Yin Yang: History, Meaning, and Significance
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Welcome to Yin Yang Paradise and today we are going to talk about the meaning of this very harmonious symbol which is the Yin Yang. In this blog article we will see in depth what it really represents as well as its history.
Composed of a circle separated by a curve into two parts (one black and one white), each part having a bit of the other in it, it is quite easy to see the idea of ambivalence, or at least duality, in our world. To stop our thinking here would however be a serious mistake, and would deprive us of the more important messages that the Yin and Yang symbol carries. ☯️
The concept of yin and yang is a deeply complex, but more than interesting theme.
Originating in Chinese culture thousands of years ago, it expresses to us ideas of balance, harmony and interdependence in all things.
The thought behind yin and yang can be difficult to grasp... but we have a great ally to help us understand it: the symbol used to represent it.
Yes, the yin and yang symbol, sometimes also called Taiji or Taijitu, holds clues that can help us to gain some of the greatest insights from Chinese philosophies.
Before going on to the meaning of yin yang itself, let's try to understand together what Taoism is.
Few Words on Taoism
Taoism (also known as Daoism) is a Chinese philosophy attributed to Lao Tzu (a great thinker who lived in the year 500 BC).
With some of the most interesting philosophical teachings in the world, Daoism still has many followers around the world for whom the symbol of yin and yang has an even more special character than for others.
In short, to put the Chinese symbol we are about to discuss into context, let us review some of the most important characteristics of Taoism.
The Concept of Tao (the Way)
Basically, Taoism is a belief system based on the concept of "way", or "dao" in Chinese. At first glance, we might think that this is an easy idea to understand, but it really isn't.
In fact, Taoism is based on a careful observation of the world and nature to finally arrive at the conclusion of a great cosmic balance maintained by a superior force: the Dao (or Tao).
This concept of Tao implies many consequences on the life of humans. Here are for example some teachings from the site personaltao.com that we can draw from it.
Chi, The Great Energy at the Base of the Movement of the Universe
Moreover, the Chinese sages have defined the universe as being changeable. Clearly, nothing is immobile or static, everything is always changing and following a great movement.
It is from this observation that the idea of Chi, or primordial energy, was created, a kind of force present inside everything that exists and which precisely generates the movement we have just spoken about.
If I have cited the ideas of Dao and Chi here, it is because, as you will see in a few moments, they come into play in the explanation of the meaning of the symbol of Yin and Yang.
This is not the topic of the day, but once again, here is some additional information on the concept of chi.
Great Men Sometimes Elevated to the Rank of Deities
It is interesting to note that in this philosophy, sages and great men are sometimes deified to enter the pantheon of revered beings. We could, of course, think of Lao Tzu, Zhuang Zhu, but also of people that many today think are purely legendary, like the Yellow Emperor or the Jade Girl.
Immortality and Alchemical Principles
Taoist thought is also deeply marked by the idea of immortality and the quest for it.
Far from being purely allegorical, many practitioners over the years have devoted their entire lives to the search for this ultimate treasure.
Other Ideas and Reflections
Besides this, the life of the followers of Taoism is often marked by the same principles.
Simplicity, duality in everything and the presence of the microcosm in the macrocosm are just a few examples.
So, what is the Yin-Yang All About?
The yin-yang is a rather multifaceted rational conception under the Chinese philosophy that dates back to some 3,500 years but has gradually advanced through several years. Simply put, the yin yang meaning pertains to the concept that our universe is administered via a cosmic duality.
The complex yin-yang concept states that our universe comprises complementing and competing forces of nature, such as the moon and the sun, light and dark, female and male, etc. They are cosmic energies that are typically observed together in nature.
The yin-yang symbol is associated with the prehistoric method for tracking the stars', the moon's, and the sun's rotation throughout the year. A popular fact about the yin yang symbol is that it imitates Earth's shadows during the annual equinoxes and solstices.
This mirror effect depicts the association between our planet and the inhabitants that dwell on it. Like the yin-yang energy, it consists of bright and dark elements; it is also linked to the cosmos, the Earth 🌎, and the varying seasons.
A Subtle and Cosmic Dualism
The two elements, Yin and Yang, always come in pairs. A couple of examples that fit perfectly under the yin-yang concept include the female and male, the moon and the sun, passive and active, cold and hot, dark and bright, so the list goes on. You need to understand that Yin and Yang are far from static, nor are they considered mutually exclusive terms.
