• Monkey King Performs In Nanjing Confucius Temple

Monkey King Performs In Nanjing Confucius Temple (Photo : Getty Images)

“Journey to the West,” based on the classic tale “Monkey King,” remains a viable franchise for the Chinese market. Several versions have recently been made and were successful in the box office such as Stephen Chow’s version shown on Chinese New Year.

A TV version, the first fantasy television series in China, aired between 1982 and 1988. The director of the TV series, 88-year-old Yang Jie, died on Saturday, China.org reported. The TV version is still considered the best and most authentic interpretation of the classic tale.

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Coma 10 Days Before Death

Ten days before she died, Yang Jie went into a coma. Chi Chongrui, the Chinese actor who played the lead role of monk Xuanzang, shared that he helped look for a doctor who would help the TV director recover.

Yang Xie, who directed a sequel season in 1998 which finished filming in 1999 and was aired on CCTV in 2000, wrote a book about the TV series. She shared about the many difficulties she encountered, including her physical pain, budget limitations and pressure from conservative TV executives.

High Ratings

After its premiere on state-owned CCTV on Oct. 1, 1986, the show had very high ratings, according to Asia One. The TV drama focused on the pilgrimage made by the Buddhist monk Xuanzang and his three disciples, Sun Wukong, Zhu Bajie and Sha Wujing. The three travelers from the Tang Dynasty period went to the western regions, namely India and Central China, to get sacred Buddhist texts. They eventually returned after a lot of trials and suffering.

Since 1988, the TV series has been replayed almost 3,000 times annually on different TV channels in China. Over the last 30 years, CCTV’s version of “Journey to the West” has been viewed more than 6 billion times. It got a viewership rating of 89.4 percent in 1987 when CCTV used special effects.

It is timely that when Yang Jie died, a new version of the classic tale is being made with focus on women.