Yin and Yang
Taken literally, 阴, the Chinese character for “yin”, means a place on the north slope of a mountain or on the south bank of a river, while its antonym 阳, the Chinese character for “yang”, means a place on the south slope of mountain or on the north bank of a river. Examples are found in such Chinese place names as Luoyang and Huayin: the former lying on the nouth of Luoshui River while the latter on the north of Mt. Hua. As China lies on the northern hemisphere, of the globe, sunlight was assumed to come from the south, and so would shine on the south face of a mountain or the north face of a river valley – the “yang” side, leaving the opposite, “yin” side shadowy. Just as light cannot exist without shadow and north only makes sense in relation to south, yin and yang are interdependent.
|Taijitu Symbol embodies the theory of Yin and Yang, the black side known as the Yin side and the white as the Yang side.|
The meaning of Yin and Yang is not restricted to light and shade, but is widely analogized to all phenomena. Yin would be dark, passive, downward, slow, soft, wet, cold, contracting, weak, etc., and accordingly, Yang would be bright, active, upward, fast, hot, dry, expanding, strong, etc. Yin would be associated with water, earth, the moon, nighttime, femininity, hostility, death, etc., and Yang with fire, heaven, the sun, daytime, masculinity, peace, life, etc.
Given their rich associations, the concepts of Yin and Yang, coupled with the theory of wuxing (the Five Elements), provided the intellectual framework for much of Chinese philosophy and scientific thinking, especially in fields like biology, medicine, and martial arts. For example, illness was seen in Chinese traditional medical theories to have resulted from a disturbance in the yin-yang balance caused by heat or cold, emotions, or other influences.
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