Taoism > Basics


About Yin and Yang

yin yang graphs There's a huge interest in the yin-yang topic. This is partly due to the fact that yin and yang reminds one of a concept hold dear by Westerners: complementarity. But let's step further and see what we already know about yin and yang.

In Shambhala Dictionary of Taoism we read that yin and yang are "two polar energies that, by their fluctuation and interaction, are the cause of the universe". (p. 216).

So they seem to be basic principles or forces that produce what we call "universe".

Yin and yang appear in the commentaries on I-ching (Book of Changes) and the Spring and Autumn Annals, over 2000 years ago.

In I-ching we read that Tao itself seems to be composed of these principles. This idea leads us to the yin-yang mysticism which is not familiar to Westerners.

yin yang patterns of interaction
Yin and Yang stages
of interaction
In Annals, we find that yin and yang "separate and merge again". This recall the Shambhala definition.

Moreover, both yin and yang may be simply features of people, things or cosmic phenomena. We find lists of these features in the Western books and magazines.

Finally, in the Chinese classic medicine yin and yang refer to energies and functioning modes of organs and body. It is said that the healthy state is brought by the right balance between them.

Let's conclude with Alan Watts that the yin-yang ideograms:

    Indicate the sunny and shady sides of a hill, and they are associated with the masculine and the feminine, the firm and the yielding, the strong and the weak, the light and the dark, the rising and the falling, heaven and earth... (Alan Watts, Tao: The Watercourse Way, Pantheon Books, 1975, p. 21).

    yin-yang icon

    => Further Resources
    -> Learn more about yin-yang meaning in Taoism by taking our 8-lesson course dealing with this topic. Click
    here to learn more.
    -> Several papers (PDF) treating of yin and yang are available in our Paperstore
    here.

    => See also: Te, Wu (emptiness), Wu-Wei (nondoing), Fu (return).

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