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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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Ur-Mothers Birthing the Zhou Line

Ur-Mothers Birthing the Zhou Line

Jiang Yuan and Wu Zhao

(p.95) Five Ur-Mothers Birthing the Zhou Line
Emperor Wu Zhao and Her Pantheon of Devis, Divinities, and Dynastic Mothers

N. Harry Rothschild

Columbia University Press

This chapter explores the role of the dynastic mother Jiang Yuan in Wu Zhao's pantheon of female divinities. Both before and after Wu Zhao, there is evidence that Jiang Yuan was widely recognized as the first or foremost ancestress. Jiang Yuan was one of the wives of Ku, one of the legendary Five Emperors of remote antiquity. She divinely birthed Hou Ji, the first ancestor of the Ji clan that ruled the Zhou. In the collective biographies of the wives of emperors contained in Sima Qian's Records of the Grand Historian, Jiang Yuan is portrayed as a redoubtable ancestress who played an essential role in the rise to power of the Zhou dynasty. Jiang Yuan rather than Hou Ji was the culture hero who elevated ancient China from a primitive to an agrarian society. Wu Zhao celebrated her connection with this early ancestress by inaugurating the Great Footprint era in 701 and by noting her kinship ties to Jiang Yuan and the Ji clan.

Keywords:   female divinities, Jiang Yuan, Wu Zhao, ancestress, Hou Ji, Ji clan, Zhou dynasty, China, Great Footprint

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