Yin & Yang and their relationship

Yin & Yang and their relationship is the Chinese concept of two complimentary yet opposing qualities of Qi and therefore everything in the universe can be described in terms of Yin or Yang. The literal translation of Yin is “The shaded side of the valley” and Yang is “The sunny side of the valley”. Yin/Yang is both a way of thinking and a description of the way in which Qi works. For each there is an opposite: Hot/cold, up/down, hard/soft, material/spiritual, etc. The continuous flux of Yin and Yang give impetus to the development of everything, “Yin and Yang are the law of Heaven and Earth, the outline of everything, the parents of change, the origin of birth and destruction….”

Yin and Yang cannot exist independently as they are mutually dependent. There can be no extreme, within Yin there is Yang and within Yang there is Yin. Each can be further sub-divide as within Yin there is also Yin; they are used to provide a reference point for description of phenomena- low, lower, and lowest. Yin within Yin within Yin. When one reaches an extreme it becomes the other.

Yin Yang Taiji
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The now world famous Taiji symbol shows the two aspects of Yin and Yang as though they were two fish swimming round in a tight circle, chasing each other. This shows the relationship between the two – balancing each other, opposing each other, and becoming each other. If observed closely it can be seen that the white fish has a black eye and vice versa, showing that each contains a seed of the other. However if the eye of the fish were magnified it would become another Taiji symbol ad infinitum.

My Qigong Master gave the best description I have come across of the inter-dependency of Yin, Yang and Qi. He posed his students many questions, one of which was “How many sides does a coin have?” The usual answer he received was “Two”. He would then send his student away to ponder on the deeper meaning. After a while he would laugh and explain that the coin has three sides, the Yin and Yang were the two faces, and the Qi, which holds both together, was the edge. Yin and Yang are but perceptions of the quality of the Qi.

Yin and Yang represent the two opposite aspects of everything and the implicit conflict and interdependence of these aspects. Generally, anything that is moving, ascending, bright, hot, hyperactive, including functional disease of the body, relate to Yang. The characteristics of stillness, descending, darkness, degeneration, hypoactivity, including organic disease, are related to Yin.

The terms Yin and Yang were coined to try to understand the dualistic nature of the Universe……………. What do I mean by that? Well, in order to describe anything we MUST have something to compare it with. Yin or Yang cannot exist independently………….. You cannot have the concept of “up” without that of “down”, or that of “hot” without cold, etc.

There is a broadly held misconception about Yin and Yang where people, or things are described as one or the other. If I was to describe anything as Yin, it would be meaningless unless I had something else to compare it with.

For example, if we look at Yin & Yang and their relationship, using Yin and Yang as a description of height you can see that:

  • Your ankle is Yin to your knee or your hip.
  • Your knee is Yang to your ankle but Yin to your hip.
  • Your hip is Yang to both your knee and your ankle.

So, to describe one thing as being Yin, or Yang, you need to have a point of reference.

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