The Yin Yang symbol is one of the oldest and most well-recognized symbols in the world. Over the centuries, it has traveled to all corners of the globe, away from its starting point in Ancient China. It has also taken up a popular spot in the world of tattoos.
But, what does the Yin Yang emblem actually mean? And what designs work well with this symbol?
The Yin Yang Image
It’s depicted as a circular shape, half black and half white separated by a curving line. Inside the black half is a small white dot, and inside the white half is a small black dot. Neither side is dominant, but rather exists and pushes against each other in harmony.
It creates a balanced, aesthetically pleasing symbol, and this depiction is further enhanced by the meaning behind it.
The Meaning Of The Yin Yang Symbol
Yin Yang means opposites co-existing. World History explains,
“The principle of Yin and Yang is that all things exist as inseparable and contradictory opposites, for example, female-male, dark-light and old-young.”
This is the cornerstone of ancient Chinese philosophy, medicine, and culture.
The Yin part of the symbol – the black half – represents the feminine, still, dark, and negative. While the Yang, the white half, represents the masculine, hot, bright, and positive. The world needs both – after all, how do you know what dark is without bright light?
However, while this symbol represents duality and opposing forces, the tiny opposite colors in each half speak to the fact that there aren’t absolutes.
“Yin and yang can interchange under certain conditions so that they are usually not Yin and Yang alone. In other words, yin elements can contain certain parts of yang, and yang can have some components of yin. This balance of Yin and Yang is perceived to exist in everything,”Thought Co
The Meaning Of A Yin Yang Tattoo
Of course, the most obvious meaning behind a tattoo of the Yin Yang symbol is that of opposites creating a whole, but that’s not where the interpretation ends…
A Symbol Of Earth, The Cosmos, and Its Inhabitants
The Yin Yang symbol can also be seen as a depiction of the reflection of the shadows cast on the earth during the solstices and equinoxes.
“This mirrored effect works to depict the connection between the earth and its inhabitants. Just as the Yin and Yang energy is comprised of our light and dark components, it is also connected to the earth, the cosmos, and the changing seasons,”Tattoodo
A Taoism Symbol
As National Geographic puts it, Taoism is a Chinese philosophy and religion that advises believers on how to exist in harmony with the universe. This focus on harmony is where the Yin Yang symbol comes in. In Taoist metaphysics, “good” and “bad”, light and dark, exist within an indivisible whole.
Yin Yang Tattoo Ideas
The symbol of Yin Yang can be depicted in many ways – you’re not constricted by the traditional look.
Instead of the circular halves, you could opt for animals, for example, snakes. Two snakes could be tattooed intertwined with one another, one black and one white.
Snakes have their own deep symbolic meaning. A tattoo of snakes could represent transformation (as a snake sheds its skin) and the circular nature of the universe – this is the ideal symbol to match the balance of Yin Yang.
Are snakes not your thing? How about two koi fish instead? These fish represent perseverance and strength of character; two swimming in opposite ways and inked in different colors can take on the look of the Yin Yang symbol.
If you’d like to keep the traditional look of the Yin Yang symbol but add additional elements to your tattoo, a dragon could be for you. A dragon tattoo is a strong symbol in its own right, commonly representing strength, courage, and independence.
Tat Ring suggests a dragon and phoenix to pay homage to Ancient Chinese mythology,
“The Asian dragon represents balance. For the Chinese, the dragon represents one half of the Yin and Yang; the phoenix represents the other half. The Chinese believe in finding a perfect balance of Yin and Yang, and dragons might also symbolize the perfect mixture of good and evil.”
What’s more opposing than the forces of nature? From the calm forest to the raging waves lapping the shore.
If you have a particular affinity with nature and would like to add this element to your Yin Yang tattoo design, you could play on the different ecosystems of the earth.
“Forests are known for being able to stand tall no matter what type of weather is thrown at them, so some people will get a forest tattoo to represent strength,”Tattoo SEO
This can clash against either a calm beach scene representing serenity or stormy seas,
“…ocean tattoo often depicts dynamic and change, both of which are inevitable in our lives. Many people represent these ideas by opting for tattoos that show waves in stormy weather,”Saved Tattoo
Sun And Moon
The sun and the moon are one of the most common depictions of opposites. The moon is a light in the darkness, and represents the feminine, while the brightness of the sun is often a symbol of the masculine.
“It symbolizes the owner’s ability to treat both worlds equally by combining the sun and moon into one concept. One can use it to accept one’s weaknesses and strengths, good fortune and bad fortune, and find peace along the way,”World Tattoo Portal
Yin Yang is an ancient symbol and should be treated with respect. If you’re thinking about getting this tattooed – or any cultural or religious symbol – do your research so that you’re aware of the meaning attached to these images.
When it comes to Yin Yang, a tattoo of this symbol can be an apt reminder to appreciate all that life is, because the world is built on contrasting forces.