Yin and Yang: Balance and the meeting of opposites in Asia Pacifica
The Asian concept of yin and yang dates back in ancient Chinese tradition to the legendary Fu Hsi.
Fu Hsi is credited in Chinese tradition with inventing hunting, fishing, cooking and the hexagrams of the I Ching oracle.
The ideas connected with yin and yang may stem from the philosophical observations of changes in nature particularly the seasons.
The opposite characteristics of day and night, New Moon and Full Moon, summer and winter, inspired to thinkers to see things in the dimension of polarity.
In Tibetan philosophy a similar outlook is found in the philosophy of yab yum.
The cycles of time which dictate the activities of living beings were seen as guided by the great principles of yin and yang, the polar opposites.
During the lunar month, the Moon waxes half the time and then wanes the other half. Half the year is warmer and dominated by the Sun and the other half is colder.
The balance between yin and yang and the cycles of waxing and waning similar to the phases of the Moon or the seasons were seen as constituting the true nature of the universe. Humans and forms of life also lived by these rules.
The Yellow Emperor of Chinese tradition is said to have written a great treatise on internal medicine in the 3rd millenium BCE. He used the principles of yin and yang as the basis of curing all human ailments.
In the classic, Huang Ti Nei Ching Su Wen (The Yellow Emperor's Classic on Internal Medicine), it is written:
"The principle of Yin and Yang is the base of the universe. The principle of all creation which brings about the transformation to parenthood. It is the root and origin of all life and death..."
The Chinese characters of yin and yang (shown above) represent respectively the shady and sunny sides of a hill. Again, we see the contrast in this case between light and dark.
The idea of polarity and balance is spread throughout the Asia Pacific region. As already mentioned there is the philosophy of yab-yum in Tibet which focuses on the female and male aspects of opposites. In India, there exists something very similar in the Siva-Sakti beliefs, which are especially prevalent in the southern and eastern regions.
An important aspect of these beliefs is that there is no idea of one force prevailing over the other. The key and root of the whole philosophy is balance and cycles of give and take. In the end, one force does not conquer the other but both merge toward the middle ground.
The Chinese characters for yin (left) and yang (right).