What is Ying and Yang? 5 Things You Need to Know

Yin and Yang is an influential concept that is preached in distinctive customs throughout the Chinese culture and regarded as one of the accepted philosophies that have been prevalent for thousands of years. The belief isn’t limited to its origin, it has gained quite a reputation and is now a worldwide concept of many philosophical views and scholarly articles.

Defining The Theory of Yin-Yang

Yin-Yang is explained by the various schools of thought but agrees on one concept – complementary things or forces existing in the universe and how they are interrelated and mutually dependent on each other; in other words, it is a concept of ‘duality.’

We come across Yin and Yang not only as a theoretical aspect but it’s prevalent in daily life as well like female (yin) and male (yang), night (yin) and day (yang), black (yin) and white (yang), Moon (yin) and Sun (yang), water (yin) and fire (yang), etc.

The perfect balance of yin and yang keeps our universe stable. If either one increases, the complement will decrease automatically, and there will be disruption of harmony. Therefore, to maintain the equilibrium in a system, yin and yang have to be in perfect sync.

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Origin of Yin and Yang

According to Chinese mythology, Yin-Yang was considered to be born out of the chaos during the creation of the universe. Therefore, forces of nature subdue each other and maintain their equilibrium (which is the fundamental meaning of yin and yang).

But the records of this philosophy were found back in the Yin Dynasty (1400–1100 BCE) and the Western Zhou Dynasty (1100–771 BCE).

The oldest written record of this principle is found from a book called I Ching or Book of Changes, written by King Wen of the Western Zhou Dynasty. It had a proper mention of the flow of Ying and Yang in nature which influenced many Chinese philosophers and scholars, especially the ones attached to Taoism and Confucianism.

You can read further into the details of its origin here.

Yin and Yang Symbol

Yin and Yang
Yin and Yang Symbol

The symbol of Yin-Yang represents a flow or continuation of the events (like day eventually leads to night and continues) and not stable.

The symbol implied is called ‘Taijitu’ or ‘Tai Chi’ symbol that depicts a circle of black and white divided by a wave and respectively having small circles of their complementary colors (i.e. black in white and white in black).

The outer circle represents the entirety of the universe. The two complementary small circles represent the co-existence and the unity of the opposites to be in sync (You can think of it as – There’s always some good in bad). The curvy line that separates the colors signifies that despite being opposite, there is no absolute separation.

Yin and Yang used to measure time
A visual prediction of time-keeping by Yin and Yang

The Tai Chi Symbol is said to be originated from the Ancient Chinese time-keeping system where a pole is used to measure the changing lengths of shadows over the solar year.

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Difference between Yin and Yang

Yin and Yang are polar opposites to each other so the difference between them is literally “day and night.”

The Yin point of view explores the idea of the more mysterious side of things like concealment, darkness, cold, night, feminine whereas, Yang represents the more optimistic and bright side of things like open, brightness, hot, day, masculine. Neither of them is more powerful than the other, both of them need to be in equilibrium to preserve the peace and harmony in the universe.


They are always in a pair and act more like a couple, as if to prevent each other from going berserk or insane. Even if they are complementary, they co-exist and co-dependent on each other to exist. The flow of energy or the transition makes Yin-Yang non-static in nature.

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Principles of Yin and Yang

The principles of Yin and Yang are dynamic and can easily be applied tour daily life. It’s a consequential aspect of the Taoism culture, as the foundation of their philosophical tradition is based on this belief. The principles are listed below.

1. Yin and Yang always oppose each other

Yin and Yang must be complementary in order to oppose and act as a control for the other. There is simply no dominance of either.

2. Yin and Yang work as a whole and not partly

Although they are complementary, Yin and Yang together form everything in the natural world. They represent every important aspect of the world and how they mutually interact and are carefully balanced to maintain peace and harmony.

3. Neither Yin nor Yang is superior

Yin or Yang don’t have any extra advantage over each other. The forces are always countering to prevent the dominance of the other.

4. Yin and Yang are transforming continuously

They are never static, always changing to remain the equilibrium. Whenever one of the forces is at maximum, it gets transformed into the other.

For example, when we have the coldest day in winter (extreme yin), the weather reverses it to be a bit warmer than before and vice versa.

5. Disruption of balance due to external factors

Even after equal distribution of yin and yang, sometimes external factors can disrupt the equilibrium of a specific state.

For example: Consider our healthy body as the perfect state of yin and yang. The forces that can disrupt your state can be stress, trauma, torture, diet, etc. Therefore, your body is no longer in harmony. To restore the balance we take medicines (that is another external factor for removing the former).

Common FAQs related to Yin and Yang

1. What does Yin and Yang tattoo means?

Yin and Yang tattoos are famous for their resemblance to the masculine and feminine force. The Yin half indicates female, and the Yang half is considered male.

2. What does Yin and Yang mean in relationships?

In relationships, Yin is the part what drives the individual to receive the sexual energy from their partner and Yang is the one that makes you initiate the sex with your partner. Therefore, equal distribution is necessary to have a healthy relationship.

3. What does Yin and Yang mean in Chinese?

In Chinese, Yin means the shady side of the mountain, which can be interpreted as shadows, dark, etc., whereas Yang is meant to be the sunny side of the mountain which is resembled as light, brightness, etc.