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doumu: Who is Doumu in Chinese Mythology?

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Who is Doumu in Chinese Mythology?

Who is Doumu in Chinese Mythology?

Duomu is the heavenly goddess of Chinese cosmology. While her mythology is sparse, she represents the forces that make the whole of creation possible!

In the Chinese creation story, the primary gods are not necessarily the most powerful.

The Jade Emperor and the other gods who interacted with Earth were preceded by celestial deities. These primordial beings are often shown in human form, but are more properly thought of as cosmic forces.

The heavenly deities have few myths because they are not human-like characters. Their importance is as the agents of creation.

Tian, who is known by many other names, is the supreme creator god of the heavens. The chief gods are thought to be aspects of his divine power in more human forms.

Tian is not alone in the heavens, however. He is joined by Doumu.

Also called Tianhou, among other names, she is often referred to as the mother of the Big Dipper. Her real function, however, goes far beyond just creating a grouping of stars.

Doumu represents a necessary balance to Tian. Without both of them, the universe would never be able to exist.

Doumu: The Goddess of Heaven

In Taoism, Doumu is similar to many other goddesses.

In art, she stands out because of her many arms. She is generally shown with sixteen arms.

One sent of hands remains clasped in prayer, but her other fourteen hands hold different religious symbols. The sheer number of symbols she shows illustrates her divinity.

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She has a kindly, round face. This is in keeping with her portrayal as a gentle and loving figure.

There are few myths that feature Doumu. Her most notable relationship is as the mother of the Big Dipper.

As a celestial deity, Doumu was born when Pangu created the universe. She then gave birth to nine sons of her own.

These were the Jiuhuangshen, or the Nine God Kings. They represented the nine stars, two of which are not visible to the naked eye, that make up the Big Dipper constellation.

Doumu’s commonly used name refers to her as the “Mother of the Big Dipper,” but she had many other names as well.

She was also known as Doumu Yuanjin in places where the constellation was thought of as a chariot. This means the “Noble Ancestress of the Great Chariot.”

According to some interpretations of the legend, she may have also played a part in the birth of the Yellow Emperor.

Huangdi’s mother was magically impregnated when she was struck by lightning. This bolt, according to legend, came from the center of the Big Dipper.

Doumu’s true importance, however, was not as a mother or possible creator of one of the five emperors. Instead, it is as a celestial deity.

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Doumu is the female counterpart of Doufu, a name for the God of Heaven. She is, essentially, the same being in a feminine form.

Known by name names, including Tian, the God of Heaven is the supreme god of Chinese religion. Many less remote figures, including the Five Emperors, are thought of as physical incarnations of his divine being.

As his feminine form, Doumu shares his connection to creation. She also provides important balance, keeping even the heavens balanced between male and female.

As the feminine counterpart of Tian, she is sometimes called Tianhou, “The Queen of Heaven.”

My Modern Interpretation

There are few myths about Doumu and the God of Heaven because they did not represent personalities or physical concepts in the way many other gods and goddesses did.

As Tian and Tianhou they were not human-like deities but divine energies. Tian was not a creator god who worked with his hands, but the force of heaven acting as a source of creation.

As a primal force, this supreme god needed a female companion.

The gods of Taoism did not have female counterparts simply to explain how the reproduced or make them seem more human. In fact, Doumu and Doufu are not always said to be the progenitors of the same groups of beings.

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Instead, the dual male and female entities were needed to maintain balance and order.

One of the fundamental principles of Taoism is the concept of balance. Often represented by yin and yang, this balance is thought to permeate all aspects of the world.

Yin and yang are forces of light and dark, hot and cold, or order and disorder. They are both opposite and complementary forces.

For the universe to operate, these forces of duality must be kept in balance. And abundance or one or lack of the other would destroy the balance and risk chaos.

Yin and yang also often represent the duality of male and female. They are opposites that must balance one another to have harmony.

The heavens, therefore, could not be ruled by a male deity alone. While Tian was the supreme god, he needed a female counterpart to maintain harmony.

If the heavens were not balanced, nothing that came from them could be either. Without Doumu as the feminine form of Doufu, creation could never have occurred.

Thus, Doumu was less often mentioned in legend but as just as important in the creation and functioning of the universe.

As the feminine aspect of the divine, she was often considered to be less than her partner, but also represented a more loving figure.

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Some texts, for example, refer to her as Tianmu, or “The Heavenly Mother.” Although there are not myths that show her as maternal, as the feminine force of creation she was seen as a maternal figure.

As the female counterpart of Tian, she was also said to have physical manifestations.

Just as the Five Emperors were said to be incarnations of Tian, the goddesses associated with them were said to be aspects of Doumu. Thus furthered the traits that people imagined in her as a heavenly queen.

She is closely identified, for example, with the goddess Xiwangmu, the keeper of the peaches that grant immortality to the other gods. As the wife of the Jade Emperor, she is the highest ranking goddess of the more human-like pantheon.

While Doumu and Tian are largely abstract figures, Xiwangmy and the Jade Emperor are accessible. They have mythologies, legends, and family ties that made them more relatable to human worshippers.

In Summary

Doumu is a Taoist goddess who shares many titles with other goddesses. She is most often known as the Mother of the Big Dipper, but is also referred to as the Queen of Heaven or the Heavenly Mother.

She is a celestial goddess. As such, there are few specific myths associated with her.

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She is the female counterpart of Tian, or Doufu, the God of Heaven.

These deities are often depicted with human forms that emphasize their divinity, but unlike later gods they do not take these forms in their myths. They are better understood as the primal forces behind creation.

Doumu is less often mentioned than Tian, but because of the beliefs of Taoism she is no less important.

One of the central tenants of the Tao is the idea of balance between forces of duality. Concepts like light and dark, domestic and wild, and fire and water must exist in balance.

Yin and yang are often described as feminine and masculine forces. Male and female is one of the most important dualities to maintain a balance of.

In this system, therefore, it would be impossible for a supreme male god to act alone. Without a female being to counterbalance him, the heavens themselves would be out of balance and slide into chaos.

Doumu may not be a particularly important goddess in specific myths, but she is vital in the concept of cosmic balance and harmony. Without her femininity to offset Tian, the act of creation could never have happened.

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Mike Greenberg, PhD

My name is Mike and for as long as I can remember (too long!) I have been in love with all things related to Mythology. I am the owner and chief researcher at this site. My work has also been published on Buzzfeed and most recently in Time magazine. Please like and share this article if you found it useful.

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