The Queen Mother of the West
Origin of the Queen Mother of the West
The Queen Mother of the West ( 西王母 Xiwangmu ) is popularly called Auntie Queen Mother ( 王母娘娘 Wangmu Niangniang ), Granny of the West ( 西姥 Xilao ), Queen Mother ( 王母 Wangmu ), Golden Mother ( 金母元君 Jinmu Yaunjun ) and Golden Mother Primordial Sovereign ( 白玉龜台九靈太金母元君 Baiyu Guitai Jiuling Taizhen Jinmu Yuanjun ). Her complete names are 'Nine-Soul Supreme Perfect Golden Mother and Primordial Sovereign of the Jade Tortoise Platform' ( 太光九靈龜台金母元君 Taiguang Jiuling guitai Jinmu Yuanjun ), 'Nine-Phoenix Supreme Perfect Queen Mother of the West of the Jade Tortoise Platform', and 'Primordial Sovereign Golden Mother of the Supreme Numinous White Rays of the Tortoise Platform". The name 'Queen Mother of the West' was first seen in the Book of Mountains and Seas ( 山海經 Shanhai Jing ). West is the direction, and Queen Mother the name of the deity. The Queen Mother of the West is a condensation of the Subtlest Vital Breath of the Western Essence from the Vital Breath of Dao of the Original Chaos. The deity, surnamed Hou, is allocated the Western direction. The Intimate Biography of the Wu Emperor of the Han Dynasty says that 'when she entered a hall, the Queen Mother of the West wore bright gold ornaments, numinous cloud ribbons, a shadow-cutting sword, a supreme flower hair bun, a hat of supreme perfection, and black-brimmed phoenix-patterned shoes. She looked about thirty and was extremely beautiful." The Wu Emperor of Han accepted her instruction and orders with great respect. The figure of a human boy with tiger teeth and a cat's tail, mentioned in the Book of Mountains and Seas ( 山海經 Shanhai Jing ), was an envoy of the Queen Mother of the West and of the White Tiger spirit of the West, but was not the Queen Mother of the West herself.
Mistress of Female Immortals
As the ancestor of Female Immortals, the Queen Mother of the West lives in the Kunlun Mountains, in a city of one thousand miles with twelve jade mansions, green light halls, nine-storey primordial chambers, and purple and green elixir chambers. To the left is the Jade Lake, and to the right are the Green Mountains. According to the Jottings of Rarities and Miscellaneous Stories ( 博物志 Bowu Zhi ), there are peach trees by the Jade Lake which "bear fruit once every 3000 years". All women who have attained immortality in the three realms and ten directions, in Heaven or in the human world, are under the rule of the Queen Mother of the West.
Nourishing All Things
The Primordial Lord of Heaven ( 元始天尊 Yuanshi Tianzun ) granted the Queen Mother of the West the Register of the Tortoise Mountain's Nine Rays of the Original Unity of Heaven ( 方天元統龜山九光之籙 Fangtian Yuantong Guishan Jiuguang Zhi Lu ), in order to command all spirits and perfected saints, and put her in charge of the attendants of all heavens and the inspection of higher saints. The Queen Mother of the West and the Grandpa King of the East ( 東王公 Dongwang Gong ) are parents of the Yin and Yang Vital Breaths of Dao ( 道氣陰陽 Daoqi Yinyang ). They administer the two Vital Breaths together and nourish all things in Heaven and Earth. When the Yellow Emperor battled with the cruel Chiyou, who could cause wind and rain and puff out fog and smoke, the Queen Mother of the West sent the Mysterious Maiden of the Nine Heavens ( 九天玄女 Jiutian Xuannu ) to teach the Yellow Emperor the Strategy of the Three Palaces, Five Agents and Yin and Yang ( 三宮五意陰陽之略 Sangong Wuyi Yinyang Zhilue ), the Dipper Steps of Hidden Time and the Six Rens of Supreme Oneness ( 太乙遁甲六壬步斗之術 Taiyi Dunjia Liuren Budou Zhi Shu ), and the Writ of the Five Talismans and Five Victories of the Numinous Treasure ( 靈寶五符五勝之文 Lingbao Wufu Wusheng Wen ). Then the Yellow Emperor defeated Chiyou at middle Ji. After Yu Shun succeeded to the throne, the Queen Mother of the West sent envoys to grant him a white jade ring and a map, and Shun thus expanded the Yellow Emperor's nine prefectures to twelve perfectures.
Worship in Temples
Owing to the story of the Queen Mother of the West giving Emperor Wu big 3000-year peaches recorded in the Intimate Biography of Emperor Wu, the Queen Mother of the West's Peach Banquet ( 蟠桃會 Pantao Hui ) is well-known and popular among the people. The Queen Mother of the West, always seen as a symbol of longevity for Daoists and ordinary people, is the major divinity of the Golden Register Ritual for Prolonging Life ( 金籙延壽道場 Jinlu Yanshou Daochang ). On the Queen Mother of the West's holy birthday, the 3rd day of the 3rd lunar month or the 18th of the 7th month, Daoists, especially women, gather in temples to hold birthday celebration rituals for the Queen Mother of the West and to pray for their own health and longevity.
