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Yaochi Jinmu, whose name is usually rendered as "queen mother of the west," appeared in the earliest stages of Chinese mythology and was a focus of intense religious devotion during the first few centuries of the present era. It is possible that she is mentioned in the oracle bone inscriptions of about 1500 BCE, but she appears with more certainty in the Zhuangzi (fourth century BCE) and later writings. Xi Wang Mu is described as one who had "attained the Dao,"

but nothing is known of her beginning or her end; she was said to dwell in the never-never land of the far west. In some sources she is described as a being of hybrid form. Usually her realm is pictured at the summit of a mountain called Kunlun, but there are also references to a cave residence. She is said to possess certain magical powers and to live in material splendor, surrounded by rare jewels. She may be accompanied by spirits, also of hybrid form, and Kunlun is sometimes described as a being protected by encircling waters, or as beyond human reach.

The queen was also credited with various cosmic powers. She may have controlled certain constellations, and she may have been able to maintain or to disrupt the rhythms that kept the universe in operation. She is also believed to have held the secret of the elixir of immortality, which she made available to suppliants in the form of a potion.

 

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