Sunday, 25 May 2008

The immortal maiden

In the east, mother-of-pearl found its way into rings and necklaces, was inlaid into vanity mirrors and brushes, and in later centuries into Chinese and Korean furniture.

As Buddhism spread to Korea and Japan – both also oyster countries - China became a magnet for mariners and merchants wanting to sell and buy,

In Tao legend Ho-Hsien-Ku was instructed in a vision that if she ate the mother-of-pearl shells she found on the mountain she would become immortal. She was said to float from peak to peak until finally she disappeared and hence became known as the The Immortal Maiden. She is also that rare species - a woman featuring in an otherwise male dominated philosophy. For the Tao the ground up pearl was often seen as a route to fasting and the everlasting. Old potions ground them with pumice, honeycomb, serpent’s gall and malt.

Derivations have seeped through into Chinese pharmacy where powdered mother-of-pearl is prescribed to reduce heart palpitations, dizziness, and high blood pressure. Very similar ideas have also been found in Peru.