The Water-Margin Lady
The Story of the Water-Margin Lady
The Water-Margin Lady ( 臨水夫人 Linshui Furen ) was also known as the Great Lady ( 大奶夫人 Danai Furen ), the Lady of Good Virtue ( 順懿夫人 Shunyi Furen ), Chen Qingu, and Chen Jingu. She was worshiped as a goddess in Fujian, Taiwan, and among overseas Chinese who originally came from Fujian province. Chen Qingu came from Fuzhou prefecture, which is located in Xiadu, Luoyuan County, Fujian province. Some people disagree and claim that she actually came from Linshui village of Gutian county. It is said that Chen Chang, her father, was finance minister, and her mother's family name was Ge. In popular stories, a fingernail of the Goddess of Mercy (Avalokitesvara) was reincarnated as Chen Qingu. She was actually born on the fifteenth day of the first lunar month in the second Dani year of the Tang dynasty (767 A.D). According to the Casual Record of the Ming Capital ( 閩都別記 Mindu Bieji ), when Chen Qingu was born, the whole room was covered by colorful clouds, and the garden was filled with auspicious air, which was considered by her neighbors as a miracle as well as a good sign. As a little girl, she was intelligent, virtuous and dignified. Chen Shouyuan, her elder brother, was good at Daoist Arts and lived in the mountains as a hermit. Chen Qingu used to bring him basic necessities for living. She started to learn the Daoist Skill of Mt. Lu at the age of thirteen. Three years later, she finished her training and went home. Then she obeyed her parents' advice and married Liu Qigong, a man in Gutian county. In the second summer after the founding of the Min state, her hometown was afflicted with a severe drought. Then Chen Qingu became pregnant for several months. The drought killed all plants and crops, leaving people helpless. In response to appeals from the local people, the Water-Margin Lady, then aged twenty-four, paid no attention to her pregnancy. At the cost of miscarriage, she came to the temple, praying for rain by means of her Daoist skills. It worked. A heavenly rain washed away the drought. But the Water-Margin Lady was herself murdered by a foe. After that, she ascended to heaven by Deliverance from the Corpse. When she passed away, she said: 'After my death, I will become a spirit to help women who suffer from difficult labor'. Local people set up temples in Gutian, showing respect to her statues, which were constructed according to Chen Qingu旧 appearance. During the Youzhou era of the Song dynasty (1241-1252), she was granted the title of 'Lady of Lofty Fortune, Brilliant Grace and Benevolent Salvation' ( 崇福昭惠慈濟夫人 Chongfu Zhaohui Ciji Furen ) as well as that of 'Lady of Good Virtue'. In later times, the title of 摂merald Cloud and Blue Soul Heavenly Immortal Mother of Universal Salvation" ( 天仙聖母青靈普化碧霞元君 Tianxian Shengmu Qingling Puhua Bixia Yuanjun ) was also conferred on her. During the Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties, she won herself more titles, which included 'Water-Margin Lady of Lofty Fortune ( 臨水崇福夫人 Linshui Chongfu Furen ), Primordial Lady of Good Virtue and Holy Motherhood, etc. She was normally referred to as the 'Heavenly Lord of Benevolence and Sincerity" ( 惠忱慈量天尊 Huichen Siliang Tianzun ) in Daoist books.
Obligations & Worship of the Water-Margin Lady
Since the Water-Margin Lady had learnt the Daoist Skills of Mt. Lu, she was good at subduing monsters. In folk culture, however, she was mainly considered as a protector of women suffering from difficult labor. Remaining Stories about Cauldron Casting ( 鑄鼎餘聞 Zhuding Yuwen ) quoted the History of Lishui County as saying that she was worshiped by women as the Lady of Good Virtue and that many believers visited Good Virtue Temple located at Singing-Crane Well on Supreme Peace street, to show their respect. People who wanted to have a child came to temples dedicated to the Water-Margin Lady and prayed piously. After a child was born, his or her parents would set up a statue of the Water-Margin Lady at home, showing their respect. This was done especially on special days, such as a child's first shower, the celebration of his first month, and his first anniversary. On these occasions, some blind men were invited to the home to sing songs about the Water-Margin Lady, a practise known as Singing Songs about the Lady. Every year, two days before the Lantern Festival, which is on fifteenth of the first lunar month, some wealthy and old women were selected to serve the Water-Margin Lady. The next day, her statues were shown to the public, receiving greetings from officials and believers. At night, the statues were routinely carried through the streets in a parade. All places were normally decorated with lanterns and colored hangings. Loud music filled the air. The parade was led by several hundred children on horses, with lanterns in their hands. At that moment, the streets were congested by spectators. Even today, there are still many temples and halls dedicated to the Water-Margin Lady in Fujian and Taiwan, where she was called the State-Protecting Lady of Southern Taiwan ( 台南助國夫人 Tainan Zhugou Furen ), the Holy Mother Who Follows the Will of Heaven ( 順天聖母 Shuntian Shengmu ), the Water-Margin Grandmother ( 臨水奶 Linshui Nai ), Mother Lady ( 夫人媽 Furen Ma ), etc. The pregnant also came to her statues, praying for a natural labor. Every year, on her birthday, there were many celebrations in temples dedicated to her.