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What are yin and yang in traditional Chinese medicine?

Maoshing Ni, PhD, LAc
Geriatric Medicine
In Chinese medicine, yin and yang represent the law of polarity, the continual cycle of complimentary forces and energies in our world. Watch Chinese medicine expert, Mao Shing Ni, L.Ac. & PhD, discuss how yin and yang create balance in our lives.
Chinese medicine is as old as Chinese civilization itself and gets its theoretical basis from the Taoist principles of yin and yang, the five movements, and Qi (pronounced “chi”).  The significance of yin and yang has infiltrated every part of Chinese existence since the earliest of time, influencing astrology, medicine, art, and even government. Thought to be two complementary forces or principles, yin and yang make up all aspects of life with the original meaning of yin and yang being “bright side-dark side.” Yin is like earth, female, dark, passive, and absorbing and is represented by the tiger, the color orange, and a broken line. Yang is thought to be like heaven, male, light, and active. Yang is present in odd numbers and is represented by the dragon, the color azure, and an unbroken line.

When the body is in balance between yin and yang, health is predominant. Yet when the yin and yang are imbalanced, disease occurs.  Chinese medicine practitioners view yin and yang as a way of seeing life—that all things work together to be part of a whole; nothing is seen in isolation or as absolute. This philosophy of healing is contrary to Western medicine where a specific disease may be treated separately without considering the total health of the person—mind, body, and spirit.

The concept of yin and yang is associated in Chinese with the idea of the five agents (or elements), including metal, wood, water, fire, and earth. The goal of the Chinese practitioner is to harmonize yin and yang and restore balance through these "five elements.”
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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.