Mon­key King moves

Havoc in Heaven, the first large pop-up book in­spired by Jour­ney to the West, hits the shelves. Mei Jia re­ports.

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - Con­tact the writer at mei­jia@chi­

The first big pop-up book based on Jour­ney to the West at­tracts not only do­mes­tic read­ers, but also over­seas pub­lish­ers.

Awork that em­bod­ies the spirit of crafts­man­ship, Havoc in Heaven is the first large pop-up book that has the much-loved Mon­key King story from an an­cient Chi­nese clas­sic go­ing 3-D on pa­per.

The book, which has been on the mar­ket since Novem­ber, is not only be­ing ap­pre­ci­ated by young Chi­nese read­ers who see the book at fairs or other events, but it is also gain­ing at­ten­tion and copy­right re­quests from pub­lish­ers over­seas.

Al­izee Dabert, the for­eign rights man­ager at Gal­li­mard Je­unesse and the pub­lisher of the pop-up Le Pe­tit Prince, says she is very op­ti­mistic about the global mar­ket po­ten­tial of the pop-up ver­sion of Jour­ney to the West.

“It’s a well-known and im­por­tant story, pop­u­lar among Chi­nese kids as well as adults. And its pa­per-art de­sign is re­mark­able,” says Dabert.

The book fea­tures six scenes from the story — in­clud­ing the birth of the Mon­key King from a rock, his en­throne­ment as the leader of the mon­keys and his com­bat with the em­peror of heaven.

The lat­est pub­li­ca­tion is based on an award-win­ning car­toon film re­leased by Shang­hai An­i­ma­tion Film Stu­dio in 1964.

The book was pub­lished after Xi’an-based Lelequ, a popup book brand un­der the Ron­shin Group, won the adap­ta­tion rights in 2014.

The pub­lisher spent two years work­ing with a team of 10 to turn more than 70,000 paintings and pic­tures into the 300 com­po­nents that the book com­prises.

“We did more than 2,000 re­vi­sions to cre­ate the beau­ti­ful and in­tri­cate pop-ups. Some­times we were so ex­hausted that we wanted to drop the project, but we per­sisted,” says Sun Zhaozhi, the book de­signer and deputy gen­eral man­ager of the group. Sun also says the scene which shows a bat­tle with an army from heaven took the team half a year to com­plete.

Yan Dingx­ian, the brain be­hind the im­age of the Mon­key King in the car­toon film, said at an event in Shang­hai in Novem­ber that he had gone to the Pek­ing Opera for in­spi­ra­tion to cre­ate it.

Speak­ing about Lelequ’s ef­fort to pay tribute to tra­di­tion and carry it for­ward in a form that is both in­no­va­tive and ap­peal­ing to read­ers, Yan Hong­bing, 49, the pa­per-art de­signer of many of Lelequ’s books over the past decade, says he had al­ways wanted to make an orig­i­nal ver­sion of the Mon­key King — a char­ac­ter he has loved since child­hood — after he saw a pop-up ver­sion of Alice’s Ad­ven­tures in Won­der­land in 2003.

“Then (in 2003), I was amazed by the way the con­tent be­came vivid with the char­ac­ters bounc­ing around, but I soon re­al­ized that in our lit­er­ary tra­di­tion there are many sto­ries that are suit­able to be turned into such books — with strong char­ac­ters, grand scenes and dra­matic con­flicts,” says Yan.

In the book, there is a scene where the Mon­key King re­trieves his leg­endary weap- on — the golden cud­gel — from the East Sea Dragon King’s palace.

As the story un­folds over the pages, the cud­gel bounces up to a height of around 40 cen­time­ters.

Ex­plain­ing how he achieved this, Yan says: “This is a de­tail that I racked my brain to get right. I stud­ied many books, made as many mod­els as I could, and fi­nally I de­vised a tech­nique called ‘ sec­ondary boost’.”

Yan also in­vited il­lus­tra­tor Huang Li and her team from the Taiyang Wa Il­lus­tra­tion Stu­dio to help with the book.

De­scrib­ing her role, Huang says: “Re­spect­ing tra­di­tion is not sim­ply us­ing ink wash paint­ing or pa­per-cut­ting tech­niques. We traced the re­li­gious ori­gin of the story and took im­ages and col­ors from the Dun­huang fres­coes in Gansu prov­ince. For in­stance, the Thun­der God’s im­age comes from his Dun­huang pro­to­type.”

Huang’s col­league Li Chun­miao says due to their re­search they used only col­ors like black, gray, yel­low, red and indigo that are tra­di­tional to Chi­nese paintings.

Thus the book’s seven fairies and clouds are in­spired by Dun­huang, but are pre­sented in a con­tem­po­rary artis­tic lan­guage, says Li.

The il­lus­tra­tions in the book were re­done three times after the first sam­ples were pro­duced to get the 3-D ef­fects right.

Es­say­ist Yuan Qi­ux­i­ang, who was in charge of writ­ing the story, says the story is told from a global per­spec­tive. “The lan­guage is col­lo­quial.”

Com­ment­ing on the book, Lin Wen-Pao, a Tai­wan-based Taitung Uni­ver­sity pro­fes­sor of chil­dren’s lit­er­a­ture, says China bought the copy­rights of 4,000 pic­ture books last year, while cre­at­ing just 2,000 orig­i­nal ti­tles. “But now, we fi­nally have a de­cent and lux­u­ri­ous pop-up book telling our own story, recre­at­ing our history and mem­o­ries.”


Yan Hong­bing, the pa­per-art de­signer of the book, with chil­dren at a pro­mo­tional event in Xi’an.

Hav­ocinHeaven, a pop-up book about the Mon­key King.

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