The Valley Spirit [the Tao] never dies. It is named the Mysterious Female. And the Doorway of the Mysterious Female Is the base from which Heaven and Earth sprang. It is there within us all the while; Draw upon it as you will, it never runs dry.
Stylistically this painting follows in the linear style of the painter Wu Zongyuan (active in the early 11th century), who was in turn inspired by the Tang muralist Wu Daoizi (active c. 710 – c. 760). One of the most talented painter of Daoist subjects in the Song period, a handscroll by Wu Zongyuan painted with a procession of immortals dressed in similar flowing robes, was included ibid., cat. no. 74.
Compare also paintings made for the Water and Land Ritual (Shuilu zhao), which feature elegantly dressed immortals standing among billowing clouds, such as a set of four paintings, including one of female immortals, from the Baoning temple, Shanxi province,and now in the Shanxi Provincial Museum, Taiyuan, included in the exhibition Imperial China. The Living Past, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 1992, cat. no. 57.1.
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