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Chinese Buddhist Encyclopedia Illustrations
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In Chinese philosophy, yin and yang (also, yin-yang or yin yang) describes how opposite or contrary forces are actually complementary, interconnected, and interdependent in the natural world, and how they give rise to each other as they interrelate to one another.
This duality lies at the origins of many branches of classical Chinese science and philosophy, as well as being a primary guideline of traditional Chinese medicine, and a central principle of different forms of Chinese martial arts and exercise, such as baguazhang, taijiquan (t'ai chi), and qigong (Chi Kung), as well as appearing in the pages of the I Ching, purportedly written in 1,000 BC and before.
Yin and yang can be thought of as complementary (rather than opposing) forces that interact to form a dynamic system in which the whole is greater than the assembled parts. Everything has both yin and yang aspects, (for instance shadow cannot exist without light).
so, the duality of yin and yang is an indivisible whole. In the ethics of Confucianism on the other hand, most notably in the philosophy of Dong Zhongshu (c. 2nd century BC), a moral dimension is attached to the idea of yin and yang.
The Chinese terms yīn 陰 or 阴 "shady side" and yáng 陽 or 阳 "sunny side" are linguistically analyzable in terms of Chinese characters, pronunciations and etymology, meanings, topography, and loanwords. Characters
The Traditional Chinese characters 陰 and 陽 for the words yin and yang are both classified as radical-phonetic characters, combining the semantically significant "mound; hill" radical 阝 or 阜 with the phonetic indicators yin 侌 and yang 昜.
The first phonetic yin 侌 "cloudy" ideographically combines jin 今 "now; present" and yun 云 "cloud", denoting the "今 presence of 云 clouds". The second phonetic yang 昜 "bright" originally pictured 日 the "sun" with 勿 "rays coming down".
This phonetic is expanded with the "sun" radical into yang 暘 "rising sun; sunshine". The "mound; hill" radical 阝full forms semantically specify yin 陰 "shady/dark side of a hill" and yang 陽 "sunny/light side of a hill".
The Simplified Chinese characters 阴 and 阳 for yin and yang combine the same "hill" radical 阝 with the non-phonetic yue 月 "moon" and ri 日 "sun", graphically denoting "shady side of a hill" and "sunny side of a hill". Compare the Classical Chinese names (which contain tai 太 "great") for these two heavenly bodies: Taiyin 太陰 "moon" and Taiyang 太陽 "sun".
Pronunciations and etymologies
The Modern Standard Chinese pronunciation of 陰 or 阴 is usually level first tone yīn "shady; cloudy" or sometimes falling fourth tone yìn "to shelter; shade", and 陽 or 阳 "sunny" is always pronounced with rising second tone yáng.
Sinologists and historical linguists have reconstructed Middle Chinese pronunciations from data in the (7th century CE) Qieyun rime dictionary and later rime tables, which was subsequently used to reconstruct Old Chinese phonology from rimes in the (11th-7th centuries BCE) Shijing and phonological components of Chinese characters.
Yang *laŋ compares with Lepcha a-lóŋ "reflecting light", Burmese laŋB "be bright" and ə-laŋB "light", and Tai plaŋA1 "bright"; and is perhaps cognate with Chinese chāng *k-hlaŋ 昌 "prosperous; bright" (cf. Proto-Viet-Mong hlaŋB "bright"), and bǐng *braŋ 炳 "bright".
A reliable Chinese-English dictionary gives the following translation equivalents.
Yin 陰 or 阴 Noun ① [[[philosophy]]] negative/passive/female principle in nature ② Surname Bound morpheme ① the moon ② shaded orientation ③ covert; concealed; hidden ④ ⑦ negative ⑧ north side of a hill ⑨ south bank of a river ⑩ reverse side of a stele ⑪in intaglio Stative verb ① overcast ② sinister; treacherous
Yang 陽 or 阳 Bound morpheme ① [[[Chinese philosophy]]] positive/active/male principle in nature ②the sun ④ in relief ⑤ open; overt ⑥ belonging to this world ⑦ [[[Wikipedia:linguistics|linguistics]]] masculine ⑧ south side of a hill ⑨ north bank of a river
The Sinologist Rolf Stein etymologically translates Chinese yin 陰 "shady side (of a mountain)" and yang 陽 "sunny side (of a mountain)" with the uncommon English geographic terms ubac "shady side of a mountain" and adret "sunny side of a mountain" (which are of French origin).
