Reading Response (Chinese Religion)





Reading Response (Chinese Religion)

In the Taoist creed as well as its respective teachings, women possess an array of responsibilities that outline their spiritual significance within society. Most commonly, the Taoist teachings have inculcated the woman as a goddess, as the main embodiment of female yin energy, and as the required counterpart to male yang energy. The importance of representations that liken women to goddesses is considerably evidenced by the inclination towards celestial mother figures. Despite this, the reverence for these religious facets was not restricted to women. Interestingly, they posed a substantial male following. Accordingly, the revered mother figure was associated specifically with Tao, which was normally characterized as a void, amenable womb that enabled the conception of the world as well as the matter’s derivation via the modification or alteration of energy. Prior to the ascent of Taoism, the Queen Mother of the West was revered as the most imperative and sacred embodiment of feminine energy as illustrated in different Taoist writings.

The Role of Women and Femininity in Taoism

The Taoist teachings have consistently represented women in the utmost divine sense. This is heavily based on their ability to conceive and glue the family together as observed at the time. The Queen Mother of the West constitutes a formidable illustration of Taoist appreciation of the woman. Before the ascent of the respective mother figure within religious Taoist teachings, the Queen Mother of the West was revered in China. Most of the inhabitants within the Southern and Northern dynasties asserted that she materialized in front of disparate emperors in order to rebuff or justify the authenticity of the rules they imposed. As an outcome, the Queen Mother of the West became regarded highly as the leader of a convoluted pantheon comprised of an array of different female deities similar to superlative figures such as the Jade Emperor or the Three Purities.

Generally, the aspect of femininity has imposed great influence on teachings associated with all forms of religion. In this particular setting, the role that women have assumed in respect to Chinese religion is undeniable. Specifically, mortal women seemed to establish a profound effect on the development of Taoism as teachers as well as patrons. As such, emperors were not the only persons that could undergo the ordination process. In fact, women that were part of the imperial family were also eligible for the role of Taoist priests. Aside from this, a large number of women worked as religious teachers for scholars and professional officials. The involvement of the female gender in Taoist teachings has also been attributed to the emergence of certain religious foundations. In addition to the Taoist movement, Buddhism provided female followers with the ability to serve as nun. The acceptable nature of the role catered to women who were unwilling to serve maternal and spousal roles.

A Poem of Mythical Excursion: Yuanyou’s “Far Roaming”

As the poet drifts cheerfully through the celestial heights, he abruptly looks downward and takes a quick look of home. Even though the sight of his former life restricts him for a while, he is capable of progressing despite at a slower pace. As he continues southwards after being warned by the south’s spirit-lord, he pauses in order to revel in dance and divine musical tune with numerous spirits of the lake and the river. Interestingly, the brief interlude that the poet encounters smears him in ecstasy. Indeed, the persona’s exploration of the spiritual cosmos does not influence him to the empyrean’s highest reaches (Lagerwey and Pengzhi 56). However, through participation in music and dance, the poet is capable of breaking free from every bound, past the constraints of the murky north. The capability of music to take the host past pragmatic or linguistic distinctions reveals the significance that femininity assumes in creating happiness and freedom for the male in search for spiritual purpose and meaning.

Even though the poem does not focus considerably on the female gender, the role of the woman as a divine goddess is exemplified in this particular section. Undeniably, it is impossible to deny the positive implications imposed on the protagonist after an encounter with the female spirits at the river and the lake. Specifically, the poets’ contact with the river goddesses, the Xiang and the Luo, contribute to his freedom (Kroll 167). Additionally, the poet expresses considerable pleasure upon discovery of the female goddesses. For the respective character, the divine goddesses do not comprise his journey’s quest. Instead, these spiritual beings act as participants within a mutual aura of amusement as reflected by the poet’s reveling in music and dance. As such, the poet does not exude any feelings of exasperated passion or post-intercourse tristesse, which tend to be exhibited considerably in other poems within the Chuci.

Declarations of the Perfected: Yang Xi’s Meeting with Lady Wang of Purple Tenuity

The divine goddess is represented as a divine being that uncovers sexual gratification for the male poet. Similar to Yuanyou’s “Far Roaming”, the content evident in the poem that follows concentrates on the musings of the spiritual world. However, in this context, the attention is based on the experiences of the divine goddesses as they materialize in front of their mortal male seekers. Yang Xi’s encounter with the divine mother figure, Lady Wang of the Purple Tenuity further identifies the role that femininity imposes on Taoist instruction. Indeed, the goddess, Lady Wang, materializes at a time whereby Yang Xi is struggling to understand the disparity that exists between man and spirit in respect to the transcription of divine communication (Lagerwey and Pengzhi 121). In this respect, Lady Wang’s visit provides Yang Xi with the necessary platform for understanding the reasons behind the deities’ lack of physical evidence upon delivery of their respective messages to the leaders and nobility of the empire.

Lady Wang’s representation in the narrative also illustrates the significance of femininity in alleviating the conflict present in understanding Taoism via the aspects of scriptural content and language. According to the Lady Wang, writing was conceived as an outcome of cosmogenesis, which led to the creation of the two doctrines, yin, and yang eventually resulting in the creation of heaven and earth as a range of existences (Bokenkamp 182). Therefore, the respective separation is seen as a procedure of decline and a considerable fall from the Dao’s primordial unison. In short, whilst divine beings express consistent awareness in participation within original unity, human beings are remote from the origin of the divine beings hence creating a writing that is faulty and fragmented. The presentation of this information to Yang Xi solidifies Lady Wang’s role as a purveyor of understanding and knowledge when it comes to the translation and comprehension of Taoist scriptures.


The representation of womanhood and femininity is reflected considerably in Daoist poetry. The poem, “Far Roaming” incorporates the feminine aspect as a mystical concept that contributes optimally to the poet’s journey across the different regimes of the spiritual world. The respective poem is possibly the most consequential in respect to Taoist conventions. Developed particularly on Taoist themes, “Far Roaming” is included in the Chuci. On the other hand, Yang Xi’s encounter with the divine mother figure, Lady Wang of the Purple Tenuity reveals the role that femininity assumes especially in purveying an intimate understanding of Taoism. Simply, both literary texts are an illustration of Taoist writings aimed at uncovering the resources of knowledge as well as the spiritual authority that exists past the boundaries of the mortal and known world. However, in respect to the aspect of femininity, the woman as represented as a spiritual figure that allows the male protagonist to reach his preferred destination after a draining exploration of the spiritual world’s formlessness.


Works Cited

Bokenkamp, Stephen. “Declarations of the Perfected.” Religions of China in Practice. Ed. Donald S. Lopez. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996. 180-187. Print.

Kroll, Paul W. “An Early Poem of Mystical Excursion.” Religions of China in Practice. Ed. Donald S. Lopez. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996. 156-165. Print.

Lagerwey, John, and Lü Pengzhi. Early Chinese Religion: Pt. 2. Boston: Brill, 2010. Print.



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