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April 2020
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Yin and Yang and the Nature of Opposites.

Daoism is one of the oldest religions in China, yet throughout its history, it has encompassed a range of philosophy and practices.

The early religious Daoist sect, the Celestial Master Tradition, began during the rule of the Legendary Yellow Emperor of the Han Dynasty (206BCE-220CE). Daoism has seen its share of ups and downs, particularly during the Culture Revolution of 1966 to 1976 when the Red Guards destroyed Daoist books and temples. However, since the economic liberalization, which began in the late twentieth century in mainland China, Daoism has been re-emerging not only in China, but also in many parts of the world such as in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Singapore. Daoist tradition is uniquely mystical, and this tradition did not formally have any particular name until some scholars gave the name “Daoism” as stated in, Living Religion at the heart of Daoist teachings is the idea of Dao, the “unnamable” (Mary Pat Fisher 195).

Daoism is a tradition knitting together ancient philosophical traditions and subsequent religious sects, which believe in immortality. Daoism also relied on ancient Chinese methods and the teachings of many sages who have been forgotten or are part of Daoist legends. Among the sages, the most famous is Laozi (Lao-Tzu) who is supposed to have lived between 600 and 300BCE. The central scripture of Daoism, the Dao de jing (Tao-te Ching), is attributed to Laozi. Another main text is Zhuangzi, and both of these texts are important for the Daoist tradition. Only during the rule of the Tang Dynasty was the first Daoist Canon was compiled (748 CE) and the present Daoist canon was compiled in 1445CE.

Daoism emphasizes natural law and allowing things to take their own course without interference by humans. By residing in quiet and being open-minded, one lives in coherence with the natural flow of life, with the ‘Dao’, which is the unnamable eternal Reality. Many sages follow the tradition of retreating to remote mountains to study powerful Daoist teachings, which are traditionally passed down secretly from teacher to student. These teachings point the way to inner transformation, self-cultivation, longevity, and immortality.

Here, I will discuss three important points: The significance of yin and yang, how the Daoist followers use this sign and why it is beneficial and how I feel about the symbol personally.

Part 1: The description of the yin and yang, symbol its origin and place in the tradition

Compared to Confucianism, Daoism is more mystical and complex. In this tradition, the ancient practice of cultivating qi (ch’i) is widely practiced. Daoists believe that everything has energy. According to Daoist belief, this qi has two aspects, which are yin and yang. The color of yin is dark; the function of yin is welcoming, and open. The characteristic of yin is female. On the contrast, the color of yang is bright. The function of yang is more aggressive, and the characteristic of yang is male. As stated in An Anthology of Living Religions, “Daoism is more mystical and paradoxical than Confucianism, and includes ancient traditions such as qi(ch’i), energy in all things, the yin/yang modes of energy, and Taijiquan( Tai-ch-ch’uan), which are physical exercises practiced daily to enter into harmony with the universe”(144). Thus, belief in yin and yang is a very important part of Daoism.

This symbol of yin and yang is widely used in temples and houses of some of the disciples who follow the Daoist tradition. Today, in places in Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong, and China, this symbol of yin and yang is used by individuals who follow Daoism. Daoism explains that the interaction of these two modes of yin and yang can be seen in the changing phenomena of the universe. The qualities of yin and yang interlock and melt together. If a yang force grows and expands, it will subsequently brow smatter. There will always be a balance be a between forces of yin and yang.

Part 2: The purpose of the yin and yang symbol, and the impact of yin and yang on people who use it.

The symbol yin and yang is not just logo in Daoism, but there is also purpose and meaning behind this unique symbol. Daoism generally emphasizes the importance of natural flow. When the flow is disrupted this goes against the main principle of Daoism which is harmony and balance of life. One should live harmoniously with the natural flow of life, with the ‘Dao’ or the unnamable eternal Reality. This natural flow of life has been compared to flowing water, which flows down from the high mountains overcoming all kinds of obstacles along the way by itself. Similarly, one cannot go against nature and one has to live harmoniously with nature.

