Tao of datinggoddess
The Quanzhen (Complete Perfection) School uses daogu (道姑, "ladies of the Dao") in reference to both convent nuns and devout laity (Despeux 2000: 384, 2008: 171).
Xiwang mu, the Queen Mother of the West, is the most prominent female Daoist divinity, although her traditions predated organized Daoist religions (Despeux 2008: 172).
Sources from the Warring States period (475-221 BCE) associate the Queen Mother with shamanistic traditions, such as her familiar the three-legged crow, and her peaches of immortality orchard (Despeux 2000: 386). 3rd century BCE Shanhaijing (Classic of Mountains and Seas) says, "In appearance, Queen Mother of the West looks like a human, but she has a leopard's tail and the fangs of a tigress, and she is good at whistling. She presides over the Catastrophes from the Sky and the Five destructive Forces." (tr.
Birrell 2000: 24) During the Han dynasty (206 BCE–220 CE), people believed that the Queen Mother could protect them from disease and death, and she became the central figure worshiped by a peasant cult that arose in Shandong and swept through the country in 3 BCE (Despeux and Kohn 2003: 27).
In the 4th century the Shangqing School recognized a woman, Wei Huacun (251-334), as the school's founder.
Her cults worshiped the Queen in different regions of China, especially Mount Heng in Hunan, Mount Hua in Shaanxi, and Mount Wuyi in Fujian.
The number of Daoist women decreased until the 12th century when the Complete Perfection School, which ordained Sun Bu'er as the only woman among its original disciples, put women in positions of power.
In the 18th and 19th centuries, women Daoists practiced and discussed nüdan (女丹, "women's neidan inner alchemy"), involving gender-specific practices of breath meditation and visualization.
Under the Six Dynasties, the Queen mother's cult was integrated into the pantheon of Shangqing (Highest Clarity) Daoism and she became one of the school's key goddesses, helping both sexes at this time.
Her worship peaked during the Tang period, when she emerged particularly as the protectress of women, and was revered as the representative of the female ideal (Cahill 1993).Descending onto the altar during séances, under the Ming and Qing she took on the title Wusheng Laomu (無生老母, Unborn Venerable Mother), and still remains a key goddess worshiped by women, especially in popular settings (Despeux 2000: 387).