Queen Mother of the West

936 words | 4 page(s)

The roles of women and femininity as depicted in the Queen Mother of the West and “Declarations of the West” were unique and individualistic. The Daoist movement emerged in the latter part of the 4th Century that set the stage for a redefining of the existing Daoist religion that centered on the Way of the Celestial Masters. This new version of Daoism introduced the ideology that higher deities existed and this was revealed to Yang Xi through visits from the higher deities. He shared his visions with families who bought into this new wave ideology and began thinking outside of the box. Yang had revealed certain deities that were considered “Perfected or True Ones” (Bokenkamp 176) because of their immortal characteristics. Many of these deities were thought to be female inhabitants of the Kuhlun Mountain; a mystical place formed in the West that resided inside of the Queen Mother’s court.

Women of this time as described by Yang were viewed as goddesses who were necessary for the completion of rites of spirit-marriages performed that transcended into the state of Perfection. This was illustrated in Yang Xi’s personal account of a spiritual marriage to Consort An, a prominent celestial Perfected being, who proposed to Yang Xi, which was unheard of among society of that day. Although this type of marriage was resigned to the Yang Xi’s imagination, it closely mirrored traditional marriages of the 4th Century and paved the way for the advancement of the new Daoist movement that allowed for marriages of this nature. To that end, marriages were often the result of males and females having a certain liberties in choosing their intended mates. Females in particular were given more freedoms that those of later generations. The higher-born a female was afforded her even more freedom in selecting her perfect mate. Historically, Chinese women turned to Taoism to escape the deep oppression often found in Confucian society. Women typically served alongside men in many roles such as nuns and teachers. In monasteries, women and men were seen as equals with the exception of the hats they wore which differentiated them. In the Perfected Consort realm, male and female roles were somewhat reversed. Women made advances towards men and spearheaded decisions. Men were relegated to a position of submission in all interactions. According to Yang Xi, his goddess initiated contact, going to visit him at his chamber while bearing gifts, and even making physical contact with him. The symbolism as to the power women possessed in that day and especially over the male species.

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The Queen Mother of the West is described as “the incarnate wondrousness of the innermost power of the west, the ultimate venerable of all-pervading of yin-energy” (Kohn 56). The Taoist religion touts the art of Perfection which can only be achieved through transformation of perfected energy. The Queen Mother of the West possesses the highest degree of yin spiritual power a being can hold. Legend has it that she was once a nonbeing that existed in spirit form and took on bodily form upon gaining energy from the Tao. She is considered the “origin of the ultimate yin” (Kohn 56). This gives her power to rule over all of the West. She is the mother of all mothers who nurtures all beings whether spiritual or earthly. She is the most beautifully adorned with a stunning headdress and ornaments on her clothing. She has been granted power and control by the Heavenly King of Primordial Beginning over all perfected immortals and sages of the world. She manages all covenants and determines the extent of people’s faith (Kohn 59).

One of the key roles the Queen Mother of the West held was to oversee and edit at will the “sacred scriptures in heaven” (Kohn 59). She also had the duty of protecting the other sacred scriptures found in the Highest Clarity and the sacred texts. She was overseer of all things that were sacred and immortal and had the sole ability and responsibility to command those in her control to carry out her wishes as needed.

In both texts, the role of women and femininity is characterized as being strong, powerful, controlling, and ruling over all things immortal and earthly. They existed between the spiritual and worldly realms. Women were seen as special, gifted primordial beings that exemplified their prominent place and significance giving credence to their reason for existence. In the texts, women were placed on a pedestal and were viewed as superior beings to the male. The depiction of the Queen Mother of the West had a familiar semblance to the same level of power as that of God to describe her importance and value. Although she is considered an immortal being it is interesting how the Taoists’ parallel the reverence of women to God Almighty.

Beyond that Taoism uses feminine imagery to represent how the universe works as a whole. The main tenet of Taoism refers to women as the mother of the universe or mother of all things. It holds firm to the traditional feminine characteristics, traits, and values of softness, feminism, and non-confrontational but places women above men in its quest to acknowledge the vast mysteries found within the universe. The religion’s core theme is promoting the notion that the weak will overcome the strong. Its rich imagery depicts this by using feminine figures and characteristics to demonstrate the power of the universe that comes from both planes existing between immortality and mortality.

  • Bokenkamp, Stephen R. Traces of Transcendence. Berkley: University of California Press. 1996. Print.
  • Kohn, Livia. The Taoist Experience: An Anthology. New York: New York Press. 1993. Print.

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