What is the theory of Yin and Yang?

9 mins read
What is Yin and Yang
Yin and Yang Symbol

We are sure many of you are familiar with the symbol used in the featured image above – the famous Yin and Yang symbol of spirituality. But do you know the history of its origin and its meaning? If you think it is only about masculine and feminine energy then you are not completely wrong, but there is so much more to it. In this article we will tell you everything you need to know about the theory of Yin and Yang including where it originated from. So, stay tuned till the last for some eye-opening facts.

Simplification of the Yin and Yang symbol

The black swirl – Represents the yin of anything

The white swirl – Represents the yang of anything

The symbol of Yin and Yang is made of two swirls one of white and the other of black color. Each swirl contains a dot of the opposite color in it respectively. 

The Yin and Yang symbol represents the phenomenon of duality and the idea that two different things can exist together in harmony. The two swirls can be seen mixing with each other at one point which also shows that everything in the Universe is interconnected, for example – there is no positive without negative, or there is no light without dark. The white color depicts yang and the black color depicts yin. The white and black color dot which are present in opposite swirls depicts that the seed of yin is present in yang and vice versa, which also reveals that in all yang there is little yin and vice versa. 

Let us begin with understanding the principle of Yin and Yang

Our world is powered by an invisible force that manifests itself in many ways whether we talk about the physical things or the spiritual, everything revolves around the concept of Yin and Yang. Yin and Yang are the two cosmic energies that are complementing each other and at the same time opposing too. These two forces are believed to be the reason behind the essence of everything we see and feel in nature. They make up all aspects of life and are interconnected, which means one can not exist without the other. 

It is often called the two parts of the same coin which aren’t different from each other but are part of the same thing. They also transform into each other at some point – let us try to understand this with an example. The daytime is referred to as the yang and the night part is called the yin but both of them gradually transform into one another. The night will always become day and the day will always become night, this is an inevitable thing that is bound to happen.   

The universe is made up of vibration, energy, and matter, and in every aspect of life, one can find the core of Yin and Yang. Whatever you see or read, be it a piece of information or something physical, everything can be translated into the form of Yin and Yang. Yin and Yang is something that Chinese philosophers and people have believed in for the longest period of time. As per Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), everything is balanced out in nature in the right proportions, there is not too much yin or too much yang. However, it also says if there is an imbalance in these energies, then, it can cause harm or either leads to destruction.  

Traces to other cultures

The significance of Yin and Yang can be found in many cultures which convey the same message but in different ways. 

The concept of Yin and Yang has some traces to Hinduism. There is no doubt about the fact that there is a huge difference in the culture of the two nations – India and China, but they are well-known for sharing religious values and teachings of Buddhism in the past. However, it is not only limited to this, the significance of Yin-Yang can be traced back to the Hindu beliefs of Ardhnareshwar as well.

Dualism in Zoroastrianism 

Let us take a look at one of the debated concepts of Dualism in Zoroastrianism. According to this, the existence of dualism in Zoroastrianism is found in two forms which are as follows:-

Cosmic Dualism

Cosmic dualism states that there is a war taking place between two forces of the universe, one is creative energy (Spenta Mainyu)  which is created by God and another is destructive energy (Angra Mainyu). It claims that God created a pure and harmonious universe which the destructive energy is trying to pollute and destroy through aging, sickness, etc. Here, we can see the concept of yin-yang rightly fits the cosmic energy of good and evil, or creative or destructive. 

Moral Dualism 

Yin-yang can also be found in the moral dualism of Zoroastrianism, which states the human mind was made blank and pure by God, now it depends on the person to welcome any thought in it. The good thoughts are called Asha (truth) whereas the evil thoughts are called Druj (deceit). The fruit of which further will be borne by the person in the form of hell and heaven. 

Going back in time

Yin-Yang theory is said to be a part of the ancient Chinese philosophical teaching that comes from the book called Tao Te Ching, which is based on Taoism. It is believed that the Tao Te Ching was written by the Laozu sometimes called Laozi, who wrote this around 400 BC. The book has around 81 brief chapters and serves as an inspiration to many artists like painters, calligraphers, writers, etc. 

However, some historians claim that the book is the result of contributions from many renowned Chinese philosophers who over a period of time have included various texts and valuable teachings in it.

Let us try to understand the characteristics of Yin and Yang – 

Just like everything else, Yin and Yang can also be characterized based on various attributes.


Let us throw some light on the qualities of the yin, it is said to be the shady side of cosmic energy. It is considered the weak, slow, and resting part of anything. It is also called the receptive part and one who completes an action. For example – the Moon; at this time of the night, everything comes to halt, in other terms, the whole of the world comes to rest. We will further look at many more examples in the later part of this post.


The yang is considered the strong, fast, and active part of anything. It is also called the masculine part of a person, which is present in both males and females in the required proportion. As both Yin and Yang carry the seed of one another, hence, the essence of one another is present in the required portion. 

Not only the physical things but the things we see and feel also carry the attributes of Yin and Yang. For example – Sun is viewed as a strong force that spreads light and is said to be the one initiating the day hence also known as the active part of the cosmic energy. 

