The Concept and Symbol of Yin and Yang Explained


Kelly Macquire
published on 23 August 2022

The principle of Yin and Yang dates from the third century BCE and perhaps even later than that, and is the foundational principle of Chinese philosophy and Chinese medicine. Yin and Yang is a symbol of balanced opposites, where they are inseparable and contradictory such as dark and light, and young and old. The term Yang in Chinese means the sunny side of the hill, and the term Yin means the shady side. Yin and Yang are two different energies that can be used to describe any and everything in the universe, and as symbolised in the two small dots within the Yin and Yang symbol, everything contains a bit of its opposite.

The symbol of Yin and Yang shows that each side is equal and comprises a bit of the other, neither is superior and an increase in one leads to a decrease in the other. In order to reach harmony, the two sides must be correctly balanced. It is believed that if there is ever too great of an imbalance between Yin and Yang, natural disasters such as droughts, floods and plagues can occur. The desire for Yin and Yang to be balanced can also be seen in Chinese medicine, with the belief that a lack or excess of Yin or Yang energy can cause health issues, and balancing them out is the remedy.



0:00​ Introduction
0:58 What is Yin and Yang?
4:11 Examples of Yin and Yang
5:25 Outro

Yin and Yang
Ancient Chinese Philosophy
Chinese Literature

Oracle Bones of the Ancient Chinese Shang Dynasty
An Introduction to the Dynasties of Ancient China
The Lives of Women in Ancient China
Wu Zetian: the First and Only Empress of Imperial China

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The music used in this recording is the intellectual copyright of Michael Levy, a prolific composer for the recreated lyres of antiquity, and used with the creator's permission. Michael Levy's music is available to stream at all the major digital music platforms. Find out more on:

Kunwi - own work
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Canva - Yin Yang Bagua - fzant

World History Encyclopedia

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About the Author

Kelly Macquire
Kelly is a graduate from Monash University who has completed her BA (Honours) in Ancient History and Archaeology, focussing on iconography and status in Pylos burials. She has a passion for mythology and the Aegean Bronze Age.

Cite This Work

APA Style

Macquire, K. (2022, August 23). The Concept and Symbol of Yin and Yang Explained. World History Encyclopedia. Retrieved from

Chicago Style

Macquire, Kelly. "The Concept and Symbol of Yin and Yang Explained." World History Encyclopedia. Last modified August 23, 2022.

MLA Style

Macquire, Kelly. "The Concept and Symbol of Yin and Yang Explained." World History Encyclopedia. World History Encyclopedia, 23 Aug 2022. Web. 12 Jun 2024.