The Queen Mother Of The West And The King Father Of The East

Eastern Han Dynasty
Beilin Museum, Xi'an

This Han Dynasty tomb relief provides a fascinating glimpse into the early, pre-Daoist, myths and legends of ancient China. A sun circle appears on the right, with a symbolic flying crow inside the medallion. In front of the sun medallion, the King Father of the East, Dongwangfu, sits upon his throne, a sun chariot, driven by a kneeling charioteer who holds the reins of three crows. The movement throughout is from east to west, consistent with the natural motion of the sun from dawn to dusk. In front of the sunbirds, a human-like figure flies or races above a tiger. Next is seen a frog, symbol of the moon; the hare, another moon-symbol; and then a pair of moon-hares, who pound out the elixir of immortality in a crucible, above a fox.

On the left, the seated Queen Mother of the West, Xiwangmu, is adored by birds, including a three-legged crow, and officials. To her left is a moon circle in which are inscribed a symbolic deer and frog. The resident goddess of Mount Kunlun, Xiwangmu was later promoted to a major role in the pantheon of Daoist Immortals.