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Yin and Yang

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The most basic concept of Chinese medicine is Yin (阴) and Yang(阳). They exemplify the principle of mutually dependent opposites. All things objective and subjective are believed to have complementary opposites. The Shakespeare quote from Romeo and Juliet comes to mind.

Good night, good night! Parting is such sweet sorrow,
That I shall say good night till it be morrow.

Shakespeare understood that parting is sweet because it is sorrowful and sorrowful because it is sweet.

Yin and Yang are the two components of the primordial qi. Yin, the negative principle, represents cloudiness, the moon, earth, night, water, cold, dampness, darkness, what is feminine, what is in the passive, the process of contraction. Yang, the positive principle, refers to sunshine, the sun, heaven, day, fire, heat, expansion, dryness, brightness, what is masculine, what is active. Nothing in nature is ever 100% Yin or 100% Yang. Everything exists in harmony, in a balance, in equilibrium.

In this manner, Chinese medicine approaches illness and its treatments from an holistic manner. When a malady is present, the total body is seen as disturbed and warranting treatment. The body attempts to maintain a natural balance between Yin and Yang. Eating, is considered Yin while the actions of the body itself if considered Yang. Under normal conditions, when one is without illness, the body is said to be in Yin and Yang balance. Under circumstances that are abnormal, there is an excess or lack of Yin or Yang and a disease process is in evidence.

With this basic understanding of Yin and Yang balance, treatments are devised to restore balance where imbalance, equivalent to disease is manifested. The following simplified example illustrate this concept: A person with pneumonia runs a high fever and has pathogenic heart, a Yang disease agent. In this instance, Yin becomes deficient to the high degree of present Yang. The heat syndrome’s treatment will be treated with cold-natured herbs to overcome the heat generated.

The cardinal rule is that Yang diseases require Yin treatment and Yin diseases require Yang treatment.

History of Yin Yang

The doctrine of Yin Yang is the fundamental principle employed by all classical Chinese arts and sciences. The oldest written reference to this principle occurs in the Chou Government’s Book of Rites, dated as eleventh century B.C. Its origin is credited to Fu Hsi, the first of China’s legendary Emperors.

The old hieroglyphic character for Yang is a picture of the sun with its rays emanating, combined with a picture of a mountain. The image is “the sunny side of the mountain”. The old character for the Yin is a picture of a cloud with one of a mountain. The image is “the dark side of the mountain”. Each is opposite to the other in nature yet they both hold the mountain in common.

Laws Governing Yin and Yang

  1. All things are the differentiated apparatus of one infinity
  2. Everything changes
  3. All antagonisms are complementary
  4. No two things are identical
  5. Every condition has an opposite
  6. The extremity of any condition is equal in its opposite
  7. Whatever has a beginning also has an end

Further Differentiations of Yin and Yang

To adapt the Yin and Yang theory to more precise application, it is necessary to further differentiate Yin and Yang into four categories:

  • old yang
  • young yang
  • old yin
  • young yin

These categories represent progressive stages in a process of change from extreme Yang to extreme Yin. It it important to remember that extreme Yang does not mean absolute 100% Yang and vice versa. Nothing in existence is solely Yin or Yang. Thus, the four categories represent degrees of Yin and Yang.

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