Presence in Absence – The Chinese concept of Yin and Yang

October 4, 2009
You know about my interest in philosophical concepts, among other things. So, I searched the internet for some interesting information on the Chinese concept of Yin and Yang and I will share here, the best of what I found (with my expert commentary in italics 🙂 ).


“Yin is (refers to)receptive, yielding, negative and nurturing (concepts). Yang is active, dominating, positive and initiating/creating”


“The concept of Yin and Yang is used to describe how seemingly disjunct (or) opposing forces are inter-connected and inter-dependent in the natural world, giving rise to each other in-turn. Yin and Yang are complimentary opposites within a greater whole. Everything has both Yin and Yang aspects, which constantly interact, never existing in absolute stasis”

Example: A seed will sprout from the earth and grow towards the sky – an intrinsically Yang movement. Then, when it reaches its full height, it will began to weaken, eventually falling back to the earth in decay – an intrinsically Yin movement.

Quite similar with human beings too…

“All opposites that one experiences – health and sickness, wealth and poverty, power and submission etc, can be explained in reference to the temporary dominance of one principle over the other. Since no one principle dominates eternally, it means that all conditions are subject to change to their opposites. It is the way of nature to process through periods of flourishing and decline”


“By its principles, extreme good will turn into evil, extreme wealth to poverty, extreme honour to dishonour”

Highly debatable. There are a lot of people who were born very rich and very poor too, they remain as such throughout their lives. But I am not sure on what time scale the above statement is to be considered, if it is spread out to many generations, then there is a chance that even extreme conditions might change.

“Yin and Yang are dependent opposites that must always be in balance. The opposites flow in a natural cycle always replacing the other. The Chinese view opposites as evolving and cycling – there is neither right nor wrong, but there is a balance, transformation, interaction and dependent opposition. We need both to maintain a balance”

We need both to maintain a balance is fine, but ‘that mush always be in balance’ is a theoretical concept, I guess.

“Yang elements are clear and obvious while Yin elements are hidden and subtle”

True. People share/show happiness and joy immediately. They can go to any extant to hide the negative parts of their lives, etc.

“The cyclic nature of Yin and Yang, the opposing forces of change in the universe mean several things.
1. All the phenomena change to their opposites in an eternal cycle of reversal.
2. Since one principle produces the other, all phenomena have within them the seeds of their opposite state (Sickness has the seeds of health, wealth has the seeds of poverty etc).
3. Even though an opposite may not be seen to be present, since one principle produces the other, no phenomena is completely devoid of its opposite state (One is never really healthy as health contains the principles of its opposite – sickness). This is called ‘Presence in Absence’.

Let us discuss this part in the comments section.

“In the Yin-Yang theory, time itself is a series of cycles based upon the movement of the planets. For these thinkers, time extends indefinitely into the past and the future. As long as the planets are in motion, there can be no end”

Interesting speculation 🙂

Destination Infinity

You could visit the ‘Concepts and Ideas’ section of this blog to read similar articles.


  1. I have always found the Yin-Yang balance quite interesting too. Your post is very insightful and I really liked your ‘expert commentary’ 🙂

    When it comes to philosophical matters, my expertise it quite un-questioned ;P

  2. If you look at it – every aspect of everything that we know has the yin and yang in it, which I believe is natures clinically eminent way of keeping checks and balances……for purposes better best known to itself – something that I assume is for evolutionary purposes!

    Great post!

    I think it’s got to do something with Karma too…

  3. Thank you,frankly,I never knew of this.

    Yeah, me too… before I started searching on the topic in Google 🙂

  4. Hey DI, Pretty Interesting!
    Thanks for sharing… never knew abt it!!! 🙂

    Actually I wanted to show-off that I know about Chinese philosophy etc… it makes a blog looks cool 🙂

  5. i hadnt read about Yin Yang in depth till now. thanks for the post!

    I was initially quite sceptical, if I will get enough material on this topic to make a post… but the internet is very knowledgeable 😉

  6. This was informative. All I knew till now was Yin is considered feminine and Yang masculine…

    I knew you would have noticed that… I didn’t want to put it in this post because people may not look at it in the right spirit in which they were coined…

  7. I would need a translator for most of the things that you wrote appear like Greek and Latin to me 😀 😀 😀 Seriously mate, way over my tiny brain !!! 😉

    Hey, after doing an extremely informative cooking post on how to boil water, these concepts ought to be quite Tamil and English to you 😀

    • LOL @ DI

  8. hi-fi tha yaar…the only place heard abt yin and yang was in movie ‘dil dosti etc’.. ..but I didn’t notice because there were many other things to get involved in..you have seen the movie?…:)

    dil dosti etc – there is a movie by this name? Kabhi suna hi nahi 😀 And bollywood is the last place you need to reference for philosophical concepts 😀

  9. So balance is the key word. But I am curious why a negative Yin comes before positive Yang? Why not yang-yin which is correct even alphabetically?

