Yunü (Chinese: 玉女; pinyin: Yùnǚ; lit. 'Jade Girl or Jade Maiden') is a goddess in Chinese mythology and Chinese traditional religion who, along with her male counterpart Jintong (Golden Boy), are favored servants of the Jade Emperor and Zhenwudadi.[1] They are believed to serve as guides in the underworld and the protectors of houses and temples.

Statue of Yunü

LegendsEdit

Yunü and Jintong have appeared in several stories since the Song and Yuan dynasties and have became important figures in Chinese mythology. Specific examples are the southern opera version of the legend, Jintong and Yunü, and Yuan dynasty writer Jia Zhongming's zaju by the same name.[2] In the Avatamsaka Sutra, Jintong and Yunü seek enlightenment and are acolytes of the goddess Guan Yin. In this context, Yunü is called Longnü and Jintong is called Shancai Tongzi. According to the Shenyijing, Yunü and her companions loved to play touhu (投壺), a Chinese game in which arrows or darts are thrown into a vase.

In the classic Chinese novel Journey to the West, Yunü is a servant maid of the Jade Emperor in Heaven. She falls in love with a star god called Kui Mulang and decides to elope with him. However, she doesn't want to ruin Heaven's pureness, so she decides to reincarnate as a human. She enters the human world as Baihuaxiu (百花羞), the third princess of the Kingdom of Baoxiang (寶象國). Meanwhile, Kui Mulang also travels to Earth and waits for her, becoming a demon lord known as Yellow Robe. The demon kidnaps the princess (who has no memory of her existence as Yunü), marries her and they have two children.[3]

Some folktales say that Xue Dingshan and Fan Lihua were originally the Golden Boy and Jade Girl. The Jade Emperor was furious with them and wanted to punish them for breaking the celestial utensils. Fortunately, the Old Man of the South Pole begged for their mercy and was demoted to the mortal world.

In the Hanyi ji play, the protagonists Qi Liang and Meng Jiang are reincarnations of Jintong and Yunü.[4]

In most popular versions of The Butterfly Lovers, the protagonists Liang Shanbo and Zhu Yingtai are human reincarnations of Jintong and Yunü who are expelled from Heaven Court by Guanyin or the Jade Emperor for their sin and forced to live as a thwarted couple for three or seven generations before being reunited and restored to their original status.[5]

In popular cultureEdit

  • Yunü is a common designation for a beautiful woman or, in Daoism, for a fairy or immortal.
  • Literary works often refer to attractive and well-matched couples as a Jintong and Yunü.
  • Yunü is a common name for Usnea (nüluo, 女蘿), a species of lichen.
  • During the Spring Festival, pictures featuring Yunü and Jintong can be found on the doors of many households.
  • There are several mountain peaks bearing Yunü's name (Yunü feng 玉女峯), such as the Huashan Yünu (華山玉女), one in the Wuyi Mountains (武夷山), and another in Yuntai Mountains (云台山).

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ "金童 玉女的传说 少年修道的童男童女 - 神话传说网". Shenhuagushi (in Chinese).
  2. ^ ""金童玉女"故事是怎麼來的?". 雪花台灣 (in Chinese). 31 July 2018.}
  3. ^ "奎木狼、黄袍怪为何比牛郎织女幸福?". 知乎专栏 (in Chinese). 29 August 2017.
  4. ^ Chiu, Elena Suet-Ying (26 October 2020). Bannermen Tales (Zidishu): Manchu Storytelling and Cultural Hybridity in the Qing Dynasty. BRILL. ISBN 978-1-68417-089-0.
  5. ^ Cho, Sookja (8 March 2018). Transforming Gender and Emotion: The Butterfly Lovers Story in China and Korea. University of Michigan Press. ISBN 978-0-472-13063-4.

SourcesEdit

  • Li Jianping 李劍平, ed. (1998). Zhongguo shenhua renwu cidian 中國神話人物辞典 (Xi'an : Shanxi renmin chubanshe), 144.