VEGETARIAN FEAST AT JOURNEY’S END
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