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Yin and Yang:
Background and Meaning

Yin and Yang Symbol

In the years 2697 to 2595 B.C., Emperor Huang-ti Nei Ching conceived of a circulatory system and internal arrangement that he divided into two basic principles: Yin and Yang.

The Emperor noted that the human body was a duplicate of heaven and earth, and that it performed in a rhythm that promoted perpetual youth and health. He recorded his finding in one of the oldest written works on Oriental healing, which he entitled The Yellow Emperorís Classic of Internal Medicine. In this scroll the Emperor observed that perpetual youth and health could be achieved by maintaining a proper balance between the two separate elements of yin and yang. He went so far as to list functions, foods and conditions which were either yin or yang in nature, or a slight combination of both. Maintain a balance, noted the Emperor, and the secret of youth and health.

The theory of yin and yang, according to the website Acupuncturetoday.com, is the most fundamental concept of traditional Chinese medicine. One of the major beliefs is that all things in the universe are either yin or yang. However, there are no absolutes: nothing is ever all yin or all yang, but a balance between the two forces. For example, when day changes into night, it is an example of a yang object changing into a yin object; when winter turns into spring; it is considered a changing from yin to yang. These forces are opposite and yet complementary.

Each organ in the body has an element of yin and yang within it. Some organs, such as the liver, are predominantly yang; others, such as the kidneys, are yin. Even though an organ may be predominantly yin or yang in nature, the balance of yin and yang is maintained throughout the body, because the sum total of yin and yang will be in balance.

In traditional Chinese medicine illness is believed to be caused by an imbalance of yin and yang in the body. In an excess of yin, the yang qi would be damaged, leading to the development of a cold disease. Excess of yang will likewise damage yin qi and lead to a heat disease being developed.

Basic treatment of these diseases is aimed at replenishing depleted yin or yang, and it is through this process that the balance of yin and yang is re-established. Traditional Chinese medicine practitioners attempt to determine the exact nature of the imbalance, then correct it through a variety of approaches, including acupuncture, herbal remedies, exercise, and changes in diet and lifestyle. As the balance is restored in the body, so is the person's health.

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