Clarifying the Double Metaphor in Daodejing Passage 61
Vol 4., No. 1, February 2019

Clarifying the Double Metaphor in Daodejing Passage 61

Harrison John Adams

Tapestry Institute Occasional Papers, Volume 4, Number 1.

February 16, 2019

To cite this article: Adams, Harrison John. 2019. Clarifying the Double Metaphor in Daodejing Passage 61. Tapestry Institute Occasional Papers, 4(1). *

The basic idea in this paper is that the word used to mean “female” in passage 61 actually had a double meaning in ancient times: it could mean “headwaters” or mountain streams in addition to “female”. Therefore, it’s an odd word to use for the lower sections of the river system. Clearly, the double metaphor in 61 (sections of the river system/male and female) was originally based around the double meaning of the word pin 牝 (female/mountain stream). This means that the metaphor has been turned around backwards by accident. Therefore it should say that the male overcomes (or wins over) the female by being calm and taking a lower position — which is what it actually says on a stele dating to the 8th century. Other editions have had the metaphor flipped backwards. The Chinese language version, with English summary, is downloadable as a PDF, here.

All copyrightable text is © 2019 Harrison John Adams and Tapestry Institute. All rights reserved.

* Original url for this paper was That link now redirects to this page.