Why does the Yin Yang symbol Yin Yang look this way?

Where does the Yin Yang Symbol come from?

Yin Yang is the well-known Chinese Yin Yang symbol.  Sometimes it's called Tai-Chi symbol.  The Tai-Chi is from I-Ching.  The I-Ching is the greatest foundation of Chinese philosophy.  Itís development is from the natural phenomena of our universe.  Because I-Ching comes from nature, it should be easy.

The Chinese characters of I-Ching are .  The second character means "book," a profound book.  The first character means "ease" or change.  Since I-Ching is easy, some people call it as "The Book of Ease" or "The Book of Changes".

The original Chinese character Yee is Yee, which is a symbol combining the sun (top) and moon (bottom).  It's easy for people to understand the philosophy by talking about the sun (Yang), moon (Yin) and universe.  After observing the universe, the ancient Chinese found that the universe is changing every day.  Although it changes easily every day, it also has seasonal and annual cycles.  From these cycles the unchanging rules are created.

However, it's not easy to use the Yee method to find the unchanging rules from the universe and apply on human activities.  That's why some people think I-Ching is easy and some don't.

The Big Dipper at night.
The Big Dipper at night

Chinese Sun Ruler

By observing the sky, and recording the Big Dipper's positions and watching the shadow of the Sun from an 8-foot (Chinese measurement) pole, the ancient Chinese determined the four directions.  The direction of sunrise is East; the direction of sunset is West; the direction of the shortest shadow is South and the direction of the longest shadow is North.  At night, the direction of the Polaris star is North.

They noticed the seasonal changes.  When the Big Dipper points East, it's spring; when the Big Dipper points South, it's summer; when the Big Dipper points West, it's fall; when the Big Dipper points North, it's winter.


To observe the cycle of the Sun, the ancient Chinese used a pole about 8 feet long, posted at right angles to the ground and recorded positions of the shadow.  They discovered that the length of a year is around 365.25 days.  They even divided the year's cycle into 24 Segments, including the Vernal Equinox, Autumnal Equinox, Summer Solstice and Winter Solstice, using the sunrise and Big Dipper positions.

They marked six concentric circles, around the pole, and the 24-Segment points, dividing the circles into 24 sectors.  They then recorded the length of shadow every day.  The shortest shadow is found on the Summer Solstice.  The longest shadow is found on the Winter Solstice. After connecting the lines and dimming the Yin Part from the Summer Solstice to Winter Solstice, the Sun chart looks like it does below.  The ecliptic angle 23 26' 19'' of the Earth can be seen in this chart.

Chinese Sun Chart

The Ecliptic The Ecliptic is the Sun's apparent path around the Earth.  It's tilted relative to the Earth's equator.  The value of obliquity of the Ecliptic is around 23 26' 19'' in year 2000.

By rotating the Sun chart and positioning the Winter Solstice at the bottom, it will look like this . The light color area which indicates more sunlight is called Yang (Sun).  The dark color area has less sunlight (more moonlight) and is called Yin (Moon).  Yang is like man.  Yin is like woman.  Yang wouldn't grow without Yin.  Yin couldn't give birth without Yang.  Yin is born (begins) at the Summer Solstice and Yang is born (begins) at the Winter Solstice.  Therefore one little circle Yin is marked at the Summer Solstice position.  Another little circle Yang is marked at the Winter Solstice position.  These two little circles look like two fish eyes.

Sun Chart aligned with seasons.

In general, the Yin Yang symbol is a Chinese representation of the entire celestial phenomenon.  It contains the cycle of Sun, four seasons, 24-Segment Chi, the foundation of the I-Ching and the Chinese calendar.

© Copyright 1999, Allen Tsai
Grammar corrections by Victor Ung