Image and Role of the Queen Mother of the West in Han Grave Art
Keywords:Queen Mother of the West, Xiwangmu 西王母, yin-yang 陰陽, grave art, Han Dynasty
The present article is a detailed study of the image of an ancient Chinese goddess, The Queen Mother of the West, called Xiwangmu 西王母 in Chinese. In the mythological tradition, Xiwangmu is a goddess who possesses the elixir of immortality and dwells in the western paradise, on the magic mountain Kunlun 崑崙. While her image can be found in mural paintings, and on lacquered objects and bronze mirrors, it appears primarily in the form of relief images on the stones and bricks of grave chambers and temples in the Han (206 BCE–220 CE) grave complexes. The literary tradition reveals a multifunctional role of the mother, with her many attributes developing in accordance with the changing values of social and mythological concepts. The article concludes with a detailed discussion of her image and role within the wider cosmological context of Han grave art.
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