Yin and Yang
Our first lesson in the basics of acupuncture theory starts here: the tai chi. Probably the most famous symbol representing the Chinese understanding of the universe. Everything in the known universe can be broken down into yin and yang, something and it's complement. Nothing can exist without it's complementary force because everything is defined by it's complementary force. I choose not to use the word "opposite" here because opposition suggests separation or conflict. In Chinese numerology, the number two represents division without separation. As you can see, though the symbol is divided into two colors, they are unified as one whole circle. Another reason why I choose the word compliment is because comparing yin and yang is relative. Take men and women for example. When comparing one to the other, men are yang, women are yin. If you were, however, to compare two women to each other, one being a ballet dancer and the other a construction worker, the former would be yin in relation to the yang of the later. To move a level deeper, there are yin and yang aspects within every individual. Referring back to our female construction worker, she may be yang while at work, but yin while she's home knitting.
As I'm sure you already know, yin and yang are more than a simple way of comparing and organizing things of the universe. It's also the fundamental understanding of *how *the universe works. The white represents yang: energy that rises, associated with the sun and day, activity, and the male gender. The black represents yin: energy that descends, associated with the moon and night, rest, and the female gender. The larger portions of black and white are representative of balance and harmony, and the dot of the opposite color in each half represents their root of existence. Let's start with balance and harmony. Think of a relationship in your life. If you're with someone whom you consider your equal, there's little conflict and what differences you do have can be used to strengthen your bond. If you're with someone and there isn't a balance of power, turmoil ensues (and we've all been there). The same logic holds true for everything else in the universe and it's where we acupuncturists do some of our work- harmonizing the relationships between organs so everything functions as it should. Now to explain the root of existence. Yin cannot exist without its root in yang and yang cannot exist without its root in Yin. Nothing can be entirely yin just as nothing can be entirely yang. If anything is purely one or the other, it actually creates separation and therefore death. To use men and women as another example, if one was to separate them from each other, the population would eventually go extinct. When we put those two aspects together, the symbol in it's entirety represents the transformative properties of yin and yang. Because each is rooted in the other, they have the ability to change from one form to the other, and continue to do so in an endless cycle shown by the buta-like shapes made with the larger black and white portions. We see this transformation every day as it changes into the night, or when children (yang) evolve into the elderly (yin).
A lot to be said of such a simple symbol, right?