by Stefan Stenudd


Yin and Yang

Yin and Yang. Brush art by Stefan Stenudd.

The Polar Opposites of Ancient Chinese Cosmology

In I Ching, the ceaseless change is caused by the dynamics between yin and yang, the polar opposites of ancient Chinese cosmology. Yang stands for heaven and Yin for earth. Light and dark, warm and cold, and so on. Anything in the universe bascially consists of these opposites, and the balance or imbalance between them.

       Yin and Yang originally refer to the shady side and the sunny side, like on a tree: One side of its trunk faces the south and most of the sunlight, whereas the opposite side faces the north and is mostly in the shadow. That may have been the very first polarity observed by those Chinese thinkers, long ago, who came up with the idea.

       If so, that can also explain the principle that neither Yin nor Yang is ever in a completely pure state. There's always some Yin in Yang and vice versa, like the trunk of a tree gets some light also on the north side and occasional shade on its south.

       The famous image symbolizing Yin and Yang shows it by the white dot in the black field and the black one in the white field, as can be seen on the image above (a drawing I made long ago with brush and ink, in the Eastern fashion).

       This image is called T'ai chi (or Taiji), The Supreme Ultimate. The grand name is because the symbol shows the inner workings of everything in the cosmos — the dynamics between Yin and Yang.

       In I Ching, Yin and Yang are represented in a very basic way, by a line that's either solid or broken. The solid line represents Yang, and the broken one Yin:

Yang line.
Yang line.

Yin line.
Yin line.

       These are combined into eight trigrams (three lines each), which are then combined into the 64 possible hexagrams. Here are the eight trigrams:

The eight trigrams.
The eight trigrams.

More about the trigrams here.

Some of my books

Click the image to see the book at Amazon (paid link).

Tao Te Ching — The Taoism of Lao Tzu Explained. Book by Stefan Stenudd.

Tao Te Ching

The Taoism of Lao Tzu Explained The great Taoist classic, translated and extensively commented chapter by chapter.

Tarot Unfolded. Book by Stefan Stenudd.

Tarot Unfolded

How to do a reading of the Tarot divination cards from what their images symbolize. Several spreads are explained, as well as the meanings of all the 78 cards and their pictures.

Fake Lao Tzu Quotes — Erroneous Tao Te Ching Citations Examined. Book by Stefan Stenudd.

Fake Lao Tzu Quotes

Erroneous Tao Te Ching Citations Examined. 90 of the most spread false Lao Tzu quotes, why they are false and where they are really from.


Free I CHING Reading

Get the hexagram that answers your question.

I CHING Hexagrams

The 64 hexagrams and their meanings in divination.

I CHING Trigrams

The eight trigrams and how they combine into the hexagrams.


The basic polar opposites of the I Ching explained.


A few of the English versions of The Book of Change reviewed.


Use the Facebook field on some of these web pages to comment the I Ching or this website.


My Other Websites


Taoism, the old Chinese philosophy of life, based on Tao, the Way. Also, the complete Tao Te Ching translated and explained.

Tarot Card Meanings

Free online reading with the old Tarot deck of divination cards. Also, how to use the Tarot and what each card means.

Complete Horoscope

How predictions are made by classical astrology and the full horoscope chart, with many examples.

Qi Energy Exercises

The ancient Chinese life energy qi (chi) explained, with simple instructions on how to exercise it.

Stefan Stenudd, author of fiction and non-fiction.

Stefan Stenudd

About Me
I'm a Swedish author and aikido instructor. In addition to fiction, I've written books about Taoism as well as other East Asian traditions. I'm also a historian of ideas, researching ancient thought and mythology. Click the image to get to my personal website.