Beloved Monkey King actor's absence from China's Chinese New Year gala riles public

Zhang Jinlai, known for portraying the Monkey King in the hit 1986 TV series Journey to the West, said he was not invited to CCTV's Chinese New Year eve gala.
Zhang Jinlai, known for portraying the Monkey King in the hit 1986 TV series Journey to the West, said he was not invited to CCTV's Chinese New Year eve gala.PHOTO: CHINA DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

BEIJING (China Daily/Asia News Network) - Chinese television viewers are crying foul after China's most popular "monkey" actor said he has not been invited to the country's biggest television fest ushering in the Year of the Monkey.

Zhang Jinlai, better known by his stage name, Liu Xiao Ling Tong or The Little Six-Year-Old, the age at which he made his stage debut, recently disclosed that he was invited to a companion show and not the Chinese New Year eve gala show by China Central Television (CCTV).

The latter is China's highest-rated variety show while the companion show, an opera number, has much lower viewership.

Zhang, 57, starred as Sun Wukong, the Monkey King, in the 1986 television adaptation of Journey to the West. The 25-episode fantasy drama, though filmed with the crude special effects of the day, was aired every summer, endearing generations of Chinese TV viewers to the charm of the classic primate.

The public had long deemed it a no-brainer that Zhang would be a shoo-in for the CCTV's CNY extravaganza, and has lobbed criticism against decision-makers at CCTV, China's only national TV network, since learning of the actor's snub.

"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 of Zhang's absence from the gala event.

"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 commenter.