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Yin Yang Monism (first draft)

 By Yun Choi Yeung, B.A., M.B.A., M.Ed., M.Sc.

In modern philosophy the term “monism” is used to designate any metaphysical theory which states that there is only one reality, from which everything else came. The monistic view is the original view of Yin Yang dated back to 3,322 B.C. with the broken line as Yin Yao, and the unbroken line as Yang Yao. Yin and Yang are not two entities in the original view, as Yang is facing the sun while Yin is with the back towards the sun. The relation between Yin and Yang is indirect sunlight and direct sunlight, passive and active. And moon light as we now know that it is a reflection of sun light and not two lights. The monistic view can also be two extremes of a continuum, or the view that Yin is the lacking of Yang. There are 64 changes or signs in the Book of Changes (Yijing), the changes came from the combinations of 6 Yao, as 64 = 2^6.  The earliest form of binary numeral system is 2^n (n=0, 1, 2, 3 & 6) in the Book of Changes:

Taiji or the Grand Terminus is one reality without division: n=0, 2^n=1

The first division is Two Forms: n=1, 2^n=2

The second division is Four Phenomena: n=2, 2^n=4

The third division is the Eight Trigrams: n=3, 2^n=8

 And Eight Trigrams by Eight Trigrams (2^(3+3)) is Sixty-four Hexagrams: n=6, 2^n=64

The modern binary number system was fully documented by Gottfried Leibniz (1646-1716) in his article (Explication de l'Arithmétique Binaire, Die Mathematische Schriften, ed. C. Gerhardt, Berlin 1879, vol.7, p.223; Engl. Transl.). Leibniz's system uses 0 and 1, like the modern binary numeral system. As a sinophile, Leibniz was aware of Book of Changes and noted with fascination how its hexagrams correspond to the binary numbers from 0 to 111111, and concluded that this mapping was evidence of major Chinese accomplishments in the sort of philosophical mathematics he admired (Aiton, Eric J. (1985). Leibniz: A Biography. Taylor & Francis. pp. 245–8).

The hexagrams in the Book of Changes correspond to the 6-bit code with 64 different codes. This was very impressive when compare to the Baudot code invented by Jean-Maurice-Emile Baudot (1845-1903) during 1870 and patented it during 1874 which was a 5-bit code with 32 different codes. In terms of a 32-bit computer, n=32, the number of changes or codes is 4,294,967,295. The idea of one reality split into infinite number of parts was postulated by Taoists and they documented the term infinite (Wuji) in the Daodejing (Tao Te Ching, written by Laozi (Lao Tzu) around the 4th century B.C.), chapter 28:

“Know whiteness, Maintain blackness, and be a model for all under heaven. By being a model for all under heaven, Eternal integrity will not err. If eternal integrity does not err, You will return to infinity” (Mair, Victor H. 1990. Tao Te Ching: The Classic Book of Integrity and the Way, by Lao Tzu; an entirely new translation based on the recently discovered Ma-wang-tui manuscripts. Bantam Books, p. 93).

In this context, it is about returning to one's original nature. And other Taoist writings at that period were also referred to personal pursues. This is different to the context of binary number system that leads to infinite number of parts. In facts, chapter 42 of the Daodejing uses a different number system: “Dao (the way) produce one, one produce two, two produce three, and three produce all things (ten thousand things). All things carry Yin and embrace Yang, and harmonize the thrusting breaths” (translated by the writer). The postulation is that “all things” is not limitless but the idea of Dao is limitless. It is very difficult to rationalize the experiences of the Taoists in their meditations, and their explanation of the generation of Taiji or the existing reality is spiritual rather than just philosophical. It is not possible to rationalize the unique individual experience in transcendence, and moralistic argument is beyond the purpose of this article. Men have inspirations, visions, dreams, imaginations, and some even with exceptional gifts to resolve various problems. Therefore one should not rule out problem solving by meditation, as long as the outcome is viable even it is difficult to explain.

