Yin-Yang Symbol

Aside from the Five Elements, yin and yang are the most essential consideration in Oriental philosophy, for these concepts are the basis of all change and transmutation in any system – natural or philosophical. Yin is commonly associated with the feminine principle, and yang with the male. However, there is much more to it, as can be seen from the following correspondences:



Inner Outer
Solid Hollow
Cold Hot
Moving toward the Center Moving toward the periphery
Nurturing Disseminating
Static Moving
Earth Heaven
Female* Male*
Soft Hard
Contemplative Active
Building Dismantling
Rest Movement
Dark Light
Including Dividing
Tamasic Rajasic






















Yin and yang should be seen as complimentary transformations in nature and humans. The two interact and always tend toward balance, other factors being equal. All other things arise and recede in response to the interaction of yin and yang. Yin and yang form a sort of “closed-loop” system, in that balance in nature is always maintained. If yang gets too strong it tends to become yin – i.e., yang collapses in on itself if it gets too over-extended because it loses its strength. If yin gets too strong it becomes yang – i.e., yin becomes hollow and hard if it overextends itself because there is only a finite amount of the yin essence. The essence of each is said to be held in the bosom of the other, as is represented in the famous yin/yang diagram.

And neither yin nor yang can function without the other. Yin without yang is amorphous and has no vessel to contain it or give it force or form. An analogy would be a quantity of water, representing an essence. With no structure the water just spreads, finding its lowest level, thereafter becoming stagnant. However, if there are walls (yang) to contain the water it becomes useful. It can be a nourishing reservoir, a place for fish to live, or a beautiful lake to enjoy. If the walls are opened at a point and the water flows into a channel, as in a river, it brings life to everything along the flow, or cleansing force. The banks of the river control the velocity of the water, too, depending on the inclination and the amount of water.

Yang without yin is an empty shell, devoid of life or essence. A dry lake or river bed is a dead space, waiting for something to fill it. Likewise in a human being, an overly yang person will be forever searching for his or her essence, maybe in constant movement, but devoid of compassion and lacking stability, always active but never stopping to think about their action. Conversely, an overly yin person will tend to be too settled and not disseminate their wisdom (essence). With no movement, the tendency in the overly yin person is to stagnate and become isolated from the world, being too inward to be of help to the society around them.

Everything in nature is thus polarized to some degree, but it is never a static construct. Just as the seasons come and go, yin and yang rise and fall in a person and in nature. But the tendency is always toward balance. The polarized elements, yin and yang, are the basis for each of the Four Pillars, for instance, and set the tone for each one as a result. Once the polarity of the Stem and its Element are determined, one can then move on to a consideration of the phase that each Pillar represents, because each of the Four Pillars defines a part or segment of a greater cycle. In a Four Pillars chart one will often find an imbalance between yin and yang.

We see men sometimes that have a preponderance of yin pillars and women who have a preponderance of yang. This does not in itself indicate that yin men tend to be more feminine, for instance, or that yang women tend to exhibit more masculine traits. Instead, a preponderance of yin in a man indicates a man that tends to be more reflective rather than active, more inclined to spend more time thinking before acting, is less impulsive, more pliable to outside influences, etc. In the case of a yang-polarized woman, as a further instance, we see a person who takes charge of her environment, who tends to be more impatient when things do not move in the way she would like, who likes to mold her relationships and will be more proactive in her dealings with people. In people where the four pillars are balanced, then we see a person who can either exhibit a ‘balanced perspective’, or in more extreme cases a ‘split personality’, and this will depend upon the elemental makeup and environing influences. So, yin and yang are not black and white, we might say. Instead, they form the basis of the complexity of the individual and the person’s unique ‘take’ on life or their special genius along some line of another.

There are a number of concepts that govern the expression of yin and yang in human nature. A human being is an equal partner with the laws of heaven and earth while in a physical body. From our point of view these laws are fixed, but they are changing and evolving ever-so-slowly themselves, such as to be imperceptible to us. We have freedom of choice in what we think and do. So long as we work and think in keeping with the laws of heaven and earth we will have good fortune and success. We do best for ourselves when we work selflessly and in harmony with the laws of heaven and earth. However, karma does come back to its originator (meaning us) in universal time and this can often override our free will. This is not inevitable. If we develop ourselves spiritually and enter the realms of spirit through practise and purification, however briefly, we can override the physical karma that comes to us. We therein manifest divine will, and we progress spiritually the more we come to understand and work within the laws of heaven and earth. There are no measureable changes in those laws during our sojourn in physical life. Only we as individuals can fully understand the real truth about ourselves and life. This is a part of our individual freedom.

