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Invitation to World Literature

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Journey to the West (30:00)

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This video introduces you to the Stone Monkey King, a whirlwind of willful energy, egomaniacal pride, and zany humor who is forced by Buddha himself to pair up with a humble, peaceful Buddhist monk and get him safely to India. The wide range of art that Monkey's story has inspired is on display in this episode.

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Speakers in the video

David Damrosch
David Damrosch
Professor of Comparative Literature, Harvard University
Dr. Damrosch is professor of comparative literature at Harvard University and the author of many books, including What Is World Literature?
David Henry Hwang
David Henry Hwang
Playwright and Screenwriter, The Lost Empire
Author of the Tony-award winning play M. Butterfly, Mr. Hwang was commissioned to write the teleplay for the NBC miniseries, The Lost Empire, which was based on Journey to the West. Among his other stage works are F.O.B and The Dance and the Railroad. Mr. Hwang's work also extends to opera, film, and musical theater. He is a frequent collaborator with Philip Glass.
Jennifer Wen Ma
Jennifer Wen Ma
Artist, The Monkey King
Ms. Ma emigrated to the United States from China when she was thirteen years old. She studied at the Pratt Institute in New York. Her artwork includes installations, drawing, fashion design, performances, and public works. She was a member of the core creative team of the Beijing Summer Olympics in 2008, where she also created an outdoor visual installation of The Monkey King over Tianamen Square.
Stephen Owen
Stephen Owen
Professor of Comparative Literature, Harvard University
Dr. Owen is a renowned translator and scholar of pre-modern Chinese literature, lyric poetry, and comparative poetics at Harvard University. His specialty is the T'ang Dynasty. Dr. Owen is also the James Bryant Conant University Professor at Harvard.
Robert Thurman
Robert Thurman
Professor of Indo-Tibetan Buddhist Studies, Columbia University
Dr. Thurman is an ordained Buddhist monk. He has traveled extensively through Asia and Tibet, where he studied with the fourteenth Dalai Lama. He is the co-founder of The Tibet House in New York City.
Diane Wolkstein
Diane Wolkstein
Storyteller, The Monkey King
Ms. Wolkstein has been a storyteller for almost 40 years, recounting epic tales to audiences worldwide. For 13 years, Wolkstein has researched and studied Journey to the West in order to create a performance in which she brings its multiple characters, humor, and mystery to life for a wide audience. Ms. Wolkstein is also the author of over 23 books, including The Magic Orange Tree and Other Haitian Tales and Inanna, Queen of Heaven and Earth.
Anthony Yu
Anthony Yu
Professor Emeritus of Comparative Literature, University of Chicago
Dr. Yu emigrated to the United States from China via Hong Kong when he was a young student. He is a scholar of literature and religion and is the only scholar to have translated the entirety of Journey to the West into English. He subsequently created his own abridgement of four volumes, The Monkey & the Monk. He is the Carl Darling Buck Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the University of Chicago.
Mary Zimmerman
Mary Zimmerman
Playwright, Director, and Professor of Performance Studies, Northwestern University
Dr. Zimmerman is a member of the Lookingglass Theatre Company and is an Artistic Associate of the Goodman Theatre in Chicago, Illinois. She is also the Jaharis Family Professor of Performance Studies at Northwestern University. Her original and adapted stage productions include Journey to the West, Metamorphoses, The Odyssey, and numerous opera productions, including Rossini's Armida at New York's Metropolitan Opera.