Should we compare the Yin and Yang?

Even though these two parts are inseparable from each other, it is necessary to understand whether these should be compared or not. 

Yet, if a comparison is made between the qualities of Yin and Yang, one would argue that Yang is the stronger part. Therefore, it is crucial to understand that these energies can’t be compared, they have their own values and importance which makes them unique and special. What Yin can do can’t be done by Yang and vice versa. One should not merely go on their individual qualities as together they form the foundation of the existence of anything. 

For example – if the daytime is for working out and nighttime is for rest, then it is important to understand that rest is equally essential for a person to restore his energy and other bodily functions. Another example to understand the connection between Yin and Yang would be the hot and cold water; we understand the hotness of the water only after we have felt the coldness.   

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Some Historical Background of Yin and Yang

Let us take a look at the history and origin of the Yin and Yang theory.

There are no authentic records about the origin of this theory but, it was first found in the I Ching (book) translated as the Book of changes, which is a divination text written and updated over a span of time, originally used as a divination manual by the ancient Chinese philosophers, gradually made it available for the common public to better their knowledge of philosophy.

Some historians claim that the book of changes was written by the mythological king Fu Xi who is believed to be the first of three ancestors of the Chinese civilizations. But, other scholars consider that it was the King Wen of the Western Zhou dynasty who was also the founder and the first king of the dynasty that understood the whole text of the I Ching during the seven years he served in the prison. 

The Tai Chi symbol from I Ching, where the core center carries the Yin and Yang symbol.

Yin and Yang are also called the Tai Chi symbol from the I Ching. The yin-yang theory was founded in the 3rd century B.C.E and the leading representative behind this theory was Zou Yan, a notable philosopher, and scholar who framed many works revolving around the philosophy of Taoism. According to Taoism, there is a greater power in the Universe and it is called “Tao,” which means the “way”. The Yin and Yang became the base for the school of cosmology (the yinyang school) which influenced almost every aspect of Chinese culture. It entered every thought process be it medicine, astrology, cosmology, or art. 

Zou Yan over a period of time worked on this philosophy and tried to simplify the concept of Yin and Yang for the world.

Importance of Yin and Yang in Chinese culture

Yin Yang is still of great importance in Chinese medicine and Feng Shui. The Chinese culture has always believed in the importance of Yin and Yang not only in relation to materialistic things but also to the human body. A person whether male or female is created in such a way that he/she has both masculine and feminine energy in them. 

Examples of Yin and Yang

Yin  Yang 
Black White 
Female Male 
Receptive Active 
Lower Upper 
Night Day 
Soft Hard 
Water Fire 
Rest Movement 
Cold Hot 

What happens when there is an imbalance between Yin and Yang? 

Yin-yang is a reminder of the fact that everything in nature is in balance and harmony. Hence, we need to understand what happens when they are out of balance. 


According to the ancient Chinese medical book which was written around 2000 years ago and known as Huangdi Neijing or Yellow emperor’s classic of medicine – it is vital to maintain a proper balance between Yin and Yang in the human body to lead a healthy life. Ancient Chinese people and doctors believed that food is the best medicine for many diseases, therefore, they used to consume food products that boost their health and kept the illness at bay.

Chinese people were very cautious about food intake, they always tried to maintain a balance between Yin and Yang by consuming a proper diet that included both of them in the right proportion. 

They have even categorized food products on the basis of their effects on the body. 

The food which has a cooling effect is considered yin whereas the ones with warming sensations are believed to be yang. The food products that generally come from the soil, are dry, and are red or orange in color were considered yang. Potato, chili peppers, papaya, and lamb meat are regarded as yang food which helps in relieving depression. Yang foods have a warming effect and raise the level of physiological and nervous activity in the body. 

The food item which has a moisture content, and is generally bitter or salty in taste is the yin food. They are usually grown in water and are green-toned in color. Yin food has a cooling and soothing effect and makes one feel relaxed and at ease.  Examples of yin foods are cucumber, tofu, lotus, and soy sauce. Yin food is considered best for a person who is dealing with stress or anger issues.

Feng Shui 

Feng shui is generally related to the coordination of household items and their arrangements. Feng shui is translated as the wind-water, the natural forces, with wind representing yang and water representing yin. Hence, it is crucial to maintain harmony for chi to flow effectively, promoting health, wealth, and peace in the house. 


Nature from its origin has maintained a balance between the flora and fauna. But, because of the excess of human interference in many things has resulted in the pollution of water, soil, air, etc. It has disturbed the natural balance of nature and has brought about many natural disasters. 

The concept of yin-yang has been of great importance in ancient Chinese culture. It is not only an age-old way of understanding the cosmic world but is applicable to our everyday life as well. It also reminds us that balance is the key to harmony and peace. Hence, it is essential to maintain a balance between the Yin and Yang, not only for the well-being of the natural world but also for the sake of human civilization. 

Renu Solanki works as a content specialist with Postbox Consultancy Services. She is an English Literature graduate.

She is an avid-reader and passionate about the study of the Universe, Spirituality, Psychology and Traditional Culture. In her free time she likes to indulge in a steaming cup of black coffee & Netflix.