Why is yin useful?

Why is yin useful?

Postby Kalamondin » Fri Apr 15, 2005 5:43 am

What is yin?
What are the characteristics of yin?
What aspects of tai chi chuan are yin in nature?
What is the manifestation of yin?
What does yin feel like?
How does yin apply to the body?
What are the yin aspects of consciousness?
What is the spirit of yin?

Just some things I've been wondering about in my efforts to achieve better balance...
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Postby Anderzander » Fri Apr 15, 2005 10:14 am

I'll come back when I have more time!

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Postby Bamenwubu » Fri Apr 15, 2005 2:08 pm

From Wikipedia:

1) Òó (pinyin: Yin). The name of the first historic Chinese nation (1600 BC - 1046 BC), the capital of the latter half being in Yin Òó. Also known in the West as the Shang Dynasty É̳¯. The first recording of an advanced stage of Chinese characters on turtle shells has also been dated to the Yin Dynasty. The Yin left written historic records containing information on the politics, economy, culture, religion, geography, astronomy, calendar, art and medicine of the period, and as such provides critical insight toward the early stages of the Chinese civilization. The site of the Yin capital, later historically called the Ruins of Yin ÒóÐæ, is near modern day Anyang °²Ñô. Archaeological work uncovered 11 major Yin royal tombs to the northwest, while the foundations of palace and ritual sites were discovered to the south. Tens of thousands of bronze, jade, stone, bone and ceramic artifacts were obtained. In terms of inscribed oracle bones alone, more than 20,000 were discovered. Many Chinese characters found in the inscriptions at the Ruins of Yin are still in use today. The Yin dynasty was conquered by the Zhou Dynasty in 1046 BC. Both Korean and Chinese legends state that a disgruntled Yin prince named »þ×Ó Qizi (Korean: Kija), who refused to cede power to the Zhou, left China with his garrison and fled to ³¯ÏÊ (chaoxian; Go-Joseon) near modern day Pyongyang to what would later become the Korean state.


2) Òó (pinyin: Yin£»). A very rare Chinese surname dating to the fall of the Yin (Shang) Dynasty in 1046 BC. After the Yin's collapse, the surviving Yin ruling family collectively changed their surname from their royal ×Ó (pinyin: zi; Wade-Giles: tzu) to the name of their fallen dynasty, Yin Òó. The family remained aristocratic and often provided needed administrative services to the succeeding Zhou Dynasty. (Source: Records of the Grand Historian Sima Qian. Ê·¼Ç Shiji). This is the only historic origin for this surname. The surname is today found mostly in Northern China, although there have been a few historic migrations south to the Yangtze River near the Wu region of China.

Besides Yin, the surname Òó is also Romanized as In, Eun, Oon.


3) Òó (pinyin: yin, yan). Adj. A blackish red.


4) Òõ, êŽ (pinyin: yin1). Feminine or negative. See yin yang.


The concept of Yin Yang originates in ancient Chinese philosophy and metaphysics, which describes two primal opposing but complementary forces found in all things in the universe. Yin, the darker element, is passive, dark, feminine, downward-seeking, and corresponds to the night; yang, the brighter element, is active, light, masculine, upward-seeking and corresponds to the day.

Yin and yang are complementary opposites rather than absolutes. Most forces in nature can be broken down into its respective yin and yang states, and the two are usually in movement rather than held in absolute stasis.

The meaning of the characters for Yin and Yang, necessarily, has more than just one connotation. Because yang means the "sunny side of the hill", it corresponds to the day and more active functions. Whereas yin, meaning the "shady side of the hill", corresponds to night and less active functions. Therefore, Yin and Yang can be compared in the following chart:

Yin / Yang
moon / sun
night / day
dark / light
cool / warm
rest / active
feminine / masculine
north / south
winter / summer
right / left
introversion / extroversion
earth / heaven
even / odd
6* / 9*
8** / 7**

In I Ching divination: * major symbol numbers; ** minor symbol numbers

It is also possible to look at yin and yang with respect to the flow of time. Noon, is full yang, sunset is yang turning to yin; midnight is full yin and sunrise is yin turning to yang. This flow of time can also be expressed in seasonal changes and directions. South and summer are full yang; west and autumn are yang turning to yin; north and winter are full yin, and east and spring are yin turning into yang.

Yin and yang can also be seen as a process of transformation which describes the changes between the phases of a cycle. For example, cold water (yin) can be boiled and eventually turn into steam (yang).

