Temple to the Mother of the Dragon of the Bai

ethnic china

Temple to the Mother of the Dragon of the Bai

Everyone who visits the ancient city of Dali goes to see the famous Three Pagodas, as it is one of the most famous monuments of the city and all of Yunnan, but very few know that right in the village next door,  just 100 meters to the north, there is a small village that has as its Benzhu deity (protector of the village) someone very special. The Mother of the Dragon. This is her myth as circulated among the Bai.

The Dragon Mother was originally a poor girl who lived in the Green Peach village. Once she went to the bush to cut firewood and saw a green peach, so she picked it and ate it. Unexpectedly, she became pregnant. Months later she gave birth to the child, and abandoned him in the mountain. Later, she went to the mountain to look for the abandoned child, and saw that the child had grown, for a large snake had brought food to feed it.

 So the woman took the boy home and raised him. Soon the son grew up to be twelve years old, and he used to follow his mother to work in the mountains, and when he was thirsty, he would go to a pond called the Dragon Pond to drink from it.

One day, while the boy was drinking at the Dragon Pond, he felt that the water was a little warm and said, «Will the dragon be sick?» A moment later, he saw a giant come out of the pond who asked him if he could cure the dragon.

The boy said, «Let’s try.» Then the waters of the pond split in the middle separating it into two sections, with crystal-like stairs appearing in the middle under the pond. The boy then went down with the giant to the dragon’s palace, and saw the Dragon King groaning behind a curtain of pearls. The boy took from his chest the herbs he had gathered from the mountains and offered them to the Dragon King, who ate them and was immediately cured.

The Dragon King offered him countless jewels as a reward, but the boy refused to accept anything, saying that he would only stay in the Dragon Palace for a few more days. So the Dragon King kept him as his guest for a while.

 One day, the boy saw a yellow dragon dress in the palace, and secretly tried it on. Suddenly lightning flashed and thunder sounded, and he realized that his body had changed to become a yellow dragon.

The Dragon King was angry with him for being disobedient, and since just then there was a black dragon that had blocked the passage below, causing the Dali plain to flood, he asked him to expel the black dragon to redeem himself.

Ever the yellow dragon the boy fought the Black Dragon, with the result that it broke one of his horns and damaged one of his eyes.  After losing the battle, the Black Dragon ran to the Tiansheng Bridge, rushed down a hole and fled. Then the flood in Dali subsided.

The boy then transformed into a small snake and crawled from the green grass to the Linshui Pavilion, where he became the god who controlled Erhai Lake, dwelling there for a long time. In gratitude to him for eliminating the floods, the people built a shrine to the god of Erhai Lake and honored his mother as the Mother of the Dragon.

This exaltation of the Mother of the Dragon actually combines the Bai’s respect for female deities, for among all their gods the most revered is Guanyin, with hundreds of temples in their villages, with the cult of the dragon, whose action regulating the waters is so necessary for their agriculture.

To cite this post: Ceinos-Arcones, Pedro, "Temple to the Mother of the Dragon of the Bai," in Ethnic China, 7 febrero 2021, https://ethnic-china.com/temple-to-the-mother-of-the-dragon-of-the-bai/.

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