THE CHINESE VIEW OF THE WAY THINGS ARE (COSMOLOGY)
A World of Opposites
The Chinese sought to understand the forces that created and controlled the world around them. This search took the form of categorizing events and looking at those events to see if a common influence could be found. As the Chinese observed their world they discovered that much of existence could be divided into pairs of opposing states of being. The concept that heat, was balanced by cold, male by female and hard by soft presented a way of ordering the chaos. This primary order began the journey to understanding cause and effect, which yields the ability to predict phenomena and ultimately the ability to control.
Observing the two categories of opposing states, the Chinese deduced that there must be opposing forces acting upon the stuff of life to produce the antagonistic results. The Chinese called those things that were hard, masculine, warm, or centrifugal Yang influenced events. The opposing forces of feminine, soft, cool or centrepital they called Yin influenced events. Eventually these categories were seen to be so pervasive that they were accepted as the logical answer to the question of cause.
For the Chinese the world was, in its simplest sense, the expression of Yin and Yang forces playing out their influences in the many circumstances of life. For example, in Chinese legend, the forces of Yin and Yang combined to form the first man, Pan Gu. According to legend he was carved out of stone. He lived an incredibly long time and when he died, his body was made into a magic axe. This axe was used to carve all the animals from stone also. So it was that, for the Chinese, animals and man had the same origin.
The observations of the Chinese eventually included not only placing things into these two categories but also studying the interplay of these forces. They noticed that the seasons ranged from Yang forces to Yin in a cycle. Likewise the sunny side of a hill was contrasted by a cooler shady side. The Chinese concluded that Yang and Yin did not exist as simply opposing forces which might eliminate each other. Instead, they theorized that the two energies actually created each other as they ran their course. The world was not either hot or cold, it was hot on its way to becoming cold and cold on its way to becoming hot. (This can now be contrasted with the Ocelating Universe theory which states that the Universe moves inward and outward in repeating creative and destructive cycles.) Times of prosperity were not an arrival at some kind of ideal state, instead it was simply the ascendency of plenty before the naturally occuring cycle of privation began.
Likewise, for the Chinese, evil and good were not, by inference, two distinctly waring forces, they were the outcome of the interplay of all Yin and Yang. Neither could be distroyed by the other. Therefore the Chinese, instead of attempting to eliminate all evil or to create a society of all good, sought a balance so that the bad times could be prepared for during the good. The end result, hopefully, would be, on the average, more livable.
In Western Thought the belief that all good could be achieved or that all bad could be eliminated was an outgrowth of Greek Thought. For many schools of Greek Thought, the idea of "the good" was an actual force that was in truth "more real" than our physical existence. Therefore to strive for "the good" that was the greatest endeavor and furthermore, society could be structured so that the citizens would achieve this state of "goodness". (See Plato's writings) or note the Persian approach to good and evil (which impacts much of world view today in Christianity).
The Chinese represented this interplay of the Yin Yang forces with a symbol that came to be called the Tai Chi. The white area represents the Yang forces and the dark area represents the Yin. They are seen as two designs, each having a thicker, strong side and a weaker, thin one. This dynamic symbol is represents the weakening of one as the other force gains ascendency. Additionally, they each carry within them the implied existence of the other as represented by the dot within each of the thicker sides. In fact, for there to be a Yang there must be a Yin and vice versa, (See the Tao Te Ching, Chapter Two)
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