The yin yang is one of the most well known symbols in Eastern philosophy, seen across art, literature, music, philosophy and science over thousands of years. Rooted in history, the yin yang is also a useful and highly relevant concept for modern life – teaching balance, harmony, and peaceful opposition
Here are 12 insights into the legendary wisdom this powerful symbol evokes:
1. The yin yang first appeared in Chinese philosophy as early as 3rd Century B.C.
2. The yin yang is always shown as a circle with two halves, each half containing a single element (the small dot) from its opposite.
3. The yin yang embodies dualism– the concept of all energy having an equally powerful, opposing energy.
4. The yin yang is considered complementary, rather than oppositional – yin brings out the best of yang, and vice versa.
5. Yin is the black half, with the white dot. Yin represents qualities such as earth, female principle, and water.
6. Yang is the white half, with the black dot. Yang represents qualities such as heaven, male principle, and fire.
7. Yin yang is often interpreted as sunlight playing over a mountain and valley – yin (dark) is the shady depths, and yang (light) is the sunny slope. As the sun moves over the valley, yin and yang are interchanged – what is dark becomes light, and what is light becomes dark.
8. According to Chinese teachings, neither yin nor yang is superior. What increases one decreases the other, and harmony (the only superior force) is unattainable until the balance is restored between the two.
9. The concept of dualism was a primary concern of the Yinyang Chinese school of philosophy and cosmology in the early 3rd Century. Zou Yan, the school’s leading thinker, believed life has five phases (wuxing) – fire, water, metal, wood, earth – which change constantly according to yin and yang principles.
10. In Chinese mythology, yin and yang were born from chaos when the universe was created, and the yin yang force exists now in harmony at the very center of the earth.
11. According to the I Ching, the ever-changing relationship between these two halves is responsible for balance of our physical world. Earthquakes, floods and storms are though to be the result of imbalance between yin and yang.
12. Martial artist Bruce Lee was a proponent of yin yang philosophy in his life and work, saying – “All things have their complementary part; it is only in the human mind and his perception that they are being separated into opposites. The sun is not the opposite of the moon, as they complement and are interdependent on each other, and we cannot survive without either of them.”