One way to write the symbols for yin and yang are a solid line (yang) and a broken line (yin) which could be divided into the four stages of Yin and Yang and further divided into the eight trigrams (these trigrams are used on the South Korean flag). The symbol shown at the top righthand corner of this page, called Taijitu (Ì«˜OˆD), is another way to show yin and yang. The mostly white portion, being brighter, is yang and the mostly dark portion, being dim, is yin. Each, however, contains the seed of its opposite. Yin and Yang are equally important, unlike the typical dualism of good and evil.

The concept is called Yin Yang, not Yang Yin, just because the former has a preferred pronunciation in Chinese (see Standard Mandarin - Tones for detail), and the word order has no cultural or philosophical meaning.

Everything can be described as either yin or yang

1. Yin and yang are opposites.

Everything has its opposite¡ªalthough this is never absolute, only comparative. No one thing is completely yin or completely yang. Each contains the seed of its opposite. For example, cold can turn into hot; "what goes up must come down".

2. Yin and yang are interdependent.

One cannot exist without the other. For example, day cannot exist without night.

3. Yin and yang can be further subdivided into yin and yang.

Any yin or yang aspect can be further subdivided into yin and yang. For example, temperature can be seen as either hot or cold. However, hot can be further divided into warm or burning; cold into cool or icy.

4. Yin and yang consume and support each other.

Yin and yang are usually held in balance¡ªas one increases, the other decreases. However, imbalances can occur. There are four possible imbalances: Excess yin, excess yang, yin deficiency, yang deficiency.

5. Yin and yang can transform into one another.

At a particular stage, yin can transform into yang and vice versa. For example, night changes into day; warmth cools; life changes to death.

6. Part of Yin is in Yang and part of Yang is in Yin.

The dots in each serve as a reminder that there are always traces of one in the other. For example, humans will always be both good and evil, never completely one or the other.


The flag of South KoreaYin and yang can also be used (in conjunction with other characters) to indicate various parts of the male and female anatomy.

A modern example:

Yin: the traffic light on the road (the stillness)
Yang: the traffic that flows past that traffic light (activity)
Some Chinese, Korean and Japanese placenames that still exist are named in the following principle:

Yin: the shady north side of the mountain, the south side of the river..
Yang: the sunny south side of the mountain, the north side of the river.
While yin dominates femininity and yang masculinity, according to Traditional Chinese Medicine, within the body of either sex, there are still traces of both elements. As a result, an imbalance of the yin-yang ratio can cause illness. This is not to say that everyone should have exactly half of each; every individual needs to find this balance depending on their own constitution, climate, season, occupation and even emotional environment. If in perfect health, the individual should be able to adapt to any of the inevitable changes of life.

Together, the symbolic colours of yin and yang, black (symbolising darkness, the absence of light) and white (symbolising light) respectively, are combined into a circle that symbolizes Taoism for many: the t¨¤ij¨ªt¨² (Ì«˜OˆD), often known as the T'ai Chi symbol or the Pictogram of the Supreme Ultimate. Its Unicode code is U+262F (☯ Image

Taoist philosophy uses metaphor to describe the dynamic complexities of the human body's organic processes in traditional Chinese medicine as well as the complexities of human personality in (Chinese astrology). Nothing in the universe is completely yin or completely yang - everything is a mixture of the two. The Yin Yang symbol contains two smaller circles: a small circle of Yin inside the Yang, and a small circle inside the Yin. Often misunderstood, these important circles reinforce the circular nature of the philosophy by symbolizing another Taoist tenet: one extreme will always change into its opposite, so that extreme yang turns into yin and vice versa. This is also symbolized in the yin-yang symbol by the shape of the outer swooshes, which appear to be moving, one into the other. This principle has been extended into the physical realm of full and empty, hard and soft, active and receptive, etc.

Over the centuries, the study of the interplay between these principles has also led to the formulation and refinement of several systems of self-defense across East Asia.
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Postby Bamenwubu » Fri Apr 15, 2005 2:18 pm

I was not being facetious with my post above. I thought about it after I posted it and realized it might look like I was being a prig or something.
I was trying to get the bald definitions of Yin out there for all to see so we could move this very excellent idea for discussion forward without having to resort to everyone throwing in bald definitions instead of trying to answer the questions as you've put them.

That said, I guess I could have just posted a link to the Wikipedia website. Didn't think of that though, as I'm a cut and past junkie of long standing.
I can't really answer the rest of the questions for you with any kind of univeral definitiveness, as I think each person will have their own view of these things.
All I can do is give you my "impressions".
Unfortunately, like Anderzander, I can see that giving the answers you seek will require quite a bit of time.
And I don't have that kind of time right now.
I'll get back to it, after I've had time to formulate a reply that will make sense.
First I have to get bathroom fixtures, cabinets and trim off my mind. I've been remodeling my bathroom and I'm in "monkey mind" because I'm still working on it, WEEKS after I hoped to be done.
I'll think on your questions, maybe see what some others say about them, and get back to this after I have some better ideas.

