Submitted by: Billy Jencks
What does it mean to be human? This is the question, ironically, which plagues the existence of Sun Wukong, the Monkey King.
Sun Wukong, or Monkey, is a fictional character of the Buddhist, Taoist, and Confucian philosophies, which can be traced back as far as written Chinese philosophy. Monkey’s adventures raise many ethical questions about the relationship of power to accomplishment and the relationships between people, and have been used repeatedly in Chinese culture, from TV shows and cartoons to children’s books. Chinese children grow up learning the stories of Monkey much as American children grow up with Aesop’s Fables, learning moral lessons and being introduced to concepts like life, death, and how to deal with difficult situations in life.
This episode on YouTube with English subtitles depicts Monkey being “born of stone” and acquiring his title as the Monkey King by jumping through a waterfall. It also shows his first experiences trying to be human (in the Taoist sense) by having to find food.
So how important is being in tune with cultural anecdotes like Monkey for a business person in China? Well, as an American, do you even know where babies come from? If you said the Stork you are dead wrong. If you were a baby in China you were “born of stone,” silly! This is what Chinese parents often tell inquisitive youngsters. After watching this video you can start to understand why.
As we learned in Jay’s presentation on international consumer packaging, cultural nuances (or semantic mix-ups) can have a HUGE impact on marketing campaigns and other important aspects of international business. Attention to these cultural differences can make or break your success as a business person in another country.
* What do you think of the Monkey episode?
* How does this compare to your childhood experience with cartoons and “storybook learning?”
* What other impacts could this widely used story have on different sectors of the business world in Eastern countries?