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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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The Mother of Laozi and Wu Zhao

The Mother of Laozi and Wu Zhao

From One Grand Dowager to Another

(p.167) Nine The Mother of Laozi and Wu Zhao
Emperor Wu Zhao and Her Pantheon of Devis, Divinities, and Dynastic Mothers

N. Harry Rothschild

Columbia University Press

This chapter explores the role played by Mother Li, the mother of Daoist founder Laozi, in amplifying Wu Zhao's political authority. Du Guangting's tenth-century perspective shows that the mother of Laozi was a powerful Daoist divinity who filled multiple roles: world creator, mother-educator of Laozi, and transcendent divinity. These multiple roles—mother, demiurge, and divine goddess—would all prove important to the affiliation Wu Zhao sought with the mother of Laozi. This chapter considers the connection Wu Zhao contrived between herself and Mother Li and how, as Gaozong's coruler and grand dowager–regent, he utilized Mother Li's identity as progenitor (of the Li clan, the ruling family of the Tang dynasty) to situate herself symbolically as queen mother of the imperial house. It also discusses the various strategies Wu Zhao devised to exalt the mother of Laozi in ways that might redound upon her own political authority.

Keywords:   political authority, Laozi, Daoist divinity, goddess, Wu Zhao, Mother Li

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