Even though, yin and yang are two opposite forces, yin and yang are interconnected and interdependent with each other. In other words, black could not exist without white nor could exist dark without light. These two colours of yin and yang, which are contrasted by nature, form a union; interact harmoniously like a man and woman meeting. Such a concept helps individuals to look not only on the one side of an issue, but also to look on the other side because when one only looks at one side, these create imbalances and disharmony. In Daoist tradition, looking at both sides is a very essential way of living. Therefore, Daoism believes that everything is within this process of yin and yang interacting harmoniously and that there is nothing in nature that exists outside of this phenomenon.

According to the Daoist belief, anything that works perfectly in one’s daily life has to be well balanced. For instance, in order for one to listen to the beautiful sound of a guitar; the strings cannot be too loose or too tight; also, a guitar player’s hand movement has to be just perfect, only then one can hear a beautiful sound coming out of the guitar. Similarly, Daoism believes that without the proper balance of yin and yang, one will not find harmony and natural flow of life. This symbol is very popular with the people of Asia, and one can see individuals wearing it on their neck, or displaying its stickers made for cars to protect oneself from accident, bad omen and to bring good health and prosperity. Therefore, this symbol of yin and yang has purpose and meaning for many people who follow Daoism.

Part 3: I find this symbol of yin and yang appealing to a certain extent.

Daoist masters strongly believe and emphasize the importance of yin and yang and personally, this symbol appeals to me in many ways: First, its look is very fascinating and meaningful particularly how the symbol is designed. The colours black and white are within a circle that is equally divided and each side of the space within the circle has a black and white dot, which look mysterious and has a strong presence. The symbol of yin and yang looks unique and attractive.

The symbol of yin and yang is not just appealing visually, but what is more important is the meaning this symbol signifies. Today, more and more people practice moderation and the middle way, which means that one has to live a well-balanced life. More and more people are concerned about the environment and their health, thus, people want to live a life, which does not disturb the environment where they live and internally, they wish to live well balanced. Individuals, who love to live harmoniously with the nature, do not want either happiness or suffering overwhelmed their lives which they seem to think more meaningful because imbalance of living tend to bring more disharmony and discomfort. For example, when individuals over used natural resources tend to cause distraction or if happiness and unhappiness of individuals are not properly balanced, then people are putting their lives in less harmony. Thus, this symbol seems to have a meaning and full of purpose.

I have never experienced any kinds of mystery in my life by the symbol of yin and yang, however, I did experienced the importance of balancing and harmony in my life. Life itself is full of mystery and what I learned from either happiness or suffering was that if one does not balance equally, then there are chances of experiencing pain more than happiness. To illustrate, when one is experiencing happiness, one cannot let this happiness overwhelm oneself because once one loses this feeling of happiness than one will be left with only dissatisfaction. On the other hand, when one is experiencing suffering, one cannot afford to live only in such a situation because one will only find more misery. Therefore, one have to balance such feelings by not letting either happiness nor suffering control, one’s precious life and balance of both feelings help one to be in more control of one’s life.

In addition, harmony is an important part of one’s life and if negative emotions such as hatred, attachment and jealousy disrupt this harmony within, then one will never see one’s mind in great peace and happiness. Thus, whenever the negative emotions tend to affect one’s life, then one has to immediately look for an antidote such as patience, lack of desire and just respect others for hard work and their belongings.

I personally, never believed that signs or symbols would affect the truth of life and the world because in fact these symbols tend to have positive effect on oneself. For instance, what these teach others is to be respectful to nature, live harmoniously with the nature and one has to balance both negative and positive energies to live happily and meaningfully.

Daoism is one of the oldest religion in China and there people who followed Daoism learned to live with nature without interfering the law of the nature and practice the teachings from the sages in order to achieve inner transformation, self-cultivation, longevity, and immortality. In Daoism, the symbol yin and yang are very important parts of Daoist tradition.

Works Cited

Fisher, Mary Pat. Living Religions, Ninth Edition. New Jersey: Pearson Education Inc., 2014.

Fisher, Mary Pat and Lee W. Baily. An Anthology of Living Religions, Third Edition. New Jersey: Pearson Education Inc., 2012.