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Postby Kalamondin » Fri Apr 15, 2005 6:24 pm

Thanks Bob,

I didn't think anything of the sort--I just thought you were getting the basics out of the way. Thanks for posting the Wikipedia article.

I'm very interested in peoples' experiences of yin energy, both their personal experiences and what they've observed--in tai chi and outside of tai chi. I'm looking for different models and examples that I can use to broaden my understanding of how yin complements and balances yang as well as what it looks like when it's in excess or deficiency.

I look forward to hearing more on the subject from you, Anderzander, and others. Image

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Postby Yuri Snisarenko » Sat Apr 16, 2005 7:10 am

Recently, after reading Wang Peisheng's works, I came to conclusion that qi and xing (form) also can be viewed in the perspective of yin and yang. He doesn’t directly state that qi relates to yin and xing to yang or vise-versa, but describes the relations between them in order to help the practitioners to attain the harmony. I found his works very interesting, however difficult to understand. There are not many contemporary taiji masters that can use their art in real fighting against a skilled martial artist. I believe he was one of them.

[This message has been edited by Yuri Snisarenko (edited 04-16-2005).]
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Postby chris » Tue Apr 19, 2005 8:54 pm

What is yin?

Yin is exactly what yang left out! LOL.

Maybe you should try daily practice at noon and midnight?
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Postby Kalamondin » Wed Apr 20, 2005 1:23 am

Hi Yuri,

Interesting! I will have to see what I can find of his writing. Does anyone have suggestions on where to start? I've never heard that direct correlation either between yin/qi and yang/form, but it does resonate with some things I've been working on lately.

Although I am able to "listen" and evade much better than I used to, I still have trouble with the external details of push hands. Not so much the pattern or what shape, but more the catalog of techniques--how to guide a beginning opponent in order to demonstrate the ordered outline. For example: how to show all the possible permutations of pung, lu, ji, or an. I can do many of them as things come up in push hands, but I'm not good yet at putting together the form necessary to make the opportunity come up. I need to figure out how to make myself an if this, then that chart, or diagram, or something!

I think I may have gone about learning push hands backwards from most. I focused first on the listening and internal elements, the flow and the feeling--but the form and the mechanics of the applications still elude me from time to time.

Thanks for the reference,
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Postby Yuri Snisarenko » Wed Apr 20, 2005 6:30 am

Hi Kal,

Here are his words that I was referring to:

ÆøÖ÷¶¯£¬ËÆ»ðÐÔʧÉÏ£¬Èô²»ÖÆÖ®£¬Ò×Æ«ÒгöÌå¡£ÐÎÖ÷¾²£¬ËÆË®ÐÔÈóÏ£¬Èô²»ÆÈÖ®£¬Ôò²»³ÉÆäÓá£ÐÎÓÐÆäÖÊ£¬¶øÆøÓÐÆäÄÜ¡£ÐÎÈõÆøÊ¢£¬ÓÃÖ®ÔòÉ˾«£»ÐÎÇ¿ÆøË¥£¬ÓÃÖ®ÔòÉËÉñ¡£ÆäÖÊÆäÄÜÏàÆ¥Å䣬ÒõÑôƽºâ·½ÄÜ³É ÆäÉñÓá£

Sorry for my poor translation that certainly has mistakes but I thought it's better than nothing:

Qi is an initiative [part]. It has a similarity with fire which tends to rise by its nature. If [the practitioner] doesn't manage it, his body may easily become leaned or inclined (see The Taijiquan Treaties: "[There should be] no leaning, no inclining"). Xing (form) is a receptive [part]. It has a similarity with water which tends to moist things below by its nature. If [the practitioner] doesn¡¯t coerce it, then he cannot master applications. Xing has its substance, and qi has its ability. If xing is weak and qi is abundant, then the practice may harm jing (the essence). If xing is strong but qi is feeble, then the practice may harm shen (spirit). When the substance and ability match each other, yin and yang will be equal and it will be possible to attain shenyong (the application of shen).

Hope somebody will correct me here.

In my approach to peng, lu, ji, an I just focus on peng jin in my present practice because they all have it. Another application of, lets say, JI is just another variant of PENG. Image However the clarity in these four is desirable and is what I am looking for Image

[This message has been edited by Yuri Snisarenko (edited 04-20-2005).]
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Postby Kalamondin » Wed Apr 20, 2005 4:53 pm

Hi Yuri,

Thanks for translating! From the passage you quoted, though, I’m not sure we can make a simple distinction between form as yang and qi as yin. For example, qi is likened to fire. Fire and rising are traditionally described as yang elements or characteristics. And sinking, receptivity, and water are traditionally associated with yin. On the other hand, I think of structural support being a yang element and fluidity in motion as yin…but yet again, vessels for receiving and containing are yin, and rising motion is yang. Probably, like all things, it’s a bit of both yin and yang.

