Thursday, December 23, 2010

Banging My Head Against the Great Wall of Chinese

As I may have mentioned in a previous post, I am learning Chinese.  I've been studying how to speak Mandarin Chinese for about two and a half years, and for the past year I've also been learning to read and write Chinese characters. 

More than a year of studying a foreign language sounds like a fair amount, doesn't it?  I should be able to go to China and talk to people, shouldn't I?  But I think most Chinese learners would tell you that you can't go to China and function with your Chinese language skills until you've been at it for three years or more.  My current Chinese language skills are probably equivalent to a second-grader.  I can only talk about concrete things, nothing abstract.  I don't know the words for thousands of objects.  I know how to write the characters for even fewer words, and reading something like a restaurant menu is well beyond my current capability. 

Another writer has written a much longer and more thorough description of how hard it is to learn Chinese.  If you're interested in the perspective of someone who's been studying the language much longer than I have, try this:  Why Chinese Is So Damn Hard

But here's my perspective as someone who's only been struggling with it for a short time.  Yes, Chinese is hard.  Its' writing system, grammar, syntax and pronunciation are all very different from English or other Indo-European languages.  Let's start with the basics. Chinese is a tonal language.  What does that mean?  It means that the tone with which you pronounce the words is important to their meaning.  For whatever reason, Chinese developed far fewer phonemes - the sound units that make up the core of the language - than languages like English. 

To make up for this limited selection of phonemes, the Chinese added tonality to their languages as part of the sound/meaning combination.  In English, tone usually is used for emphasis and emotional content.  Saying "What?" with a tone of surprise and alarm is different than saying it with a tone of indifference, or one of impatience, but regardless of tone the word is still an interrogative with the same essential meaning.  But in Chinese if you say the phoneme "shi" with the fourth tone, sharp and descending, it might be the shi that represents all the tenses of "to be".  If you say it with the second  tone, a rising tone that sounds a bit like a question in English, it could be the sound of the number 10.  But there are a lot of "shi" phonemes in Chinese, and many of them use one of those tones.  You can really only know which meaning is being used by the context - or by seeing it in writing, because they'll look completely different.

I don't find the tones as challenging as some of my fellow students.  I don't know why it comes easier to me, but that doesn't really mean it's easy.  Especially when listening to native speakers speaking Mandarin Chinese, it's a real challenge to figure out which word they're saying.  To make it even harder, Chinese uses sounds we don't have in English.  There's a sound very similar to the German ö (which is easy for me, since I took German for several years in high school).  There's also a HSH sound, a sound sort of like J but not as sharp and made with the molars held a little farther apart, and a sound sort of like "woo" that follows a consonant ( i.e. "lwoo", "ywoo").  It's hard for an English speaker to wrap her tongue around some of those sounds.

Then there's the way all this is represented in a form an English reader can understand.  The method of transcribing Chinese language into the English alphabet is called pinyin romanization.  There have been numerous different methods of pinyin developed.  The current one is known commonly as Hanyu pinyin.  Hanyu is pinyin for "language of the Han people", the Han being the dominant ethnic group in China.  Hanyu pinyin uses English alphabet to represent those odd sounds I described above, so to learn to read it you first have to throw out a lot of what you know about how English letters are pronounced.  The HSH sound is represented as X in pinyin, so you have to remember that when you see an X in a pinyin word, it doesn't sound like KS or Z as it does in English.   An A in pinyin never sounds like the A in bake.  It always sounds like the A in all.  An E never sounds like the E in end; it sounds more like the U in under.  Don't ask me why it isn't just represented by U.  C doesn't sound like K or S, it sounds like TS.  There was a previous version of pinyin, Wade-Giles Pinyin, that actually used TS to represent that sound, but for some reason that pinyin method has fallen out of favor. So Chinese language learners now must struggle to put aside everything they've learned about pronouncing the alphabet in English when they start to use that alphabet to learn Chinese.

Now that I've dealt with some of the difficulties of speaking Chinese, let's go on to reading and writing it.  When you know the English alphabet and general rules of pronunciation, you can figure out how to say a word you've never seen before.  But Chinese characters generally don't have anything to do with pronunciation.  They're all about meaning.  My Chinese teacher would probably disagree somewhat with that statement, but I think it's largely true.  Sometimes the strokes in the character do represent something about the pronunciation, but not always.  How does a student of Chinese learn that 就 and 九 are both pronounced jiu (jyoe)?  You just have to memorize them.  And then you have to memorize that the first one is pronounced with the fourth tone, and the second one is third tone.

