Fifteen Eighty Four

Academic perspectives from Cambridge University Press


A More Sophisticated Understanding of Yinyang

Robin R. Wang

Yinyang: The Way of Heaven and Earth in Chinese Thought and Culture by Robin R. Wang

Yin and Yang are so familiar that they have practically become English words, although people usually pronounce yang incorrectly (it should rhyme with the English words “tong” or “bong,” not with “sang” or “hang”).  Yin and yang are invoked whenever someone wants to discuss opposites that are complementary, or wants to appeal to goals of harmony and balance.  While yinyang includes these simple aspects, it is also wildly complicated – how else would it have functioned as a kind of cultural DNA in China for thousands of years until today?  As a Professor of Chinese thought and culture, I have often felt that without a more sophisticated understanding of yinyang, a crucial element for grasping Chinese thought, culture and mentality is missing. So this book gives a more nuanced, synchronic account of the rich meanings and applications of yinyang, from logical reasoning to aesthetic understanding, from divination to medicine, from the art of fengshui to the art of sex.  Yinyang is not simply about balance or harmony but involves skillful action.  The use of yinyang has been compared to the art of riding a horse in some classical Chinese texts– yinyang charioteering is a kind of embodied intelligence, a strategy for effective interaction with dynamic open systems, used for navigating any kind of path from social to personal. It combines responses to environmental disturbances (yang) with attention to hidden facts and forces (yin). Everything and every action have the rhythm of yinyang! Read it, Know it and Use it in this increasing globalized world.

About The Author

Robin R. Wang

Robin R. Wang is the author of Yinyang: The Way of Heaven and Earth in Chinese Thought and Culture (2012) and is Daum Professor in the Bellarmine College of Liberal Arts, Professor...

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