The Meaning of Yin and Yang

by Marie Baptiste
References to the Chinese symbols Yin and Yang occur as long ago as 700 B.C. in the I Ching.

References to the Chinese symbols Yin and Yang occur as long ago as 700 B.C. in the I Ching.

Visually expressed as complementary black and white images within a circle, Yin and Yang represent ancient Chinese ideas that encompass the meaning of all reality. A black dot embedded in the white image and a white dot in the black image add to the cosmological meaning of Yin and Yang. The symbols play integral roles in the Daoist spiritual tradition and in the approach of Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Interdependent Nature of the Universe

Yin, represented by the black image, symbolizes the feminine energy in all reality. Feminine principles include receptivity, the earth and darkness. The symbol for active and masculine qualities, Yang, symbolizes heaven. Together, Yin and Yang form an interdependent and dynamic whole, the image of which symbolizes the whole of Chinese cosmology. The dots of opposing colors in the Yin and Yang symbol show the perpetual flow of light into dark, masculine into feminine, and the interdependent flow of all apparent dualities.

The Changing State of Reality

Yin and Yang also represent the dynamic and ceaseless state of change in which all reality participates. According to the symbol, just as morning follows night and night follows day, Yin always contains the seed of Yang and Yang includes the Yin principle. The core meanings related to Yin and Yang, harmony and change, reveal essential ways that ancient and contemporary Chinese cultures view the world and their roles in the world. Yin and Yang offer hope that difficulties will evolve into better conditions. They also provide wisdom that the best of times can and do change, so preparation and perspective make wise approaches to life's constantly changing landscape.

About the Author

With a Master of Arts in systematic theology, concentrating in world religions, and additional graduate hours in Middle Eastern studies, Marie Baptiste possesses extensive experience writing religion and theological articles, essays and research papers. Her work appears in such respected print publications as "TIFERET" and "High Country News."

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