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Yin and yang

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

In Chinese philosophy, yin and yang (simplified Chinese: 阳; traditional

Chinese: 陰陽; pinyin: yīnyáng) are generalized descriptions of the antitheses
or mutual correlations in human perceptions of phenomena in the natural
world, combining to create a unity of opposites in the theory of the Taiji. The
term liang yi (simplified Chinese: 两仪; traditional Chinese: 兩儀; pinyin:
liǎngyí, lit. "two mutually correlated opposites"), also known as Yin and Yang
or heaven and earth, has a similar meaning.

The dual concepts of yin and yang (or heaven and earth) 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 seemingly
paradoxical concept is the cornerstone of most branches of Chinese
philosophy, as well as traditional Chinese medicine.

Two elements

Yin (陰 or "shady place, north slope, south bank (river); cloudy, overcast";
Japanese: in or on; Korean: 음, Vietnamese: âm) is the dark element: it is

passive, dark, feminine, negative, downward-seeking, consuming and
corresponds to the night.

Yang (陽 or 阳 "sunny place, south slope, north bank (river), sunshine";

Japanese: yō; Korean: 양, Vietnamese: dương) is the bright element: it is
active, light, masculine, positive, upward-seeking, producing and corresponds
to the daytime.

Yin is often symbolized by water and earth, while yang is symbolized by fire
and air.

Yin (dark) and yang (light) are descriptions of complementary opposites as

well as absolutes. Any yin/yang duality can be viewed from another
perspective. All forces in nature can be seen as existing in yin or yang states,
and the two produce constant movement/force of the universe.

As the universe is relative and interdependent, the determination of which

thing is yin or yang depends on what is its complementary opposite - that is,
the frame of reference. This yin-and-yang relativity concept forms the core in
understanding of many Chinese philosophic classics as embodied in the Tao
Te Ching


The Taijitu (pictured at top of page; traditional Chinese: 太極圖; simplified

Chinese: 太极图; pinyin: Taìjí tú; Wade-Giles: T'ai chi t'u; 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

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:

"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."

The image above showing yin-yang is a circle (presenting taijitu- the initial
unity of universe) with two parts: white part presents yang and black part
presents yin. Two parts pass through each other on a line because yin and
yang are never separated, such as if people do not know what bad is, they do
not know what good is. There is a small black round in white part and so is in
black part; that presents the philosophy: "yang in yin, yin in yang" (for
example: though water is fluid-yin, water is also hydraulic-yang); if yin is not in

yang, yang is not yang and so (everything have two aspects). Neither white
part nor black part is a semicircle because there is never absolute balance
between yin and yang. There is always having a stronger aspect and a
weaker aspect; that presents the philosophy: "Whenever yin is stronger, yang
is weaker and so". If the circle is divided into two by any diameter, black or
white colour never cover all of the area of a segment because universe is
never in all yin or all yang.

On the opinion of stay, two parts are put together in a circle; that is unity. On
the other hand, on the opinion of motion, two parts are contradict aspects,
they fight and interchange each other; whenever the trend of yin increases,
the trend of yang decreases and so. At the specific time when yin is extreme,
yin starts to grow into yang and so (for example: day after night, night after
day). The unity maintains universe and the contradiction is the stimulation of
the universe's development.

A simple way to put it: In good there is always a little bit of evil, in evil there is
always a little bit of good - everything has two aspects.

The process of universe's development is started up by wuji. Then wuji led to

taiji or yin and yang (also liang yi "two symbols"). Two symbols became four
symbols. Subsequently, four symbols became bagua. And at last, bagua
describes the myriad things of creation.

Dichotomy in other philosophies

The concept of "unity in duality" as underlying the nature of the Cosmos is

fundamental in the philosophy of Heraclitus, one of the Presocratics. Note that
the Heracletian duality has nothing to do with an ontological dualism.

Gnosticism and Zoroastrian, posit a supernatural dualism to explain suffering
in this world.

Indonesia has the motto: "Bhinneka Tunggal Ika" that is "Unity in diversity"
which origins from a quotation of an Old Javanese poem. This idealism is
similar to yin-yang philosophy.

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 ( ).