Writing is a challenge, too.  As you can see from the above example, some of the characters have a lot of marks.  就 doesn't really have that many.  Chinese characters can have anywhere from one stroke to more than 20.  You have to write them in the correct sequence, too.  Teachers can tell if you've done the wrong stroke order.  When you learn to write the English alphabet, you're taught to write the letters in a certain way, but most kids almost immediately start developing their own method of writing the letters.  After first grade, teachers usually won't penalize students for not using the original method, as long as they can figure out which letter the student was attempting.  But when you're learning to write Chinese characters, teachers will usually insist that you do it in the correct stroke order.  That's not to say that the Chinese don't have an equivalent to our cursive handwriting.  They do.  People learn how to take all those marks and write them in a faster method, without having to pick up the pen after each stroke.  It's nearly impossible to read it, in my experience.  It's like reading a doctor's infamously bad handwriting.  When my teacher makes corrections to my homework, it takes me a lot of effort to figure out what she's telling me.  I can really only read Chinese that is done in the equivalent of block printing.  

Chinese characters are made up of combinations of  things called radicals, which are sort of the building blocks.  I don't know the radicals very well, because the first teacher who taught me to read and write Chinese didn't go over the radicals.  Unfortunately, you need to know radicals to use a Chinese-English dictionary effectively.  You also need to know stroke number and type.  It took me a long time to figure that out.  Before I learned a little about these things, looking anything up in the dictionary was torturous.  Just as an example of the importance of radicals, look at these two characters:  快 and 块.  They're both pronounced kuai (kweye), with the fourth tone.  The first one means quick or fast.  The second one is commonly used as an indicator of monetary denominations, similar to the use of "dollar" in English.  If you write the wrong left-hand radical, it means something completely different.  

Then there's context.  Lots of Chinese words are contextual.  It's a much more contextual language than English.  The character/phoneme 就 is a good example.  It means a lot of different things, depending on context.  In some contexts it means "then", but it can also mean "immediately", "just", "only", "as early as", "to approach" or "move towards" something, "to accomplish", or "concerning", along with a whole list of other potential meanings.  It's a multi-purpose word.   As you can probably see, that means it's a challenge to read Chinese and get the meaning, since you have to puzzle out which usage is being employed in the context of the statement.  It took me over a year to read a book that had only eight chapters and was written at about a third-grade vocabulary level.

Just to make all this more fun, the Chinese have two different writing methods.  In Taiwan and Hong Kong, they write using traditional characters, which are the way the characters originally developed historically.  Traditional characters have more strokes as a rule.  But about 60 years ago the People's Republic of China (that's the mainland Communist country, for those who are geographically challenged) started using something called "simplified" characters.  Some of them are simpler; they reduced the number of strokes necessary to write the characters.  But the decision-making process about when to remove strokes seems to have been rather arbitrary, at least from my perspective.  The word canting, which means restaurant or cafeteria, is written like this 餐厅 in both traditional and simplified characters.  The first character has about 16 strokes.  So why didn't they reduce the strokes in that one?  Beats me. And once you start learning to read Chinese, you realize that you're probably going to have to learn both types of characters, because you can't limit yourself to reading printed materials from only one country.  Chinese teachers say you can learn to recognize the traditional character for something you already know in simplified, but I can't.  

So why, you may ask, do I want to learn this language, when it's so difficult and isn't going to progress my career or improve my life in a measurable way?  Because I like it.  It speaks to me.  It is hard, it is frustrating, but it's also immensely satisfying.  I may be 70 years old before I can read Journey to the West in the original language, but that gives me something to look forward to.  I hope I can continue learning Chinese for the rest of my life.  And maybe I'll be good enough at it eventually to make a career of it.  I'd love to be able to make a career of translating Chinese literature into English.  We're missing out on a lot of good reading.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Random Natterings #1

I watch a lot of HGTV, as my Significant Other will complain.  I like to watch the programs about people searching for homes or apartments.  I'm not sure why I enjoy them as much as I do; perhaps it's a bit of voyeurism.  I especially like watching house-hunters searching for homes in other countries.  I like seeing what sort of living arrangements people have outside the US - although I am getting a bit weary of watching Americans looking for tropical vacation homes, when I can't even afford to put a new roof on my house.

