The Principle of Yin and Yang

Have you ever heard that opposites attract? If you think about magnets, with different poles (north and south), the north and south attract and come together, while like for like (south and south) repel each other. Yin and Yang is a Chinese philosophy about balance.

Yin and Yang

A balance of things

The balance or coming together of opposite forces is one way to think about the principle of Yin and Yang. In Chinese culture, Yin and Yang means that two opposites form part of a whole. They contradict each other but one cannot exist without the other. One example of Yin and Yang would be old and new, female and male, and light and dark. Other examples would be day and night.

Day cannot exist without night, and night cannot exist without day. The two are joined together. Also, night turns into day, so they cannot easily be separated.

Yin and Yang can be applied to all things in the natural world, like summer and winter. It can explain times of change like the change of the seasons.

In Chinese philosophy, all life comes from a force called qi (pronounced chi). This is like invisible energy that makes things come to life. Qi brought everything to life, and yin and yang groups these things together into opposites. Some things in the world are thought to be ‘yin’ and some things are thought to be ‘yang’. It is a way of grouping things.

Qi

Yin and Yang is not about one thing being good or the other being bad. It is all about balance. When two opposites exist together the world can be balanced.

The symbol of Yin and Yang

Yin and Yang is represented by a symbol of black and white interlocked shapes. Yin is the black side of the shape with the white dot in it. Yang is the white side of the shape with the black dot in it. The dots show that within yin, there is a bit of yang and within yang, there is a little bit of yin.

You will see this symbol everywhere, all over the world. It is very popular. You can see it on jewellery, posters and artwork, for example.

T’ai Chi

The history of Yin and Yang

The principle of Yin and Yang is very important to all Chinese thinking. It is a very old philosophy. It comes from a school of thought called Yinyang. A school of thought is an idea that is created that other people also adopt and believe in. This school of thought, Yinyang, was developed as early as the third century BC.

Yin and Yang has influenced people even beyond China. It is very important in Chinese martial arts like T’ai Chi and Chi Kung.

Ancient China