/ Journey to the West - Flaming Mountains


Journey to the West- Flaming Mountains

The well-known Chinese classic myth Journey to the West is the subject of continuous research and creation by academic circles all over the world. It represents the social thoughts of modern ideological emancipation. The story is full of mythological elements, presenting our pursuing process from spiritual liberation to the returning to the true self. For 500 years, this classic has undergone allegorical adaptations and extensive applications in the field of culture and art, including literature, theater, film and television, music. Journey to the West is a classic myth that has accompanied our growth and is widely discussed even until today.

The work Journey to the West-Flaming Mountains is inspired from the essential chapter “Sun Wukong Borrowing Iron Fan”. It tells the story that the Sun Wukong (the Monkey King), Tang Sanzang (the Buddhist Monk), Sha Wujing (the Buddist Arhat), and Zhu Bajie (the Chief Divine Altar Cleanser) encounter a raging fire on their pilgrimage to the west for the Buddhist scriptures. In order to obtain the Iron Fan from the Iron-Fan Fairy to extinguish the raging flames of the Flaming Mountains, they fight the Iron-Fan Fairy, Demon Bull King (Husband of Iron-Fan Fairy), and the Fireball (King of El Niño, Son of Iron-Fan Fairy). Notably, the scenario originated 500 years ago is freshly reinterpreted in the work Journey to the West-Flaming Mountains, in the context of contemporary generation who read Nordic illustrated picture books, watched Disney cartoons, and Japanese Animex, new life has been infused to the work Journey to the West-Flaming Mountains. The work presents a world view of Glocalisation and the advancing times, including its design details in western clothing design, the ideal body shape from the standard of the Greek myths, and the makeup style from Korean pop culture.


In 2008, the financial crisis swept across the world, and the construction industry was hit hardest. YUIMOM Group was no exception and was facing shortage of funds. At that time, Mr. Yungtien Shao (S.Y.T.), founder of YUIMOM, was planning to invest tens of millions to design the art series- Journey to the West– Flaming Mountains. The project held a vision to assist local craftsman businesses in transformation, yet YUIMOM was under stagnant growth, and the finance department even suggested suspending the project.

Succumbing to that challenge, however, would be breaking the promise made to those devoted craftsmen. Mr. Yungtien Shao (S.Y.T.), with his immovable will, decided to allocate the working capital already in strain to support the work. Despite these odds, Journey to the West– Flaming Mountains continued to thrive, just as the journey that went on in the story. Mr. Yungtien Shao (S.Y.T.) has always believed that the art series will one day become a medium that reinterprets the classic story from the perspective of local Taiwanese communities with over 500 years of history. The art piece marks a milestone where Taiwan, with its rich cultural heritage as its strength, integrates the essence of Chinese and Western cultures.

Forged in Fire

In 2009, despite the aftermath from the financial crisis, Journey to the West– Flaming Mountains was completed after three years of effort. The masterpiece features the world’s first 720-degree circular engraving. Thus, when one views the artwork, either from front to back, or from top to bottom, there is a full range of angles of appreciation without visual blind spot. As porcelain dolls of the size of an elf in palm, each part of the body is flawless connected with exquisite skills. Fired at a high temperature of 1300°C, the porcelain develops a pure and delicate glaze with soft hues and shine without impurities, the thin and translucent porcelain boasts a gentle simplicity with flawless elegance.

Looking back at those years, the challenges from the financial crisis actually set the stage for ALIEN Art to thrive to its full potential. Just as the raging fire of Flaming Mountains forged the vajra heart of Buddha, Journey to the West– Flaming Mountains sparks the great fire of art refinement at ALIEN Art.

Passing the Torch

Archived for ten years, Journey to the West– Flaming Mountains returned with its splendor for display in 2019 at ALIEN Art Centre, an intersection where history and innovations of modernity meet. This arrangement echoes with Mr. Yungtien Shao (S.Y.T.)’s lifelong mission- carrying on the heritage and embracing the future, while passing on the will from one generation to the next.

Having this series settled at ALIEN Art Centre shows not only the vitality of art in transformation, but also a goodwill to give back to society. As Mr. Yungtien Shao (S.Y.T.) puts it, “In a capitalist society where everyone pursues money, pure devotion to art with the joy from within comes before all external matters.”

Have a close look at the spatial layout of this work, Fire Ball (King of El Niño, Son of Iron-Fan Fairy) riding above the burning blue flames dominates the scene, while each character is surrounded by orange-red roaring fires. There seems to be an invisible air of arrogance connected with the visible flames.

The Iron-Fan Fairy, holding the iron fan, who has perfect proportions and dressed in gorgeous costume, quietly look up to her son, the Fireball, who has been fighting against the Monkey King. Following the direction of her slender fingers and eyes, the interaction between each character is connected. The four-dimensional stage blocking conveys a vivid story.

Sha Wujing (the Buddist Arhat), who resembles the mysterious sea-walker in the movie Waterworld, was originally a heavenly military commander. He has wide shoulders. His face was indigo blue, and he is holding a Demon subduing staff made by the Chinese master carpenter, Lu Ban, with the Thoreau Fairy Wood from the Moon Palace, which has won him many battles.

Sun Wukong (the Monkey King) is the most glorious character on the journey to the west for the Buddhist scriptures. This work makes the handsome Monkey King appear as handsome and flamboyant as the male protagonist in the Korean drama. He is witty and funny, and displays supernatural powers.

The Demon Bull King is like a statue in an ancient Egyptian temple, wearing an avant-garde armor mask, and holding the golden chain meteor hammer in one hand, showing his mighty strength.

© ALIEN Art Centre

The messenger Xiao Tsui, who is standing beside the Iron Fan Fairy, is holding a Chingfeng sword and stepping on pointed-toes brocade shoes. Her neat and unrestrained posture forms a sharp contrast with Zhu Bajie.

Zhu Bajie (the Chief Divine Altar Cleanser) shows up like the lecherous dwarf in the forest of the Snow White marching forward.

This is the Prince Nezha (Marshal of the Central Altar) coming to participate in the battle. Stepping on the wind-fire wheels (the left wheel generates wind, and the right wheel breathes fire), he has the most magic weapons, and with the mighty intelligent Chiankun Hoop that can arbitrarily change its size with throwing attacks.

There is a goblin-beast like figure on the center of the stage. He is the messenger form the Underworld. His appearance is as frightening as Guru in the Lord of the Ring.

The white dragon horse, a divine beast with magical power, is the mount of Tang Sanzang (the Buddhist Monk). He is wearing a Buddhist robe, holding a tin stick in hand, and wearing a Vairocana hat. He tries to balance on the horse's back. The empty look inevitably invites the fate of being hunted.

The Earth God Entrenched above the rock block is the land of Flaming Mountain. As the middleman, he was ordered to command the soldiers and persuade peace. The wavy grey hair and grey beard exude strands of gentle fairy air.