In Chinese philosophy, yang yin, which are often shortened to “yin-yang” or “yin yang”, are concepts used to describe how apparently opposite or contrary forces are actually complementary,[Note 1] interconnected and interdependent in the natural world, and how they give rise to each other as they interrelate to one another. Many tangible dualities (such as light and dark, fire and water, and male and female) are thought of as physical manifestations of the duality of yin and yang. This duality lies at the origins of many branches of classical Chinese science and philosophy, as well as being a primary guideline of traditional Chinese medicine, and a central principle of different forms of Chinese martial arts and exercise, such as baguazhang, taijiquan (t’ai chi), and qigong (Chi Kung), as well as in the pages of the I Ching.

Yin and yang can be thought of as complementary (rather than opposing) forces that interact to form a dynamic system in which the whole is greater than the assembled parts. Everything has both yin and yang aspects, (for instance shadow cannot exist without light). Either of the two major aspects may manifest more strongly in a particular object, depending on the criterion of the observation.

In Taoist metaphysics, distinctions between good and bad, along with other dichotomous moral judgments, are perceptual, not real; so, the duality of yin and yang is an indivisible whole. In the ethics of Confucianism on the other hand, most notably in the philosophy of Dong Zhongshu (c. 2nd century BC), a moral dimension is attached to the idea of yin and yang.

The Traditional Chinese characters 陰 and 陽 for the words yin and yang are both classified as radical-phonetic characters, combining the semantically significant “mound; hill” radical 阝 or 阜 with the phonetic indicators yin 侌 and yang 昜. The first phonetic yin 侌 “cloudy” ideographically combines jin 今 “now; present” and yun 云 “cloud”, denoting the “今 presence of 云 clouds”. The second phonetic yang 昜 “bright” originally pictured 日 the “sun” with 勿 “rays coming down”. This phonetic is expanded with the “sun” radical into yang 暘 “rising sun; sunshine”. The “mound; hill” radical 阝full forms semantically specify yin 陰 “shady/dark side of a hill” and yang 陽 “sunny/light side of a hill”.

The Simplified Chinese characters 阴 and 阳 for yin and yang combine same the “hill” radical 阝 with the non-phonetic yue 月 “moon” and ri 日 “sun”, graphically denoting “shady side of a hill” and “sunny side of a hill”. Compare the Classical Chinese names (with tai 太 “great”) Taiyin 太陰 “moon” and Taiyang 太陽 “sun

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