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Xiang Jun 湘君 and Xiang Furen 湘夫人, Goddesses of River Xiang

Sep 9, 2012 © Ulrich Theobald

Xiang Jun 湘君 and Xiang Furen 湘夫人 were the "Ladies" or Goddesses of the River Xiang 湘 in Chinese mythology. The Ladies of the River Xiang were daughters of Emperor Yao 堯 and wives of his successor Shun 舜 (You Shun er fei 有舜二妃 "the two consorts of Shun").

According to legend, Shun died in the southern region of Cangwu 蒼梧, and his wives died in the region of the River Xiang, a tributary to the Yangtze River flowing through the province of Hunan. They were buried there and became local deities.

The elegy collection Jiuge 九歌 "Nine Songs" of the Chuci 楚辭 "Southern Poetry" includes two poems referring to these deities, one called Xiang Jun and one Xiang Furen.

The history book Shiji 史記 narrates a story how the First Emperor of Qin 秦始皇 (r. 246-210 BCE) travelled through the region. When attempting to cross the River Xiang he was impeded to do so by a violent storm. Enraged about the local deities' insubordinance he had devastated the grove around their shrine.

The term Xiang Jun sometimes refers to both persons, like in the Shiji, but can also be used for the older of the two exclusively, while the younger is called Xiang Furen. The name of the older sister is in the book Lienüzhuan 列女傳 given as E Huang 娥皇, that of the younger as Nü Ying 女英.

Yuan Ke 袁珂, ed. (1985). Zhongguo shenhua chuanshuo cidian 中國神話傳說詞典 (Shanghai: Shanghai cishu chubanshe), 149, 394.