Many of the shows taking place outside the US still feature Americans looking for homes in other countries, rather than native people.  Watching these programs sometimes gives a rather unflattering picture of Americans.  That may be in part due to editorial choices by the program's producers.  But here are some of the things I've learned about American home buyers, or at least the ones who are willing to have their activitiies presented on television.
There must be a separate bedroom for every family member.
Ideally there should be a separate bathroom for every family member, also.
Stainless steel appliance are a must.
Granite countertops are a must.
Bedrooms must be large enough to support a sitting area.
Bathrooms must be as large as a small bedroom.
Walk-in closets are a must.
You must have an unobstructed view into the living area from the kitchen.
No stairs is best, but if there are stairs, only one flight is preferable. 
Being able to see and hear your neighbors is bad.
Shops and restaurants must be conveniently close.
A bidet is scary.
Water closets are weird.
Every home must have an oven.
Shared laundry facilities are bad.
Hardwood floors are ideal.
Having to shop for groceries more than once a week is strange.
Visible water heaters are weird.
No air conditioning is unbearable.
You should never have to walk any significant distance to your car.
Walking more than 5 minutes to public transit is inconvenient.
You should never have to hear traffic noise.
Children will never grow up. They will not need bigger rooms, be able to climb stairs, or want privacy from parents.
Most people are afraid of color.
You should be able to find American-style homes anywhere in the world.
If one partner in a couple likes traditional style, the other will prefer modern.If one partner likes doing renovations, the other will want all the work already done.
Many people say they want to downsize, but they don't really mean it.
It really isn't necessary to do any research about living in another country. 
If you can't live with it, change it.
New construction will never have anything wrong with it.There will be a perfect home out there that suits your every wish.  You just have to keep looking.
Of course you should be able to buy a home that suits all your desires for an incredibly low price.

I'm being judgmental, but  I'm often appalled by how demanding and intolerant Americans appear on these shows, especially when they're looking for homes overseas.  If I should ever be fortunate enough to purchase a home in another country, what I'll want is the experience of that country, living the way people do who are native to that country.  If that means the entire bathroom is the shower, or I have to climb three flights of stairs to get to my flat, then I'll live with that.  And I'll find out what to expect before I start shopping.  I'll do the same should I move to another state, since I realize that housing isn't the same in every market.

I will continue to watch these shows and point and sneer at the demanding and intolerant people, while enjoying the vicarious experience of looking in other peoples' houses.  Truth be told, I don't really want to shop for a home.  It looks like a horrible experience.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Where it all began

I've mentioned that I'm obsessed with all things Chinese, not just the Monkey King.  But where did it all begin?  What makes a person who's never been to China so interested in everything Chinese?

I've been learning to speak Mandarin Chinese for the past 2 and 1/2 years, and over the past year I've also begun to learn to read and write it.  I won't deny it's a difficult language to learn, but I love it.  But I didn't come to it initially out of a love of the language. 

One day about 7 or 8 years ago, I had a sick day and was struggling to find something palatable to watch on daytime tv to distract me from my illness.  I happened to turn to the now-defunct International Channel.  I found myself watching a program in which various people in beautiful costumes were doing kung fu and fighting with swords.  I've long enjoyed kung fu movies, so I watched.  I soon saw a kooky old man, a young man missing an arm, and a giant bird that walked like a man.  What the heck was going on?  There were no English subtitles on the show, which I eventually discovered was dubbed in Vietnamese, though that clearly wasn't the language the actors onscreen were speaking.  Fortunately during the commercial breaks they showed a title in both Chinese characters and English.  It was called Return of the Condor Heroes. 

Despite the weirdness, I was intrigued.  It spoke to me for some reason.  I found out that the show aired daily, so the next day I left a VHS tape in the VCR to record it.  I taped it every day for the next three weeks or so, until the show concluded.  In the meantime I started searching the web for more information about it.  I finally stumbled upon a site called, where I learned that it was actually a Chinese-language program produced in Singapore, and that it was based on a novel.  That led me to another site, wuxiapediaWuxia (roughly translated meaning "heroic warrior"), I learned, is the name for a whole genre of Asian entertainment, especially literature, and that much of this literary output has been adapted for television. 

