An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History, Literature and Art

Luo Shen 洛神, the Goddess of the River Luo

Jan 23, 2012 © Ulrich Theobald

Luo Shen 洛神, the "Goddess of the River Luo" was a deity in ancient China. She was also called Consort Mi 宓妃, as Cao Zhi's 曹植 (192-232 CE) rhapsody Luoshenfu 洛神賦 states. Li Shan 李善 (630-689) comments that she was the daughter of the mythical emperor Mi Xi 宓羲 (i.e. Fu Xi 伏羲). She drowned when crossing the river and was then transformed into a river deity.

The name Consort Mi is already mentioned in the elegy Li Sao 離騷 by Qu Yuan 屈原 (c. 343-c. 278 BCE). In the elegy Tianwen 天問, she is also called Luo Pin 雒嬪 "Lady of the River Luo" and is said to have been the wife of the Earl of the Yellow River 河伯. In Cao Zhi's rhapsody she is described as being of an utmost beauty and tenderness. There is also a Peking opera with the title of Luoshen 洛神.

Most famous is Gu Kaizhi's 顧愷之 (346-407) handscroll painting of the Goddess of River Luo.

Fig 1. The Goddess of River Luo
Detail from Gu Kaizhi's handscroll painting of the Goddess of River Luo. Source: British Museum. Click to enlarge.
Li Jianping 李劍平, ed. (1998). Zhongguo shenhua renwu cidian 中國神話人物辭典 (Xi'an: Shaanxi renmin chubanshe), 440.
Yuan Ke 袁珂, ed. (1985). Zhongguo shenhua chuanshuo cidian 中國神話傳說詞典 (Shanghai: Shanghai cishu chubanshe), 292.