Many Chinese place names or toponyms contain the word yang "sunny side" and a few contain yin "shady side". In China, as elsewhere in the Northern Hemisphere, sunlight comes predominantly from the south, and thus the south face of a mountain or the north bank of a river will receive more direct sunlight than the opposite side.
Yang refers to the "south side of a hill" in Hengyang 衡陽, which is south of Mount Heng 衡山 in Hunan province, and to the "north bank of a river" in Luoyang 洛陽, which is located north of the Luo River 洛河 in Henan.
a. In Chinese philosophy, the feminine or negative principle (characterized by dark, wetness, cold, passivity, disintegration, etc.) of the two opposing cosmic forces into which creative energy divides and whose fusion in physical matter brings the phenomenal world into being. Also attrib. or as adj., and transf. Cf. yang.
b. Comb., as yin-yang, the combination or fusion of the two cosmic forces; freq. attrib., esp. as yin-yang symbol, a circle divided by an S-shaped line into a dark and a light segment, representing respectively yin and yang, each containing a 'seed' of the other.
a. In Chinese philosophy, the masculine or positive principle (characterized by light, warmth, dryness, activity, etc.) of the two opposing cosmic forces into which creative energy divides and whose fusion in physical matter brings the phenomenal world into being. Also attrib. or as adj. Cf. yin.
In English, yang-yin (like ying-yang) occasionally occurs as a mistake or typographical error for the Chinese loanword yin-yang— yet they are not equivalents. Chinese does have some yangyin collocations, such as 洋銀 (lit. "foreign silver") "silver coin/dollar",
The linguistic term "irreversible binomial" refers to a collocation of two words A-B that cannot normally be reversed as B-A, for example, English cat and mouse (not *mouse and cat) and friend or foe (not *foe or friend).
Similarly, the usual pattern among Chinese binomial compounds is for positive A and negative B, where the A word is dominant or privileged over B, for example, tiandi 天地 "heaven and earth" and nannü 男女 "men and women". Yinyang meaning "dark and light; female and male; moon and sun", however, is an exception.
the idea that "proto-Chinese society was matriarchal", or perhaps, since yinyang first became prominent during the late Warring States period, this term was "purposely directed at challenging persistent cultural assumptions".
For instance, dropping a stone in a calm pool of water will simultaneously raise waves and lower troughs between them, and this alternation of high and low points in the water will radiate outward until the movement dissipates and the pool is calm once more.
Further, whenever one quality reaches its peak, it will naturally begin to transform into the opposite quality: for example, grain that reaches its full height in summer (fully yang) will produce seeds and die back in winter (fully yin) in an endless cycle.
It is impossible to talk about yin or yang without some reference to the opposite, since yin and yang are bound together as parts of a mutual whole (for example, there cannot be the bottom of the foot without the top).
A way to illustrate this idea is to postulate the notion of a race with only men or only women; this race would disappear in a single generation. Yet, men and women together create new generations that allow the race they mutually create (and mutually come from) to survive.
The interaction of the two gives birth to things, like manhood. Yin and yang transform each other: like an undertow in the ocean, every advance is complemented by a retreat, and every rise transforms into a fall.
Thus, a seed will sprout from the earth and grow upwards towards the sky—an intrinsically yang movement. Then, when it reaches its full potential height, it will fall. Also, the growth of the top seeks light, while roots grow in darkness.
Certain catchphrases have been used to express yin and yang complementarity:
Symbolism and importance
The relationship between yin and yang is often described in terms of sunlight playing over a mountain and a valley. Yin (literally the 'shady place' or 'north slope') is the dark area occluded by the mountain's bulk, while yang (literally the 'sunny place' or 'south slope') is the brightly lit portion.
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.
These are then combined into trigrams, which are more yang (e.g. ☱) or more yin (e.g. ☵) depending on the number of broken and solid lines (e.g., ☰ is heavily yang, while ☷ is heavily yin), and trigrams are combined into hexagrams (e.g. ䷕ and ䷟).
The relative positions and numbers of yin and yang lines within the trigrams determines the meaning of a trigram, and in hexagrams the upper trigram is considered yang with respect to the lower trigram, yin, which allows for complex depictions of interrelations.
The term is commonly used to mean the simple "divided circle" form, but may refer to any of several schematic diagrams representing these principles, such as the swastika, common to Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. Similar symbols have also appeared in other cultures, such as in Celtic art and Roman shield markings.
Taijiquan (Chinese: 太极拳), a form of martial art, is often described as the principles of yin and yang applied to the human body and an animal body. Wu Jianquan, a famous Chinese martial arts teacher, described Taijiquan as follows: