Yin Yang


Yin Yang is a concept that originated in the East of the coexistence of polar, opposite forces. Read here about how tensegrity concepts can inform our conception of yin yang, and vice a versa.

Overview of Yin Yang


In Chinese philosophy, the concept of yin yang sometimes referred to in the west as yin and yang) is used to describe how polar or seemingly contrary forces are interconnected and interdependent in the natural world, and how they give rise to each other in turn. Many natural dualities — e.g. dark and light, female and male, low and high, cold and hot — are thought of as manifestations of yin and yang (respectively).
Yin yang are complementary opposites within a greater whole. Everything has both yin and yang aspects, although yin or yang elements may manifest more strongly in different objects or at different times. Yin yang constantly interacts, never existing in absolute stasis. The concept of yin and yang is often symbolized by various forms of the Taijitu symbol, for which it is probably best known in western cultures. There is a perception (especially in the West) that yin and yang correspond to good and evil. However, Taoist philosophy generally discounts good/bad distinctions as superficial labels, preferring to focus on the idea of balance.

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Classic taoist Taijitu symbol expressing the interaction of Yin and Yang.


The Nature of Opposition as Expressed in the Taijitu Symbol

In Taoist philosophy, yin and yang arise together from an initial quiescence or emptiness (wuji, sometimes symbolized by an empty circle), and continue moving in tandem until quiescence is reached again. For instance, dropping a stone in a calm pool of water will simultaneously raise waves and lower troughs between them, and this alternation of high and low points in the water will radiate outward until the movement dissipates and the pool is calm once more. Yin–yang, thus, are always opposite and equal qualities. Further, whenever one quality reaches its peak it will naturally begin to transform into the opposite quality: grain that reaches its full height in summer (fully yang) will produce seeds and die back in winter (fully yin) in an endless cycle.
It is impossible to talk about yin or yang without some reference to the opposite, since yin–yang are bound together as parts of a mutual whole (i.e. you cannot have the back of a hand without the front). A race with only men or only women would disappear in a single generation; but men and women together create new generations that allow the race they mutually create (and mutually come from) to survive. The interaction of the two gives birth to things. Yin and yang transform each other: like an undertow in the ocean, every advance is complemented by a retreat, and every rise transforms into a fall. Thus, a seed will sprout from the earth and grow upwards towards the sky – an intrinsically yang movement. Then when it reaches its full potential height it will fall.

Relating Tensegrity Structure's Oppositions to Yin and Yang


First and foremost, a tensegrity structure models opposite and equal qualities of tension and compression, while the opposites are completely and qualitatively different.

In tensegrity structures, the opposition arises together and it is structure, rather than quiescence, that is achieved. Structure is the ongoing inter-stabilization of the opposite forces in such a time frame as to be perceptible by people.

Portal To Philosophy
A series on the philosophical implications of tensegrity.
Arithmetization, Frame, Lightness, Opposition, Space, Yin Yang
See also Castaneda