    Exactly – Balance is what the whole concept is about… Perhaps the people who have mastered this philosophy tend to think of Yin as equal to Yang… maybe that’s why they put it up deliberately in the reverse?? (My guess)…

    • Well, to be born is such a delightful thing (therefore yang) but it comes after pain (yin), doesn’t it?

  10. hi friend,
    this concept has always inspired me to some thinking, this post shows some more light into it.
    I also thought it resembles the doordarshan logo!

    * I don’t read books with cute covers, I find the cute cover which suits best to put it in the blog, there were many covers and none as serene as this one, so the choice is made 😀


    I should have put the picture of the symbol here… I know, the selection of the pictures for your site is always good… you have an eye for the best pics, I guess…

  11. pretty cool…

  12. Hello Destination Infinity!

    Nice and rational concepts, on the whole.

    There’re few things would like to add.

    1. Phenomena tilting in favor of one–yin or yang over a short period of time, leading to either destruction or growth respectively, and on the other hand, also being cyclical (over even longer period of time), in my opinion, are mutually contradictory, so do not add value to the predictive power. For instance, a sickness may lead to death, instead of health, and at least for that organism, this would be permanent, though possibly, the constituent molecules might go on to make another organism, but alternatively may get converted to fossil fuel, undergo combustion, get converted to carbon monooxide, to never return to the earth! Here the cyclicality would be lost! 🙂 When any theory makes two mutually contradictory predictions, it’s bound to seem correct, but without predictive value!

    2. The principles laid out above are coherent, but in light of details at which we know things work, don’t add much value in terms of improving our lives. For instance, if I apply the principle to a red blood cell (RBC), the concept fits perfectly, as in, RBCs develop from larger cells (yang), and after an average lifespan of 120 days get destroyed (yin). Most of iron contained in them is reclaimed, but some is lost from the body. The reclaimed iron (seed for ‘new’) is incorporated back into the new RBCs. The point I’m trying to make here is, we can apply this knowledge to diagnose and cure only when we know concepts in details. Likewise, if you throw a ball up (yang), it comes down because of gravity (yin). Good! But, this idea becomes practically applicable only after knowing the inverse-squared principle of Law of Gravitation (details)! That is the least we need to know for launching satellites!

    3. The subject of description of any theory must remain constant. When you started with examples of rich and poor, they were individuals, but on encountering a contradiction, the subject was changed to society at large. This would be analogous to Newton throwing up a ball (yang), which stays suspended there, but he in his defense pointing out “Hey, but it’s raining (rain drops falling–yin) in India! So, law of gravitation is valid!” 😉

    4. Probably you should’ve used the terms–‘factor’ or ‘force’ instead of ‘principle’ in your examples.

    5. LOL@”English and Latin” above! TC.

  13. I didn’t know much about yin and yang, it seems to fit into philospohies that believe in an oscillatory state/cycle of things.

  14. Hey DI
    Ying and yang, is very similar to an ancient school of though in Indian called the Sankya tatva, which is considered one of the oldest schools of thought. The two forces are called the prakarti and purusha tatva and strangely are not always termed opposing forces. While the two forces could be defined birth /death…masculine vs feminine… at the crudest form prakarti deals with instinct and purush deals with intellect. If you are interested you could google up sankya philosophy.

  15. You have mentioned that,
    “By its principles, extreme good will turn into evil, extreme wealth to poverty, extreme honour to dishonour”
    is Highly debatable.

    Why should it be??

    Everything in nature follows this order… Any subject talks just that.

    Our History shows that in abundance. The Biggest of Empires, Roman, reduced to dust & nothingness.

    ‘The Empire over which the Sun Never Sets’, British Empire, which at one point controlled more than half of Known world, is now reduced to a miniscule of its size, overshadowed by its “colonies”.
    Infact, if Global Warming, will have its way, in a Hundred years, most of Britain will be submerged!!!

    The Biological angle has already been shown.

    As for Financial aspect, there are umpteen examples of how the Mighty have fallen, while small, unknown have risen to the top. All the Top companies 20 years ago, are now reduced to the level of side-kicks while Unknown companies have come out & become market leaders in a short span. Even they will be eventually overthrown by some one bigger. (Yahoo for example is already there. From the most known Internet based company, they are now looking for help against Hitherto Unknown company, Google)

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