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Ying-Yang: Ancient Chinese knowledge on feminine and masculine (Part I)
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Working as development worker I have participated in many discourses on gender and sexuality to a point where I felt sufficiently acquainted with these concepts. My recent read “The Turning Point” by Fritz of Capra proved me wrong. By shedding light on ancient Chinese knowledge, The Ying Yang, he presented a fresh narrative on feminine and masculine which was practically revolutionary to me.
Dominant understanding on masculine and feminine in our time mainly draws from two major concepts “sex and gender”. Sex associates with biological or the bodily aspect while gender refers to mental aspect or psychological aspect. Sex bases it foundation to the bodily aspects linked with reproduction as the foundation of categorizing humans while gender elaborates on “socially constructed beliefs” to differentiate between masculine and feminine. Further the advancing concept on sexuality and gender identity which has found its voice in LGBTI group, places greater emphasis on the mind, meaning “if a male body thinks of it as a female, it is female” and vice versa, making gender completely a thing of the mind with no vital connection with the body.
Although these concepts differ widely in their understanding of sex and gender but they all agree that feminine and masculine are two separate things. Yin Yang fundamentally differs from these concepts as it believes feminine and masculine to be two aspects of the same thing. This consolidation of feminine and masculine was radical to me. Further unlike concept of gender and sex, Yin-Yang did not limit masculine and feminine to body or mind rather it presented it through a set of tendencies existing in everything.
Capra wrote that the Chinese knowledge, which has its roots in Taoism views reality as a process of continual flow taking place in a cyclic pattern bearing two polar tendencies; yin yang or feminine masculine. These poles project polar yet complimentary tendencies. Yin reaching its climax returns in favor of yang and vice versa. This pattern allows dynamism but also sets limitation for each other. Chinese comprehended that this interplay of two poles was found in all phenomena; physical world as well as those in the psychological and social realms-show the cyclic patterns- “the yin yang pattern”. Everything was fundamentally manifestations of yin yang or masculine and feminine. Therefore for ancient Chinese masculine and feminine was essentially two dimension of a single phenomenon, a natural reality functioning in an interconnectedness to sustain the ecological balance of cosmos.
According to Yin Yang masculinity and femininity is beyond mind and body. It represents set of tendencies to explain the dynamics of cyclic pattern occurring in all natural phenomena. Yang represented self-assertion, rational, analytical, expansive, demanding, aggressive and competitive tendencies while Yin represented integrative, intuitive, responsive, and cooperative tendencies. These polar tendencies complimented each other for example in biology, functioning of a body was only possible when its specific organs performed its specialized roles by asserting its individual function but at the same time also submitting to the integrative functioning of the whole body. In nature, each organism or element with its uniqueness asserted individuality but was equally connected in the delicate balance of ecosystem. Similarly in a harmonious social system, each unit asserted its individuality but also submitted to the demands of the whole system in order to make the system viable. Thus “integration and assertion” represented by Yin and Yang equally contributed to the dynamics of cyclic pattern in all physical, social and psychological realms.
The author is a development worker.