Tao Te Ching: The Mysterious Female


“The Valley Spirit never dies

It is called The Mysterious Female”

The entire of Chapter Six is of one of my favourite passages in the whole of The Tao Te Ching. From the moment I first read it at the age of twenty-one, it has never ceased to exert a deep influence on me.

A valley is empty, the empty-space between two mountains. Emptiness can never be destroyed. It adapts its formlessness to harmonize with the form of all things. Once these forms are destroyed, they return to her formlessness. In truth they never left.

The personification of this matrix of nurturing emptiness is The Mysterious Female. A mother to all things, she fills up every hollow with her energy and compassion, never stopping. In Bill Porter’s Road to Heaven, Master Ch’en identifies the ancient Chinese goddess Nu Wa with The Mysterious Female:

“She represents ultimate emptiness. We’re all children, everything is from the womb of her emptiness. It’s only through her power that we have Heaven and Earth, the Sun and the Moon, all things . . . Nu Wa is just a name for the nothingness from which time and space and all creation come. Everything comes from nothing. This is Nu Wa. And everything returns to nothing. This is the Tao. This is my understanding.”

The Mysterious female is the feminine core of the Tao. She is the Tao.


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