Yin-Yang Theory and Globalization

Article excerpt

The paper is based on the discourse of the I Ching, or the Book of Changes, to think about international relations from the oriental perspective. It's both a Chinese divination system as well as a classical philosophy based on the yin-yang (negative-positive) theory, the concept of Chi and five elements, which have been influencing Chinese and other South-Eastern Asian cultures for more than 2000 years, such as Japan, Korea and Vietnam. Its social and cultural impacts in Asia might be comparable to that of the Judeo-Christian Bible in the West. In this paper, the yin-yang theory would be employed as an interdisciplinary method to illustrate international issues and suggest what would be an idealistic spatial structure or formation for international development. And then, the paper is attempting to constitute the following codes for reference in the analysis of international relations: (1) as an analytical model to deconstruct the diverse international phenomena via the oriental traditional philosophy (2) as a mirror or medium to observe international conflicts, helps to communicate ideas, and achieves the moral or ethical consensus; and (3) as a theoretical tool to constitute a new discourse in IR study.


I Ching, also known as Yi Jing, or the Book of Changes, is one of the Five Classics, the fundamental books of Confucianism, both for education as well as divination. It has a history over 3000 years old (the symbols originally engraved in the tortoise shells or other animal bones used for oracle are said to be over 5000 years old), making it both one of the oldest surviving scriptures in the world, and one of the oldest forms of divination. Meanwhile, it is also a book for deriving personal strategy and insights based on oracle or intuitive wisdom--as concerning with the human affairs that logic alone cannot handle. During the past millennia in China, people would like to resort to it for instruction when confronted with troubles, no matter for emperors to administer their state, making military strategies in the warring times, or an ordinary's concerns for dealing with their business or household affairs. It would be beneficial for ancient Chinese people to dismiss doubts, enlighten their wisdom, and guide for correct decision-makings.

The I Ching is an earliest known intuitive decisionmaking system in China. It is based on the binary logic system of Yin and Yang (figure 1) , which is the fundamental concept both to Taoism and Confucianism. In the ancient Chinese philosophy, Yin and Yang is thought to be the origin of Universe. The interplay of yin and yang gives birth to the "myriad beings," therefore, the interaction between Yin and Yang also means production and reproduction of the endless variety of life and the world. And this dance is encoded in sixty-four hexagrams, figures composed of six broken or solid horizontal lines, diagrams of different combinations of the yin and yang principles (Rudolf Ritsema and Shantena Augusto Sabbadini 2005, p. 4). Meanwhile, the concept is also used to describe how the polar or seemingly contradictory forces are intertwined and interdependent in the natural world, and how they give rise to each other in turn. Opposites thus only exist in relation to each other. Many natural and social dualities--e.g. dark and light, female and male, below and above, cold and hot, earth and heaven, grassroots and elites--are thought of as manifestations of yin and yang (respectively).

Originally, Yin and Yang are not ethically-based. Yin refers to the shaded, north side of a mountain or the shaded, south bank of a river, while Yang is opposite to Yin--so it is the bright, south side of a mountain or the lit, north bank of a river. Literally, Yin means "shady, secret, dark, mysterious, and cold", while Yang in turn refers to "clear, bright, sunny, and hot" Rhetorically, Yin represents everything in the world that is bad, below, dark, heavy, hidden, vicious, negative, passive, pessimistic, receptive, submissive, yielding, cool, still, soft, static and feminine, while Yang represents everything that is good, dynamic, creative, illuminating, evident, active, aggressive, controlling, high, hot, hard, light, optimistic, positive, initiative and masculine. …