It is a New Moon today which lends the perfect opportunity to explore the terms Yin and Yang in the traditions of Chinese Medicine. I have seen the Yin and Yang symbol used in many different logos advertising everything from garden design companies to Chinese fast food restaurants. But what does it really mean?
The classical* Chinese characters of Yin and Yang are the starting point. The Yin character reflects the shady side of a mountain or hill and is associated with dark, cold and the shade. The Yang character reflects the sunny side of a mountain or hill and is associated with bright, hot and the sun.
From here, further associations are made. Not only is Yin relatively dark, cold and shady, but other characteristics have been attributed to Yin in a similar vein. Further attributes are nighttime, feminine, the moon, contracting, receding, empty, stillness, passive, internal, ebbing, letting go, introversion, throwing out, pruning, and chronic diseases.
Yang is associated not only with bright, hot and sunny, but additional characteristics such as daytime, masculine, the sun, expanding, advancing, full, moving, active, external, flowing, grasping, extroversion, acquiring, planting, and acute diseases.
The most import consideration at the moment is to understand that Yin and Yang are relative terms. You can not have one without the other. Within this relativity is implied that they are mutually generating and mutually consuming. One can not exist without the other, and as one grows, the other recedes. A final point to remember is that within Yin there is Yang and within Yang resides Yin.
What on earth does this mean?
If we look at the daytime sun and the nighttime moon, we can say, relative to each other, that the sun is Yang (bright, hot, daytime, sunny, and with a warmer hue) and the moon is Yin (dark, cool, nighttime, with a cooler hue). The daytime sun and nighttime moon define each other. We can not fully know the sun and daytime if there were no moon and nighttime. They are mutually generating.
At daybreak, the first light appears and the sun begins to rise. As the sun rises, the night and the moon fade. In full midday sun, the nighttime and moon have virtually vanished. At dusk, the light diminishes as the sun sets whilst darkness descends. At the mid of night, all sun’s brightness and daytime light is now virtually gone. At the mid points of day and night, the daytime sun and nighttime moon have forced each other out. They are mutually consuming.
With the changing seasons, we can identify periods where the sun, relative to its seasonal cycle is stronger or weaker. It can be said that the winter sun is relatively cooler, less bright and has a shorter daytime than the summer sun. The winter sun can be said to be Yin to the summer sun’s Yang. Therefore, within Yang (the sun relative to the moon), there is Yin (the winter sun relative to the summer sun).
Similarly, if we look at the cycle of the moon, we can identify and compare a full moon to a new moon. A full moon is relatively brighter to a new moon. Therefore, within the moon’s Yin (the moon relative to the sun) there is Yang (the full moon relative to a new moon).
This is visually evident in the Yin Yang symbol. As the black swirl (which is Yin relative to the white swirl) grows, the white Yang swirl diminishes and vice versa. Similarly, if either the Yin black or Yang white shape wasn’t there, then the other shape would have no definition. One can not exist without the other. Finally, within the dark Yin there is a dot of white Yang and vice versa. This reflects that within Yin resides Yang and within Yang resides Yin.
So what does today’s New Moon mean and how can we incorporate it into our lives?
With regard to our lunar cycle, we have just tipped into the Yang phase of the moon (waxing, growing). The moon will continue in its Yang phase until it reaches its peak at the Full Moon and then tip in to the Yin lunar phase (waning moon). The Yang phase of the moon signifies augmentation and tomorrow some suggestions on how to use this influence in your daily life.
* The simplified Chinese characters do not reflect this as beautifully as the classical Chinese characters.