Monkey King journeys back to the East

By Zhang Yue (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-05-14 10:45
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Monkey King journeys back to the East
By pressing buttons on a screen, visitors can see the parts of the
 plot of Czech artist Zdenek Sklenar's Monkey King, exhibited at
the World Expo in Shanghai. Provided to China Daily

Czech artist Zdenek Sklenar (1910-1986) introduced the Monkey King from the Chinese novel A Journey to the West to his homeland in the 1950s. Half a century later, the Czech version of Monkey King is back in China, brought to the World Expo in Shanghai by his nephew, also named Zdenk Sklenr.

Images of the Monkey King, both in paintings and as animations, are drawing rave reviews at the Czech Pavilion.

By pressing buttons on a screen, visitors can see the parts of the plot that feature their chosen characters. The interactive exhibit has been drawing 35,000 people on average since its opening.

Calling it "an amazing way of presenting a classic story to Chinese youth through the use of hi-tech methods", Li Xiaoke, an artist from the Beijing Fine Art Academy, says: "It is fate that brought Sklenr to China 50 years ago."

It was his father Li Keran, a great master of traditional Chinese painting, who forged a close friendship with the elder Sklenr during the Czech artist's stay in China. Sklenar, first encountered the Monkey King in the opera A Journey to the West during his visit to China in 1955 and was immediately drawn to the character. He later presented the story through a series of paintings compiled in an album that was published in Czech in 1961. It had 24 full-page color illustrations and 80 pages of black-and-white illustrations.

"Just as the Czech Mole story is very popular in China, the Monkey King is one of the few characters of Chinese popular culture that is known to most Czechs," says Jiri Stribrny of the Czech Embassy in China. "It shows that cultures of very distant countries can be mutually understood."

The exhibitions will leave the Czech Pavilion on May 20 and return in October to coincide with the Expo's closing.