Critics riled as 'Monkey' star looks set to miss gala

Updated: 2016-01-29 01:39

By RAYMOND ZHOU(China Daily)

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Critics riled as 'Monkey' star looks set to miss gala

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, whose stage name Liu Xiao Ling Tong means The Little Six-Year-Old — the age at which he made his stage debut 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, complete with the crude special effects of its day, was given repeat airings every summer.

While people have taken Zhang's appearances in the nation's highest-rated variety show for granted, this year he has been invited to the "opera show", a companion event with a much lower viewership. This implies that he will miss the 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?" one critic asked, referring to the Pepsi Cola television spot featuring Zhang that celebrates Spring Festival.

Many critics said that if Zhang failed to appear at the gala, they would tune out of the show and watch repeats of past ones.

Many actors have played the famed monkey, including Donnie Yen who starred in 2014's The Monkey, Aaron Kwok in the upcoming The Monkey King 2, and Huang Bo in Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons.

Kwok, who spent up to eight hours a day putting on the monkey makeup, said, "There will be no regret for a Chinese actor if he can play the Monkey King at least once in his career."

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