One of the more prolific contributors to the literary genre is Jin Yong, pen name of a Hong Kong newspaper magnate whose English name is Louis Cha.  It was one of his stories, originally serialized in his newspaper Ming Pao, that had become Return of the Condor Heroes.  The Chinese title is Shen Diao Xia Lu 神雕侠侣, which doesn't actually mean Return of the Condor Heroes.  It would more accurately be translated as Divine Eagle Heroic Companion, or Divine Eagle Gallant Knight.  Somehow either because the giant intelligent bird in the story is huge, or due to a translation error, it has been dubbed a condor, regardless of the fact that condors don't exist in China.  For whatever reason, Return of the Condor Heroes or Condor Heroes has become the English language title of choice for any adaptation of the novel - and there have been quite a few.

Once I learned about this novel and the rest of Jin Yong's substantial output of wuxia stories, my nest goal was to read them.  Disappointingly, only three of his works have been published in English: Fox Volant of the Snowy Mountain, The Book and the Sword, and The Duke of Deer Mountain.  No publisher has picked up any of the others, despite the fact that Shen Diao Xia Lu and its predecessor She Diao Ying Xiong Zhuan 射雕英雄传 (common English title Legend of the Condor Heroes) are enormously popular in China and other Asian countries and have been turned into innumerable tv shows, movies, and comic books, in addition to being constantly in print for the past 30 years.  But I was again in luck:  some dedicated fans have taken it upon themselves to produce amateur translations available online.  They may not be as polished as a translation published by a legitimate publisher would be, but they still manage to make apparent why these books are so popular in other parts of the world.

Jin Yong wrote 15 novels and short stories between 1955 and 1970.  As I mentioned, the two books described above have been adapted for television many times.  Versions of Legend of the Condor Heroes have been produced in mainland China in 2003 and 2008.  Return of the Condor Heroes was last produced for tv in 2006.  This was the eighth tv adaptation since 1960.  The producer of the 2003 Legend and the 2006 Return has practically made his career on producing elaborate adaptations of Jin Yong novels.  Those have barely made their way across the pond; I only managed to discover the existence of the 2006 series because a friend mentioned he'd found it on Netflix (where it was confused with a 1983 version starring pop sensation Andy Lau).  I've now watched that series many, many times.  I've lost track of how may repeat viewings.  And now I can actually read some of the Chinese subtitles (though my reading skill is probably at about a second-grade level at best). 

There it is, a bit of a long, rambling explanation of what really sparked my interest in Chinese.  I still want to read the novels in the original language.  But now that I've discovered my affinity for Chinese, I hope perhaps someday I can be the one to introduce more of Jin Yong's works to an English-speaking audience.  At least it's a goal to aim for.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Playing Dress-Up

You may ask, why does a 50-year-old woman want to dress up as the Monkey King?  Or as a Chinese swordswoman or an elf or a wizard, for that matter?  (Yes, I've done the other three.) 

There are a lot of things we're allowed to do as children that are considered inappropriate - or just plain weird - if you do them as an adult.  Playing dress-up is one of them. For some reason it's only acceptable on Halloween.  If you dress up as Link from the Zelda games at any other time, people will think you're peculiar or even mentally disturbed.  I don't know why that should be thought a sign of mental instability. Mentally ill people don't dress up in carefully assembled recreation costumes, they put on their entire wardrobe all at once. If a person with a mental disorder actually believes he is Link from the Zelda games, he'll probably still believe it when he's wearing a plastic bag overcoat.  He doesn't need a Link costume to support his delusion.

Wearing a costume is no different than wearing a sports uniform, or an evening gown.  I don't play sports or attend events for which evening gowns are requisite attire, and when I do wear something outside my ordinary wardrobe I prefer it be indicative of my other interests.  So I attend science fiction conventions and dress up as elves and wizards and kung fu heroines.  I have tremendous admiration for people who hand-make elaborate recreations of movie, tv and comic book costumes.  I also envy them enormously.  I don't sew, and my crafting skills are limited.  So I generally buy other peoples' products and use what little skill I have in assembling them into a costume that makes me happy. 

I have friends who are crafty and sewy (sic), but unfortunately they're also either too busy or too far away, so I guess I'll have to come up with my Monkey King outfit on my own. 
Starting at the top, here are some of my ideas for the costume:
I could see myself in this shirt, in the golden-yellow color with the xiangyun design in red:
Cloud shirt
 I like the cloud design.  Monkey travels on a flying cloud, so the design would make reference to that.