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"><B>
Xing has its substance, and qi has its ability. If xing is weak and qi is abundant, then the practice may harm jing (the essence). If xing is strong but qi is feeble, then the practice may harm shen (spirit). When the substance and ability match each other, yin and yang will be equal and it will be possible to attain shenyong (the application of shen). </B></font><HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

This part stumps me though. Can you, or anybody, think of any examples of the above? What does someone look like or how do they move if they are exhibiting one or the other of the above imbalances?

<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> In my approach to peng, lu, ji, an I just focus on peng jin in my present practice because they all have it. Another application of, lets say, JI is just another variant of PENG. Image However the clarity in these four is desirable and is what I am looking for Image </font>

I agree, and just focusing on maintaining peng is a lovely way to be responsive without being surprised, to yield without collapsing, to push in an unbroken movement. It’s so interesting that all the movements contain peng!

I am trying to learn my teacher’s way of teaching though. Although there is an unbroken peng in every movement, he always teaches very precise details of how each movement can be done in response to a variety of situations. I need to catalog the situations in my head so I can reproduce them. If I don’t have a good handle on what they are, there’s no way I can teach them or any guarantee that I actually know the correct response. This realization was a very frustrating moment for me in class the other night. Mostly I evade and return incoming application attempts by listening for the correct path, staying on the leading edge of the trajectory, circling where it feels right to go…but coming down out of that awareness to be able to break things down, catalog them, explain them in pieces…that’s hard right now. I’ll have to work on it.

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Postby Yuri Snisarenko » Thu Apr 21, 2005 4:48 am

Hi Kal,

Unfortunately master Wang's works are quite difficult to understand and translate because they are written partly in classical Chinese with all its laconic turbid phrases. Besides, his level of the mastery was very high and some his ideas are beyond my knowledge. But they are appealing to me because Wu(2) style is not far from Yang style. Its theory IMHO is much closer to Yang's one than, lets say, Chen's focus on the developing of chansi jin (silk reeling jin).

In simple words I would say that he stresses importance of "light top and firm bottom" and warns against "heavy upper part and light lower part". The key to understanding here IMHO is "pian yi" - "leaning-nclining". When "form is weak, qi is abundant", then it's difficult to avoid "pian yi" (leaning-inclining).

Hope this helps a little. Probably others will add something.

[This message has been edited by Yuri Snisarenko (edited 04-21-2005).]
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Postby Audi » Thu Apr 21, 2005 8:52 am

Greetings Kal, Yuri, and everyone else,


I certainly do not have the answers to this question, but here are some random thoughts.

<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Why is Yin useful?</font>

Because it creates and mediates Yang? With Yin and Yang together, but distinct, we get the philosophical principal called Taiji and can encompass everything needed. We can enlist the principles of the universe on our side.

<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">What is yin?</font>

The thing that gives meaning to Yang? One might query whether "yin" has any meaning outside of its dynamic tension with "yang."

Another way to interpret the question might be: What makes something like "north" yin and something like "south" yang? Why not the reverse? I think I know the answer in this case, but not in others.

In looking at Bamenwubu’s Wikipedia post, I think I understand why the particular member of each pair is seen as Yin, except in the case of the pair "left" and "right." What is it that makes "right" yin and not yang?

<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">What are the characteristics of yin?</font>

Off the top of my head, I would say that "yin" is "not doing." In order to do a thing (“Yang”), you must not do something else.

<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">What aspects of tai chi chuan are yin in nature?</font>

How about: stillness vs. movement, calm vs. agitation, following vs. leading, going left to go right, going forward to go back, sinking Qi down to bring Jin up, slow vs. quick, doing form to improve push hands, doing push hands to improve form, curved vs. straight, loosening the joints to make the body's energy tight and unified, using the body to work the mind and spirit, yielding initiative to gain control, contracting vs. expansion, and soft vs. hard.

By the way, what about opening and closing? Which should be Yin, which should be Yang, and why? I think we also once discussed the same question with respect to "full" and "empty," but without a definitive conclusion.

I think that when Yin is insufficient, there is a tendency to solve every problem with more Yang, i.e., more strength and more movement. When your opponent unites Yin and Yang in Taiji, I think you get the feeling that more Yang will be of new use or even dangerous. At the other extreme, you get the feeling that doing less will leave you vulnerable. From this tension and the inability to adjust it, you get doubled up or “double weighted” and cede control to your opponent.

