'Monkey King' actor's absence from big gala riles public

By Raymond Zhou ( China Daily ) Updated: 2016-01-28 12:00:56

'Monkey King' actor's absence from big gala riles public

Zhang portrays the Monkey King in the hit 1986 TV series Journey to the West.[File photo]

For CCTV's Lunar New Year's eve gala that heralds the Year of the Monkey, one "monkey" is widely considered by Chinese to be indispensable. He is Zhang Jinlai, better known by his stage name, Liu Xiao Ling Tong, meaning The Little Six-Year-Old, which marks the age he made his stage debut some 51 years ago.

Zhang starred as Sun Wukong, the Monkey King, in the 1986 television adaptation of Journey to the West. The 25-episode fantasy series, though filmed with the crude special effects of the day, was aired every summer, familiarizing several generations to the charm of the world's most idolized monkey.

While the public had long deemed it a no-brainer that Zhang would be a shoo-in for the nation's highest-rated variety show, Zhang recently divulged that he was invited to the "opera show" instead, which is a companion show with a much lower viewership. It also implies that he would not be on the all-important gala.

The avalanche of criticism leveled against decision-makers at CCTV, China's only national TV network, has been unrelenting. "Even Americans know the importance of this actor, how can you be so blind?" asked one, referring to Pepsi-Cola’s television spot that celebrates the Chinese New Year. It stars Zhang.

"Without Brother Monkey, we would tune out the gala and tune into another repeat of the old show," many said in theironline comments that followed the news report.

"There are a thousand Hamlets in the eyes of a thousand people, but there is only one Sun Wukong in our eyes and that is The Little Six-Year-Old," said another remark.

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