Ribbons: Interpretations & Adaptations of Baigujing

Growing up in a Chinese-Vietnamese-American household, I was fed an eclectic range of media as a child. While I enjoyed programs like Sesame Street and Beetleborgs, my fondest memories are of watching the TVB 1996 version of “Journey to the West” (西遊記), rented by my mother on VHS tapes. Sun Wukong (孙悟空), also known as the Monkey King, remains one of my favorite fictional heroes. At the same time, Baigujing (白骨精), the “white bone demon,” stands out as one of the most compelling and underrated villains.The literal translation of “Baigujing” is “white bone demon,” reflecting her true form as a skeleton capable of shapeshifting into human figures. Both Chinese folklore and modern adaptations portray Baigujing as a formidable femme fatale and a tragic, multi-faceted character. In a Buddhist context, her sexualized existence symbolizes the peril of feminine beauty, which deceives and destroys men. She manages to elude Sun Wukong in most encounters as if she were made of silk.My drawings explore her form both as a skeleton and through abstraction, illustrating her body with ribbon-like fluidity. The original author may not have intended his villainous characters to leave any sort of positive impression; after all, skeletons often symbolize death and monstrosity. However, I believe Baigujing subverts traditional notions of femininity in her own way, as her powers enable her to transform into anything she desires.
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