American Born Chinese | Study Guide

Gene Luen Yang

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American Born Chinese | Plot Summary

See Plot Diagram


The Monkey King

Hundreds of years ago, a monkey is born from a rock. He teaches himself the art of kung fu and becomes ruler of all monkeys. Yet despite his great powers and position, the gods, demons, and other celestial beings view him as nothing more than a filthy animal. He wreaks havoc in heaven and the underworld, as well as on earth—until Tze-Yo-Tzuh, "He who is," traps him beneath a mountain of boulders. After 500 years, a monk named Wong Lai-Tsao frees the Monkey King, who then accompanies the monk on a journey to the West. By the end of the trek, the Monkey King is a devout follower of Tze-Yo-Tzuh. His oldest son, Wei-Chen, asks to also become an emissary and is sent to earth in mortal form.

Jin Wang

Jin Wang spent his early years in the Chinatown neighborhood of San Francisco. His family moves to the suburbs when he's nine. He's one of two Asian Americans in his third-grade class, which makes him a target for bullies. In fifth grade Jin acts like a bully himself when Wei-Chen joins his class, but reconsiders when he finds out Wei-Chen shares his passion for Transformers. By seventh grade, they are best friends, and Wei-Chen even helps Jin score a date with a girl in their class named Amelia. However, Amelia's friend, Greg, forbids Jin from seeing Amelia again. With nowhere to put his rage—or his hormones—Jin kisses Wei-Chen's girlfriend, Suzy Nakamura, and gets into an explosive fight with Wei-Chen. Their friendship ends when Wei-Chen punches Jin. That night, Jin transforms into blond, blue-eyed Danny.


Danny is at his third high school in three years. The problem isn't his grades or his behavior—it's his Chinese cousin, Chin-Kee. Chin-Kee visits for two weeks every year and mortifies Danny at every turn. This year, he flirts with Amelia—the girl Danny likes—dances on library tabletops, and urinates in a teammate's Coke. Danny finally loses his temper and starts a physical fight with Chin-Kee—who is uncommonly adept at kung fu. When Danny manages to punch Chin-Kee, it is revealed that Chin-Kee is actually the Monkey King in disguise. Danny turns back into Jin Wang and the Monkey King explains that Wei-Chen is his son. After Jin Wang and Wei-Chen fought, Wei-Chen decided he no longer wanted anything to do with humans and left Tze-Yo-Tzuh's service in search of his own pleasure. He refused to see his father, who adopted the guise of Chin-Kee and began visiting Jin Wang. As he speaks with Jin, the Monkey King reveals that his own life would have been easier if he had just accepted that he was a monkey. He departs, leaving Jin a business card for a Chinese restaurant. Jin goes there every day for a month until he runs into Wei-Chen. They reconcile and become friends again.

American Born Chinese Plot Diagram

Climax123456789Rising ActionFalling ActionResolutionIntroduction


1 The Monkey King starts a brawl at a heavenly feast.

Rising Action

2 Jin Wang is bullied at his new school.

3 Danny is mortified by Chin-Kee's behavior.

4 Tze-Yo-Tzuh imprisons the Monkey King under a mountain.

5 Jin lies to his parents and goes on a date with Amelia.

6 Jin takes out his anger about Amelia on Wei-Chen.


7 Danny beats up Chin-Kee, who is really the Monkey King.

Falling Action

8 Danny turns back into Jin.


9 Jin and Wei-Chen reconcile.

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