China Central Television is coming under pressure to involve a popular Chinese actor in this year’s Spring Festival gala, with the internet demanding the man who is best known as the Monkey King be a part of this year’s event.
Ask most people in China, and they’ll say there’s nobody better than Liu Xiao Ling Tong when it comes to playing the fictional superhero - the Monkey King or Sun Wokong.
"He is a senior actor. In my heart, the Monkey King played by him is irreplaceable."
"He is skilled and experienced when it comes to the performance. I really hope he can appear again."
Liu Xiao Ling Tong is the stage name of Zhang Jinlai. He rose to fame after starring as Sun Wukong in the 1986 television adaptation of the classic Chinese tale "Journey to the West."
The 25-episode fantasy series, complete with somewhat crude special effects of the day, continues to be repeated on Chinese television every summer.
As such, most fully expected Zhang would be involved in the forthcoming Spring Festival gala, as this coming lunar year is the Year of the Monkey.
However, many have been taken aback by word he has been invited to the "opera show," a companion event to the Spring Festival gala which has a much lower viewership.
This has led to speculation he will not be part of the Gala, which has spawned an avalanche of criticism against the decision-makers at CCTV.
Many are suggesting they will boycott the show if Zhang fails to appear.More than a million people have called for Zhang’s appearance on the Gala’s official Weibo account.
The program’s director has been forced to shut down comments on his Weibo page after receiving more than 2 million similar requests. So far, CCTV has yet to respond to the situation.
However, the actor himself has responded. A humble Zhang Jinlai says the annual Spring Festival Gala is more than just one man.
"I’ve noticed that discussions over this have heated up on the internet. But from my perspective, there is nothing to regret, no matter whether I will perform in the show. The most important thing is whether the audience will be entertained. It’s really an honor for me and my family to get praise for the monkey king roles we have played."
Zhang Jinlai does say he will be ready to perform on the Gala if asked. But if he doesn’t, he says his work as an actor will not be affected.
"I always think I’m one of the luckiest actors in China since the TV series Journey to the West is popular with such a large group of audiences. The Monkey King is persevering, positive and optimistic, and represents the spirit of our nation. I have many plans for this year and will have many new roles to play."
Numerous actors have played the famed Monkey King, including Donnie Yen who starred in the 2014 film "The Monkey," as well as Aaron Kwok in the upcoming film "The Monkey King 2," as well as Huang Bo in "Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons."
However, Liu Xiao Ling Tong is still the best known.
He has previously participated in the annual CCTV gala three times, including the previous edition to bring in the Year of Monkey in 2004.