Yin and Yang Theory
The concept of Yin and Yang is one of the most fundamental and profound theories of Feng Shui. It is the Chinese perspective of balance and continual change. Many Feng Shui practitioners claim they have a deep understanding of this concept, yet they cannot even represent the image correctly. In fact, this is a good indicator of the depth of knowledge a “master” possesses. Many times these practitioners call themselves masters, yet their printed materials contain an incorrect Tai-ji (The name for the Yin and Yang circle) representation. How can one call themselves a master of Feng Shui and not even understand the basics of this deep and extremely significant diagram? Yin and Yang is a foundation theory for Feng Shui that supports many other theories including the Five Elements theory and the Environment. Hopefully by reading this, you will be better informed on what Yin/Yang theory is in Feng Shui.
What the Western version of Yin and Yang might be
Yin and Yang are dependent opposites that must always be in balance. The opposites flow in a natural cycle always replacing the other. Just as the seasons cycle and create a time of heat and cold, Yin and Yang cycles through active and passive, dark and light, etc. Yin and Yang evolved from a belief of mutually dependant opposites that cannot live without the other. The Eastern view of opposites is, if you will excuse the pun, opposite of a Western view. If Yin and Yang are balanced and flowing in the East, in the West (if a similar philosophy were adopted), it might look like the image to the right.
We in the West tend to look as things as black “or” white, right “or” wrong, etc. There is separation and unrelatedness in the Western perspective. Whereas, the Chinese view opposites as evolving and cycling. There is neither right or wrong, but rather there is balance, transformation, interaction, and dependent opposition. We need both to maintain a balance.
Yin and Yang can further be explained as a duality that cannot exist without both parts. The chart below shows some of the many opposites that are contained in such a simple symbol.
After the Yellow Turban rebellion (184 A.D.), the Han dynasty emperors commissioned scholars to re-examine the ancient texts. The principles of which Dong Zhongshui (?179-104 B.C.) and others interpreted the ancient texts were derived from the early philosophy of nature, the complementary alternating forces of Yin and Yang, dark and light, female and male, which maintain the balance of the cosmos, and which had been a thought pattern of the Chinese before any philosophical schools came into being.1 Meaning, that Feng Shui and Yin and Yang concepts were evolving from cosmological and environmental sciences before Daoists philosophy adopted it. Many people believe that it was a Daoist invention.
Within Yang, there is a small piece of Yin. Within Yin, there is a small piece of Yang. Just as in the heart of winter, a seed lays in wait to become life, so is Yang waited within Yin for its turn. In a hot summer, a sudden desert storm can bring coolness. This too is an example of how Yin is found in Yang. Again, there are no absolutes, just cycles in time.
An excellent book on this topic is Heaven and Earth in Early Han Thought.
Understanding a small piece of the true nature of the Tai Chi symbol
These Han dynasty scholars examined the ancient texts and discovered that their forebearers already had a logical and cyclical explanation for the Yin and Yang beyond the morality and philosophy. The first initial observations were of the changes of the seasons. Then expanding these observations the directions were explained. Then cycles in nature were further explained as the cycle of the Five elements.
From a solar perspective, the Sun rises in the East, reaches its peak overhead and sets in the West, then the symbology of the Tai-ji can be represented as right. Furthering that; Spring gives way to new wood, Summer brings fire and heat, Autumn cools like metal, and lastly snow (frozen water) brings the coldest time or Winter. It can also be seen that heat rises and coolness settles.
From a directional perspective, in the Northern Hemisphere (and from a Chinese perspective) the hottest direction is the South and the coldest is the North. Meanwhile all of this occurs with Earth being the center point.
An elemental perspective is a productive cycle of five elements. Creating this productive cycle of elements we see that:
- Wood burns producing Fire.
- Fire leaves behind Earth.
- Earth is the source of Metal.
- Metal liquefies into flowing liquid like Water (or another explanation is that Metal when cooled it creates condensation, such as a car left out on a cool night).
- Water then becomes the nourishment for the Wood.
Now you see that there is a lot of depth and meaning to this simple symbol. Many times this symbol is represented as shown below. If heat rises and cool settles, how can Feng Shui “masters” use it on their web sites, in Feng Shui books, and in their classes classes etc.?
Incorrect! Heat does not flow down and cool does not rise!!
Without understanding the conceptual view of Yin and Yang, one cannot properly utilize five elements. Since the five elements are the basis of the energetic representations and are the (only!) corrections utilized in Feng Shui, next time you see this incorrect version of the Tai-ji, question the information you are receiving.
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1. Morton, W. Scott, China Its History and Culture, McGraw Hill, 1995
Yin and Yang