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Divine Manifestations of Yin: Goddesses and Female Saints

  The Mother of the Dipper (Detail)
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The Dipper Mother (detail)
Qing dynasty,
18th century
Dehua porcelain
h. 24.8 cm
Asian Art Museum of San Francisco; Avery Brundage Collection
cat. no. 98


The Dipper Mother

Legend has it that many ages ago, a great queen vowed to give birth to children who would help to guide the movements of the Tao. One fine spring day, she disrobed and entered a pool to bathe. Suddenly, she felt "moved," and nine lotus buds rose from the pond. The lotus, a symbol borrowed from Buddhism, signifies purity and spiritual enlightenment since it rises from the mud (representing the physical impurities of the world) to become a brilliant flower. Each of these lotus buds opened to reveal a star, including the seven stars of the Northern Dipper (Big Dipper), one of the most important constellations in Taoism. Subsequently, this queen was deified, becoming known as the "Dipper Mother."

This porcelain sculpture of the Dipper Mother depicts her as a heavenly goddess holding the sun and moon in her upraised hands. Her remaining 16 hands grasp various ritual implements and weapons.

Like the Saintly Mother, Heavenly Immortal of the Eastern Peak, the Dipper Mother rose to prominence in the Ming dynasty. She is still worshiped today in special halls devoted to her at Taoist temples like the White Cloud Monastery, head of the Complete Realization sect in Beijing.




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