Apsaras are Chinese spirits or celestial beings who fly with ribbons of energy rather than wings. Apsaras frame sacred icons of divine images, including Kuan-yin‹She Who Hears the Cries of the World. Buddhism traveled from India to China along the Silk Road.
Collagraph plates. 1987. Lydia Ruyle


Chang E is the moon Goddess. The gnarled pine tree and the blossoming plum tree are symbols of the cycle of the waxing and waning moon and life. The pine tree epitomizes longevity, steadfastness and self-discipline.The plum blossoms represent spring, innocence, sensuality and good luck. Swirling clouds of energy surround Change E.
Fan painting on silk, 1350/1400, late Yuan or early Ming, Art Institute of Chicago


Doumu is the Dipper Mother of the group of stars in Ursa Major, the constellation of the Great Bear. Her sixteen arms hold ritual items including both the sun and the moon in the top two arms. She sits on a lotus throne. Snakes of energy fall from her shoulders. Offerings of rice are given to Doumu as the Mother of Measure to ensure longevity and affluence.
Source: Dehua porcelain sculpture, 18th Century, Asian Art Museum of San Francisco

Kuan-yin, She who listens to the cries of the world, carries a vessel of water and a willow symbolizing new growth and flexibility. Kuanyin travels with traders along the Silk Road as well as the sea routes to Southeast Asia, Korea and Japan. Her eleven heads are a Japanese depiction of her power to look out for and save souls in the world of heaven, the world of the sky and the world of the earth. The banner background is a field of swirling Chi energy clouds often featured in Chinese art. The yin feminine tiger and the yang masculine dragon decorate the borders.
Source: Bronze sculpture, 703 CE, Tokyo National Museum
Background: Ordination Scroll of Empress Zhang, Ming Dynasty, 1493CE, San Diego Museum of Art



Nu Gua creates the world as a serpent Goddess. She is on a silk funerary banner which tells the story of the life, death and rebirth of Lady Dai. The tree of life and seven suns grow from Nu Gua. Two of her animal spirits are the crow for death in the sun and the toad for rebirth in the moon. Nu Gua created humans from clay which she baked in the oven. Some were overdone accounting for the black race and some were underdone accounting for the white race. Nu Gua invented the mouth organ and the flute. On the bottom is the Tao symbol of Yin Feminine and Yang Masculine.The Pa Kua Eight Diagrams, also known as the I Ching, is a Chinese system for accessing the intuitive energies of chi.
Source: Funerary silk painting, Han dynasty tomb of Lady Dai, 2nd century, Mawangdui. Changdu


Nu Gua & Fu Xi lived as brother and sister, once upon a time, in the Kunlun sacred mountains of the west. They sent up two clouds of smoke which united in the sky on the advice of the oracle who said it was a sign and their duty to marry. Nu Gua, who can repair and smelt things, holds a compass and Fu Xi holds a square measure signifying sound customs.
Stone Carving, Han Dynasty from Feng Yunpeng & Feng Yunyuan, Shi suo (Research on Stone Carvings)

Water and Moon
sits in a relaxed regal pose on her sacred mountain the Potalaka which is her mythological home and pilgrimage island, Pıu-tıo Shan off the coast of Ningbo. By journeying to sacred places, Chinese pilgrims seek to receive blessings and a vision of the divine. Water-moon Kuan-yin first appears in the Buddhist caves of Dunhuang. Images of her then spread throughout China. The icon on this banner is a large sculpture of Kuan-yin who resides in a glorious shrine room at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City. Kuan-yin loves visitors and pilgrims.
Painted wood sculpture, 11th-12th century, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City


White robed, son bringing Kuan-yin is both a fertility goddess and a meditative icon. She represents the teaching of emptiness and serenity of meditative states within the walls of monasteries and within ourselves. Chanting her sutra miraculously brought sons to the learned, the common folk and the Empress Dowager Li. Kuanyin sits on a lotus throne on her island Potolaka. Willow grows around her reaching for water and clouds, a pure lotus flowers from the dark earth below. Sacred bats in the frame are symbols of five blessings: old age, wealth, health, love of virtue and natural death. The Chinese characters are Kuan-yinıs name.
Stele, 1049-1100 CE, Li-tai Kuan-yin pao-hsiang ming-hua,vol. 2, no. 144


Xiwangmu is the Queen Mother of the West. Her home is the Kunlun mountain range in western China. She sits under the dome of heaven on her dragon / tiger throne presiding over your soulıs return to her at death. Her sacred animals are below her and include: the nine tailed fox for cunning and longevity, the three legged crow for death, the toad/frog for rebirth, and the rabbit holding sacred mushrooms for experiencing altered states of consciousness. Spiraling clouds of energy surround the queen and her spirits.
Tomb tile, Han Dynasty, 2nd Century, Sichuan Provincial Museum, Chengdu

Kakasya is a dakini, a sky walker or messenger who moves through space. Dakinis are feminine energy that penetrates emptiness and engages the whole being in transformation. There are three forms of dakinis. Peaceful dakinis transform ignorance due to blocks or being asleep through learning and a pig is the symbol. Semi-wrathful, joyful dakinis transform craving, attachment, and ego desire into letting go and grace. A crow or rooster is the symbol. Wrathful dakinis transform aggression, anger and hatred into compassion. A snake is the symbol. Kakasya is a crow bird of prey and is a guardian of the Mongolian Kalachakra mandala.
Bronze sculpture embellished with color. 19th Century. Tibet. Mongolian Museum of Fine Arts, Ulan Bator


Simhavaktra is a Tibetan lion headed dakini who pushes through obstructed patterns into enlightenment. Dakinis were usually elder women, but sometimes young women impersonating the divine Shakti who took the last breath of the enlightened sage with a kiss of peace. Dakinis attended the dying, embracing and comforting them in their last moments. Like western witches, dakinis held their meetings in cemeteries or cremation grounds, having charge of funeral rites and the preparation of dead bodies.
Thanka painting. Late 17th Century. Eastern Tibet. Private Collection.


All images appearing on this Web site are the exclusive property of Lydia Ruyle and are protected under the United States and International Copyright Laws. All rights reserved. No part of this Web site may be reproduced in any form without the permission of Lydia Rulye.

Web site design by Image Illustration Studio