The concept of Yin Yang in Chinese philosophy describes how contrary forces are connected and interdependent. Yin Yang is the heart of Chinese philosophy, science, traditional medicine, and is central to many forms of Chinese martial arts. Yin and Yang are complementary, not opposing, forces that are a part of a greater whole. Western civilization has developed the perception that Yin and Yang represent good and evil. This is not necessarily the case.
The origins of Yin Yang are ancient. It was the basis of a Chinese school of cosmology in the 3rd century BC. This concept came to be known as “in-yo” in Japan, and a government agency was dedicated to advising government officials of its principles as far back as 675 AD. The principles permeated every facet of Japanese society, and their influence exists to this day.
In symbolism, yin is the black side with a white dot and yang is the white side with the black dot. In Taoism, this diagram is known as the Taijitu, which means “the diagram of the ultimate supreme”. Symbols similar to the Taoist design have been found on Roman shields and in Celtic art.
According to this philosophy, everything in the universe is born from the interaction between Yin and Yang. Another concept in Chinese philosophy – the five elements – was later added to the school of Yin Yang. The five elements are wood, fire, earth, metal, and water. Known in Chinese as Wu Xing, these elements are used to explain everything from natural phenomena to organ function and even politics. The belief is that the elements both give birth to and stand in opposition to each other.
To understand the doctrines of the five elements and Yin Yang, one needs to understand the how the ancient Chinese saw the nature of the universe. Yin is weak, and Yang is strong. The interaction between these two forces gave rise to the five elements and allows for change to take place. The five elements are not really physical substances, but rather cyclical movements. This process of movement through the five elements covers all things relating to the cosmos as well as human behavior.
The interdependent interaction between the five elements and Yin Yang sustains all things. Yin Yang is the genesis of everything, and the five elements describe how all things progress naturally through their “life”. In this way everything is connected. Nature, humanity, and the universe re all bound together in a harmonious and interdependent relationship.
Those who practice Zen Yoga see Yin Yang as the flow of energy. Although they oppose each other, they are not in opposition. Yin and Yang are complementary. They are simply two aspects of a singular reality. Each contains some of the other, which is why the symbol includes a dot of white in the black side, and a dot of black in the white side. As they flow, they do not replace each other. Rather, they transform into each other as they constantly flow through the universe.