The Monkey King from American Born Chinese is based on Sun Wukong, a folk tale character borrowed from the 16th-century Chinese novel Journey to the West.
Published during the Ming dynasty and written in vernacular Chinese, the book's authorship is attributed to novelist and poet Wu Cheng'en. The novel is an account of a monk who undergoes trials and misfortunes while traveling to and from Central Asia and India to collect sacred Buddhist sutra texts. The author incorporated folk tale elements into the otherwise historical narrative, inventing that Gautama Buddha tasked the monk with his journey and provided three protectors, who help the monk to attain virtue and atone for their sins. Sun Wukong, the Monkey King, is one of the monk's protector disciples. Born of a stone, he develops supernatural powers through mastering Taoist practices, acquiring intense strength and speed, and the ability to transform into objects and other animals.
One of the world's oldest and longest novels, Journey to the West is considered one of the Four Classic Novels of Chinese Literature, alongside Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Water Margin, and Dream of the Red Chamber. The Monkey King character's origins are ancient, tracing back to the Song dynasty, which lasted from 960 to 1279.