The yin and yang is an easily recognizable symbol. The yin-yang is a theme that is predominant in a large amount of Asian philosophical literature and in Traditional Chinese Medicine. According to Chinese philosophy, the universe and the body can be described by two separate but complementary principles, that of yin and yang (Dupler, 2001). For example, Yin is all things dark, negative, and feminine. Yang is all things light, positive, and masculine. One cannot exist without the other (Levchuck, Kosek, & Drohan, 2000). Nothing is ever completely yin or yang, but a combination of the two. These two principles are always interacting, opposing, and influencing each other.
One of the most popular sources for yin-yang is from the Taoist text, “Tao Te Ching”. The Tao Te Ching can be translated as The Book of the Immanence of the Way or The Book of the Way and of How it Manifests Itself in the World or, simply, The Book of the Way (Mitchell, 1998). Lao-tzu is credited with writing the Tao Te Ching during the 6th century BC. The name Lao-tzu, in English, can be translated as “the Old Master” or “the Old Boy” (Mitchell, 1998).
To begin with, the Tao is an ancient Chinese philosophy/religion found with in the Tao Te Ching, which emphasizes a balance in nature of all things. For example, the Yin (female) and Yang (male) embrace each other to blend into a state of harmonious steadiness (Wang, 2003). Women (yin) in this philosophy are represented as the soft (rou) energy of the universe, and their images resonate with the mystic meanings of, for example, valley and water. Men (yang) are recognized as embodying the secret of life, and represent thing such as the rising mountaintops and sunlight.
Within the Tao, the concept of wu wei embodies the idea of “Do nothing and everything will be done” (Creel, 1956). Many people consider the idea of wu wei to be passive, but to Lao-tzu it could not be any further from the truth. Non-action is the purest and most effective form of action. This means that the action that takes place is the action from nature. Therefore, the action is non-egoic. This means that a person must be free of his or her ego and must simply let nature take its course. The game plays the game; the poem writes the poem; we can’t tell the dancer from the dance. This “nothing” is, in fact, everything (Mitchell, 1992).
Already one can sense the allusion of opposites in balance: non-action is action, nothing is everything, etc., thus, the concept of yin and yang. The following excerpt is an example of how the yin and yang concept is incorporated into Lao-tzu’s work:
True perfection seems imperfect,
yet it is perfectly itself.
True fullness seems empty,
yet it is fully present.
True straightness seems crooked.
True wisdom seems foolish.
True art seems artless.
The Master allows things to happen.
She shapes events as they come.
She steps out of the way
and lets the Tao speak for itself.
(Tao Te Ching verse 45)
The paired opposites observed in the world gave tangible expression to the otherwise uncontemplatable Tao of ancient Chinese thought (Micozzi, 2001). The following is another example of writings from Lao tzu, where the purpose of yin and yang are directly expressed:
Out of Tao, One is born;
Out of One, Two;
Out of Two, Three;
Out of Three, the created universe.
The created universe carries the yin at its back and
the yang in the front;
Through the union of the pervading principles it
(Tao Te Ching Verse 42)
To understand the Tao one must understand the yin and yang, and three into one. One yin and one yang constitute the Tao (Huang, 1984). One cannot talk about one yin or yang by itself; one must talk about yin and yang together, which is two. It is the idea that each concept or force in nature relies on, connects to and depends on its previous and subsequent counterpart.
The Tao advocates the idea that peace and harmony of the body results in the peace and harmony in the environment (Schipper, 1978). This means that a person’s life can be at its best when their body is “balanced,” for then, everything else will naturally fall into place. For this to happen, it can be thought that a person’s body needs to be following the yin and yang. For in the Tao, the concept of the yin and yang must be embodied otherwise illness will occur.
The goal of Traditional Chinese Medicine is not to eliminate either yin or yang, but to allow the two to balance each other and for the energies influence to exist harmoniously together (Dupler, 2001). If yin and yang are not in harmony, it is as though there were no autumn opposite the spring, no winter opposite the summer (Lucas, 1977).
If you or someone you know would like to achieve wellness through creating a balance in the body, please visit Texas Acupuncture Clinic or visit us at our Facebook page at Tiffany Chiu at Texas Acupuncture Clinic.
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Dupler, D. (2001). Acupuncture. The Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine. Michigan: J. L.
Huang, W. (1984). Fundaments of tai chi. Hong Kong, China: South Sky Books
Levchuck, C. M., Kosek, J. K., & Drohan, M. (2000). Alternative medicine. In A.
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Lucas, R. (1977). Secrets of the Chinese herbalist. New York: Parker publishing
Micozzi, M. S. (2001). Fundamentals of complementary and alternative medicine.(2nd
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Mitchell, S. (1988). Tao Te Ching pocket edition. New York: NY: Harper Perennial.
Schipper, K. (1978). The Taoist body. History of Religions, 17, 355-386.
Wang, X. (1986). Research on the origin and development of Chinese acupuncture and moxibustion. In Xiangtong Z. (ed.), Research on Acupuncture, Moxibustion and Acupuncture Anesthesia (pp. 783-799) New York: Springer-Verlag.