Here at the frontier, the leaves fall like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians, and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are still two cups at my table.

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~

Monday, May 28, 2007

Yin and Yang

Under Heaven, Kingdoms cleave together and fall asunder. It has been so since antiquity.
- the opening sentence from the Chinese Classic, the Romance of the Three Kingdoms

The opening words of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms captures the essence of Yin and Yang. For a more lengthy explanation, see the article below, which is excerpted from If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to the full article.

The dual concepts of yin and yang – or the single concept yin-yang – originate in ancient Chinese philosophy and metaphysics, which describe two primal opposing but complementary principles said to be found in all non-static objects and processes in the universe. The concept is the cornerstone for Taoism and traditional Chinese medicine.

Yin (Chinese: 陰 or 阴; pinyin: yīn; literally "shady place, north slope (hill), south bank (river); cloudy, overcast") is the dark element: it is passive, dark, feminine, downward-seeking, and corresponds to the night.

Yang (陽 or 阳; yáng; "sunny place, south slope (hill), north bank (river); sunshine") is the bright element: it is active, light, masculine, upward-seeking and corresponds to the day.

Yin is often symbolized by water or earth, while yang is symbolized by fire or wind.

Yin (the receptive, feminine, dark, passive force) and yang (the creative, masculine, bright, active force) 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 movement rather than held in absolute stasis.

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. 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 undesirable[citation needed]; however, Taoism often values yin above yang [1], and Confucianism often values yang above yin.

Summary of yin and yang concepts

1. Yin and yang do not exclude each other.

Everything has its opposite: although this is never absolute - only relative. No one thing is completely yin or completely yang. Each contains the seed of its opposite. For example, winter can turn into summer; "what goes up, must come down".

2. Yin and yang are interdependent.

One cannot exist without the other. For example, day cannot exist without night. Light cannot exist without darkness. Life cannot exist without death.

3. Yin and yang can be further subdivided into yin and yang.

Any yin or yang aspect can be further subdivided into yin and yang. For example, temperature can be seen as either hot or cold. However, hot can be further divided into warm or scorching; cold into cool or icy. Within each spectrum, there is a smaller spectrum; every beginning is a moment in time, and has a beginning and end, just as every hour has a beginning and end.

4. Yin and yang consume and support each other.

Yin and yang are usually held in balance: as one increases, the other decreases. However, imbalances can occur. There are four possible imbalances: excess yin, excess yang, yin deficiency and yang deficiency. They can again be seen as a pair: by excess of yin there is a yang deficiency and vice versa. The imbalance is also a relative factor: the excess of yang "forces" yin to be more "concentrated".

5. Yin and yang can transform into one another.

At a particular stage, yin can transform into yang and vice versa. For example, night changes into day; warmth cools; life changes to death. However this transformation is relative too. Night and day coexist on Earth at the same time when shown from space.

6. Part of yin is in yang and part of yang is in yin.

The dots in each serve:
  1. as a reminder that there are always traces of one in the other. For example, there is always light within the dark (e.g., the stars at night); these qualities are never completely one or the other.
  2. as a reminder that extreme yang at some point transforms instantly into yin, and vice versa, or that the labels yin and yang are conditioned by an observer's point of view. For example, the hardest stone is easiest to break. This can show that absolute discrimination between the two is artificial.


ms_lili said...

basic, simple, foundational. much can be conveyed through a symbol

Rick Matz said...

Carl Jung recognized and wrote extensively about that. Many others have followed in his footsteps (... a classic symbol)