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Religions in China - Lishan laomu 驪山老母, the Old Lady from Mt. Lishan


Lishan laomu 驪山老母 "The old lady from Mt. Lishan" (also written 黎山) is a female immortal venerated by Daoist adherents. In the Song period 宋 (960-1279) encyclopedia Taiping guangji 太平廣記 her biography from the book Jixianxian 集仙傳 is recorded. In an uncertain time of antiquity the Daoist Li Quan 李筌 wandered around in the mountains collecting magic plants. He came to a cave dwelling at the Tiger Mouth Cliff 虎口岩 on Mt. Songshan 嵩山 where he found the scripture Huangdi yinfu jing 黄帝陰符經. He copied the several thousand new chapters without understanding its meaning. Years thereafter, at the beginning of the Qin period 秦 (221-206 BC) he came across Mt. Lishan were he encountered and old woman. Beside the road a tree trunk was burning, and the old woman said: "Fire grows out from wood. If disaster comes out it must be overcome." Li Quan was frightened because these were words he had read in the Yinfujing, and asked the old lady where she knew these words from. She answered that she had obtained the Yinfujing one thousand years ago. Thereupon she explained Li Quan the meaning of the book. When she had ended he invited her to a dinner but she gave him a gourd to ladle water from a well. At the well the gourd suddenly became so heavy that he was unable to lift it. The old lady had meanwhile disappeared and he found a lot of food at the place she had stood. This is how Li Quan found the Dao in rice grains, commented the Yinfujing and wrote the military treatise Taibaiyin jing 太白陰經.
In the Shiji 史記 and Hanshu 漢書 are some statements about the lady of Mt. Lishan. She was seen as a heavenly daughter (tianzi 天子, Hanshu 21 Lüli zhi 律曆志) or as a woman married to a western barbarian (rong 戎) chieftain named Xuxuan 胥轩 (?). Through this marriage it was able for the rulers of the Shang 商 (17th-11th cent. BC) or Zhou 周 (11th. cent.-221 BC) dynasties (the time is given with that period) to control the peoples in the west (Shiji 5 Qin benji 秦本紀).

Source: Qing Xitai 卿希泰 (ed. 1994), Zhongguo daojiao 中國道教 (Shanghai: Zhishi chubanshe), Vol. 3, pp. NNN.

August 3, 2010 © Ulrich Theobald · Mail