The valley spirit never dies;
We call it the mysterious female.
The gates of the mysterious female,
These we call the roots of Heaven and Earth.
Subtle yet everlasting! It seems to exist.
In being used, it is not exhausted.
(from – The Tao and the Field)
What is a valley? – It is between the two peaks. The difference between peak and valley is that the peak is high up there and filled with rocks whereas the valley is on the bottom and can be like an empty vessel.
The spirit of the valley is the spirit of emptiness. The valley represents the acceptance, endurance, humbleness and it is like the female. On the other hand, the spirit of the mountains is more like the male. It is boastful and not as humble and accepting as the valley. The valley just accepts and without taking action and moreover, it gives life, and then life goes on forever and ever. So it can be called the roots of Heaven and Earth. It is everlasting. Here, he uses the valley to explain “Tao” which is empty, existing, eternal and never exhausted.
As I was searching the material for this chapter, I found that there were a lot of explanations for this chapter and wondered why some did not bother to address the valley spirit. I think it’s important to keep the imagery of the valley spirit in the text. As you can see in chapter 28, he mentions it again:
“…Be the valley of the universe!/Being the valley of the universe…”