Then I need some trousers.  Perhaps these will do, probably in the firebrick red brocade:
brocade pants

I'll need some shoes, too.  Luckily the same site also has some shoes with a cloud motif:
Cloud shoes

I'd like to get some of the socks and leg wraps the site offers, but I'm worried they won't be big enough to fit around my fat Western calves.  As an alternative to the shoes, I could purchase some of these boots:
Chinese cloth boots
I wish I'd known about the boots when I developed my wuxia heroine costume.  Oh, well; black would have been pretty harsh against the powder blue pants. wuxia swordswoman costume

Now I've just got to figure out the jingubang, and his circlet.  I've been conemplating a toned-down version of the phoenix-plume headress he's often shown wearing.  I have a friend who's recently gotten into making mini-hats.  Maybe we can work something out together.  That would be fun.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Meet the Monkey

So, you may ask, who is this Monkey King she's so obsessed with?  Well, I'll tell you what I know:

The Monkey King, aka Sun Wukong in Mandarin Chinese, is a popular folk character from Chinese Buddhist mythology.  His adventures began with a real historical event.  During the Tang Dynasty (c. 618 - 907), a monk variously known as Xuanzang or Sanzang traveled to India to acquire copies of the Great Vehicle Buddhist sutras or scriptures, with the encouragement of the Tang Emperor Taizong.  Buddhism was already well entrenched in China at that time, but only really known through the Lesser Vehicle scriptures.  I'm not going to try to explain the difference, because I'm no Buddhist scholar.

During the 16th Century in the Ming Dynasty, an author called Wu Cheng'en transcribed a version of stories that already existed about how the monk traveled to India, accompanied by a group of magical companions.  One of these companions was Monkey.  Monkey is a special case.  He's not really a god (or at least he didn't start out to be) or a monster or demon.  He was born from an egg that emerged from a rock.  He became king of the monkeys of the Mountain of Fruit and Flowers, learned the secret of immortality from a Taoist Immortal, and then decided that he ought to have more kingly raiment.  So he went to the Dragon King of the Eastern Sea and demanded that the Dragon King give him gifts.

To get rid of this annoying guest, the Dragon King finally gave him a magic staff that had once been used to hold the Milky Way in place. (Don't ask what happened to the Milky Way after the staff was removed from the Dragon King's palace.  I don't know.)  Equipped with the staff, armor, and magical cloud-stepping shoes, the Monkey King's ego got bigger and bigger.  When the Dragon King complained to the Emperor of Heaven about the Monkey's rude behavior, the Jade Emperor decided to offer Monkey a post in the celestial hierarchy, to keep him out of trouble.  Pestering the Dragon King wasn't the only thing Monkey had done to make a nuisance of himself; he'd also died of old age, but when taken to the Underworld he crossed his name off the Roll of the Dead, as well as the names of all of the monkeys of the Mountain of Fruit and Flowers.  Many complaints had been lodged against him in the Heavenly Court.  So the Emperor wanted to keep him close.

Monkey was delighted at first to be given a position in the Heavenly Court.  But when he eventually realized that Protector of the Horses wasn't a very important post, he was offended.  He made a fuss, fought with the Heavenly army, and was finally offered a more prestigious role as overseer of the Heavenly Peach Orchard.  Unfortunately, being a monkey, he didn't have a lot of self-control, and he quickly ate up most of the Peaches of Immortality.  When the Jade Empress wanted to have a Peach Banquet, Monkey was embarrassed that he'd eaten the peaches, but instead of apologizing and humbling himself before the Emperor, he tried to hide his crime and escape from Heaven.  In the process he also managed to get drunk and consume all of Lao Zi's pills of immortality as well.  Then he fled back to his mountain.

But he'd caused so much uproar in Heaven by this point that the Emperor couldn't let it go.  An army of celestial warriors was sent to subdue the rebellious monkey.  They failed to corral him, so the struggle escalated as divinities of greater and greater power were summoned to help.  Finally the Goddess of Mercy Guan Yin came to lend her aid.  She called on Tathagata Buddha for assistance.  In his wisdom, the Buddha challenged Monkey:  if Monkey could leap out of the Buddha's palm, he would be set free.  Monkey didn't realize that the Buddha's palm was infinite, so he was unable to succeed at the challenge.  Buddha then trapped him beneath a mountain for 500 years as punishment for his misdeeds.

