Invocation of Sun Wukong

An Invocation of Sun Wukong (the Monkey King)

Frater Tzu Jan





Sun Wu Kong is a prominent and very popular Chinese deity whose mention dates back as far as the Tang Dynasty (618-907BC). He was popularized in the Chinese classic novel Journey to the West published in 1590 something. The novel and the story of Sun Wukong that it told has become such a part of Chinese culture that any parts of Wukong’s mythological history that were made up then have become true in the minds of Sun Wukong disciples now. This is true to the extent that Sun Wukong became the mascot of the 2008 summer Olympic games in Beijing. Among Sun Wukong’s powers was the Summer Sault Cloud style allowing him to jump distances of roughly 33,500 miles, lift weights in excess of 17,800 pounds and swim extreme distances and depths.


His character embodies the strength, stamina, will and abilities that were perfect for evocation during the summer games. I contest that his spirit is worth invoking for blessings of all kinds and nature. This sentiment has been echoed by a Chinese spirit-medium cult in Singapore as well. This cult performs a ceremony in which the medium performs an invocation of The Monkey King with painted face and other adornments favorable to the deity. Sun Wukong then dispenses good luck charms, healing and divinations for those in attendance (Thorpe, 2005). 


This invocation will do much the same. Playing on the drumming, dancing and clowning inherent in the jingju (traditional Chinese opera) the magickian acting as the vessel of invocation should be as familiar as possible with the story of Sun Wukong. 




Drumming will play a vital role in the performance of this invocation. One participant will be chosen to act as sigu. This person is the controller of the drum and will be in charge of maintaining an awareness of the invocations progress and drum accordingly (Thorpe, 2005).  All other participants having been asked to bring noisemakers of their own will do their best to follow along with the sigu. Participants can bring small drums (no drum should be larger or louder than the sigu drum), bells, symbols, gongs, fire crackers, etc.


The sigu will allow their drumming to be guided by the current of the invocation. In this respect the faster and more erratic Sun Wukong becomes the faster and more erratic the drumming should become. In the reverse when the deity slows down so should the drumming. All other participants will follow the sigu’s lead with their smaller drums, noisemakers, symbols, etc.


I will be take perform this invocation as jingju. Presence will be of great import during this work. The costume will consist of a gold fabric over shirt and a staff of metal or covered with tin foil, or painted silver or gold. Face paint may be used but a mask is more likely for saving time during ritual preparation. A bag with good luck charms and peach wine for the elixir of immortality will be given by Sun Wukong as blessings.  When Sun Wukong is subdued, which should be evident during the ritual, this will be the time for participants to come forward with requests for healing, blessing, divinations, etc. Subduing will come after the episode with the Buddha’s palm (see below).


The invocation will be guided by the mythology of Sun Wukong. This will begin with taking the form of a rock and pulling in qi from the macrocosm. As this qi builds the body of the magickian (now a rock) becomes fat and pregnant with qi. From this bursts forth The Monkey King. As long as the magickian maintains enough awareness he or she should act out as much of the mythology Sun Wukong as memory allows. I regret that I have not as of yet read Journey to the West, as much of Sun Wukong’s mythology is contained in this book. Following is what I have gathered from internet sources and movies.


Sun Wukong was born from a stone that sat in just a spot as to gather excessive amounts of qi. The stone became pregnant and from it was born Sun Wukong straight out of the primordial chaos. I have not seen it written anywhere but one could assume by this that Sun Wukong is one of the children of Hun Tun.

Sun Wukong of course was much different than the others monkeys. He lived with them for some time and became their leader. He was more a god to the other monkeys. This led him to become dissatisfied with his place. After seeing death and becoming bored with the social structure of monkey life he left in search of enlightenment and immortality.


In his travels he eventually found a Taoist priest who took him on as a student. Sun Wukong was quite more than adept in his studies. He learned fast and with such skill that he became somewhat of a show off. This led him to be expelled by his master.


When he returned home he began fighting demons and dragons and found that he was nearly invincible. This served to inflate is ever growing ego until he named himself “equal of heaven” and demanded that the Jade Emperor give him a title. The Jade Emperor was taken by the Monkey King and knew he needed to something to calm this mischievous master. He gave him a title and job in heaven insuring him that it was prestigious. When Sun Wukong learned that cleaning the stables of the royal heavenly horses was the lowliest job in heaven he became furious.


Sun Wukong stormed the gates of a party held by the gods during which they were partaking of the peaches of immortality. He quickly made a spectacle of himself, danced on tables and was outrageously disrespectful. Just before leaving he stole some peaches of immortality and ate them up.


Sun Wukong then went on a rebellious spree across the land that could be likened to an immortal temper tantrum. He fought every god, deity, dragon and master that he came across. He swam to the depths of the ocean and stole the Jingu Bang from the gods of the sea. In some stories the Jingu Bang was a metal staff used to measure the depths of the ocean. Due to its purpose it could grow to huge proportions or shrink to the size of a needle. When not in use Sun Wukong would keep it safely tucked behind his ear. Armed with this staff he was virtually unstoppable.


During this divine temper tantrum The Monkey King stormed the gates of hell and erased all the monkeys from the book of death, granting them immortality. This last offense enraged the gods so thoroughly that they decided Sun Wukong should be assassinated. After years of chasing and fighting it was determined that Sun Wukong could not be killed and he was finally trapped inside the Lao Tzu’s eight way trigram cauldron which distilled even immortals into an elixir. After many years the cauldron exploded and Sun Wukong came flying out stronger than ever.


All other avenues exhausted the immortals resigned themselves to enlisting the Buddha’s aid. The Buddha bet Sun Wukong that he could not escape his palm. Amused Sun Wukong leapt into his palm and immediately used his cloud summersault technique. He landed at a pillar on the far side of the world. Convinced that he had escaped he leapt back to the Buddha who smiled at him. Sun Wukong looked around to realize that the pillar that he had seen was but one of the Buddha’s five fingers. This subdues and humbled the arrogant and rebellious Sun Wukong. Some legends say that the Buddha turned over his palm and trapped Sun Wukong for five centuries. Sun Wukong was released after he agreed to aid the Buddhist Monk Sanzang in his journey to the west to obtain the Buddhist scriptures for china. 


It is upon this legend that the current invocation ceremony will be based. As my knowledge of the legend increases I may add or subtract certain aspects of the operatic play. Likewise any future magickians that use this as the basis for the Wukong invocation are welcome to and indeed should add to the play as their knowledge and understanding of The Monkey King dictates.






Thorpe, A. (2005). Only joking? The relationship between the clown and percussion in jingo. Asian Theatre Journal, 22(2). 


Internet Sites Used