The Chinese terms yīn and yáng are linguistically analyzable in terms of Chinese characters, pronunciations and etymology, meanings, topography, and loanwords.

The Traditional Chinese characters 陰 and 陽 for the words yīn and yáng are both classified as radical-phonetic characters, combining the semantically significant “mound; hill” radical 阝 or 阜 with the phonetic indicators yīn 侌 and yáng 昜. The first phonetic yīn 侌 “cloudy” ideographically combines jīn 今 “now; present” and yún 云 “cloud”, denoting the “今 presence of 云 clouds”. The second phonetic yáng 昜 “bright” originally pictured 日 the “sun” with 勿 “rays coming down”. This phonetic is expanded with the “sun” radical into yáng 暘 “rising sun; sunshine”. The “mound; hill” radical 阝full forms semantically specify yīn 陰 “shady/dark side of a hill” and yáng 陽 “sunny/light side of a hill”.

The Simplified Chinese characters 阴 and 阳 for yīn and yáng combine the same “hill” radical 阝 with the non-phonetic yuè 月 “moon” and 日 “sun”, graphically denoting “shady side of a hill” and “sunny side of a hill”. Compare the Classical Chinese names (which contain tài 太 “great”) for these two heavenly bodies: Tàiyīn 太陰 “moon” and Tàiyáng 太陽 “sun”.

Yin Yang
shady side; shady side of a hill; dark side; south bank of a river; cloudy sunny side; sunny side of a hill; bright side; north bank of a river;sunny
moon; negative factors; passive sun;positive factors; active
female; women; feminine male; man; masculine
slow, soft, yielding, diffuse, cold, wet; fast, hard, solid, focused, hot, dry;
water, soil, femininity, and nighttime fire, sky, masculinity and daytime.
earth heaven
empress emperor

 

In Chinese philosophy, yin and yang describe how seemingly opposite or contrary forces may actually be complementary, interconnected, and interdependent in the natural world, and how they may give rise to each other as they interrelate to one another.

In the I Ching, originally a divination manual of the Western Zhou period (c. 1000–750 BC), yin and yang are represented by broken and solid lines: yin is broken (⚋) and yang is solid (⚊).

In Daoist philosophy, dark and light, yin and yang, arrive in the Tao Te Ching at chapter 42.

Yin and yang are always opposite and equal qualities. Further, whenever one quality reaches its peak, it will naturally begin to transform into the opposite quality.

Certain catchphrases have been used to express yin and yang complementarity:

  • The bigger the front, the bigger the back.
  • Illness is the doorway to health.
  • Tragedy turns to comedy.
  • Disasters turn out to be blessings.

Yin and yang applies to the human body. In traditional Chinese medicine good health is directly related to the balance between yin and yang qualities within oneself. If yin and yang become unbalanced, one of the qualities is considered deficient or has vacuity.

Joseph Needham, a British sinologist, discusses Yin and Yang together with the Five Elements (metal, wood, water, fire, earth) as part of the School of Naturalists. He says that it would be proper to begin with Yin and Yang before Five Elements because the former: “lay, as it were, at a deeper level in Nature, and were the most ultimate principles of which the ancient Chinese could conceive. But it so happens that we know a good deal more about the historical origin of the Five-Element theory than about that of the Yin and the Yang, and it will therefore be more convenient to deal with it first.” He then discusses Zou Yan (鄒衍; 305 – 240 BC) who is most associated with these theories. Although Yin and Yang are not mentioned in any of the surviving documents of Zou Yan, his school was known as the Yin Yang Jia (Yin and Yang School).

Edited from Wikipedia

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