Yin and Yang

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Yin and yang are generalizations of the antithesis or mutual correlation between certain objects or phenomena in the natural world, combining to create a unity of opposites. Liang Yi also known as Yin-Yang or heaven and earth, have a similar meaning.

The dual concepts of yin and yang which describe two primal opposing but complementary principles or cosmic forces said to be found in all non-static objects and processes in the universe. This paradoxical concept is the cornerstone of most branches of Chinese philosophy, as well as traditional Chinese medicine.

Yin (é™° or 阴 “shady place, north slope, south bank (river); cloudy, overcast”; Japanese: in or on) is the dark element: it is passive, dark, feminine, downward-seeking, and corresponds to the night.

Yang (陽 or 阳 “sunny place, south slope, north bank (river), sunshine”; Japanese: yō) is the bright element: it is active, light, masculine, upward-seeking and corresponds to the daytime.

Yin Yang Tiger by Photos8.com

Yin is often symbolized by water and air, while yang is symbolized by fire and earth. Yin (dark) and yang (light) are descriptions of complementary opposites rather than absolutes.

Any yin/yang dichotomy can be viewed from another perspective. All forces in nature can be seen as having yin and yang states, and the two are in constant movement rather than held in absolute stasis.

Symbol: The Taijitu (pictured at top of page; Traditional Chinese: 太極圖; Simplified Chinese: 太极图; pinyin: Taìjí tú; Wade-Giles: T’ai4 chi2 t’u2; literally “diagram of the supreme ultimate”), often referred to as yin-yang in English, is a well known symbol deriving from Chinese culture which represents the principle of yin and yang from Taoist and Neo-Confucian philosophy. The term Taijitu itself refers to any of several schematic diagrams representing these principles.

The taijitu represents an ancient Chinese understanding of how things work. The outer circle represents the entirety of perceivable phenomena, while the black and white shapes within the circle represent the interaction of two principles or aspects, called “yin” (black) and “yang” (white), which cause the phenomena to appear in their peculiar way. Each of them contains an element or seed of the other, and they cannot exist without each other.

There are other ways that Chinese schools of thought graphically represented the principles of yin and yang, an older example being the solid and divided lines of the I Ching. Wu Jianquan, a famous Chinese martial arts teacher, described the name of the martial art Taijiquan this way at the beginning of the 20th century:

Yin and Yang

“Various people have offered different explanations for the name Taijiquan. Some have said: ‘In terms of self-cultivation, one must train from a state of movement towards a state of stillness. Taiji comes about through the balance of yin and yang.

In terms of the art of attack and defense then, in the context of the changes of full and empty, one is constantly internally latent, not outwardly expressive, as if the yin and yang of Taiji have not yet divided apart.’ Others say: ‘Every movement of Taijiquan is based on circles, just like the shape of a Taijitu. Therefore, it is called Taijiquan.’ Both explanations are quite reasonable, especially the second, which is more complete.”

Yin Yang in Western Culture: In Western culture, the dichotomy of good and evil is often taken as a paradigm for other dichotomies. In Hegelian dialectics, dichotomies are linked to progress through the achievement of a synthesis.

In Chinese philosophy, the paradigmatic dichotomy of yin and yang does not generally give preference or moral superiority to one side of the dichotomy, and dichotomies are linked to cyclical processes rather than progress. Excessive yin or yang state is often viewed to be unbalanced and undesirable.

Unicode: Taijitu is defined in code point U+262F (☯). As an alternative, Unicode suggested it can be substituted by U+0FCA (Tibetan symbol nor bu nyis -khyil), the double body symbol.