Our world is made up of several varying and often contradicting forces. Still, the energetic forces classified under Yin and Yang can coexist and complement one another quite well. There are many circumstances where even the most conflicting forces need to rely on each other for the sole purpose of existence.
The characteristics of yin-yang lie in the interaction and interchange of any two components. The best example that fits here is the alteration of the day and night: a shadow cannot exist without any source of light. The balance between both Yin and Yang is quite essential. If the Yang is more powerful at any point, the Yin will automatically be weaker, and vice versa.
The two elements can interchange accordingly concerning the varying conditions; hence it is essential to understand that they are not typically Yin and yang exclusively. The elements that are classified as Yin can also include specific fragments of Yang. Similarly, the yang elements can consist of certain parts of Yin. This balance is considered to be present in everything. ⚖️
Ideas of Creation and Balance
This capacity to create also stems from a second one, which is to organize chaos.
The meaning of Yin and Yang does not end here. Despite their obvious duality, these two forces are nevertheless born from the same disorder, and therefore share the same essence.
It may be interesting to note how, in nature itself, everything seems to be organized according to a dual model: male and female, day and night, hot and cold...
Now, in fact, these very things can also form encompassing and superior concepts: humanity, time, temperature.
If you ask us, this notion of complementary duality can be found particularly well in this necklace in two parts, each one being independent but yet made to exist with the other.
In summary, then, the meaning of yin and yang is that of the organization of the world by a complex duality which is nevertheless unitary, of the presence in everything of two opposite but nevertheless identical principles.
How Did This Symbol Appear?
Now, in fact, these very things can also form encompassing and superior concepts: humanity, time, temperature.
For most historians, the symbol of Yin and Yang would have appeared around the 3rd century B.C. at the same time as the emergence of certain Chinese schools of thought, notably that of a certain Zou Yan, who was particularly interested in the question.
However, this is not entirely true: the Chinese knowledge of Yin and Yang seems to be even older.
Similar patterns used by astrologers at least 400 years earlier have recently been found.
More interestingly, some animal bone remains used in primitive divination rituals have been engraved with marks very similar to our symbol. Now, these bones, date back to more than 1400 years before our era.
There are even written traces that attest to a knowledge of the symbol of Yin and Yang as early as the 9th century BC, more precisely under the Zhou dynasty.
It was around this time that the Zhouyi was written, a work better known as the Yi Jing, or Book of Transmutations.
Besides the detailed description of the five elements of our world and the way they interact, advice on the circulation of Chi or good health practices, the balance between Yin and Yang is well and truly described, at least in its beginnings.
In any case, one thing is clear: our symbol is inseparable from China and its thousand-year-old culture.
If you are interested in the history of this great country, you will find here a set of symbols, accessories and good luck charms emblematic of the Chinese spirit.
The Significance of the Yin-Yang Symbol
The yin-yang symbol, which is also referred to as the Tai Chi symbol, comprises a circle. It is split into two halves with a teardrop shape, only to be separated with a curve. While one half of this circle is white, the other half is black. The circle's black side represents the yin side, whereas the white side represents the yang side.
A black and white dot is also positioned towards the center of each half. These two halves intertwine through a spiral-like curve that divides the circle into semicircles. The two tiny dots in black and white colors pertain to the concept that each side carries the other's seed. The white half contains a black dot, while the black half contains a white dot, both implying the unity and coexistence of counterparts to create a whole.
The curved line indicates that there is no complete division between the two opposing elements. Moreover, the yin-yang symbol exemplifies the two sides: change, harmony, paradox, duality, and unity in diversity. In simpler terms, the Yin and Yang are two opposing forces that complement and attract one another.
Just like their symbol signifies, each side contains a particular element of its counterpart at the core (demonstrated by the small dots). Even though there are two ends, no pole is more superior to the other. Instead, an increase in ether part results in a corresponding downfall in the other.
The Origin of Yin-Yang Theory
The yin-yang theory has been in existence for far too long. Therefore it has a rich and long history. There are several records in writing regarding the Yin and Yang, some of which go back to the Yin Dynasty (about 1400–1100 BCE) and others to the Western Zhou dynasty (1100–771 BCE).
The most ancient records of the yin-yang beliefs can be spotted in the Zhouyi, more commonly known as the Book of Changes of I Ching. It was written in the 9th century BCE by King Wen when the Western Zhou dynasty was in reign. The Zhouyi includes a Jing portion, which explicitly discusses the Yin and Yang’s flow in nature. 🌲
This notion became quite prevalent in the spring and autumn (770-476 BCE) and the Warring States Period (475–221 BCE) in the Chinese olden times. This outstanding concept has influenced hundreds of decades of Chinese theorists, including scholars concerning Taoism and Confucianism ☯. It even inspires several Asian medicines, martial arts, literature, science, politics, academic pursuits, beliefs, and daily behavior.