Belief in the Golden Mother
The Golden Mother is also called the Golden Mother of the Jasper Lake, or the Queen Mother of the West. She is frequently called Auntie Queen Mother among the common people.
The Queen Mother of the West is an important deity in ancient Chinese legends. She was first recorded in the Book of Mountains and Seas. In the Han Dynasty, she was promoted to a higher position and connected to Immortality beliefs. The Han Daoist Book of the Master of Huainan mentioned that Yi asked the Queen Mother of the West for the drug of Immortality. But after he got it, his wife Chang'e stole it. After Chang'e swallowed the medicine, she flew to the moon. This story explains why the Queen Mother of the West was closely connected to the belief in Immortality. The Queen Mother of the West and the King Father of the East ( 東王公 Dongwang Gong ), surrounded by flying winged-people, appear together in the Han copper mirror. This signifies that she had become a center for those who aspire to Fly to Immortality ( 羽化登仙 Yuhua Dengxian ).
The Queen Mother of the West holds a high position in Daoism. Her position got higher after the masses gave her new interpretations.
The Queen Mother of the West has always been an important deity since Daoism came into being. Ge Hong's Book of Pillow Secrets says that the highest deity is the Primordial Celestial King, i.e., the Perfected Pangu. He existed before the creation of Heaven and Earth. After that, he lived in the center of Heaven -- the Jade Capital Mountain. The Vital Breath of Dao contracted and formed another deity, the Primordial Holy Mother. The Fushang Emperor and the Queen Mother of the West were their descendants. In later times, the Highest Clarity tradition regarded her highly and produced Daoist registers related to her. The Collected Records of Immortals ( 集仙錄 Jixian Lu ) states that the Queen Mother of the West is the Nine-Soul Great Sublimity Golden Mother of the Tortoise Mountain ( 九靈太妙龜山金母 Jiuling Taimiao Guishan Jinmu ), and is also called the Great Void Ninefold Glory Golden Mother of the Tortoise Platform ( 太虛九光龜台金母元君 Taixu Jiuguang Guitai Jinmu Yuanjun ). She was born out of the Most Perfect Vital Breath of the Eastern Essence ( 先天西華至妙之氣 Xiantian Xihua Zhimiao Zhiqi ), and works together with the King Father of the East, who was born out of the Most Sublime Pre-Existent Vital Breath of the Western Essence ( 東華至真之氣 Donghua Zhizhen Zhiqi ), to manage the two vital breaths of yin and yang. She dwells at the capital Kunlun Mountain. The Primordial Celestial Emperor awarded her the Register of the Nine Glories of Turtle Mountain ( 方天元統龜山九光之籙 Fangtian Yuantong Guishan Jiuguang Zhilu ) and enabled her to summon all the spirits. All the female Immortals in Heaven and on Earth, in the Three Realms and Ten Directions are under her authority. So she is generally regarded as the leader of Female Immortals.
Belief in the Queen Mother of the West has lasted for two thousand years, and has spread all over China. Queen Mother temples and halls are very popular. There are many Queen Mother temples in Guangdong Province where other female Immortals are also enshrined. One of them is the Golden Flower Lady ( 金花夫人 Jinhua Furen ), who is in charge of childbirth. Many people worship her to pray for children. Belief in the Golden Flower Lady has now spread to Southeast Asia, following the flow of Chinese migrants. Since the Ming and Qing dynasties, belief in the Queen Mother of the West has changed somewhat among the common masses, with some people believing in the Unborn Venerable Mother ( 無生老母 Wusheng Laomu ) and regarding her as the highest goddess. This has influenced folk belief in the Queen Mother of the West, and led to the formation of other beliefs in some sects.
Belief in the Golden Mother has its own tradition in Taiwan. Its theogony is similar to that of Daoism. Belief in the Queen Mother of the West has split into two traditions since the Qing Dynasty; one is the Daoist tradition, the other is the folk tradition. The Daoist tradition retains her former position in Daoist theogony while the folk tradition is less systematic and it is not limited by Daoist theogony. The existence of Charity Halls ( 慈善堂 Cishantang ) all over Taiwan is a sign of the spread of Golden Mother beliefs in Taiwan.
According to the records of the Biography of Emperor Mu ( 穆天子傳 Mutianzi Zhuan ), people believe that the Heavenly Pool (Lake Tianchi) in Xinjiang is the Jasper Lake. So there are pilgrimages to Lake Tianchi to worship the Queen Mother of the West.