Both Dragon Ball’s Goku and the Power Pole were inspired by the classic 16th-century Chinese novel, Journey to the West
While he’s more known for Earth-shaking titanic battles against warrior princes, space tyrants, and the god of death himself, Goku (aka Son Goku) of Dragon Ball Z fame, used to have a signature weapon before he became a god-punching Super Saiyan. In the original, smash-hit, genre-defining manga, Dragon Ball, written and illustrated by Akira Toriyama, a young Goku was barely a shadow of what he would eventually become. But like any good adventurer, Goku always had his trusty Power Pole by his side.
When wielded by Goku, the Power Pole can extend to impossible lengths. From hitting someone yards away to going so far as to reach the moon. While the Power Pole belonged to Goku’s late adopted grandfather (originally given to him by Master Roshi), the historic origins of Goku’s iconic weapon can be found in Chinese literature.
Both Goku and the Power Pole were inspired by the classic 16th-century Chinese novel, Journey to the West by Wu Cheng’en. The pole, called Ruyi Jingu Bang (translated into “Golden-Hooped Rod,” or “As-You-Will Gold-Banded Cudgel”) was a magical staff wielded by the immortal Sun Wukong the Monkey King, whom Goku was based on. Similar in all respects to the Power Pole, Sun Wukong’s weapon also could extend its length at the will of its user. Additionally, it could also expand and change its size, to the point where Sun Wukong could shrink it down and tuck it behind his ear for safekeeping. The staff was also virtually indestructible, and weighed at a staggering 17,550 lbs (or over 8.7 tonnes), making Sun Wukong the only one strong enough to wield such a weapon.
Sun Wukong would find the Ruyi Jingu Bang during his visit to the undersea kingdom of Ao Guang, also known as the Dragon King of the East Sea. Sun Wukong was looking for a weapon suitable to his strength, as no matter how much they weighed or how powerful they were, he would accidentally destroy every weapon put into his hands. The Dragon King suggested Sun Wukong try to wield a large black iron pillar taking up room in his treasury. At about 20 feet high and as wide as a barrel, it was used by the Great Da Yu to measure the depth of flooding waters. The Dragon King promised Sun Wukong that if he could remove the pillar, it would be his, thinking that not even the Monkey King could lift something so terribly heavy. Sun Wukong easily lifted the pillar, which caused the very seas to shake, and commented that a smaller size would be more convenient, to which the pillar obeyed and shrank into the pole he would now wield.
There have been many renditions of both Sun Wukong and his staff, with Goku and his Power Pole being the most recognizable. But even now, with Goku attaining newer and greater levels of power, Goku never cast aside the Power Pole. Like his Nimbus Cloud (also found in Journey to the West), Goku will always be attached to his legendary childhood weapon.