Who is the Queen Mother?

The Queen Mother of the West (西王母), the wife of the Jade Emperor, is a revered Taoist goddess.  While she is most commonly associated with Taoism, sacrifices were given to a “western mother”as far back as the fifteenth century BCE.  The Queen Mother is a very popular figure with the belief that she was the giver of longevity, bliss, and prosperity.  Her beliefs spread during the second century BCE, along with the opening of the Silk Routes from the northern to western parts of China.

Her Taoist name is Yaochi Jinmu(瑤池金母), or the Golden Mother of the Shining Lake. During the T’ang dynasty she was named: Chin mu yüan chün, The Primordial Ruler, Metal (Gold) Mother; Metal (Gold) Mother of Tortoise Mountain, She of the Nine Numina and the Grand Marvel; and the Perfected Marvel of the Western Florescence and the Ultimate Worthy of the Grotto Yin.  However most people refer to her as Queen Mother; Divine Mother or Amah.

An oracle during the Shang Dynasty (1766-1122 B.C.) first wrote of the Queen Mother on a bone inscription.  During this time, the Queen Mother was viewed by the people as a powerful force demanding rituals to stay satisfied.

Some of the earliest images of the Queen Mother date back to the Zhou Dynasty.   These unflattering images show Ximangmu (the Queen Mother) as a creature with the teeth of a tiger and the tail of a panther.   She was believed to send pestilence if she was unsatisfied with the behavior of humans.

The Queen Mother was soon adopted into the the Taoist belief system and transcended into a revered and powerful goddess of life and immortality and she was bestowed with celestial powers.

Typically shown while holding court in her palace on Mount Kunlan in Western China, the Queen Mother of the West is easily distinguished by her headdress adorned with peaches of immortality.  As a meeting place for the gods, her palace was thought to contain a cosmic pillar where humans and gods were able to communicate.  The Queen Mothers palace was typically occupied by female attendants and powerful goddesses.  Among her most distinguishable features of her palace were her orchards that grew the Peaches of Immortality.  These special peaches ripened only once every three thousand years.  The Queen Mother would serve the Heavenly Golden Peaches as a gift of immortality to her celestial guests.

The Queen Mother is the embodiment of Yin, the overseer of the female Transcendent, and the caretaker for all Taoist women, both perfected and aspiring.  It is no surprise that many women have an admiration for the Queen Mother.

References:

"Queen Mother of the West." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 2004. 3 August 2010. <http://www.enotes.com/topic/Queen_Mother_of_the_West>.

Author: 
Wu Ming