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Posted on Tue, Dec 8, 2009 : 11:13 a.m.

Monkey King Films, Chinese opera face painting, and Chinese papercutting at AADL Sunday

By Frances Kai-Hwa Wang

Growing up, I did not know very many Chinese folktales or legends. My parents were modern and educated, without a lot of patience for all that old stuff. The summer I was in fifth grade, however, I went to visit my grandparents in Niagra Falls. Sitting in the den of my grandparents’ house, my grandfather told me the story of Sun Wu Kong, The Monkey King, the valiant and mischievous and invincible monkey born out of a stone who is sent to protect the Buddhist monk Tripitaka on an epic journey to India to bring Buddhist scriptures back to China. This was the one Chinese story I knew growing up, and although I have since learned many more, it has become a story my children love as well, whether in book form, cartoon, play, movie, manga, action figures, or Chinese opera.

One Halloween, Little Brother, then 3 years old, dressed up as the Monkey King and came face to face with a 3-year-old Superman at Chinese School. The two superheroes eyed each other suspiciously. I wondered, who is the greater superhero? Superman or The Monkey King? Super speed and super strength and tights? Or 72 transformations and cloud-soaring and a tiger pelt?

University of Michigan Center for Chinese Studies Outreach Coordinator Carol Stepanchuk developed this Chinese Opera style Face Painting program which we have presented together in Ann Arbor and at the Detroit Institute for the Arts. From the Ann Arbor District Library:

China Celebration: Journey To The West - Face Painting, Films and Chinese Papercutting

Sunday December 13, 2009: 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm -- Downtown Library: 4th Floor Meeting Room

Have your face painted Chinese Opera-style, explore traditional papercutting and view several short films based on Journey to the West (one of the Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese literature) and Lady White Snake (an ancient Chinese legend), both Buddhist stories of magical transformations and fantasy! This special event is co-sponsored by the UM Centers for Chinese, Japanese and Korean Studies.

The Downtown Library is located at 343 South Fifth Avenue.

Frances Kai-Hwa Wang is a second-generation Chinese American from California who now divides her time between Ann Arbor and the Big Island of Hawaii. She is editor of Asian American Village, lead multicultural contributor for, and a contributor for New America Media's Ethnoblog. She is a popular speaker on Asian Pacific American and multicultural issues. Check out her website at, her blog at, and she can be reached at