Inspirations-pt.I:Journey to the West

13 01 2010

Well, I ask you all: usually when something is created in the world is this new creation totally unique or it is based on something pre-existing? I would say that everything that is created is based on something that already exists. The new creators use them as an initial idea to create their project. This also occurs in mangakas (mangas creators) lives. Akira Toriyama, our beloved creator of Dragon Ball, used various real characters and legends in order to create the warriors, friends and family of the series. I gather then in this new category, the various inspirations that consecrated Dragon Ball unforgettable and one of the biggest and best anime in history.

I’ll start with a legend that has greatly influenced our anime. This legend is portrayed in an oriental book equivalent to Homer’s “Iliad” and “Odyssey” importance for Western literature. I refer to the book “Journey to the West” (known in Japan for “Saiyûki”), which inspired many mangakas, including the Toriyama. Here for you, the story of the origin of the name of the greatest hero of Dragon Ball.

Saiyûki 西遊記

The legend of Sūn Wùkōng (Son Goku in Japanese and Sūn Wùkōng in Chinese) is famous throughout Asia and was born of a trip that actually occurred with a monk in the early seventh century. Several of his stories were being written pilgrimage for centuries, and in the sixteenth century have been combined in a novel written by the monk Wu Cheng’en, “Journey to the West”, or Saiyûki.

The novel is the story of the journey to India mythologized around a Buddhist monk in his search for Sutra (sacred book of Buddhism). In the story, the monk is protected by Sūn Wùkōng, a figure with extraordinary powers born of a rock fueled by the Five Elements, capable of holding 72 polymorphic transformations, excellent in combats, capable of flying in clouds, immunity to fire and water any cutting instrument, capable of carrying a mountain on each shoulder and to be invisible.

Sūn Wùkōng’s mission was to protect the monk on his journey to the west from monsters and other evil creatures, because anyone who ate the flesh of a monk would have eternal life. To fight these dangers, Sūn Wùkōng uses his powers that can be said to be worthy of a superman.

Not just the Monkey King from “Journey to the West” inspired Akira in the creation Goku. Throughout history we see other famous Dragon Ball characters inspired on Saiyûki’s characters. Objects also were inspired on “Saiyûki”. Check out others inspirations:

Nyoibou (JP), Ru Yi Bang (CH), 如意棒

Weapon used by the Monkey King, Sūn Wùkōng in “Journey to the West”, being an iron pole, whose extremities are composed of gold rings. It is with such a weapon that the Monkey King defeat Jade Warlord. In the manga, the popular “power pole” (nyoibou) is a seemingly simple bar, but has incredible characteristics. Able to grow at will and be practically unbreakable, Goku carries the legacy of his grandfather, Son Gohan, for a long time. After the battle against Piccolo Daimao we discovered the real reason for the existence of such an object: it connects the earthly to the heavenly world, making the connection between the Korin Tower and the Kami’s Lookout.

Then we know about the sequence of the owners of this surprising “weapon”. Kept with Korin, that after endure endless requests for his disciple, Kame Sennin, decided to give him such staff, as you he imagined that there would never be someone who would be qualified to meet Kami-Sama. Hence, Kame Sennin went back to earth and years later he trained his first two disciples: Son Gohan and Gyumao (Ox King). Probably, Master Roshi gave the baton to Son Gohan because he was his best disciple. From there we already know who the next owner of nyoibou was: Son Goku, the greatest hero of all times!

Kintoun (筋斗雲)

Inspired in the flying cloud that Sūn Wùkōng used in “Journey to the West”, kintoun is a magic cloud with principles: only a pure heart can ride and control it with a simple thought. In ancient times many of them were seen, but over time, they were disappearing, because people’s hearts have become more obscure with evil and bad thoughts. Goku’s kintoun was a gift from Master Roshi, for helping Umigame (Master Mutenroshi’s turtle) to reach the sea. Master Roshi, in turn, acquired it when he trained with Korin-Sama, but with stalker thoughts, he lost the ability to mount it.

In Piccolo Daimao Saga, Tambourine destroys it; however Korin-Sama presents Goku with the original kintoun, a huge flying cloud. Goku, humble, takes a little bit, enough to guide him in his adventures. Our hero uses this magical cloud until he managed to control the flight technique, bukujustu. Later, Gohan and Goten started using kintoun too.


Gyūmaō (JP), Niumowáng (CH), 魔王

Gyumao literally means “Lord Ox-Devil” or “King Ox-Devil.” In the novel “Saiyûki”, he is one of several demons who try corrupt Sūn Wùkōng during his journey trip. In the manga, Ox King is introduced as a giant barbarian possessed of a mortal axe, killing everyone that approaches to his castle in flames, trying to steal his precious treasures. Over time, Gyumao, Chi Chi (Goku’s wife)’s father, takes a secondary role, as a family man worried about his friends and family.


Enma Daiō (JP), Yan-Lo (CH), 閻魔大王

Enma-Daio is the Japanese name of a Buddhist god of the dead. He reigns in the underworld, judging the souls that pass through him. In Japan, this name is used mainly to scare children and appears to be linked to religion. He appears in Dragon Ball as a kind of bureaucrat who allows Goku to keep his body to train with King Kai.

An important role in the celestial hierarchy, Enma not only judges the souls, leading them to heaven or hell, but also means that some remain dead with their bodies (as the case when Goku died) and allows certain dead return to earth for a certain period.


I suggest to those who became interested in this post and in the story of “Journey to the West” to watch the movie “The Forbidden Kingdom” with Jackie Chan and Jet Li, that talks about this legend. Very interesting movie! It’s worth watching! Below, the trailer.




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