An Exploration of the Queen Mother of the West from the Perspective of Comparative Mythology

In: Journal of Chinese Humanities

Constant interactions among cultures make it possible to conduct cross-cultural studies on the myth of the Queen Mother of the West 西王母. Since the original manuscript of the Classic of Mountains and Seas [Shanhaijing 山海經] served as the expository writing of the now lost Map of Mountains and Seas [Shanhaitu 山海圖], there is reason to believe that it contains information on early depictions of the goddess. By revealing the symbolism at work in those descriptions and by consulting a wide range of ethnographic data, it becomes possible to reconstruct her primeval form. The Queen Mother of the West, once regarded as the Chinese version of the prehistoric Great Mother, was seen as the goddess embodying both death and regeneration. However, after the rise of the patriarchal system, the original Queen Mother of the West slowly fell into obscurity and was ultimately relegated to the subordinate status of a spouse for the Jade Emperor [yuhuang 玉皇].

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  • 3

    Wu Han 吳晗“Xi Wang Mu yu Xirong: Xi Wang Mu yu Kunlun shanzhiyi 西王母與西 戎:西王母與昆侖山之一 [The Queen Mother of the West and the Xirong: The Queen Mother of the West and the Kunlun Mountain],” Qinghuazhoukan 6 (1931).

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  • 5

    Fang Shiming 方詩銘“Xi Wang Mu chuanshuo kao 西王母傳說考 [A Study of the Queen Mother of the West’s Legends],” Dongfangzazhi 14 (1946).

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  • 14

    Ibid.7.

  • 16

    Ibid.338.

  • 20

    HaoShanhaijing jianshu 34.

  • 23

    Ibid.33.

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    Zhang Jingguo 張敬國“Anhui Hanshanxian Ling jia tan yizhi di wu ci fajue de xin faxian 安徽含山縣凌家灘遺址第五次發掘的新發現 [New Discoveries during the Fifth Excavation in the Lingjiatan Ruins (Hanshan County, Anhui)],” Kaogu 3 (2008).

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  • 27

    Lü Wei 呂微“Kunlun yuyishiyuan 崑崙語義釋源 [A Semantic Approach to Kunlun’s Origins],” in Zhongguo shenhua xue wenlun xuancui 中國神話學文論選粹 [A Selection of Essays on Chinese Mythology] ed. Ma Changyi 馬昌儀 (Beijing: Zhongguo guangbo dianshi chubanshe1994) 504.

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  • 29

    HuangShijieshidazongjiao6.

  • 31

    GimbutasThe Living Goddesses195.

  • 33

    GimbutasThe Living Goddesses3.

  • 34

    Riane EislerThe Chalice and the Blade: Our History Our Future (Cambridge: Harper & Row1987); trans. Cheng Zhimin 程志民 as Shengbei yu jian 聖杯與劍 (Beijing: Shehui kexue wenxian chubanshe 2009) 1.

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