What is the Yin Yang Symbol?


Eastern philosophy and religious thought have historically emphasized the non-duality of the universe. In Chinese metaphysics, this principle is symbolized by a circle containing within it, two conjoined, tadpole shaped sections in black and white. The black is Yin while the white is Yang. Together, they represent Tai Chi, the great energy of the universe, according to the Chinese I Ching, or Book of Change. This energy, which is in a state of constant flux, is composed of two elements that have opposing characteristics but are yet unified. Everything in the manifest universe consists of yin or yang. Some examples: male and female, stillness and movement, stone and water. One cannot exist without the other for life to sustain itself. The burning desert (yang) is as inhospitable as the freezing ice-cap (yin) – thus, extremes of either are undesirable.

The key to existence therefore, is balanced energy, with neither yin nor yang dominating. The diagram exemplifies this with a dot of the opposite color in each half. Thus, when yin reaches its fullest capacity, the seed of yang within it begins to grow, and vice versa. Everything in nature is based upon this principle. Take the rhythm of the seasons. Summer (yin) peaks, followed by cooler autumn, which is the beginning of yang. Post the chill of winter (yang), spring asserts itself, the start of warm, yin weather.

The Ying-Yang concept helps us contemplate the nature of life in a different way, moving from rigid and ultimately, self-defeating notions of good vs. evil, man vs. woman, victory vs. defeat.

Yin-Yang finds expression in several aspects of Chinese culture. In Feng -shui, for instance, places near factories, busy roads and cemeteries are said to be saturated with excessive yin or yang energy and do not make for ideal residential localities. Tai Chi martial art, now a hugely popular form of exercise worldwide, incorporates deep, flowing movements that emphasize balance and strengthening core muscles.