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Emperor Wu Zhao and Her Pantheon of Devis, Divinities, and Dynastic Mothers$
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Norman Rothschild

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780231169387

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231169387.001.0001

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Wu Zhao as the Late Seventh-Century Avatar of Primordial Goddess Nüwa

Wu Zhao as the Late Seventh-Century Avatar of Primordial Goddess Nüwa

Chapter:
(p.25) One Wu Zhao as the Late Seventh-Century Avatar of Primordial Goddess Nüwa
Source:
Emperor Wu Zhao and Her Pantheon of Devis, Divinities, and Dynastic Mothers
Author(s):

N. Harry Rothschild

Publisher:
Columbia University Press
DOI:10.7312/columbia/9780231169387.003.0001

This chapter examines the role of mother-creator Nüwa in Wu Zhao's assemblage of female political ancestors. In Han mortuary iconography, Nüwa is often paired with a male divinity, her brother-husband Fuxi. Nüwa and Fuxi were worshipped as primordial creators, guardian spirits and “tutelary genii of the dead.” Nüwa's signature serves as a symbol of social organization, marking her not only as a creator goddess, but also as “a goddess of proportion and measurement,” vital to both architecture and hydro-engineering. This chapter considers Wu Zhao's efforts to resuscitate Nüwa, how she discovered a valuable political immediacy in this shadowy creator and mender of the heavens, and how she gained leverage and legitimacy by connecting herself to this mythic avatar. With the help of Wu Zhao's propagandists, Nüwa reemerged as a significant cultic figure who played an important role in helping legitimate and magnify the imperial authority of China's first and only female emperor.

Keywords:   political ancestors, Nüwa, Wu Zhao, divinity, goddess, legitimacy, avatar, China, female emperor, Fuxi

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