Orientations of the yin-yang symbol
The yin-yang symbol can revolve around two axes: the axis going through its centre and perpendicular to its rotation plane and the axis going through its both poles.
When the yin-yang symbol revolves around its centre, it performs this rotation in a horizontal plane relatively to the perpendicular axis going through its centre. This rotation can be performed in two opposite directions. Indeed, the observer who looks at the symbol can see it turning towards left or right according to the rotation direction of either “fish” or “dolphins” associated to the clear (yang) and dark (yin) areas. This rotation underlines even more the perfectly symmetrical aspect of the symbol in comparison with its centre as well as the perfect complementarity of yang and yin characters. In this representation, the horizontal plane of the symbol is often associated with the terrestrial plane oriented according to the four compass points.
When the yin-yang symbol revolves around its pole axis, it generates a volume, the meaning of which differs according to the horizontal or vertical orientation of the axis.
- If the axis is horizontal, the clear and dark areas are alternately above each other without any consequence. In fact, both poles are situated in the same horizontal plane and none of them can constantly dominate the other;
- If the axis is vertical, the clear area is necessarily above the dark one for both poles are situated at different hierarchical levels and yang can only dominate yin. Moreover, the generated volume symbolizes here the World Egg at the source of the fundamental polarity of the Chinese tradition dissociating Heaven and Earth. As Heaven (yang) is “above” Earth (yin), the clear area can only dominate the dark one. In this representation, the symbol is related to the axis joining zenith to nadir.
We will most often represent the yin-yang symbol under its vertical form in order to recall that yang is “above” yin. Nevertheless, such a precedence does not occur when we refer to its horizontal representation as we will see in the following figures related to the four compass points:
Yin-yang symbol orientation
These figures can be connected to the compass points axes. As south and east are relatively luminous (yang) in comparison with the darkness (yin) of north and west, it is easy to verify how these figures can be associated:
The figures are divided into two groups corresponding respectively to the orientation towards south (solar orientation) and north (polar orientation)
- The solar orientation consists in looking in the southern direction and following the movement of the sun from east to west, from left to right and privileging the left;
- The polar orientation comes down to looking in the northern direction and following the astral move around the polar star from east to west, from right to left and to giving preference to the right.
To visualize both orientations, see the orientation according to the sun and the stars.
According to the eras, China adopted one or the other orientation mode for a dynasty change which could imply a different perception of the cosmic order and, consequently, of the relationships with the seasons or compass points. The polar orientation prevailed in the far-off days, but the solar orientation imposed itself afterwards. Let us note that such an orientation choice is in perfect accordance with the usual representation of Chinese maps and plans: south being at the “top” and north at the “bottom” 1.