Two polar opposites are often described as yin-and-yang, even in English with a sentence like “Everything in life is a yin-yang.”
Depending on the situation, yin & yang can mean:
- the annual cycle (winter and summer)
- astronomy (moon and sun)
- the landscape (north-facing shade and south-facing brightness)
- the two sexes (female and male)
- strength (weak and strong)
- elements (water and fire)
- status (disorder and order)
- and covid-19 tests (negative & positive)
阴Yīn means (among other things):
- dark, female, negative (in physics), shade or overcast, secret, as well as north of hill, or south of a river.
阳Yáng means (among other things):
- light, male, positive (in physics), sunny or clear, open, as well as south of a hill or north of a river.
The Hanzi characters look a lot alike even though their meanings are exact opposites. 阴Yīn has the component 月Yuè (moon) while 阳Yáng has the component 日Rì (sun).
Remember yin & yang both mean north/south of a hill? The radical 阝Fù comes from the character 阜Fù, which means hill or mound. Characters with the radical 阝(on the left-side) sometimes have to do with terrain (in a very loose way), such as 院yuàn (courtyard). When 阝is placed on the right side of a character, it comes from the 邑Yì, which means city (such as with 郊jiāo (suburb)).
In covid tests
If you look at your PCR test report, you can probably see 阴性Yīnxìng (negative), or in a bad situation 阳性Yángxìng (positive).
These days, 阳Yáng (in covid-context) is sometimes written as a sheep emoji because 阳Yáng sounds like 羊yáng. For instance the sentence:
- Wǒmen de xiǎoqū jìn 5 tiān méiyǒu ?
- Our community has not had a positive corona test in the past 5 days
In Chinese philosophy
Yin & yang were introduced in the book “道德經Dàodé Jīng” from Laozi 老子Lǎozǐ around the year 400 BC. Daoism (or Taoism) sees life as a balancing act, with the idea that opposites are needed in order for harmony to exist.