The Magic Gourd,
the Monkey King and the "Journey to the West"
The gourd has also played
a role in popular Chinese culture. The "Journey to
the West" (Xiyouji
西游记) is one of the most famous novels from the Ming
Dynasty and one of the most beloved characters from that
novel is the Monkey King (Sun Wukong 孙悟空).
In one episode, the Monkey King receives word that demons
are on their way to capture him with their magic
gourd. The Monkey King disguises himself as an
immortal and goes to meet them. The demons are
unaware that the immortal is, in fact, the Monkey King and
proceed to show him the magic gourd which can hold ten
thousand people. The Monkey King then shows them a
gourd, which in reality is perfectly ordinary, but which
he says is magical and can hold the entire universe.
The demons are intrigued and express willingness to swap
their magic gourd for the immortal's gourd if he can prove
that it indeed has the power to contain the sky.
The Monkey King, who has many extraordinary abilities,
quickly obtains permission from the spirits to block the
light of the sun, moon and stars for one hour.
The Monkey King is thus able to deceive the demons into
thinking that he has bottled up the heavens in his gourd
and, in so doing, is triumphant in swapping his ordinary
gourd for the demons' magic one.