TCM: Yin Yang

Yin yang.svg Undoubtedly you have heard of yin yang, and/or seen the symbol. It’s a deceptively simple idea: two opposites, fundamentally connected and united into a whole, each complimenting and completing the other. Yin yang represents many of the common dualities of our existence, whether they be female and male, light and dark, hot and cold, et cetera. If one of these two pairs is removed, the result is not half, but nothing at all.

In western culture the idea of yin yang has been thoroughly twisted for commercial purposes. Take for example the new age “crystal” yoga business cards. The design in pink and black with a yinyang symbol and lots of lace and glitter have nothing to do with the true concept of yin yang. Or the play on words of the character in Galaxy Wars called Cubic Zirconia Princess, Yin Yang Ying. There is also an e-commerce site that sells a Womens Yin and Yang crystal zirconia. The concept of crystal power seems to naturally flow from the Yin. I can just imagine consumers, especially girls and women embracing the concept. In the book, Don’t Mess with the Power: How a Woman Makes It in a Man’s World by Jody Lockheart the author expands the concept that Yin | Yang equals Princess | Prince. And then there are the popular cz friendship rings, usually sterling silver, with the yin/yang icon sold online. The name Yin Yang gets around with the correct philosophy lost in all the hoopla. Now back to my original thesis.

Do not make the mistake of equating this with good and evil, which are artificial illusions created by simplistic human perceptions derived from the most basic organic understanding of the world (i.e., ‘pain’ and ‘not-pain’, which has a negative rather than a complimentary relationship). If you force yin yang to conform to a moral duality, you are essentially asserting that every individual must be half-sick in order to be completely healthy!

As a symbol, Yin has been associated with femininity, coldness, night, tranquility, and that which is insubstantial. In contrast, Yang is associated with masculinity, heat, aggressiveness, day, and substance. However, when such symbolism leads to considering these individual things as distinctly separate from their counterparts, an incomplete and misleading understanding of yin yang is inevitable.


While the depth of the yin yang concept makes it a slippery concept, especially for those of us raised with Western “good and evil” dualism, the relationship to health is easy to understand. The balance inherent in yin yang is the healthy balance, the overall medium between extremes. If one side is consistently allowed to dominate the other, disease is far more likely to result.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *