yin and yang

Yin and yang refer to symbolic elements or concepts that represent complementary forces in the natural and spiritual world within Chinese thought, particularly in Taoism.

The yin refers to the force or negative energy manifested in the dark and is receptive , like the shadows of the north side of a mountain. Historically associated with the feminine, the passive, the soft and the cold times.

The yan is that positive energy, clarity and light, understood as creator and generator . This represents the illuminated south side of a mountain. The masculine, the active, the hardness and the warm times are attributes of the yang.

In Taoism, yin and yang represent principles found in the universe, which are not opposites, but rather complement each other . In their interaction, they create everything that exists. Their relationship is recognized through the symbol of the taijitu , popularly known as the “yin yang”.

DefinitionIt is a force, principle or symbol, which with yang is part of a life cycle, and is used to refer to that energy related to darkness and the negative forces of the universe.It is that force or symbol complementary to the yin that represents the energy related to clarity or light, as well as the positive forces of the universe.
  • It is associated with the feminine, serene and soft.
  • It symbolizes the dark.
  • It is cold.
  • It is responsive.
  • It is wet and its element is water.
  • It is passive.
  • It is associated with the masculine, strong and tough.
  • It symbolizes the light.
  • It is warm.
  • Is creative.
  • It is dry and its element is fire.
  • Is active.
Time of dayThe night.The day.
SeasonsAutumn and winter.Spring and summer.
Role in everyday lifeWork inside the house and nutrition.Work in the fields (outside the home) and provision of food.

What is yin?

The yin is an element which, together with the yang represents the beginning of the order of the universe and all existing things. Its translation from Mandarin means the ‘ negative force ‘ and is associated with the dark . In this sense, yin is the receiving and passive energy of the universe, understood as the north face of a mountain, hidden in the shadows.

Thus, yin as negative energy is not understood as something “bad”, but as something complementary to clarity. Like a shadow that is projected on an object exposed to a ray of light.

It is considered by many people, along with yang, as an ordering principle of the cosmos or a symbol that represents an energy of certain attributes of things. Both elements are expressions used to understand the reality of the human being. That is, both yin and yang can be seen as ways of observing the social and natural world.

In the same way, the different cycles and periods of the year are represented by some of these elements. Yin represents the season that covers autumn and winter , characterized by being darker and colder. During these seasons there are less work and outdoor activities.

In addition, yin has historically been associated with the feminine , since women were assigned the tasks within the house, the care and feeding of the family, and not the work activities in the field (which were considered more active and typical of men).

Characteristics of the yin

  • It is feminine.
  • It is serenity.
  • Its seasons: autumn and winter.
  • It is cold.
  • His time is night.
  • It is dark.
  • It is associated with the north.
  • It’s soft.
  • Its movement is contraction.
  • It manifests itself in water.
  • It is passive.

What is yang?

The yang is an element which translates Mandarin as ‘ positive force ‘, representing what is light or is illuminated . Its meaning is exemplified as the south face of a mountain that reflects the sunlight. The quality of yang is the generating and active energy .

As a complement, yang represents the opposite of yin, but not as if in a sense of opposition, but as two sides of the same coin. In this way, the yang symbolizes the masculine , the warm, the hard, the light and the fire.

Yang represents the time of spring and summer . During warmer and brighter times, as happens during these seasons, work in the fields was (and is) a common activity.

Thus, as a result of the observation of the social and natural world, the yang was inscribed in the daily tasks carried out in the open air, detaching from it the idea of ​​movement or action. These tasks have historically been associated with man, in addition to being the one who brings food from outside the house.

Characteristics of yang

  • It’s masculine.
  • It is the fortress.
  • Its seasons: spring and summer.
  • It is warm.
  • His time is the day.
  • Is clear.
  • It is associated with the south.
  • It’s hard.
  • Its movement is expansion.
  • It manifests itself in fire.
  • Is active.

Relationship between yin and yang

These elements are considered as parts of a whole. Both yin and yang need each other and their coexistence allows the universe to exist. Their relationship is that of a continuous action-reaction movement . Neither of the two has more value or superiority than the other, since they are integral and necessary parts of the social and natural reality .

Within Taoism and classical Chinese thought, the harmony between the two is like natural cyclical reality. For example, following the daily cycle, during the day work is carried out in the fields, a moment that manifests the yang. At night and when it is cold, people rest inside their houses, and this represents yin.

This is why yin is passive, since at night there is little activity, and yang is seen as active. This union ensures the balance of the universe.

It could be said that yin and yang manifest their meaning precisely because they are complementary . This dynamic is manifested through  ( chi ) which is the ‘vital force’ that flows in the universe.

Yin and yang in Taoism

Taoism is a tradition of Chinese thought that is approximately 2,500 years old. In Taoism, great importance is given to the natural harmony of the universe, which is achieved with the conjunction of yin and yang.

Within this tradition, the Tao is an element that gives order to the universe and all things, allowing such harmony. The Tao is interpreted (and translated) in various ways, being particularly known as ‘the way’ or ‘the way’.

Taoism, as an expression of the Tao, is seen as an appropriate way of life. In this case, the Tao or the way is the correct path during existence . The Tao does not try to conceptualize life, but rather it is a way of being when you live .

Within the Taoist tradition, nature and its cycles must be respected, so following the Tao allows each being to act in accordance with the creative harmony of the universe. Likewise, the Tao is present in all things, and humans are an expression of it.

In the Tao Te Ching or The book of the Tao and its virtue , which is a text attributed to Lao Tzu (around the 4th to 6th centuries BC), the foundations of Taoism are laid. This book focuses on the Tao and its relationship with the complementary energies yin and yang, without defining any, although pointing out their importance within the vital flow of the universe and its harmony.

In chapter 42, the Tao Te Ching makes explicit reference to the relationship of yin and yang to the Tao:

The Tao gave birth to the One.

One gave birth to Two.

Two gave birth to Three.

The Three gave birth to all creation.

All things carry with them the negative force of Yin,

At the same time they embrace the positive force of Yang.

The union of these forces,

It allows them to reach a state of harmony.

In this way, in Taoism, yin and yang are present in all things and creatures. They are not separable, and yet they are distinct . This harmony indicates that there is a way (Tao) that is followed naturally in the universe.

Within Taoism, life is lived without blocking the way of things. This means that what “is” must not be obstructed. Every action that goes against the Tao can affect the natural course that things follow.

The idea, then, is to act according to the Tao, free from selfishness. That is, through the Wu Wei , or ‘doing without doing’, it is how people can act without obstructing the Tao, free from any manifestation of self-centeredness.

To visualize this, you can think of a large river flowing into the sea. If you were to swim across, go against the current, which is the natural flow of things (Tao), there would be a very large expenditure of energy, in addition to possible deadly consequences. On the other hand, if the flow of the river is followed, the action of crossing little by little swimming with the current allows less energy to be used. This entails letting the river “be” and acting without doing ( Wu wei ), preserving the natural harmony.

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