Yin Yang

Core of the Chinese Culture


yinyang symbol

If we were to summarize what I Ching is all about, it can be boiled down to two words: yin yang (or ying yang), which is also in the heart of the Chinese culture.

Let's find out what ying yang means.

Yin and yang is embeded in the tai chi symbol, as shown in the picture above. Let's take a few seconds to examine closely what are in the symbol.  

What do you see in the symbol above?

Well, you would have seen that it is:

  1. rounded;
  2. in two colors -- black and white
  3. in two equal sections; each of the shape of a fish;
  4. balanced.

Each of these features has important implications. Let us examine each of the features in turn:


It is rounded

The symbol is in the shape of a circle. 

The word tai chi 太极 in Chinese, to put it simply, means ‘infinite’. It can be infinitely big or small; or infinitely near or far. 

Of all the shape we know, circle is one that gives a sense of continual movement and therefore best illustrate the implication of infinity. 

It is for this reason that the symbol is also known as tai chi symbol.

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It is in black and white

Another distinctive feature of the symbol is that it is in two colors – black and white. The colors have important implicatin. They symbolize the dichotomy of everything in the universe.

Everything that we see and touch -- and everything that we can’t see and touch -- has a dichotomy of opposing properties.   It is just like a coin with face and back, and the human race that is made up of men and women.

In the tai chi symbols, the black represents yin, and the white yang.  They are opposing or contrasting forces.  Generally, yin is passive, oppressed and feminine; while yang is active, bright and masculine.

This, however, does not mean that everything in woman is yin, nor everything in man is yang.   Yin and yang go beyond definition of sexes.   A woman is yin when she is contrasting with a man, but has her own sets of yin and yang in her.   For example, her left hand is yang, and right-hand yin; and her cheerfulness is yang and sadness yin.

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Two Equal Sections: Black & white 'fish'

The symbol is divided into two equal section, each of the shape of a fish.

For convenience sake, we may describe the two sections as black and white fish respectively.  Take note that the ‘black fish’ has white eye, and the ‘white fish’ has black eye.

These fish-like features represent yin and yang energies. The black fish is yin, and the white fish yang.

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Yingyang Balance

The yin-yang symbol is rounded, so as to gives a sense of continual movement and interaction of the two energies.

Although yin and yang are opposite, they are complementary. At the same time, they are interchangeable. Yin turns into yang and yang turns into to yin, causing new yin-yang situation to establish.

Observe the symbol. There is a black dot that looks like an eye in the white fish; and similarly a white dot in the black. Walking through the diameter of the circle, you will not experience pure black or pure white. There is always some black and some white. Yin and yang are rooted in one another. You find yin in yang, and yang in yin.

This somehow reflects the reality of life, where there is rarely pure yin or pure yang. In happiness, there are seeds of sadness; and in every risk there lies an opportunity.

Ying and yang wax and wane; and can be mutually transformed.

Generally, Chinese like to balance the yin and yang, and avoid stark contrasts.

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Yinyang and Chinese business etiquette

This explains why if you are dealing with Chinese, you may find them feeling uncomfortable to immediately talk about business.  They will like to go through the process of getting to know you, and better still, becoming your friends before exploring further in business.

It is a process of balancing the yin and yang energies between you. 

This explains why dining is so important in China.  Especially when you are on official visits, you are bound to be treated to at least two meals. One to welcome you, the other to say farewell to you.  In between, there are further wine and dine depending on the circumstances. 

Informal contacts allow better opportunities for balancing the yin-yang aspects of relationships.

Ying Yang and business negotiations

Knowing yin and yang is also important when you are at the business negotiation table.  The Art of War by Sun Tzu uses the yingyang to control and manipulate opponents, and many of the strategems are used during business negotiations. 

Knowing the existence, interaction and transformation of the yin yang vital energies will help you read the situations better.


Read about I Ching on man and the universe and impact on the business mindset.

Read more on Chinese culture.

Read more on Chinese mindset.

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