The Feminine Force in Early Daoist Thought

Sharon Y. Small*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


According to the Laozi one of the ways to cultivate and grasp Dao is through "remaining female"and "nourishing the mother."The term mother is used in reference to the beginning of all existence - "the mother of all under heaven,""the mother of all existences."The mother is both an active force of generation and the concreteness of the generated beings. In this sense, the feminine attribute of motherhood is a living embodiment of Dao. In the world of myriad phenomena, the mother provides a location of interaction between "absence"and "presence,"between wu and you. In this paper, I suggest an analysis of the metaphor of mother and other "feminine roles"in early Daoist thought through a textual examination of the Laozi. Considering the intellectual background in Warring States period China in which the common understanding of the universe and all phenomena is revealed through the interactions of correlative and complementary forces, the esteem of one over the other - the feminine over the male, the mother over father - is outstanding and deserves serious investigation.

Original languageEnglish
StateAccepted/In press - 2024


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