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Influence of Yin Yang on Confucius and Lao Zi’s Way of Thinking

Yin Yang refers to the concept that is used to describe and explain how some opposite or converse forces in the world are mutually supporting and intertwined. It describes and explains how they give rise to each other in turn and seem to be mutually dependent on each other.

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This concept is referred to sometimes as Yin and Yang. It informs many forms of religion as well as being at the center of science and philosophy in many ancient Chinese traditions as well as being the principle for many forms of medicine, martial arts, and exercise with Chinese roots.

Essentially, the Yin Yang concept states that the world and the universe at large are run by one principle which is called Tao or The Great Ultimate. This principle has two elements; the Yin and the Yang. These two sub-principles oppose and counter each other’s actions.

These two elements work together towards all that can be perceived in the universe through five ‘agents’ known as ‘Wu Hsing’. The five agents affect everything from weather to the state of the economy and they can be used to predict affairs and future events as well.

The Yang element refers to all the principles with characteristics of maleness such as the sun, heat, dominance, and light while Yin refers to the principles with characteristics of femaleness such as the moon, cold, and darkness.

These two elements are cyclically linked and they create elements of each other; Yin produces Yang and vice versa and over and over such that no one element or principle is dominant over the other continually or perpetually. Therefore all the effects that one feels and experiences, both positive and negative, can be explained as a temporary dominance of either on the other.

This means that life is seen as constantly changing under the influence of Yin and Yang and therefore no state is permanent. All principles have an element of their opposite in them and since they produce each other they are irrevocably and eternally intertwined. Therefore one can never be said to be in a certain state since they have at all times an element of the opposite in them. This is called ‘Presence in Absence’ (Richard Hooker)

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Yang elements are obvious while Yin elements are hidden and subtle. For this reason, the two opposing forces create a dynamic equilibrium through arising together and by virtue of being equal and opposite. They cannot exist independently of each other.

Yang is the principle of initiation while Yin is the principle of completion. They are equal and opposite and are so intertwined that none can exist without the other. Both can fail to exist leaving emptiness but that is rarely ever the case since as aforementioned Yang elements are clear and Yin elements are more subtle.

There are many manifestations of Ying and Yang as light and dark, night and day, good and evil, and so on. Without one of the two sub-elements the other would lose meaning; without light or good darkness and evil would be meaningless. These are the two equal and opposing forces that are the basis of Yin Yang.

Lao Zi

Lao Zi was an ancient Chinese philosopher, religious leader, and thinker. His name means ‘Old Master’. His name is variably spelled as Laozi, Lao Tse, Laosi, and also as Laocius. Chinese history states that he lived in the 6th Century B.C.

Lao Zi is a key and central figure in the religion referred to as Taoism or Daoism. He is revered as a god in that religion where he has the title of Taishang Laojun. He is venerated as ‘One of the Three Pure Ones’ in Taoism (in the form of The Grand Pure One or the Grand Supreme Elder Lord).

The term Tao is commonly translated to “Nature,” which can be taken to mean the entire universe and everything in it as it naturally occurs. It is also translated to “The Way,” meaning the “Great Way”.

Taoism refers to a number of connected concepts of philosophy and religion that have been in practice in East Asia and China for many centuries. The term Tao can be loosely translated to mean ‘Path’ or ‘way’ and therefore Taoism can be seen as a broad concept that influences the way that people who follow it live.

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Taoism is concerned with the health, well-being, and longevity of life while also focusing on immortality and restraint, and non-action. Nature and ancestral spirits are revered in Taoism and many Chinese traditions regarding cuisine, martial arts, astrology, and medicine are based on Taoism.

Laozi’s dissertation titled Daodejing and alternately known as Tao Te Ching is to date of the most popular and well-known writings of Chinese origin. It describes Tao as the source and ideal of all existence, the root of all things known and unknown, and also portrays Tao as unseen, all-powerful yet humble.