Two Examples of Practical Uses
Together we have discovered the true meaning of Yin and Yang, both in terms of its legend and its history and hidden message.
This part of the article will not change what we have seen, but will simply apply it to certain areas of everyday life that affect us all.
The Yin-yang Duality in Food
We cannot talk about food, especially as Asians see it, without talking about Yin and Yang.
To put it simply, each food would be more of one or the other, and the trick would be to achieve a balance on our plate.
Concretely, spicy or sweet foods are linked to Yang, while salty or bitter foods are linked to Yin.
Much more than just spiritual, the consequences of putting into practice the theories we have seen here can have a real impact on our health.
Astrology, Traditional Medicine and Energy Arts
It was said when we talked about its history, but yes, the Yin-Yang symbol can be used in certain contexts of divination or astrology. If you are into this kind of practice, here is a path to explore.
We can't talk about Yin and Yang without mentioning Chinese medicine either.
Written about 2000 years ago, the Huangdi Neijing (a medical treatise that the Yellow Emperor, a Chinese ruler elevated to the rank of God, is said to have written) already speaks of the balance between the Yin and Yang parts of the human being as a basis for achieving true health.
Here is a very interesting article from the website blog.aoma.edu which explains the link between the taijitu symbol and Chinese energetic medicine.
In any case, this track also deserves that we take a closer look at it.
Reflection on the Messages of Our Symbol
The meaning of yin and yang is both simple and complex. This is true for most Chinese symbols, but this one really has a unique character.
In any case, yin and yang is clearly one of those themes on which we can build our thinking and through which new ideas are born in our minds.
On a more personal note, I have listed some thoughts about this ancient symbol that I would like to share with you:
- The concept of Yin and Yang teaches us that in life, nothing we encounter is entirely good or bad. Everything that happens to us contains a bit of both, and it is good to learn to see them at the same time.
- The universe is, from a global point of view, a perfect harmony between Yin and Yang. Achieving this balance within us can only help us to live better in our environment.
- When something negative happens to us, there is a good chance that something similar will happen to us in the near future.
- According to what we have seen, the presence of the dark side is a necessary condition for the presence of the light side, and more broadly for the exit from chaos. We must therefore accept it and not unnecessarily seek to escape from a negativity that is sometimes necessary for the achievement of higher goals.
The Yin Yang Mythology & Religion
According to Chinese Mythology, Yin and Yang arose from the chaotic situation when the universe was initially formed. Together, the Yin and Yang are deemed to live in agreement at the Earth’s center. During its conception, their accomplishment of equilibrium led to Pangu’s birth (the first human being).
Additionally, the primary gods Nuwa, Shennong, and Fuxi were born from yin and yang chaos. In the Chinese belief, the Taoists approve of the element of Yin. In contrast, the Confucianists approve of the element of Yang, keeping in mind their respective ideologies. While the former focus on reclusion, the latter believe in the prominence of commitment in life.
The I Ching expresses that the forever-altering relationship amid the Yin and Yang is the primary reason we experience continuous fluctuations in the universe and our daily life, in general. When the imbalance between the two forces exceeds, it leads to major catastrophes like earthquakes, plagues, droughts, and floods.
Yin vs Yang
On a more general note, you can say that Yin is the inward force that is feminine, dark, still, and negative. Conversely, Yang is classified as the outward force that is masculine, bright, hot, and positive. To help you understand better, we will be explaining Yin vs Yang with a few examples. ☯️
In general, Yin is:
- Water (transformation)
- Moon (represents weakness and the goddess Changxi)
- All the even numbers
- Provides “spirit” to all the things.
The “Yin” touches its summit of influence along with the winter solstice. It is also characterized by the tiger, its bright orange color, and a rather wrecked line trigram. ⚍
On the other hand, Yang is:
- Fire (creativity)
- Sun (strength and the god Xihe)
- All the odd numbers
- Provides “form” to all the things.
In contrast to Yin, Yang touches its summit of influence along with the summer solstice. It is also characterized by the dragon, its blue color, and a more solid line trigram. ⚎
The Nature of Yin Yang
1. Yin and Yang are not absolute.
Know that nothing in this world can be classified as entirely Yin or entirely Yang. Each element incorporates the starting point for the opposite aspect. For instance, day turns into night, and then eventually, the night turns into day again. Just like that, Yin and Yang depend on each other for their existence. The classification of one needs the other to be whole.
