Chinese mythology and cosmology rest on the idea that the universe is shaped and maintained by two fundamental forces called Yin and Yang. Although opposites, Yin and Yang are not in conflict with one another. Rather, they interact constantly, achieving a delicate balance. Nature and society depend on this balance for harmony. When Yin and Yang fall out of balance, disaster follows.
According to tradition, the idea of two opposing but intertwined cosmic forces developed before 2000 B.C. The ancient notion underlies both Taoism and Confucianism, two of the major strands of Chinese philosophy and religion. The Japanese adopted Yin and Yang, calling them In and Yo.
Yin and Yang are represented in pairs of attributes or things that are opposites or halves of a whole. Yin is associated with the earth, darkness, femaleness, cold, moisture, softness, and inactivity. Yang is linked with the sky, light, maleness, heat, dryness, and activity. Yin is a negative force; Yang is a positive one. Yin is represented by a broken line, Yang by an unbroken one. Various combinations of broken and unbroken lines in groups of three, called trigrams, form the basis of an ancient Chinese work known as the I Ching, which is used in divination.
cosmology set of ideas about the origin, history, and structure of the universe
cosmic large or universal in scale; having to do with the universe
attribute quality, property, or power of a being or thing
divination act or practice of foretelling the future
Beyond Yin and Yang lies a single absolute or ultimate reality called the T'ai Chi, a force or power that gives existence to all
Legend says that the Yin and Yang are controlled by the constellation of stars known as the Big Dipper in the West or as the Bushel in China. Certain mythological events, such as the annual meetings of two divine lovers known as the Weaver Girl and the Herder, represent Yin and Yang coming together in proper unity. Yin-Yang symbols occur frequently in traditional myths. For example, the throne of the goddess Xi Wang Mu features two creatures, a dragon and a tiger, representing the cosmic balance and opposition of Yin and Yang.
See also Chinese Mythology .