At the end of the 500 years, along came the Tang monk seeking the scriptures.  Guan Yin persuaded Monkey that if he would convert to Buddhism and protect the monk on his journey, he would be released from his imprisonment.  She also provided the monk with a magic circlet that would bond itself to Monkey's head and control him, since she obviously knew that Monkey couldn't be trusted to cooperate.  To further aid the monk on his journey, she persuaded several celestial beings who had been exiled to earth as punishment for various infractions to act has his servants and companions (and in one case, his mount).

Along the way there were lots of local gods and minor celestial beings looking after the monk in addition to Monkey and his pals Pigsy (Zhu Bajie) and Sandy (Sha Wujing).  This was a good thing, because even though Monkey was very powerful, equipped both with his incredible enlarging/reducing staff and his ability to change shape and duplicate himself, there was only one of him. The rest of the protectors weren't nearly as powerful.  The monk was in constant danger, because his dharma-infused flesh was very desirable to monsters and demons who believed that consuming it would grant them immortality.  Monkey spends the rest of the lengthy book fending off monsters or rescuing the monk from them.

The book, Journey to the West, is intended to teach some Buddhist parables, but since the first seven chapters are about Monkey and how he gets into trouble, it largely becomes his story.  Consequently he's become immensely popular throughout Asia.  There have been numerous movies and tv series about him, as well as puppet plays, Beijing opera, and other entertainment.  He's a fairytale hero, a superhero, and a kind of minor deity.  I think he's a character who deserves more appreciation from Western audiences.  There's a whole tradition of fantasy literature in Asia that we're missing out on.  I just want to make a tiny effort toward rectifying that by making other people aware of its existence. 

And Monkey's just a lot of fun.  I'm looking forward to putting on his persona as well as his clothes.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Monkey Mania

I decided to start this blog to have someplace to store my musings and ideas that aren't convenient to share via Facebook or email.  I pity my friends who will now be subjected to this.

My first topic is my obsession with the Monkey King, and how to make a Monkey King costume.  I've been interested in the Monkey King for a number of years, but my interest has only increased since I started learning Mandarin.  I can't wait until I can read well enough to read it in the original language (even if I'll probably be reading a children's book).  

I'm not sure what it is I find so appealing about Monkey.  But I guess that doesn't really matter.  I like him.  I want to watch every tv show and movie adaptation of his story, read every comic book.  I've got a rapidly increasing collection of Monkey King objects and images.  Now my costumemania rears its ugly head:  I must have a Monkey costume.  I'm not sure how I'm going to achieve this, since I don't sew and don't have any intention of learning to sew.  But right now I'm just in the concept phase.

If I could have any costume I want, I'd want one to look like this:
 But this costume is pretty elaborate and would be both difficult and expensive to reproduce.  So I guess I'll have to scale down my vision.  Maybe something simpler like this:

Monkey's costume is traditionally in primary colors, especially yellow and red.  I want to stick with that color scheme.  It's also traditional for him to be wearing a tiger skin.  One of his first acts after becoming the disciple of the monk Xuanzang is to kill a tiger and make its skin into a garment for himself.  I don't want to have a Tarzan look going on, though.  I'm contemplating just an accent of tiger skin.  For one thing, faux fur is expensive!
 The image at the top represents Monkey after he goes to coerce the Dragon King of the Eastern Sea into giving him clothing, armor, and his jingubang, his magical staff. At that point in the story he doesn't have the tiger skin yet.  The enormously long plumes on his headpiece represent phoenix feathers.  I'd kind of like to have a little headpiece, but on a smaller scale.  And of course there's the magic circlet Xuanzang gives him, which allows the monk to exercise a little control over the willful Monkey.  It's traditionally shown as having ends that curl up in a slight spiral over his forehead, as shown here: 
 Since I'm not a metalsmith, that's going to be a little bit of a challenge to create.  I'm still thinking about possible materials other than metal.  Then there's the jingubang - I don't want to make it too elaborate so that it seems out of keeping with the rest of the costume, but I also don't want it to be too plain. 

There's also Monkey's general appearance.  I'm not planning to wear a latex appliance, nor do I want to do a Beijing opera-style makeup,
 so I'll probably go for something more like the makeup below.
 It hearkens back to the Beijing opera makeup in a subtle way with the pink shading around his eyes.  I've found a wig that I think might work:
I'm not sure why Monkey is so frequently shown with golden fur, but I'll go with it.

Of course, I could just order a Monkey King costume, but where's the fun in that?  Anyway, although orange is one of my favorite colors I'm not sure I'd want to be wearing it head to foot. 

That's enough for now, I guess.  More Monkey Magic later.