Yin Yang School There is a tree that I know. It is a tall tree, and has been in existence for many years. The tree was there before the building that stands next to it. When the building was built, the tree was left standing and has adapted itself around the intrusion of the building. When I look at it though, I see more than most people do.
I have spent many years with this tree and know every knot on it, and every branch that it has. When I sit back and look at it from a distance, there is a perfect line that can be drawn up the trunk of the tree, and when that line is discovered, there is a perfect balance in the tree. The tree is nature, and the building is man, and though they are competing for the same space at the same time, there appears to be an understanding between the two of them. This balance that lies within this single tree is what the Chinese yin-yang symbol seems to recognize, where others may not. That there is a balance within everything and it is when this balance is understood and acknowledged that there can be harmony. The yin yang school was developed with the idea of balance within.
The aftereffects of this school is present throughout many different areas of Eastern philosophy, and its reach touches Taoism and Buddhism and its influences are present in many of the great works that rule the Eastern religions and philosophies. The most interesting part of this school is that there is very little written on it, but its influence is everywhere. The union of man and nature, and the necessity of this understanding is key in comprehending the ideas that exist in this way of thinking. There is no official founder of the school, and while Tsou Yen is often associated with the school, there is evidence of this way of thinking present in other earlier works1. The essential theory behind the yin and the yang is that there are equal and opposing forces that control the physical and metaphysical world. In locating the balance, there is enlightenment and understanding.
This balance that exists within all things can provide an understanding of how the world works and mans place in it. In further accepting that there needs to be a balance between man and nature, there can be a harmonious co-existence as well. The Yin Yang school works in correspondence with the Five Agents. The theory is that there is a natural co-existence of man and nature, and all that is a flow or harmony that exists within nature. It is an elemental theory that proposes that all “things and events are products of two elements, forces or principles: yin, which is negative, passive, weak, and destructive, and yang, which is positive, active, strong, and constructive”2.
The influences of the yin yang school are vast. What is interesting though, is that despite its importance, there is very little written in it. Tsou Yen’s work has been destroyed, and all that remains is a brief overview of his life in the Book of Changes. The Yin Yang school emerged at roughly the same time that the theory of the Five Agents arose. By Tsou Yen’s time, the “two concepts, which [have] much in common, were thought of together .. he is usually credited as the one who combined the two independent currents into one”3.
The influence of the Yin Yang school is seen throughout various Chinese classics has a major impact on Taoist thought. Lao Tzu and Chuang Tzu make reference to the idea of a natural balance throughout their texts. This theory of yin and yang is also seen in military texts. Sun Tzu’s The Art of War uses theories of balance, and uses Taoist thought in its pages. The origin of the symbol of the yin yang has a number of different theories surrounding it.
The two sides of yin and yang are thought to have originally “designated the shady side and the sunny side of a hill, and gradually came to suggest the way in which one thing ‘overshadows’ another in some aspect of their relationship”4. The role of nature seems to be a key component of this, and there is some speculation that the two sides could also represent the male and female. Taoism takes this idea and in Lao Tzu there is a passage that encourages to “know the male, yet keep to the female”5. Whether the yin and yang are male and female, or hot and cold, night and day, black and white, they are consistently seen as a pairing of opposite forces. It is in grasping the balance between the two forces that one can understand reality.
The idea that the yin and yang are male and female combining to be one is an idea that makes sense in a cultural context as well. As the ancient Greeks believed that Gaia gave birth to the Gods, who in turn reproduced to make the Earth and reality as they knew it, so too did the Chinese believe that their reality was made of a male and female. In Appendix III of the Book of Changes there is a passage that reads that “there is an intermingling of the genial influences of heaven and earth and the transformation of all these things proceeds abundantly. There is a communication of seed between male and female, and all things are produced”6. This combination of male and female means that all things are born from themselves.
By knowing that all reality comes from the male and the female, there is an importance in understand the requisite harmony that must be achieved. Without it there would be a constant battle within the self to understand which side of the self controls. In Lao Tzu there is a passage that says “all things stand with their back to the female and stand facing the male. When the male and female combine, all things achieve harmony”7. It is this harmony that the Yin Yang school teaches.
It is the understanding that all things that exist must know both the male and the female to truly be at peace with themselves. There also must be points of solid fixture to which all things can be measured between. The Book of Changes claims that it is heaven (ch’ien) and earth (k’un) that are fixed, and that all other lies between these forces. Heaven and Earth have their own roles in this act of procreation as well: The way of ch’ien constitutes the male, while the way of k’un constitutes the female. Ch’ien knows the great beginning, and k’un acts to bring these things to completion. Ch’ien knows through the easy, and k’un accomplishes through the simple.8 With this said, it does appear, as though reality is born of the male and female-that there is a balance that lies within. The forces of nature that are at work here are those of a natural human understanding.
It takes the reality known by man, and transposes it onto the existence of the universe. Taoism takes the view that there is the necessity of the male and the female within this Nature, but also acknowledges that it is not sufficient. The thought that “all things are born of being. [and] Being is born of …