Yin and yang

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In Chinese philosophy, the concept of yin yang ([yin - simplified Chinese: ; traditional Chinese: ; pinyin: yīn] [yang - simplified Chinese: ; traditional Chinese: ; pinyin: yáng] eum-yang in Korean; often referred to in the west as yin and yang) is used to describe how seemingly disjunct or opposing forces are interconnected and interdependent in the natural world, giving rise to each other in turn. The concept lies at the heart of many branches of classical Chinese science and philosophy, as well as being a primary guideline of traditional Chinese medicine,[1] and a central principle of different forms of Chinese martial arts and exercise, such as baguazhang, taijiquan, and qigong. Many natural dualities - e.g. dark and light, female and male, low and high - are cast in Chinese thought as yin yang.

Yin and yang are complementary opposites within a greater whole. Everything has both yin and yang aspects, which constantly interact, never existing in absolute stasis. Compare wuji. Yin and yang is symbolized by various forms of the Taijitu.


[edit] The nature of yin-yang

Yin and yang are thought to arise together from an initial quiescence or emptiness (wuji, sometimes symbolized by an empty circle), and to continue moving in tandem 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-yang, thus, always has the following characteristics:

Yin yang are opposing
Yin yang describe opposing qualities in phenomena. For instance, winter is yin to summer's yang over the course of a year, and femininity is yin to masculinity's yang in human relationships. It is impossible to talk about yin or yang without some reference to the opposite.
Yin yang are rooted together
Since yin and yang are created together in a single movement, they are bound together as parts of a mutual whole. A race with only men or only women would disappear in a single generation, but 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.[2]
Yin 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 height, it will begin to weaken, and eventually will fall back to the earth in decay - an intrinsically yin movement. Yin always contains the potential for yang, and yang for yin.
Yin-yang are balanced
Yin-yang is a dynamic equilibrium. Because they arise together they are always equal: if one disappears, the other must disappear as well, leaving emptiness. This is rarely immediately apparent, though, because yang elements are clear and obvious while yin elements are hidden and subtle.

Yin-yang is not an actual substance or force[1], the way it might be conceived of in western terms. Instead, it is a universal way of describing the interactions and interrelations of the natural forces that do occur in the world. It applies as well to social constructions - e.g. value judgements like good and evil, rich and poor, honor and dishonor - yet it is often used in those contexts as a warning, since by its principles extreme good will turn to evil, extreme wealth to poverty, extreme honor to dishonor.

Yin is black, female, receptive, yielding, negative, and nurturing. It is associated with night, valleys, rivers, streams, water, metal, and earth. Yang is white, male, active, dominating, positive, and initiating/creating. Yang is associated with day, mountains, hills, fire, wood, and air.

The concept of "unity in duality" arises in many faiths and philosophies, from the philosophy of Heraclitus, to the nondualistic philosophies of Hinduism, Sikhism, Taoism, and Buddhism, to Gnosticism, Zoroastrianism and New Thought. Yin-yang is unique, however, both in its dynamic nature and its broad application to the natural world.

[edit] Symbolism and its significance

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 usually characterized as slow, soft, insubstantial, diffuse, cold, wet, and tranquil. It is generally associated with the feminine, birth and generation, and with the night. Yang, by contrast, is characterized as hard, fast, solid, dry, focused, hot, and aggressive. It is associated with masculinity and daytime.[3]

[edit] I Ching

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 that trigram, and in hexagrams the upper trigram is considered yang with respect to the lower trigram, allowing complex depictions of interrelations.

[edit] Taijitu

Classic taoist Taijitu

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.[4][5][6]

[edit] Taijiquan

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[7]

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1. ^ a b Porkert (1974). The Theoretical Foundations of Chinese Medicine. MIT Press. ISBN 0262160587. 
  2. ^ http://www.iep.utm.edu/y/yinyang.htm
  3. ^ Osgood, Charles E. "From Yang and Yin to and or but." Language 49.2 (1973): 380-412 . JSTOR. 16 Nov. 2008 <http://www.jstor.org/search>.
  4. ^ Giovanni Monastra: "The "Yin-Yang" among the Insignia of the Roman Empire?", Sophia, Vol. 6, No. 2 (2000)
  5. ^ Late Roman Shield Patterns. Notitia Dignitatum: Magister Peditum
  6. ^ Helmut Nickel: "The Dragon and the Pearl", Metropolitan Museum Journal, Vol. 26 (1991), p. 146, Fn. 5
  7. ^ Woolidge, Doug (June 1997). T’AI CHI The International Magazine of T’ai Chi Ch’uan Vol. 21 No. 3. Wayfarer Publications. ISSN 0730-1049. 

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