American Born Chinese | Study Guide

Gene Luen Yang

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American Born Chinese | Chapter 9 | Summary



Danny finds Chin-Kee dancing on a table in the school library while singing the pop song, "She Bangs." Completely mortified, he drags Chin-Kee outside and throws him into a bike rack. Demanding that his cousin should pack up and leave, Danny seethes, "I'm sick of you ruining my life, Chin-Kee!" However, Chin-Kee isn't in any hurry to return to China. After Danny punches him several times Chin-Kee retaliates with "unmitigated fuly [fury] of spicy Szechuan dragon!" Chin-Kee's energetic kung-fu moves are all named after American Chinese restaurant dishes. The audience's laughter grows louder and louder as Chin-Kee vows to visit Danny every year, "forever." Finally, Danny punches Chin-Kee so hard that the boy's gigantic head pops off, revealing the head of the Monkey King—who shrinks to his true form. He tells Danny to do the same.

The Monkey King tells Jin Wang that he's an emissary of Tze-Yo-Tzuh (Ziyōuzhē). After the Monkey King returned from his journey to the West, Wei-Chen (Wei-Zhen Sun)—his oldest son—decided to become an emissary, too. Tze-Yo-Tzuh sent Wei-Chen to live in the mortal world for 40 years, "all the while remaining free of human vice." The Monkey King gave his son a transforming monkey toy to help him remember his true self.

The Monkey King visits Wei-Chen every year to check on his progress. During the third visit, Wei-Chen admits that he told a lie to a friend's mother. He doesn't want to be an emissary anymore—he thinks humans are "petty, soulless creatures" and that Tze-Yo-Tzuh is a fool for loving them. He vows to spend the rest of his time on Earth using the mortal world for his own pleasure and refuses to see his father again. That's when the Monkey King begins visiting Jin (Danny) in the form of Chin-Kee. Jin thinks the Monkey King has been punishing him for Wei-Chen's failure as a mortal, but that's not true. "I came to serve as your conscience—as a signpost to your soul," the Monkey King tells Jin. As the Monkey King prepares to fly away on his cloud, Jin asks what he's supposed to do now. Smiling, the Monkey King comments that he could have "saved [him]self from 500 years' imprisonment beneath a mountain" had he realized that being a monkey was pretty great. As the Monkey King rises into the sky, a business card for the 490 Bakery and Restaurant falls into Jin's hand. Although not mentioned in the text, the address on the card is that of a former Chinese bakery—ABC Bakery Café—located near San Francisco in the Chinatown area of Oakland, California.

Jin goes to the café every day for a month. One night, a purple sports car blasting loud music pulls up in front. It's Wei-Chen, wearing a tracksuit, huge sunglasses, and earrings and smoking a cigarette. Jin explains that he met Wei-Chen's father and apologizes for being a terrible friend. Wei-Chen complains in Mandarin about the restaurant's milk tea, then removes his sunglasses and offers to take Jin to a much better place sometime. The last panel shows them sitting and talking animatedly in the café.


Chapter 9 explains how the three storylines of American Born Chinese are actually one narrative told out of order. In chronological order, the Monkey King's three chapters happen first, hundreds of years ago. Then the story jumps forward to the 1980s, when Jin and his family move to the suburbs from San Francisco. Jin's narrative in Chapters 2, 5, and 8 directly leads into Danny's story in Chapters 3 and 6 and the beginning of Chapter 9. When Jin meets the Monkey King, he's a junior in high school. Four years have elapsed since his fight with Wei-Chen.

Wei-Chen's true identity is meant to be a surprise to the reader, but clues about his parentage are sprinkled throughout the text. The first is his name. In China, a person's last name is given before the first name. At home in Taiwan, Wei-Chen's name would be Sun Wei-Chen. The Monkey King's real name, as given in The Journey of the West, is Sun Wukong. Readers familiar with the 16th-century story about Tripitaka's journey to India alongside his monkey disciple may have figured out the Sun family's connection in American Born Chinese. Another clue is in Chapter 5 when Wei-Chen and Amelia take care of the lab animals. Amelia comments that the monkey seems to really like Wei-Chen. That's because she knows he is also a monkey.

Unlike his father, Wei-Chen has not resented being a monkey. In contrast to Jin, he doesn't have a problem with being one of the few Asian faces in a sea of white people. His qualm is with human nature. He hates the deception and pettiness of mortals—the way they treat one another without any regard to morals or feelings. If humans are meant to be the pinnacle of Tze-Yo-Tzuh's creations, then Tze-Yo-Tzuh and his teachings must not be so great. When Wei-Chen exits from Jin's life, he also leaves behind his religious beliefs and his sense of self. He looks like a completely different person when his car rolls up to the bakery. He is harder and more guarded and appears to be hiding behind his mirrored sunglasses. When he removes them and tells Jin about another café they should try sometime, he's effectively turning back to his true form. This is similar to Jin turning back to himself after meeting the Monkey King. Both teenagers have learned what it took the Monkey King so long to figure out—life is much easier when someone accepts themselves for who they really are. In Jin's case, this means accepting that he's Asian American. For Wei-Chen, it means renouncing human vice and fulfilling the job assigned him by Tze-Yo-Tzuh.

Chin-Kee's final moments in American Born Chinese are prefaced by two more Asian stereotypes. The first is his performance in the library, which is directly pulled from the TV show American Idol. In 2004, Idol hopeful William Hung auditioned for the show with his rendition of Ricky Martin's "She Bangs." The engineering student gave a terrible but energetic performance, earning ire from the judges and laughs from millions of viewers. Hung quickly became a punch line in homes and offices around the nation. The second allusion in Chapter 9 is the names Yang gives each of Chin-Kee's kung fu moves. "General Tsao Rooster Punch," "Kung Pao Attack," and "Happy Famiry [Family] Head Bonk" are all inspired by the names of dishes found in most Chinese restaurants in the United States. However, neither these dishes nor their names are actually Chinese. The recipes 19th-century Chinese immigrants brought to the United States evolved to suit American tastes—changing so much that they no longer resemble anything found in China. This allusion is a reminder that many stereotypes have no factual basis. It also leads up to the climax of American Born Chinese, which is when Danny punches Chin-Kee. The moment is startling for readers but cathartic for Yang, who has said he welcomed the opportunity to "behead" the stereotypes that have long plagued Asian Americans.

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