In the beginning there was nothing but a formless chaos. Out of this chaos, there was born an egg. When the egg split the heavy yolk sank to become the Earth, while the light egg white rose to become the Heavens. Yin and Yang are represented by two lines.

Yang is a solid line that represents brightness, lightness, masculinity, and the tendency to move upwards.

Yin is a broken line that represents darkness, heaviness, the feminine, and the tendency to move downwards. Yin and yang are complementary, interdependent opposites, neither of which can exist without the other. Each can transform into the other, and contains a seed of the other within it. Yin and yang consume and support each other. Each aspect of yin and yang can be further subdivided into yin and yang aspects.

This is represented in the Taiji symbol black is yin, yang is white and they are combined into a circle that is a pictogram of the Supreme Ultimate. Yin and yang are equally important, unlike the dualism of good and evil. Neither can exist without the other. The earliest Chinese characters for yin and yang are found in inscriptions made on oracle bones. In these inscriptions, yin and yang refer to 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).

According to the earliest comprehensive dictionary of Chinese characters (100 CE), Xu Shen’s Shuowen Jiezi (Explaining Single-component Graphs and Analyzing Compound Characters), yin refers to a closed door, darkness and the south bank of a river and the north side of a mountain. Yang refers to height, brightness and the south side of a mountain.

 Yin and Yang in Summary

  • Yin and yang are opposites. Everything has its relative opposite. Not one thing is completely yin or completely yang; each contains the seed of its opposite. For example, winter eventually turns into summer.
  • Yin and yang are interdependent. One cannot exist without the other.
  • Yin and yang can be further subdivided into yin and yang. Any yin or yang aspect can be further subdivided into yin and yang. For example, temperature can be seen as either hot (yang) or cold (yin). However, hot can be further divided into warm or burning; cold into cool or icy. Within each spectrum, there is a smaller spectrum; every beginning is a moment in time, and has a beginning and end, just as every hour has a beginning and end.
  • Yin and yang consume and support each other. Yin and yang are usually held in balance—as one increases, the other decreases. However, imbalances can occur. There are four possible imbalances: excess yin, excess yang, yin deficiency, yang deficiency.
  • Yin and yang can transform into one another. At a particular stage, yin can transform into yang and vice versa. For example, night changes into day; warmth cools; life changes to death.
  • Part of yin is in yang and part of yang is in yin. The dots in each side of the yin-yang symbol serve as a reminder that there are always traces of one in the other. For example, there is always light within the dark (e.g., the stars at night), these qualities are never completely one or the other.