For me, a practical way to feel this is by standing with your partner as you would to begin the horizontal circling. If your right foot is forward, then you would cross right arms with your opponent at the forearm. (Crossing at this point is actually not optimal technique, but something necessary for this experience.) The more experienced practitioner then makes a fist and begins to attempt to strike toward his partner with backfists, hammerfists, punchs, or elbows. It is important that the strikes be at a reasonably slow and constant rhythm. If the partner is inexperienced, there could be as much as two full seconds between strikes. If the partner is experienced, you might be able to reduce this to half a second. It is also important that the strikes come at a relatively constant pace or at least do not use speed to achieve their effect. It is okay to abort a strike in midstream and change it into something else, but it is not okay to suddenly accelerate and change what should be a reasonably comfortable speed for both partners into something that feels like a fight.

What I find with this experience is that the partner can begin to feel why speed and strength may not solve all problems easily. If the partner “blocks” too quickly, he or she leaves himself open to folding motions that allow you to get inside. You can basically use the contact point as a pivot and springboard. If the partner is too stiff, he or she cannot adjust. Since you can strike with either fist or elbow, there is no safe position for your partner to block from, the only safety comes from reading your energy. If the partner does not stick at all, he or she tends to lose position and lose the ability to read your energy. For instance, you can lead with an empty fist, but as your partner moves to block it, he or she may use too much pressure and cannot then block your elbow as your arm folds around the block.

At the other extreme, if you partner is too weak or too light, you can simply strike right through their arm. Too little pressure is as bad as too much.

I think that it is important for the attacker to use an unvarying attacking rhythm in order to make clear that speed is not an important component of the attack. The partner can feel how moving faster or varying the speed is not always the answer.


As usual, your translation of Wang’s words seems very good and gives me some ideas. I share your frustration at the difficulty of translating and understanding this type of Chinese correctly. Although I think your Chinese is better than mine, here is a guess at how to add on to what you did:

“Qi is basically active and is like the quality of fire slipping upward. If you do not restrict it, it is easy to deviate from the mean and be excessive in body. Form is basically still and is like the quality of water nourishing what is below. If you do not urge it onward, you will be unable to apply it. Form has its substance, while Qi has its capacity. When form is weak and Qi abundant, using them harms your life essence. When form is strong and Qi feeble, using them harms your spirit (with frustration). When this substance and this capacity match up together, Yin and Yang will be in equilibrium and (practice) methods can bring this spirit into use.”

Here are my speculations as to what this means.

Overtly manifesting more and more Qi is not good, because the bodily vessel that must contain it may not be up to the task. Manifesting less and less physical movement and exertion is also not good, since this will not train the body for use.

“Form being weak and Qi abundant” may refer to people who have deficient postures, but put forth great exertions. They are too Yang. An example would be someone speeding through a Taiji form with lots of Fajin with little understanding of the internal principles. Such practice risks straining the body and its systems (i.e., “Jing”). The spirit is willing, but the flesh weak. Capacity is developed, but the substance meant to contain it is not up to the demands.

“Form being strong and Qi feeble” may refer to people who have adequate stamina and physique and perhaps good external postures, but who do nothing to rouse the Qi or exert themselves. They are too Yin: all root and no flowers or fruit. Such practice does nothing to increase capacity to a useful level. The flesh is strong, but the spirit unwilling.

If you avoid these pitfalls and can “match up inner and outer,” then your mind and spirit (i.e., “shen”) truly have something to work with.

Take care,
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Postby Yuri Snisarenko » Thu Apr 21, 2005 10:46 am


Thank you very much for your help in untangling this conundrum Image
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Postby Anderzander » Thu Apr 21, 2005 4:49 pm

How about the soft overcoming the hard?

The soft being Yin - the hard Yang. The use of Yin (martially) is in overcoming the hard.

Essentailly Half of the world is Ying and Half is Yang, presuming balance Image

So we could talk for a long time about what it is and what it's use is! Image

But the thing that stands out is that Taiji is a martial art centred on the soft overcoming the hard through the use of mind instead of force.

So Yin is soft and it's use is to overcome the hard.

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Postby TaiChi_Student » Sun Apr 24, 2005 6:27 am

<<What aspects of tai chi chuan are yin in nature?>>

Yin nature in Tai Chi Chaun would be things like stillness, mind, and skill. Yin is relative however, you can't really limit it to such things like this. For example, even though stillness can be yin, in combat, circular movements can be yin as well as opposed to straight movements which will be yang.
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