- Yin and yang
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In Asian philosophy, the concept of yin yang (simplified Chinese: 阴阳; traditional Chinese: 陰陽; pinyin: yīnyáng), which is often referred to in the West as "yin and yang", is used to describe how polar opposites or seemingly contrary forces are interconnected and interdependent in the natural world, and how they give rise to each other in turn. Opposites thus only exist in relation to each other. The concept lies at the origins of many branches of classical Chinese science and philosophy, as well as being a primary guideline of traditional Chinese medicine, and a central principle of different forms of Chinese martial arts and exercise, such as baguazhang, taijiquan (t'ai chi), and qigong (Chi Kung) and of I Ching divination. Many natural dualities—e.g. dark and light, female and male, low and high, cold and hot— are thought of as manifestations of yin and yang (respectively).
Yin yang are not opposing forces (dualities), but complementary opposites that interact within a greater whole, as part of a dynamic system. Everything has both yin and yang aspects as light cannot exist without darkness and vice-versa, but either of these aspects may manifest more strongly in particular objects, and may ebb or flow over time. The concept of yin and yang is often symbolized by various forms of the Taijitu symbol, for which it is probably best known in western cultures.
There is a perception (especially in the West) that yin and yang correspond to evil and good. However, Taoist philosophy generally discounts good/bad distinctions and other dichotomous moral judgments, in preference to the idea of balance. Confucianism (most notably the philosophy of Dong Zhongshu, c. the 2nd century BCE) did attach a moral dimension to the idea of yin and yang, but the modern sense of the term largely stems from Buddhist adaptations of Taoist philosophy.
The nature of yin–yang
In Taoist philosophy, shade and light (☯) yin and yang, arrives in the dàodéjīng (道德經) at Chapter 42. It becomes sensible from an initial quiescence or emptiness (wuji, sometimes symbolized by an empty circle), and continues moving until quiescence is reached again. For instance, dropping a stone in a calm pool of water will simultaneously raise waves and lower troughs between them, and this alternation of high and low points in the water will radiate outward until the movement dissipates and the pool is calm once more. Yin and yang thus are always opposite and equal qualities. Further, whenever one quality reaches its peak, it will naturally begin to transform into the opposite quality: for example, grain that reaches its full height in summer (fully yang) will produce seeds and die back in winter (fully yin) in an endless cycle.
It is impossible to talk about yin or yang without some reference to the opposite, since yin and yang are bound together as parts of a mutual whole (e.g. you cannot have the back of a hand without the front). A way to illustrate this idea is to postulate the notion of a race with only men or only women; this race would disappear in a single generation. Yet, men and women together create new generations that allow the race they mutually create (and mutually come from) to survive. The interaction of the two gives birth to things. Yin and yang transform each other: like an undertow in the ocean, every advance is complemented by a retreat, and every rise transforms into a fall. Thus, a seed will sprout from the earth and grow upwards towards the sky – an intrinsically yang movement. Then, when it reaches its full potential height, it will fall.
"Yang" and "Yin" in place names
Many places in China, such as Luoyang, contain the word "Yang", and a few, such as Huayin, the word "yin". This is a very old way to assign place names. "Yang" means that a place is on the south slope of a mountain or on the north bank of a river – for example, Luoyang is on the north bank of the Luo River. "Yin" means that a place is on the north slope of a mountain or on the south bank of a river – for example, Huayin is on the north slope of Mount Hua.
太陽 (simplified 太阳), tàiyáng, refers to the sun and literally means "great yang". Classically, when used in place names, "yang" refers to the "sunny side". Light was assumed to come from the south, and so would shine on the south face of a mountain or the north face of a river valley. In the same way, "yin" would be the opposite, "shadowy side".
Symbolism and its importance
Yin is the black side with the white dot on it and yang is the white side with the black dot on it. The relationship between yin and yang is often described in terms of sunlight playing over a mountain and in the valley. Yin (literally the 'shady place' or 'north slope') is the dark area occluded by the mountain's bulk, while yang (literally the 'sunny place' or 'south slope') is the brightly lit portion. As the sun moves across the sky, yin and yang gradually trade places with each other, revealing what was obscured and obscuring what was revealed.
Yin is characterized as slow, soft, yielding, diffuse, cold, wet, and passive; and is associated with water, earth, the moon, femininity and nighttime.
In the I Ching, yin yang are represented by broken and solid lines: yang is solid (⚊) and yin is broken (⚋). These are then combined into trigrams, which are more yang or more yin depending on the number of broken and solid lines (e.g., ☰ is heavily yang, while ☷ is heavily yin), and trigrams are combined into hexagrams (e.g. ䷕ and ䷟). The relative positions and numbers of yin and yang lines within the trigrams determines the meaning of a trigram, and in hexagrams the upper trigram is considered yang with respect to the lower trigram, allowing complex depictions of interrelations.
The principle of yin and yang is represented in Taoism by the Taijitu (literally "diagram of the supreme ultimate") diagram. The term is commonly used to mean the simple 'divided circle' form, but may refer to any of several schematic diagrams representing these principles. Similar symbols have also appeared in other cultures, such as in Celtic art and Roman shield markings.
Taijiquan, a form of martial art, is often described as the principles of yin and yang applied to the human body. Wu Jianquan, a famous Chinese martial arts teacher, described Taijiquan as follows:
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.
— Wu Jianquan, The International Magazine of T’ai Chi Ch’uan
Religious and philosophical
The Taijitu and concept of the Zhou period reach into family and gender relations. Yin is female and yang is male. They fit together as two parts of a whole.
Practitioners of Zen Yoga, a system of exercise created in 2007, see yin-yang as a flow.The Taijitu is one of the oldest and best-known life symbols in the world, but few understand its full meaning. It represents one of the most fundamental and profound theories of ancient Taoist philosophy. At its heart are the two poles of existence, which are opposite but complementary. The light, white Yang moving up blends into the dark, black Yin moving down. Yin and Yang are dependent opposing forces that flow in a natural cycle, always seeking balance. Though they are opposing, they are not in opposition to one another. As part of the Tao, they are merely two aspects of a single reality. Each contains the seed of the other, which is why we see a black spot of Yin in the white Yang and vice versa. They do not merely replace each other but actually become each other through the constant flow of the universe.
- Aesthetic Realism
- Endless knot
- Five elements (Chinese philosophy)
- Flag of South Korea
- Fu Xi
- Golden Mean
- I Ching
- Iota Geminorum
- Purusha and Prakriti
- Shiva Shakti
- T'ai chi ch'uan
- Tao Te Ching
- Traditional Chinese medicine
- Triple yin yang
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