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Yin and yang

Yin and yang

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In Asian philosophy, the concept of yin yang , 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
Traditional Chinese medicine
Traditional Chinese Medicine refers to a broad range of medicine practices sharing common theoretical concepts which have been developed in China and are based on a tradition of more than 2,000 years, including various forms of herbal medicine, acupuncture, massage , exercise , and dietary therapy...

, and a central principle of different forms of Chinese martial arts
Chinese martial arts
Chinese martial arts, also referred to by the Mandarin Chinese term wushu and popularly as kung fu , are a number of fighting styles that have developed over the centuries in China. These fighting styles are often classified according to common traits, identified as "families" , "sects" or...

 and exercise, such as baguazhang
Baguazhang
Bāguàzhǎng is one of the three main Chinese martial arts of the Wudang school, the other two being Taijiquan and Xingyiquan. It is more broadly grouped as an internal practice...

, taijiquan (t'ai chi), and qigong
Qigong
Qigong or chi kung is a practice of aligning breath, movement, and awareness for exercise, healing, and meditation...

 (Chi Kung) and of I Ching
I Ching
The I Ching or "Yì Jīng" , also known as the Classic of Changes, Book of Changes and Zhouyi, is one of the oldest of the Chinese classic texts...

 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
Taijitu
Taijitu is a term which refers to a Chinese symbol for the concept of yin and yang...

 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
Dong Zhongshu
Dong Zhongshu was a Han Dynasty Chinese scholar. He is traditionally associated with the promotion of Confucianism as the official ideology of the Chinese imperial state.-History:...

, 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
Taoism
Taoism refers to a philosophical or religious tradition in which the basic concept is to establish harmony with the Tao , which is the mechanism of everything that exists...

 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
Wuji (philosophy)
Wuji 無極 originally meant "ultimateless; boundless; infinite" in Warring States Period Daoist classics, but came to mean the "primordial universe" prior to the Taiji 太極 "Supreme Ultimate" in Song Dynasty Neo-Confucianist cosmology...

, 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
Luoyang
Luoyang is a prefecture-level city in western Henan province of Central China. It borders the provincial capital of Zhengzhou to the east, Pingdingshan to the southeast, Nanyang to the south, Sanmenxia to the west, Jiyuan to the north, and Jiaozuo to the northeast.Situated on the central plain of...

, contain the word "Yang", and a few, such as Huayin
Huayin
Huayin is a county-level city in Weinan, Shaanxi, China. Prior to 1990, Huayin had been regarded as a county. Huayin literally means to the north of Mount Hua, because it is situated to the north of that mountain....

, 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
Mount Hua
Mount Hua or Hua Shan in Chinese is located in Shaanxi Province, about 120 kilometres east of the city of Xi'an, near the city Huayin in China. Also known as Xiyuè, Western Great Mountain, it is one of China's Five Sacred Taoist Mountains, and has a long history of religious significance...

.

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
Femininity
Femininity is a set of attributes, behaviors, and roles generally associated with girls and women. Though socially constructed, femininity is made up of both socially defined and biologically created factors...

 and nighttime.

Yang, by contrast, is fast
FAST
-Primary meanings:Fast may refer to:* Fast as in high speed or velocity, may be used with anything that has a speed.* Fasting, abstaining from foodSlang:* Fast, a slang term for someone who is sexually promiscuous-Sports:...

, hard, solid, focused, hot, dry, and aggressive; and is associated with fire, sky, the sun, masculinity
Masculinity
Masculinity is possessing qualities or characteristics considered typical of or appropriate to a man. The term can be used to describe any human, animal or object that has the quality of being masculine...

 and daytime.

I Ching


In the I Ching
I Ching
The I Ching or "Yì Jīng" , also known as the Classic of Changes, Book of Changes and Zhouyi, is one of the oldest of the Chinese classic texts...

, 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.

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
Celtic art
Celtic art is the art associated with the peoples known as Celts; those who spoke the Celtic languages in Europe from pre-history through to the modern period, as well as the art of ancient peoples whose language is uncertain, but have cultural and stylistic similarities with speakers of Celtic...

 and Roman shield markings.
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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
Chinese martial arts
Chinese martial arts, also referred to by the Mandarin Chinese term wushu and popularly as kung fu , are a number of fighting styles that have developed over the centuries in China. These fighting styles are often classified according to common traits, identified as "families" , "sects" or...

 teacher, described Taijiquan as follows:

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
Zen yoga
-Many Founders, an Eclectic & Growing Practice:Many people use the words zen and yoga together to describe a feeling, a state of mind, an orientation toward yoga that is not usually associated with the yoga practices that have come to us from India...

, a system of exercise created in 2007, see yin-yang as a flow.

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