Yin and Yang

Yin and Yang

The concept of Yin and Yang is fundamental to an understanding of Chinese medicine. The ideas behind Yin and Yang developed from observing the physical world. It was observed that nature appears to group into pairs of mutually dependent opposites each giving meaning to the other. Thus, for example, the concept of “night” has no meaning without the concept of “day”, the concept of “up” has no meaning without a concept of “down”,   and so on.

The Chinese character for Yin translates literally as the “dark side of the mountain” and represents such qualities as cold, stillness, passiveness, darkness, within, and potential.

The Chinese character for Yang translates literally as the “bright side of the mountain”    and represents such qualities as heat, activity, light, outside and expression.

The interdependence of Yin and Yang points to the dynamic interaction between the two. Change is at the root of all things, and it manifests itself as Yang transforming into Yin and vice versa. If the Yin and Yang aspects are prevented from achieving balance through this mutual transformation process, the consequences may be catastrophic since, ultimately, balance will be forcibly achieved.

To take an example from human health, if someone is suffering from a fever, then this is seen as a relative excess of Yang in Chinese medicine. The principle of treatment will be  to allow the transformation of the excess Yang into Yin in order to re-establish a state of equilibrium and also of biological homeostasis. This means the fever would break and the temperature would begin to return to normal- Yang transforming into Yin. It is interesting to note that the early manifestation of a fever is likely to be seen as a relative excess of Yin, with chills and cold signs. As the condition develops, then the Yin (cold) transforms into Yang (heat) and the fever develops.