VEGE­TAR­IAN FEAST AT JOUR­NEY’S END

Shanghai Daily - - SPORTS -

ac­tu­ally Spi­der De­mons.

While three of the women kept him com­pany, the other four went into the kitchen to pre­pare a hor­ri­fy­ing meal. They were cook­ing hu­man flesh, stewed as if it were wheat gluten, and hu­man brains cut like pieces of bean curd.

As soon as the monk smelled the stench of flesh, he grew sus­pi­cious and tried to leave, but the de­mons trapped him in a spi­der’s web.

But the Mon­key King de­feated the Spi­der De­mons and Xuan­zang was re­leased.

In the Lion Camel Cave there lived three de­mon kings who wanted to cap­ture Xuan­zang, so they asked 30 de­mons who could cook to make a vege­tar­ian feast for the monk and his dis­ci­ples, us­ing the best rice and flour, bam­boo shoots, tea, mush­rooms, tofu and wheat gluten. The cooks were sent to put up a shel­ter 10 to 15 kilo­me­ters along the way and lay on a meal for Xuan­zang, so the de­mons would at­tack. Even­tu­ally the de­mons were de­feated.

Although the Lion Camel Ridge de­mons ate a lot of hu­man flesh, sur­pris­ingly they had vege­tar­ian dishes and de­mons that could cook vege­tar­ian food.

Vege­tar­ian cook­ing in China orig­i­nated in Bud­dhist monas­ter­ies and the Chi­nese cul­ture and life­style is still largely in­flu­enced by Chi­nese Bud­dhism.

In “Jour­ney to the West,” au­thor Wu Cheng’en de­scribes a lot of vege­tar­ian food eaten by the lead char­ac­ters. In the fi­nal chap­ter when Xuan­zang re­turned with the sa­cred Bud­dhist texts, Em­peror Taizong of Tang Dy­nasty (AD 618-907) hosted a splen­did feast, fea­tur­ing dishes such as sugar-glazed taro, spicy gin­ger bam­boo shoots, black fun­gus and bean curd sheets and an abun­dance of fruits and desserts.

Monk Xuan­zang and his dis­ci­ples car­ried bo (beg­ging bowl) to ob­tain food given by oth­ers along the jour­ney to the West. — Il­lus­tra­tion by Xu Jingjing

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