Wang Mu Niang Niang as depicted on a painting (detail) by Xie Wenli.

Wang Mu Niang Niang, Queen Mother of the West, is the Chinese Tao goddess of life, fertility and immortality. Originally presented with the teeth of a tiger and as a goddess who brought plague and natural disaster she later reformed and for centuries has been known as a much more benign Tao deity. It is said she lives in Mount Kunlun; the western paradise, situated on the margin between heaven and earth, where the mythological peaches of immortality grow. The trees from which the peaches grow are said to only bear fruit every 3,000 years. When this happens the Queen is said to invite all the immortals to a peach banquet to celebrate her birthday and the day she became immortal. In most iconography she shown in human form, wearing a headdress adorned with hanging peaches, and sometimes her palace in the western paradise is also represented.

Wang Mu Niang Niang is known to be a kind goddess who sends couples babies. She is also known to be angry when couples wish for male children over female children, as was often the case in Chinese culture. She is frequently depicted as the embodiment of Yin and also quintessential femininity. She is believed to be the matriarchal figure who governs over all other goddesses, many of whom are said to live with her on Mount Kunlun. Historically, the goddess was held in high regard by Chinese women who did not fit in with the societal norm of a submissive women who always did as they were asked of by men. To these women she was almost a sort of mythological feminist role model, she was one of the most independent female deities.

These feminist attributes have continued Wang Mu Niang Niang’s popularity into the modern day. She is often featured in Chinese popular culture and is still worshipped and celebrated by many women across the globe who follow Taoism.

-Erin Sykes
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

 

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