The Tao Te Ching is also sometimes referred to as the Laozi after its author. It states that many acts of people have unnaturally affected the balance and the Tao and those teachings contained in the Daodejing are meant to lead those people back to the natural state where they are in harmony with Tao. (Lao Tzu Page)

Lao Zi’s ideas are explained through analogies, ancient sayings of the Chinese as well as through the use of paradox and literary styles like rhyme and rhythm. The Daodejing is said to be Lao Zi’s greatest achievement and also his life’s work.

Lao Zi said that “everything bears yin and embraces yang”. He proposes that ultimate and definitive virtue and integrity in life emerge from learning to live in accordance with the Tao. One who lives by the Tao logically recognizes the best way to act in all situations in life and does not need rules, regulations, and laws. (Victor Daniels)

The ability of anything to follow its nature is termed Teh or Te. It is the second element of the Daodejing or Tao Teh Ching written by Lao Zi. It states that nature never behaves unnaturally, except when humans interfere. There are many ways of deviating from nature which all deviate from Tao. (Bahm)

Confucius

Confucius was another great Chinese thinker and philosopher. His wide-ranging teachings have greatly influenced Asian life and thinking in such places as Korea, Vietnam, Japan, and China.

He is said to have lived from around the year 551 BC to around 479 BC. His teachings highlighted the virtues of morality, social order, justice, and sincerity both on a personal level as well as on a governmental or administrative level.

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His teachings are contained in a collection of some of his sayings and teachings called ‘The Analects of Confucius’. They were compiled over time in fragments despite modern historians not believing that there exists any document that was written by Confucius himself. Those teachings are so widely accepted that the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community believes that Confucius was a Divine Prophet of God, as was Lao Zi and other eminent Chinese persons.

Confucius’ thoughts have been developed into a system of philosophy known as ‘Confucianism’. It was introduced to Europe by the Jesuit Matteo Ricci. It was he who translated the Chinese characters of the name into Latin to read “Confucius.”

Confucius said, “Opposition is the source of all growth and oppositeness will continue forever, no matter how many opposites may come and go.” (Bahm, 1958, p. 15)

Famous Confucian Quotes

  • “What one does not wish for oneself, one ought not to do to anyone else; what one recognizes as desirable for oneself, one ought to be willing to grant to others.” (Confucius and Confucianism, Richard Wilhelm)
  • “Respect yourself and others will respect you.”
  • “When you have faults, do not fear to abandon them.”
  • “With coarse rice to eat, with water to drink, and my crooked arm for a pillow – is not a joy to be found therein? Riches and honors acquired through unrighteousness are to me as the floating clouds.”
  • “Never impose on others what you would not choose for yourself.”

References

  1. Bahm; Philosophy of the Buddha.
  2. Richard Hooker; Chinese Philosophy; Yin Yang.
  3. Lao Tzu Page.

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StudyCorgi. (2021, October 21). Influence of Yin Yang on Confucius and Lao Zi’s Way of Thinking. https://studycorgi.com/influence-of-yin-yang-on-confucius-and-lao-zis-way-of-thinking/

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"Influence of Yin Yang on Confucius and Lao Zi’s Way of Thinking." StudyCorgi, 21 Oct. 2021, studycorgi.com/influence-of-yin-yang-on-confucius-and-lao-zis-way-of-thinking/.

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StudyCorgi. "Influence of Yin Yang on Confucius and Lao Zi’s Way of Thinking." October 21, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/influence-of-yin-yang-on-confucius-and-lao-zis-way-of-thinking/.

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StudyCorgi. 2021. "Influence of Yin Yang on Confucius and Lao Zi’s Way of Thinking." October 21, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/influence-of-yin-yang-on-confucius-and-lao-zis-way-of-thinking/.

References

StudyCorgi. (2021) 'Influence of Yin Yang on Confucius and Lao Zi’s Way of Thinking'. 21 October.

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