In the preceding paragraph we have the basis of all types of astrology. Since we are an equal partner with the laws of heaven and earth, the moment of our birth can be seen as an act of free will, being based upon how we have lived in past lives. Considering these points, and adding to the complexity of the individual, yin and yang will also tend to show the areas where one takes charge of their life or where they are more passive. A person who has a yang hour pillar, for instance, will have a very active and seeking mind, tending toward creative output and toward trying to mold their world into the mental visions they have. Yang-minded people create their own world of thought and are not so open to other people’s ideas. A yin hour pillar gives a more contemplative, inward-focused mind, one that is comfortable in its own world, tending toward dreaming, more meditative, more absorptive of external influences and is open to impression. But both yin and yang have and exhibit their own particular brand of power and influence. One should not think that yang = power or that yin = weakness.

Some of the more powerful signs in the Chinese zodiac are the yin signs, such as Oxen and Sheep. There are many world leaders who have these two signs in their makeup, such as Margaret Thatcher or Barrack Obama, for instance, both having the Ox as their year pillar. There is a stubborn determination which yin can exhibit, as well as strong opinions that are difficult to shake or influence. Margaret Thatcher was known as the “Iron Lady”, after all. She was primarily yin (three of her four pillars), with her only yang pillar being the day pillar, but she had a powerful and lasting effect on British government, whether or not one agreed with her policies. And perhaps the one thing that contributes so much to the power that yin can exhibit is the idea of ‘staying power’ – the ability to constantly renew one’s energies by virtue of the excess of yin. And Thatcher is a good example of how too much yin can become yang.

In terms of Chinese astrology and as an example of how yin and yang manifest through the Four Pillars, we have the following possibilities of yin and yang through each of the pillars:

Year Pillar: One’s interface with the outer world, ancestors, work life, community environment

  • Yin: the desire to imbue one’s environment with the essence represented by the earthly branch, or animal sign. Conversely, this can indicate a person who feels constantly buffeted by the influences of one’s ancestors, one’s work associates or community.
  • Yang: the desire to shape one’s destiny in the outer world, based upon one’s inner nature and the influence of one’s culture – a proactive individual so far as the outer world is concerned. Conversely this can indicate the malcontent who constantly feels they must guard themselves against what seems to them to be a hostile or irritating world.

Month Pillar: One’s immediate family, primary conditioning and the basis for future development

  • Yin: A person whose family has been a very strong and positive influence – a person who exhibits the essence of their family life to a strong degree and who adheres very much to family values and upbringing. Conversely, a person who has been exposed to toxic family situations and who finds it very difficult to feel nurtured within themselves as a result, the result of carrying the stagnant or toxic yin essence.
  • Yang: A strong proponent of family values, who tends to shape their destiny according to family conditioning. A person who feels well within themselves, who is able to affect their destiny according to a well-scripted set of values. Otherwise, a person with a sense of inner hollowness who pushes through life at odds with the values of their culture, always subconsciously chasing after meaning.

Day Pillar: The self, one’s sense of identity, one’s health, one’s intimate partner

  • Yin: Normally, a more inwardly-focused individual who takes their time with things. Sometimes indicative of a person who must focus more than usual on matters of health or identity. Often, a yang partner can be a real help in self-actualization, unless the rest of the chart is predominantly yang. A person who focuses on the essence of things in life rather that the structure of one’s life. Meaning is more important to the yin Day Pillar than action.
  • Yang: A person who actively explores life and who seeks to make a place for themselves in the world. The proactive person who is an active participant in life and who has a firm sense of boundaries, or who seeks to establish the same with people. A predominantly yin partner can prove to be a good counterbalance to a person with a yang day pillar.

Hour Pillar: One’s mind, one’s children, the legacy we leave behind, our creative output

  • Yin: This can mark the true contemplative, who seeks very deeply after the meaning of life. These people can be very strongly family-oriented and can be great caregivers and empaths. Friendships tend to be based upon common views and humanistic concerns. In extreme cases this can indicate a person who lives alone in their own world, who shuts themselves off from society in general and is comfortable only with their own company.
  • Yang: This is the person who seeks to leave a lasting legacy to the world, either through children, creative works or both. Friendships tend to be based upon social structures and connections. Creative output can be very great from such individuals, other factors in the chart contributing. In extreme cases this can indicate an anarchist or sociopath who seeks to impose their legacy through more destructive or self-destructive means.

From all the preceding, then, we see that yin and yang as concepts may be clear enough, but the way they express through a person and in nature can indeed be complex. But in considering yin and yang, the polarities they represent are fundamental in understanding Oriental philosophy and Eastern methods of astrology in general. We end with the expression of yin and yang in nature through the elements;




Wood Grasses, shrubbery, scrub, prairies, pliable wood, crafted wood Trees, forests, strong and sturdy wood, planks, cut timber
Fire Small flames, home heating, warmth, the campfire Conflagrations, the Sun, great heat, the forest fire
Earth Dust, loose earth, soil, mounds, bricks, precious stones, small stones Large rocks, earthen walls, mountains, dams, concrete
Metal Metal jewelry, cutlery, refined metal, precious metals, small castings Steel and iron, structural metal, metal edifices, steel reinforcement
Water Ponds, mist, fog, light rain, reflecting pools Oceans, rivers, downpours, large lakes, moving masses of water



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