What Does the Yin Yang Symbol Mean?

Have you noticed that very little of the answers to these questions are straightforward or simple?

The Yin Yang symbol, also know as “Taiji” or Taijitu”, dates back to ancient China before the 3rd century BCE and represents the unity and duality of nature. The complementary forces interact to form a dynamic system in which the whole is greater than the assembled parts. Neither is static, and their interactions are thought to maintain the harmony and balance of the universe and to influence everything within it. It is a central concept in Chinese philosophy, science, medicine, and martial arts.


Consider these details:

  • The circle is equally divided into black/white sections to represent the interaction of energy found in all things

  • The S-like shape signifies the dependence of both sides on one another as they yield to and push into each other

  • The black area contains has small white circle, while the white area contains a small black circle, indicating that within each opposing force, there is a small part of the other

Think about similar real world examples such as life/death, heaven/earth, male/female, black/white, night/day and dark/light

The color black represents “Yin,” or female energy, which is characterized by:

  • Restiveness/receptiveness/passiveness

  • Intuition ~ sense of understanding life and its nuances resides in Yin energy

  • Creativity ~ builds up and bursts forth motivating Yang energy into action

  • Submissiveness ~ balance against aggressive Yang energy

  • Softness ~ flexible, capable of bending and giving

The color white represents “Yang,” or male energy, which is characterized by:

  • Power

  • Logic

  • Enlightenment ~motivates and inspires to understand and reach enlightenment

  • Dominance ~ dominates in its strength and massive force

  • Hardness ~ unbending, hard energy

The height of Yin influence is during the Winter Solstice, while Yang’s influence is greatest during the Summer Solstice. Linguistically, the Chinese Yin is the “shady side of the mountain” and the Yang is the “sunny side of the mountain.”

But it is the same mountain.

Confucianism focuses on Yang and Taoism focuses on Yin. Though both are necessary, under Confucianism, the belief was that Yang was superior which led to justification for China’s patriarchal history and also led to the persecution and extinction of Asian sun goddess cults outside of Korea and Japan.

The Yin Yang symbol is an excellent interpretation of life and how each action, characteristic, and aspect has an opposite effect and one cannot exist without the other. Balance is created when they work in unison.

Something to keep in mind when we are practicing Tai Chi!