Chinese Dakini

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Female spiritual beings are often referred to, at least in the English translation of Chinese texts, as fairies or as angels or even, genii.  They may be addressed as 'Goddess' or referred to as one of the Immortals.

For example, in the Qing dynasty (18th century) Chinese classic tale, Hong Lou Meng, a novel about karma and love usually known in English as The Dream of the Red Chamber  < in Chapter 5, our hero, Pao-yu, is visited by the "Fairy" whose appearance is described in detail. 

Other English words used in translated texts like this are angel, spirit or geni

For an 18th-century view of the status and nature of Chinese female deities, an opening section of the novel is quoted here [bolding and italics are mine]:

On the banks of the Spirit River, in the western Heaven, beside the Stone of the three Existences, Past, Present and To Come, grew a blade of pearly crimson grass. It happened that the stone which was rejected by Nu Wa-Shi as useless, being gifted with power to wander at its own will, came one day to the Geni who warns in dreams; and the Geni, acquainted with its history, gave it a dwelling in the Palace of Crimson Mist, and named it the Divine Warden of the Palace of Crimson Mist. 

The Ruby Warden was constantly in the habit of wandering on the banks of the Spirit River. Here it met the Pearly Crimson Grass, in which it took a great interest and which it watered daily with the Dew of Heaven. Thus the grass was kept alive, until finally, having become permeated with the life giving essence of the Universe, and the Dew of Heaven, it threw off the form of grass and assumed the human shape, attaining only to the state of woman -- not to the full dignity of manhood

The wandering amulet stone, variously described as a jade or a ruby left behind by Nu Wa-shi is the wish-fulfilling jewel inscribed: PRECIOUS GEM OF SPIRITUAL PERCEPTION, followed by other mysterious lines of smaller writing.   In the tale, accompanied by a Buddhist priest or lama,  a family man called in this version, Shi Yin,  passes beyond a large stone arch on which is inscribed in large characters: 

THE SUPERNAL VOID:  REALM OF UNREALITY AND FABLE, while on either side were these two couplets: 

When unreality assumes a shape, the semblance still is false.  and  

When vacuity assumes form and place, it remains vacuity still

The choice of words in English eg. vacuity (more often called "Emptiness" nowadays) certainly reflects the underlying Buddhist doctrine that forms the foundation of this tragic tale.  

A more recent translation by Chi-Chen Wang (Doubleday,1959) has these English words (40-41) which leave no doubt as to the nature of the man, Pao-yu's experiences:

". . . there appeared before him, a fairy goddess . . .  . 

'I am the Goddess of Disillusionment.  I inhabit the Realm of Parting Sorrow in the Ocean of Regrets.' " 

Her realm is probably more accurately called, Great Void Illusion Land, and the inscriptions above its gate say: 

When the unreal is taken for the real, then the real becomes the unreal.   and   When non-existence is taken for existence, then existence becomes non-existence. 

This Red Lady is now much easier to recognize; she is well known to Buddhist practitioners! 

  • The etext in Chinese characters with Bowra's English translation 1998 by the Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia.  This site has only the preface and first chapter in Chinese with an English translation from The China Magazine.  The author is Xueqin Cao, the translator E. C. Bowra (published in Hong Kong: Noronha & Sons, 1868-1870.) 

Chinese papercut art depicting scenes from the Dream of Red of the Red Chamber.

Realm of Disillusion in Romantic Ballet

Myrta, Queen of the Wilis, in the early (1841) Romantic ballet-blanc, Giselle, rules a similar realm of Disillusionment:

" . . . [writer, Theophile] Gautier got his idea for the wilis from [poet] Heine, but where do these mythical creatures come from?
Meyer's Konverationslexikon defines Wiles or Wilis as female vampires, the spirits of betrothed girls who are jilted before their wedding night. According to Heine wilis came from a Slav legend of maidens who are engaged to be married but die before their wedding. They are unable to rest in their graves because they could not satisfy their passion for dancing when they were alive. They therefore gather on the highway at midnight to lure young men and dance them to their death. 

There is a Slave [sic] word 'vila' which means vampire. The plural is vile, and wilis is probably a Germanic pronunciation of that word as a 'w' in German is pronounced like a 'v'.  (Puccini's first opera is based on the same legend, in Italian Le Villi.)  In Serbia they were maidens cursed by God; in Bulgaria they were known as samovily, girls who died before they were baptized; and in Poland they are beautiful young girls floating in the air atoning for frivolous past lives."  ~

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