Yinyang (New Approaches to Asian History)

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By putting yinyang on a secure and clear philosophical footing, the book roots the concept in the original Chinese idiom, distancing it from Western assumptions, frameworks and terms, yet also seeking to connect its analysis to shared cross-cultural philosophical concerns. Wang's scholarship is deep Added to basket. The Road Less Travelled. Scott Peck. Jordan B. The Book of Why. Judea Pearl.

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Nigel Warburton. Erling Kagge. Derren Brown. Utopia for Realists. Rutger Bregman. The Three Dimensions of Freedom. Billy Bragg. The Righteous Mind. Jonathan Haidt. The origin of the yin-yang symbol is found in the ancient Chinese time-keeping system of using a pole to measure the changing lengths of shadows over the solar year, and invented in China at least as long ago as BCE.

Yinyang: The Way of Heaven and Earth in Chinese Thought and Culture by Robin R. Wang

In fact, the yin-yang symbol closely approximates a graphical representation of the daily change of a pole's shadow length during the year. Yang begins at the winter solstice and indicates the beginning of the period when daylight dominates over darkness and thus is associated with the sun. The yin begins at the summer solstice and represents the dominance of darkness over daylight and is associated with the moon.

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Yin-yang also represents the observation of the shadow of the earth on the moon, and the record of the position of the Big Dipper constellation through the year. These observations make up the four points of the compass: the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, the direction of the shortest shadow measured is south, and at night, the pole star points north.

Thus, yin and yang are fundamentally connected with the annual cycle of the earth around the sun and the resulting four seasons. It is believed that to be healthy, one needs to balance the yin and yang forces within one's own body. Share Flipboard Email. Table of Contents Expand. A Subtle and Cosmic Duality. The Yin Yang Symbol. Origin of Yin-Yang. Origin of the Symbol. Medical Use. Key Takeaways: Yin-Yang The yin-yang philosophy says that the universe is composed of competing and complementary forces of dark and light, sun and moon, male and female.

The philosophy is at least 3, years old, discussed in the ninth-century BCE text known as the I Ching or Book of Changes, and influencing the philosophies of Taoism and Confucianism. The interaction of these two establishes he harmony , so it gives birth to things. In none of these conceptions of yinyang is there a valuational hierarchy, as if yin could be abstracted from yang or vice versa , regarded as superior or considered metaphysically separated and distinct.


Instead, yinyang is emblematic of valuational equality rooted in the unified, dynamic, and harmonized structure of the cosmos. As such, it has served as a heuristic mechanism for formulating a coherent view of the world throughout Chinese intellectual and religious history. In these inscriptions, yin and yang simply are descriptions of natural phenomena such as weather conditions, especially the movement of the sun. There is sunlight during the day yang and a lack of sunlight at night yin.

The hidden meanings of yin and yang - John Bellaimey

According to the earliest comprehensive dictionary of Chinese characters ca. Peasants depended on sunlight for lighting and their daily life routines. When the sun came out, they would go to the field to work; when the sun went down, they would return home to rest.

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This sun-based daily pattern evidently led to a conceptual claim: yang is movement dong and yin is rest jing. In their earliest usages, yin and yang existed independently and were not connected. This effect of the sun exists at the same time over the hill. According to Sima Tan Ssu-ma Tan , c. In other words, the yinyang school was concerned with methods of divination or astronomy disciplines that were not distinct from one another in early China, as elsewhere in the ancient world and the calendrical arts which entailed study of the four seasons, eight locations, twelve du [measures] and twenty-four shijie [time periods].

However, none of his works have survived. By the Han dynasty B. Wuxing is used as a set of numerological classifiers and explains the configuration of change on various scales. According to this interpretation, yin and yang are seen as qi in both yin and yang forms operating in the universe. There are six heavenly influences [ qi ] which descend and produce the five tastes, go forth in the five colours, and are verified in the five notes; but when they are in excess, they produce the six diseases.

Those six influences are denominated the yin , the yang , wind, rain, obscurity, and brightness. In their separation, they form the four seasons; in their order, they form the five elementary terms. When any of them is in excess, they ensure calamity. An excess of the yin leads to diseases of cold; of the yang , to diseases of heat. Legge Here, yin and yang are the qi of the universe. These qi flow within the natural as well as the human worlds.

Yinyang (Yin-yang)

They are the basic fabric of existence:. Heaven and earth have their regular ways, and men like these for their pattern, imitating the brilliant bodies of Heaven, and according with the natural diversities of the Earth. Heaven and Earth produce the six atmospheric conditions [ qi ], and make use of the five material elements. Those conditions and elements become the five tastes, are manifested in the five colours, and displayed in the five notes. When they are in excess, there ensue obscurity and confusion, and people lose their proper nature… There were mildness and gentleness kindness and harmony, in imitation of the producing and nourishing action of Heaven.

There are love and hatred, pleasure and anger, grief and joy, produced by the six atmosphere conditions [ qi ]. Therefore the sage kings carefully imitated these relations and analogies in forming ceremonies , to regulate those six impulses…When there is no failure in the joy and grief, we have a state in harmony with the nature of Heaven and Earth, which consequently can endure long. Thus qi , a force arising from the interplay between yin and yang , becomes a context in which yinyang is seated and functions.

Yinyang as qi provides an explanation of the beginning of the universe and serves as a building block of the Chinese intellectual tradition. In many earlier texts, one may observe how yinyang generates a philosophical perspective on heaven, earth and human beings. Chapter 42 of the Laozi says that "everything is embedded in yin and embraces yang ; through chong qi [vital energy] it reaches he [harmony].

New Approaches to Asian History

The interpretation of yinyang as qi conceives yinyang as a dynamic and natural form of flowing energy, a complementary in the primordial potency of the universe. The Huainanzi offers more detailed explanation of the cosmological process of yin and yang :. When heaven and earth were formed, they divided into yin and yang.

Yang is generated [ sheng ] from yin and yin is generated from yang. Sometimes there is life, sometimes there is death, that brings the myriad things to completion. This process also explains the beginning of human life. When qi moved, the clear and light rose to be heaven and the muddy and heavy fell to become earth. When these two qi interacted and attained the stage of harmony he , human life began.

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This shows that everything is made from the same materials and difference relies on the interaction. Qi also takes on various forms and is convertible from one form to another with order and pattern. The concept of yinyang supplies a unitary vision of heaven, earth and human beings and makes the world intelligible in terms of a resonance between human beings and the universe. The Guoyu Discourses of the States describes how earthquakes took place at the confluence of the Jing, Wei, and Lou rivers during the second year of Duke You of the western Zhou dynasty.

A certain Boyang Fu claims that the Zhou empire is doomed to collapse, explaining that. If its order vanishes people will be disoriented. Yang was stuck and could not get out, yin was suppressed and could not evaporate, so an earthquake was inevitable.

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  • Now the earthquakes around the three rivers are due to yang losing its place and yin being pressed down. Yang is forsaken under yin so the source of rivers has been blocked. If the foundation of rivers is blocked the country will definitely collapse. Discourse of the States Human beings, especially political leaders, must align their virtuous actions with the morally-oriented universe. If they follow and harmonize with shun the order and patterns of the universe, they will be rewarded with prosperity and flourishing, but if they go against and conflict with ni it, they will be punished with disasters and destruction.

    Whether one engages in shun or ni depends upon whether yin and yang are in a state of balance.