonders and curiosities from around the world, and return to Hibiya Park in Tokyo for a warm homecoming celebration.

Shinʾan Gendai Fujin Sugoroku (A newly designed modern women's game). Supplement to Shin Fujin (New women), vol. 3, no. 1. Tokyo: Shiseidō, 1913. (Cotsen 153575)

Shinʾan Gendai Fujin Sugoroku (A newly designed modern women’s game). Supplement to Shin Fujin (New women), vol. 3, no. 1. Tokyo: Shiseidō, 1913. (Cotsen 153575)

This game follows the life of a girl from birth to adulthood, starting from when she is a newborn being breastfed to when she becomes a shy bride at around age 20. The player who first reaches the final panel, that is, who first gets married, wins the game. The modifier “modern” in the title is perhaps based on the fact that, in some of the panels, the girl toddler has not exactly behaved like a Goody Two-shoes.

While you are here playing

…we can use your attention. Government agencies, commercial companies, and nonprofit organizations all joined in the making of sugoroku. Some of the creators of the sugoroku held at Cotsen include the post office, a life insurance company, and a fire prevention society, each translating their advertisement and publicity messages into an illustrated game board.

Denki Kyoiku Sugoroku (A game of home electricity education). Tokyo: Katei Denki Fukyukai, 1927. (Cotsen 62458)

Denki Kyoiku Sugoroku (A game of home electricity education). Tokyo: Katei Denki Fukyukai, 1927. (Cotsen 62458)

Distributed by the Society for the Promotion of Home Electrical Appliances, the panels in A Game of Home Electricity Education are a series of contrasting images, comparing life scenarios in a home with and without electrical appliances. The central figure is a young woman, newly married when the game begins. One panel shows a housewife sweeping the floor the old-fashioned way–with a broom–inviting her man’s scowl at the dust that flies into his meal. In the background, a woman gracefully operates a vacuum cleaner, free from worry of the dust. In another set of disturbing contrasts subtitled “A Dark House” and “A Bright House,” a woman who lives in a house poorly lit by a naked bulb receives her husband’s beating after she accidentally breaks a utensil; in another house a family is enjoying a happy time, their cheerful mood attributable to the bright and soft light emanating from a fancy desk lamp. By the end of the game, players will have learned that electrical appliances are good for personal health and wellbeing, family relations, and neighborhood safety. Indeed, as the image in the final panel suggests, owning electrical appliances is the key to the happiness of a woman and her family.

Detail from Denki Kyoiku Sugoroku

Around the world in one game

A popular theme found in the game boards is voyages around the world. Much like ukiyo-e art, sugoroku from the Meiji Period feature domestic travel scenes and landscapes of Japan as a common subject. The addition of international travel games was both a continuation of that tradition and a new fascination engendered by the success of the Meiji Restoration and technological advancement. These games reflect people’s interest in new transportation tools, Japan’s admiration of Western civilization, the nation’s aspiration to expand its colony and territory, and a growing awareness and (mis)understandings of a culturally and racially diverse global world.

Katei Kyoiku Sekai Isshu Sugoroku (Home education: around the world board game). Osaka: Osaka Mainichi Shinbun, 1926. (Cotsen 38943)

Katei Kyoiku Sekai Isshu Sugoroku (Home education: around the world board game). Osaka: Osaka Mainichi Shinbun, 1926. (Cotsen 38943)

Players need to rotate the game board 90 degrees clockwise to better discern a pictorial world map, which highlights animals, people, and famous scenery. The Rising Sun flags mark the Japanese explorations and marine/naval activities in many parts of the world.

Dark-skinned aboriginals were a frequent subject of sugoroku, ranging from a curious presence to be approached to a weak population to be conquered by the Japanese to cannibals to be feared and disparaged (as in this game).

From Home Education: Around the World Board Game

From Home Education: Around the World Board Game

Game of wars

Every major war in which Japan was involved since the late Meiji Period has been reenacted in sugoroku: the First Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895), the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905), World War I, Japan’s invasion of Manchuria (1931), the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945), and the Pacific War (1941-1945). Often published with impressive promptness following the onset of the actual wars, these war games celebrate national pride in Japanese military power, glorify the valor of Japanese soldiers, tout the friendship between the Japanese military and foreign civilians under occupation, and mobilize the Japanese for wars with tailored messages for young boys, girls, and women. Various boys’ and girls’ magazines, women’s magazines, and the Patriotic Women’s Association of Japan were all distributors of sugoroku on war. Even the Japanese Army Armored Division published its own game titled Sensha Sugoroku (A game on tanks) in the 1940s, using black-and-white photos of tanks in operation to teach about military technology.

Dai Toa Kyoeiken Meguri (A game of a trip around the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere). Tokyo: Chuo Nogyokai, 1944. (Cotsen 101132)

Dai Toa Kyoeiken Meguri (A game of a trip around the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere). Tokyo: Chuo Nogyokai, 1944. (Cotsen 101132)

Its title echoing the official war propaganda term “Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere,” this is a wartime variation of the travel game. Players leave Japan and visit the vast land and sea of the Asia Pacific now under varying degrees of control by Imperial Japan. Four panels of pictures contain photo portraits of Subhas Chandra Bose (India), Ba Maw (Burma), Wang Jingwei (China), and José P. Laurel (the Philippines), who were the presidents and political leaders of Imperial Japan’s puppet states in East Asia when the game board was published.

Postwar transformations

The publishing of sugoroku dwindled after the end of World War II. The small number of post-1945 Japanese game boards held at Cotsen shows an ideological departure from older works. The games were de-militarized, and girls and boys could be seen taking a round-the-world trip together.

Genshi Sugoroku: Kagaku Kyōiku Manga (A game on atoms: comics for science education). Tokyo: Nihon Hatsumei Shinbunsha, [1950?]. (Cotsen 102878)

Genshi Sugoroku: Kagaku Kyōiku Manga (A game on atoms: comics for science education). Tokyo: Nihon Hatsumei Shinbunsha, [1950?]. (Cotsen 102878)

This sugoroku is densely packed with explanations of atomic science and the history of atomic research. The center prominently features Hideki Yukawa (1907-1981), who studied nuclear forces and won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1949. One panel of the game appeals for the peaceful use of nuclear power and makes the plea “No more Hiroshimas” in a somewhat unassuming manner on the busy page.
Detail from Genshi Sugoroku: Kagaku Kyōiku Manga

Detail from Genshi Sugoroku: Kagaku Kyōiku Manga

Sugoroku has been a versatile medium appreciated by many agencies for centuries, and, as a result, it has become a depository of popular culture, political agendas, and messages about social values, gender roles, race, and national identity. In-depth analysis of the themes, game rules, visual art, and authors of this collection of ephemeral prints would yield a rich understanding of the cultural history of Japan.

Digital resources

Check out digitized Japanese prints and drawings from the Cotsen Collection, including many sugoroku game boards, at the Princeton University Digital Library Website http://pudl.princeton.edu/.

Acknowledgement

This post was made possible by Ms. Setsuko Noguchi’s generous sharing of her expert knowledge. Thank you!

(Edited by Mary Kathleen Schulman.)