2. Yin Yang is not static.
It is in Yin and Yang's nature to flow and vary with time. Let’s take the simplest example of how a morning starts and slowly drifts into the darkness of the night. However, the duration of the day and night tend to change. As the planet earth revolves with each passing day, its rotation is also slowing down. 🌏
This is what elongates the length of the night and day. In simple words, both day-time and night-time are moving entities. The yin-yang relationship fluctuations can often be quite dramatic, where one element simply transforms into its counterpart. For example, few fish species include females that instantly alter to the male genders when the male population is insufficient. 👫
3. The sum of Yin and Yang form a whole.
The yin and yang's primary effect is that when one element increases, the other aspect will automatically decrease. This is the only way to maintain the optimal balance and form a whole.
4. The Yin Yang balance can be skewed due to external influences.
There are four types of imbalances that can exist in the Yin and Yang, and they are:
- Deficiency of Yang
- Deficiency of Yin
- Excess of Yang
- Excess of Yin
Moreover, there are a few scenarios in which these imbalances can also correspond together. For instance, an excess of Yin can even conjure up a deficiency in Yang. In contrast, a surplus of Yang can conjure up a deficit in Yin. This concept is crucial when it comes to Chinese healing practices. ❤️🩹
Let’s take the help of an example. A yang excess can typically cause a fever spike. A yin excess can indicate the buildup of different types of fluids in your body. The Chinese healing remedies include inspecting an individual’s health via the 8 essential principles, namely:
- Internal and External Stimuli
- Cold and Heat
- Excess and Deficiencies
- Yin and Yang
5. Yin Yang can be split into additional Yin and Yang components.
Take, for example, Yang as an element of heat. This aspect can be split further into the yin aspect of warmth or the yang aspect of burning.
Yin Yang Tattoos
Are you continuously struggling with two contradicting components in your life and feel like two individual identities inside you are constantly battling for supremacy? If this is so, there is a possibility you are stuck between wanting things and facing difficulty in choosing the two things you love evenly.
This is possibly an indication that you seek completeness and harmony. A yin yang tattoo is an ideal representation for people who want a balanced and harmonious life. Several people see the yin yang tattoo as a constant and powerful reminder that life is all about facing, accepting, and appreciating the good and evil in everything. 😈
If you want to know more about yin yang tattoos, visit our blog article: Yin Yang Tattoos Meaning
The Different Meanings of Yin Yang Tattoos
When it comes to representing human nature, the Yin and Yang serve as reminders that everybody possesses good qualities and bad qualities. Nobody in this world is purely evil, nor is anybody a complete saint. The key to happiness is to struggle to find the perfect balance of both good and bad traits within us.
This is popular amongst individuals who assess work and play equally. While night-time is for relaxation and rest, the day time permits us to work productively. We cannot work without rest, and without work, nobody wishes to rest. ⚖️
This is a popular concept amongst couples. You will often see many couples wearing a semicircle of the yin yang symbol on their wrists. When they hold their hands together, the two semicircles conjoin and create the whole yin yang symbol.
Like everybody else, you have something that completes you. Without it, you cannot be whole. This is a popular concept amongst people passionate about a job or a hobby that complements them wholly.
4. The Cycle of Life
The two halves signify life and death. Additionally, the spherical design and movement of both halves spinning into one another embody the human lifecycle.
This belief is typically depicted in many yin yang tattoos that include the sun and moon in respective halves. It reminds you of the fact that after each night, a new day lies ahead of you, giving you a chance to start fresh.
Two varying energy forces can work in harmony. The moon and the sun work agreeably to produce time. Likewise, the hot and cold weather work in unison to give you warmth.
The Most Iconic Yin-Yang Drawings and Yin-Yang Tattoos
You can find dozens and hundreds of yin yang drawings on the internet, and each of them is exciting, symbolic, and intriguing in its own way. With plenty of designs to opt from, you can include the yin yang drawings anywhere you want. Be it on your accessories, your clothes, or just about anywhere on your body, they are bound to look amazing. Here are a few famous and renowned yin yang drawing designs that might be of interest. ✏️
Yin-Yang Sun and Moon
A popular tattoo design amongst youngsters and adults alike is the yin yang sun and moon. In this design, the moon and the sun can be observed in each half of the yin and yang symbol. The sun typically represents the rebirth of a human being. On the contrary, the moon denotes, leaving your past behind you.
