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2018 - The Year of Dog

Yin and Yang

Concepts and Philosophical Background

Chinese Characters of Yin and Yang
Chinese Characters of Yin Yang
In ancient Chinese philosophy, Yin and Yang are two opposite elementary principles from which all phenomena are produced. As a result of the transformation of Yang and its union with Yin the cosmos is thought to be in a well ordered but perpetual state of cyclic changes and readjustments, rather than in an equilibrium or steady state. This activity emerges from cycles of Yin and Yang. Parts of the cosmos interact with each other by generating and overcoming forces or energy flows, so that the quantity or strength of Yin and Yang is anti-cyclically going up and down over time. In this concept the appearance of oscillations and cycles is self-evident as visualized by the famous symbol Yin & Yang symbol (Chinese Taijitu, Pinyin: Tij T "diagram of supreme ultimate"). The opposites of Yin and Yang are necessary for the formation of an evolving system, and thus a precondition for living organisms.

This thinking way is in some aspects very close to modern science. For example, life with its ever repeating cycles of birth and death is a dynamic system that – following the theory of thermodynamics – can only exits in a non-equilibrium environment, where it is possible to build up – and maintain for a while – ordered structures against the ever growing sea of entropy.

Symbolism and Properties

Taijitu symbol
The Taijitu symbol by Nyo
Yang is associated with high energetic quantities, e.g. movement, outward and upward direction, heat, brightness, stimulation, activity and excitement. Yin has less energetic quantities and is more associated with the physical form of an object. It symbolizes rest, inward and downward direction, cold, darkness. Some characteristics of yin and yang pairs are summarized in the following table.

Appearance Yin Yang
General properties negative principle in nature, descending positive principle in nature, rising
Manifestation substantial, more material, dense non-substantial, more energy
Transformation grows, produces substance, forms shape generates, produces energy
Action rest, passive movement, active
Speed slow fast
Directions inward, contraction,
west (sunset),
outward, expansion,
east (sunrise),
Position below,
north side of a hill,
south side of a river,
south side of a hill,
north side of a river,
Location earth sky, heaven
Time night day
Shape flat round
Texture soft, yielding hard, solid
Light dark, shady bright, sunny
Temperature cold hot
Heavenly body Moon Sun
Physiological functions inhibitory excitatory
Gender female male
Others wet, water; diffuse, turbid dry, fire; clear