Zhou Dunyi (1017-1073 A.D.) the writer of "Explanations of the Diagram of the Supreme Ultimate" or "Diagram Explaining the Supreme Ultimate", suggested that Wuji is Taiji rather than Wuji produce Taiji. He introduced the notions of Yin and Yang generated each other. Movement within the context of Taiji produced Yang and when it reached its limit it reverted to stillness. When stillness the Yin reached its limit it returned to movement (Yang). And Yin Qi and Yang Qi generated the five Qi of metal, wood, water, fire and earth. The concept of various Qi came from the development of Traditional Chinese Medicine, and the early medical text known as the Huangdi neijing (The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine) probablydated back to the 1st Century B.C. the five Qi are also known as lungs, liver, kidneys, heart and spleen. These five Qi also viewed in terms of their Yin and Yang interactions to maintain equilibrium.  For example, the four states of imbalance of the kidneys are Yang too strong, Yang too weak, Yin too strong and Yin too weak.  And for each state there are various symptoms and formulated treatments. In a way, this is only a system of classification embraced the idea of Yin Yang with the decimal numeral system.

Traditional Chinese Medicine is influenced by Taoism, and this is why their thoughts are dualistic instead of monistic. Taoist dualism represents the philosophy of balance, where two opposites co-exist in harmony and are able to transform into each other. The Yin and Yang are two opposite entities combine to form the universe and this is why the kidneys have Yang Qi and Yin Qi, and each Qi has a continuum of weak and strong rather than the monistic view that kidneys have a continuum of strengths from very weak (Yin) to very strong (Yang). Modern medical science takes the monistic view of two extremes of a continuum, and establishes the limits within the continuum which designate as the balance or normal. Recent Qigong development also focus on the strength of external Qi energy in terms of a continuum such as in a healing process when the healer with very high energy level and his or her Qi energy flows out to the patient with very low energy level to establish a balance between the two.

Zhou Dunyi attempted to reconcile Neo-Confucian cosmology with Taoism was not successful, as later writers still maintain the view that Wuji produce Taiji. Taijiquan Treatise attributed to the legendary Wang Zongyue (the text was said to have been found stored in the back room of a Beijing salt shop by the brother of Wu Yuxiang (1812-1880) the creator of Wu (Woo) Style Taijiquan), embraced the idea of Wuji produce Taiji. Sun Lutang (1861-1932) the creator Sun Style Taijiquan from Wu (Woo) Style Taijiquan also embraced the idea of Wuji produce Taiji. And in his publications of Taijiquan, Xingyiquan and Baguaquan, he introduced the Wuji posture in the beginning of the routines that he developed.

According to Fu Zhensong (1881-1953), Taijiquan Treatise was written by the father of Chen Changxing and his triplet brothers, in his book entitled Tai Ji Quan Jiang Yi (Teaching manual of Taijiquan) printed by the Scientific Printing Company in Guangzhou, 1946.  Chen Changxing was the teacher of Yang Luchan (1799-1872). Taijiquan Treatise could be a more recent development by Taijiquan practitioners, and it is commonly accepted in the Taijiquan communities. 

Taijiquan Treatise stated that movement then separate and stillness then close. This can be illustrated by a monkey drum (a two headed drum with two corded beads attached to the sides when it is played by quickly turning the wrist and the beads strike the drum heads, and when there is no turning the beads drop to the sides. This is a monistic view of energy and lack of energy resulted in opening and closing, and opening is an active motion and closing is a passive motion.

It is very clear in the history of China that martial arts were introduced to Shaolin monks who became very weak after long periods of meditations. The idea was taken up by the Taoists but they found problems associated with the very stiff external training contrary to the practice of directing Qi in meditations. They coined the Shaolin practice as external and their practice as internal without using brute force. The idea of “brute force is useless” can be traced back to poetries in the Song Dynasty (960-1297).

Without the use of any brute force, shortening or concentric contraction of muscle fibers: active muscular strength is the elongation of muscle fibers or eccentric contraction of muscle fibers; passive muscular strength is the recoil of muscle fibers, muscle fibers return to their original lengths after stretching or the stored elastic energy. Therefore the concept of Yin Yang Monism does work in the context non-concentric martial arts. But it can be very complex when different muscle groups are interacting (seeking straight from curves), rotational stretching (following bend to extend), and the involvement of external forces such as gravitation or incoming pushes generate movements on passive muscle groups.

In non-concentric martial arts, it is the cooperation of Yin and Yang to produce synergistic effects and not just a coordination of Yin and Yang in harmony. Capitalized on scientific researches in eccentric contraction and stored elastic energy of muscles, the concept of passive and active in Yin Yang Monism has a scientific foundation. And it is possible now to evaluate various movements for corrections and improvements in the context of the non-concentric exercise mode.