This design is utterly chic and stylish. It also serves as an outstanding pictorial reminder that night follows a brand new day, and you get a chance to do everything from the start. Note that even though the two halves are opposites, they are observed to complement one another. ☀️ 🌑
A contemporary observer from an American background might naturally perceive that Yang sounds better and is more superior to Yin, meaning the sun is stronger than the moon, light is far better than darkness, etc. This is far from the actual point.
The primary idea of a yin yang sun and moon symbol is that they interact with each other and are essential to make a healthy and stable whole.
A few yin yang symbols also include the impressive dragon art into their tattoos and designs. Even though it definitely produces a fascinating piece of art, a yin yang dragon holds immense symbolism. It is essential to identify the different types of energies each dragon casts to completely comprehend the symbolism. 🐉
A yang dragon emits a cheerful, positive, and bright energy charge. They are generally demonstrated to be wingless. Since it gains most of its influence from Mars, the yang dragons give off a masculine air. Their physical energy is usually inferred as daring, courageous, direct, and incredibly outgoing. This energy gets a doer to do things and act instead of reacting. This brash energy requires some tempering to make it effective, so the yin dragon gives it the tempering it needs.
The yin dragon’s energy is entirely different from the yang dragon. Since it gains most of its influence from Venus, this winged dragon projects negative and dark energy charges. This gloomy and mental energy is typically feminine in nature. While the yang dragons are brash and skedaddle down in a frenzy, the yin dragons are more introspective and considerate. Unlike the flash of power of a yang dragon, the energy emitted by a yin dragon is best known for its ability to endure.
As mentioned above, yin yang is the figure of balance and something much more. The yin yang mandala is typically used for meditation and promoting balance for human beings in the utmost meditative state. However, it does not fit ideally into the designs of spiritual mandalas. There are several other uses, partly because of how open the yin yang symbol is to creative expression.
The symbol offers itself perfectly to the spherical yantra and mandala. In certain religions like Buddhism and Hinduism, the yantra and mandala are intended to incorporate kings, deities, or Buddhas within 4 gates. The kings, gods, or Buddhas that are a part of the design are primarily chosen based on your meditative goals.
As far as a yantra or mandala is designed to be utilized as a meditative tool, the yin yang symbol works remarkably. The mandala is typically quite colorful. These colors incorporated in the yin yang design can be selected to balance and clarify your chakras during meditating.
For instance, a pink, blue, green, or turquoise yin yang mandala enables you to focus on balancing the heart and throat chakras. A yin yang symbolic design with 2 fishes can assist you if you are meditating for the purpose of fertility or abundance.
Yin-Yang Koi Fish
The Chinese Feng Shui is where we see the yin yang symbol and koi fish in one combination. One fish is female while the other is female. The yin yang koi fish represents the flow of life and creates the completeness and harmony of energy. The pair of koi fishes symbolize a happy marriage and passionate love between couples. 🐟
They are typically represented in contrasting colors (white and black) swimming in circles. The fish is a depiction of two opposing genders that appeal to one another. Together, they signify the equal forces that administer our universe. There are several meanings associated with koi fish tattoos. For instance, fishes swimming upstream is a clear depiction of determination.
Like the koi fishes that swim against the river currents or with it, being passive or active, being adaptable and responsive towards life and its changes is what brings the components of yin yang and koi fish together.
The yin yang symbol has quite a connection with wolves. Seeking the right balance between compassion and power is one of the most essential facets of Taoist teachings. The yin yang wolf signifies that equilibrium between pure and evil, and good and bad is a timeless classic. 🐺
The yin yang wolf can also be associated with a Native American story that narrates how our minds are experiencing a constant battle amid the good and evil wolf. This vital symbol acts as a reminder and influences all your choice of actions.
Yin-Yang Lotus Flower
A famous icon in Buddhism and Eastern cultures, the lotus flower is a sign of strength and purity. Even when it grows out of mud, it is still so incredibly untainted and beautiful. The combination of the lotus flower and yin yang symbol indicates the tussle between enlightenment and sin and the utmost spiritual victory. 🌸
Yin-Yang and Heart
The heart and yin yang symbol will remind you that love is imperfect. Everybody has to bear ups and downs and positive and negative traits in a relationship. Regardless, the key to happiness and satisfaction is to maintain balance. 🤍🖤
The balance concept
In conclusion, yin-yang is the perfect way to explain the concept of balance. Moreover, an ideal balance between the two extremities must be acquired if you want to achieve harmony.