What is Yin and Yang? 阴阳是什么?

Updated: Jan 25, 2021

Yin Yang 阴阳

You may have heard your TCM practitioner describing your body using terms such as “Yin deficiency (阴虚)” or “Excess yang (阳亢)”, and may have wondered what they mean to your health.

In general, Yin and Yang is a multi-faceted concept that can be used to describe any object or phenomenon in the universe.

In its simplest form, Yin Yang describes the idea of “opposites”, such as 2 objects having opposing characteristics (e.g. male and female / fire and water), or the 2 opposite sides of an object (e.g. front and back / exterior and interior).

Examples and properties of Yin and Yang:


  • Sunny

  • Day

  • Warmer

  • More energetic

  • More outgoing

  • More mobile

  • Drier

  • Lighter

  • Brighter


  • Shady

  • Night

  • Cooler

  • Quieter

  • More passive

  • More static

  • Wetter

  • Heavier

  • Darker

The simplest example of Yin and Yang is water and fire. Comparing the two, water is cooler, wetter, darker, heavier, more passive, and tends to sink, and is thus more Yin. Fire is warmer, drier, brighter, lighter, more aggressive, and tends to rise, and is thus more Yang.

In TCM, Yin and Yang should not be misinterpreted as 2 specific types of chemicals or molecules within the body. It is not the name of any single physical item, but a general philosophy to describe the relationship between things or within things.

In the human body, Yin and Yang most commonly refers to the "heaty" aspect and "cold" aspect of the body.

How is the Yin and Yang concept applied clinically?

Balanced Yin and Yang

In a healthy person, the Yin and Yang aspects within the body should be appropriately balanced. At this state, the person’s body is neither too hot nor too cold, and neither too dry nor too damp.

Excessive Yang (阳亢) - "heaty"

Too much Yang can cause symptoms that are associated with heat, such as:

  • feeling warm easily

  • red face

  • agitation

  • constipation

  • mouth ulcers

  • sore throat

  • bright red tongue with yellow coating

This form of heat is known as “excess heat (实热)”, and such a condition is often colloquially referred to as “heatiness”.

To clear this excess heat, cooling herbs and foods such as bitter gourd (苦瓜)and chrysanthemum (菊花) can be consumed.

Excessive Yin (阴盛) - "cold"