Jiutian Xuannü (九天玄女) is the goddess of war, longevity, and sex in Chinese mythology. She possesses supernatural, magical powers, and has the ability to render herself invisible. She even has the ability to turn the stars surrounding the Big Dipper into warriors that she can use to defend China if the need should arise.
Jiutian Xuannü’s name is comprised of two phrases: jiǔtiān (九天), which means “nine heavens,” and Xuán nǚ (玄女), which means “mysterious woman.” Her name literally translates as "Mysterious Woman of the Nine Heavens". In ancient times, she was referred to by a more condensed version of her name, Xuannü.
In mythology and art, Jiutian Xuannü is described as being a very beautiful woman with snowy white skin. She usually dresses in all white and adorns herself with pearls. In the novel, Shuǐhǔ Zhuàn (水滸傳), or Outlaws of the Marsh by Shī Nài'ān (施耐庵), she is described as having the following appearance:
On her head, she has a nine-dragon and flying phoenix topknot, and on her body she wears a red silken gown decorated with golden thread; blue jade-like strips run down the long gown and a white jade ritual object rises above her colored sleeves. Her face is like a lotus calyx and her eyebrows fit naturally with her hair. Her lips are like cherries, and her snow-white body appears elegant and relaxed.
Jiutian Xuannü has one sister who is named Sunü (素女).
The myths surrounding Jiutian Xuannü largely deal with her role as a confidant who gave advice to powerful leaders on both sex and warfare. Jiutian Xuannü was assisted by six jade warrior maidens and, because of her magical nature, was an important figure in Traditional Chinese Medicine.
Throughout her history, she has been a somewhat controversial figure because of the sexual nature of her persona. There was even an ancient sex advice book, Xuannü Jing (玄女經), that bore her name. During the Tang Dynasty, attempts were made to remove any lewdness from her story. It wasn’t until the Ming Dynasty that the goddess gained a reputation as a warrior.
According to the Yōngchéng Jíxiān Lù (墉城集仙錄) by the Daoist author, Dù Guāngtíng (杜光庭), Jiutian Xuannü descended from the Heavens on the back of a red phoenix to give strategic war advice to Huangdi (黄帝) when he was stuck in a stalemate. With her help, Huangdi emerged victorious from the war and later incurred a heavenly status from the Jade Emperor (玉皇).
In the novel, Bàopǔzǐ (抱朴子), by the ancient Chinese author, Ge Hong, he hinted that the relationship between Jiutian Xuannü and Huangdi went beyond the battlefield. There’s a passage in which the goddess informs Huangdi that the efficacy of sexual acts are “like the intermingling of water and fire—it can kill or bring new life depending upon whether or not one uses the correct methods.”