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It’s no secret that traditional Japanese and Asian style tattoos are a favourite here at Chronic Ink Tattoo in Toronto and Vancouver. These tattoos capture a timeless and striking beauty which is steeped in rich history and deep symbolism. Asian style tattoos work particularly well for large format pieces, making for visually striking sleeves or intricately detailed back pieces and bodysuits.

There is a variety of imagery that is popular for Asian style tattoos, serene koi fish and cherry blossoms, formidable dragons, or even opposing and sometimes frightening demons. With such a range of imagery to choose from, it’s no wonder Asian style tattoos have maintained their place amongst the most popular tattoo styles for so long.

One of the popular subjects for Asian style tattoos is Sun Wukong, a famous monkey king who originally appeared in Wu Cheng’en’s famous novel “Journey to the West”. Today we’re going to take a deeper look at the history and meaning behind one of China’s most beloved fictional heroes and how he tends to be portrayed in tattoos today.

The history of Sun Wukong

The Monkey King has been portrayed in many ways throughout the modern world, including starting in films, comic books, and video games. However, before morphing into a pop culture icon, the powerful yet mischievous Sun Wukong was a legend throughout the Song Dynasty and first appeared in print as the main character in the famous 16th century novel “Journey to the West” by Wu Cheng’en.
Monkey King Tattoo In Progress
In the novel, the Monkey King was born in a stone egg and gained his godlike powers through the practice of Taoism. In addition to his amazing strength, he also gained the ability to shapeshift. He then proceeded to rebel against the Jade Empire by stealing a peach of immortality from Xi Wangmu and singlehandedly defeating the armies of Heaven.

Distraught by the mayhem caused by the Monkey King, the Buddha himself imprisons Sun Wukong under a mountain where he rests for hundreds of years before finally devising a clever escape plan.

As a means of ensuring his freedom, the Monkey King agrees to serve as the monk Xuanzang’s disciple, protecting him on his pilgrimage to the west in search of the Buddhist sutras for Guan Yin, the Chinese goddess of mercy. Xuanzang promises to give Sun Wukong his freedom upon completion of the journey and along the way, he proceeded to battle all sorts of demons, bandits, and fearsome creatures.

The Monkey King in art and tattoos

The Monkey King has a distinct appearance with a face most often resembling a tamarind monkey and the body of a strong, able-bodied man. He is often adorned in regal armour and depicted carrying a golden-banded staff known as a Ruyi Jingu Bang, which was his preferred weapon in the legends.

The Monkey King In Art

Sun Wukong has been a popular feature in art throughout Asia, seen from one generation to another in many styles and dating as far back as the Chu Kingdom from 700 to 223 BC. Some historians even speculate that the Monkey King may have inspired the Hindu monkey god, Hanuman.

The Monkey King In Tattoos

In the tattoo world, the Monkey King has been a popular feature of Asian style tattoos, often depicted battling various foes in large format pieces. In tattoo form, the Monkey King can carry a lot of symbolism and meaning beyond his strength and fighting abilities, however. Though he is often chosen due to his pierce presence on the battlefield, Sun Wukong can also be used to depict the even deeper meaning of mischief, mayhem, havoc, redemption, spiritual discipline, and clever problem-solving skills.
Sun Wukong - Monkey King - Back Tattoo

Find the Perfect Monkey King Tattoo Design

If you’re looking for a talented tattoo artist who specializes in Asian style tattoo art to bring your vision of the monkey god Sun Wukong to life, the artists at Chronic Ink Tattoo and Piercing in Downtown Toronto, Midtown Toronto, Markham or Vancouver would love to work with you. Several of our artists specialize in Asian style tattoos. Call or email us today to set up an appointment or a free consultation!

Ready to get your new tattoo?

At Chronic Ink, we have some of the best traditional and neo-traditional Asian tattoo artists in Toronto and Vancouver. We welcome walk-ins for consultations at our Downtown Toronto, Midtown Toronto, Markham and Vancouver locations. No appoinment necessary or contact us and let us know your idea today.

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