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The Yin Yang Tattoo

The Yin Yang Tattoo
Tattoo Ideas9 min Read


Originating from a Chinese philosophy dating back to ancient times, yin yang tattoos work to symbolize the unity in opposites

The origin of Yin Yang tattoos stem from some of the oldest principles of philosophy and cosmology. First conceptualized around the 3rd century BCE, by the Chinese school of YinYang, this iconic symbol holds great meaning.

Unlike the Western belief that the color black symbolizes evil, while white is recognized as good, the yin yang upholds that both are equally necessary to achieve balance. In this philosophy of yin and yang, opposites are continually attracted to one another, and things that may seem separate are considered a unified whole.

If you’re interested in getting your own cool yin yang tattoo, read along to learn more about the meaning, history and symbolism behind this ancient design, while scoping out our favorite picks for yin yang tattoo ideas!

Meaning of the Yin Yang Tattoo

Yin Yang tattoos have been popular for a long time...sometimes viewed as a staple of 90's tattooing, alongside Chinese and Japanese calligraphy. Due to the yin and yang tattoo’s powerful meaning, it is no wonder that people continue to be inspired by the philosophy behind it.

Meaning of the Yin Yang Tattoo 1: The unity in opposites

Because yin and yang are seen as opposites attracted, each half symbolizes specific qualities.

For example yin, the black side, embodies femininity, darkness, earth, even numbers, and the spirit of all things. While yang, the white counterpart, embodies masculinity, light, heaven, odd numbers, and the form of all things.

The myth behind these creative forces is that they were brought into being during the chaotic birth of the universe. When yin and yang came into existence, their perfect balance in the cosmos conceived the first human to walk the planet, known as P’an ku.

Meaning of the Yin Yang Tattoo 2: The connection between earth and its inhabitants

A little known fact about the yin yang tattoo design is that it also reflects the shadows cast on the earth during the yearly 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. The ancient Chinese believed that a force referred to as “chi energy” is influenced by these changes of season, being pushed in opposite directions after the completion of the solstices.

Meaning of the Yin Yang Tattoo 3: The symbol of Taoism

In tattooing, it’s important to know where symbols originate from and what they mean. Some symbols are associated with a particular philosophy or religion, while some, like the heart design, are recognized for their meaning worldwide, and hold no exclusive ties to specific regions or schools of thought.

The yin yang symbol itself is associated with the Chinese religion and philosophy of Taoism, and while its roots are steeped in ancient spiritual teachings, it is considered perfectly acceptable for a person from any walk of life to select this image for a tattoo.

Yin yang tattoos are generally chosen by their wearers due to a resonance with the deep meaning behind the symbol.

Whether you’re looking to get a simple yin yang tattoo or an intricate larger piece, the symbol itself holds a great deal of significance, as it works to explain universal forces both within us, and outside us. Although the design itself and the teachings behind it are considered ancient, it’s always interesting to see the contemporary ways in which the yin yang can be transformed, like the yin yang dragon body suit by Heng Yue.

Read on to learn more about the origin of the yin yang symbol, and it’s historic significance!

Origin and History of the Yin Yang Symbol

Where do Yin and Yang come from?

The origin of the yin and yang forces are believed to have been derived from the chaos of our universe’s creation, with the seat of both forces said to rest within the center of our earth.

The yin yang symbol itself originated during the 3rd century BCE and was first introduced by Zou Yan, a Chinese cosmologist. Yan believed that as life progresses it continuously cycles through five different phases: water, metal, wood and earth. These earthly elements are believed to have given form to our planet, while signifying the human phases of death, rebirth, growth, maturation and life.

In ancient China it was believed that the five elements theory, combined with the yin and yang energies, worked together to demystify the shifts, stages and happenings on earth and in life.

Which is Yin and which is Yang?

The dark swirl within the circle is representative of yin, while the light swirl serves to signify yang.

Each counterpart is believed to symbolize different qualities, with yin believed to contain the energy of shadows, femininity and transformation, and yang believed to contain masculine energy, creativity and warmth. Find the comprehensive list of attribute for Yin and for Yang further down!

Is Yin or Yang more powerful?

Neither yin nor yang are believed to have more inherent power than the other, but if one energetic resonance is stronger within a person or thing, it is said to weaken the other half.

It is considered important to keep these two energetic opposites balanced within oneself to achieve harmony. Just as day turns into night, and light produces shadow, the light or “good” energy, and the dark, or “bad energy, rely on one another for existence, and must form a cohesive balance to reach wholeness.

These concepts also mirror the ideas put forth by Carl Jung regarding the union between the shadow self and outward persona.

Yin Tattoos

Yin tattoos can be used to represent a specific set of energetic qualities within the yin yang symbol.

Traditionally, the yin side is associated with femininity and the moon. The yin energy is said to have the highest influence over earth during the winter solstice, and is believed to be the source of spirit within all things.

Other attributes associated with yin are:

The cold
The direction north
Even numbers
The color black

Yang Tattoos

Those looking to balance the masculine qualities within themselves can benefit from the yang tattoo!

The yang represents the “light” side of the swirl and is commonly associated with creativity, and believed to have brought form to all things. Yang energy is known to be represented in various forms, including; dragons, solid line trigrams, and the color blue.

Other attributes associated with yang are:

The color white
The direction south
Odd Numbers
The Sun

Koi Fish Yin Yang Tattoo

Koi fish are believed in Feng Shui and Chinese culture to represent the attributes of luck, prosperity, perseverance, courage and abundance.

Koi fish are also believed to represent several of the life lessons we all face during our earthly journeys. When considering the yin and yang koi fish tattoo, it becomes clear that there is an important connection between these two symbols.

Yin yang koi tattoos work beautifully to represent the forces which move the earth, heavens and even us!

Yin Yang Dragon Tattoo

The symbolism of the dragon is said to be representative of more traditionally masculine “yang” qualities, like: courage, strength and fortitude.

Those wishing to get a yin and yang dragon tattoo can use the art to inspire balance between the two sides, by creating imagery which seeks to increase yang qualities.

Dragons have always remained a popular choice in the world of tattooing, and paired with the yin and yang imagery they display a deep and powerful message.

Yin Yang Wolf Tattoo

Wolf symbolism on its own often works to express sentiments of loyalty, spirit, guardianship and ritual.

When pairing the wolf with the image of the yin and yang, the tattoo can be seen as a tribute to the Native American concept of “The Two Wolves Within”, or the belief that each of us possess a “dark” and “light” side. The tale warns us that whichever side we feed will grow larger within us, making the wolf yin yang tattoo a possible reminder to nourish the qualities within us that we wish to emphasize.

Sun and Moon Yin Yang Tattoo

The sun and moon are often used to represent the phases of night and day, masculine and feminine traits, and the conscious and subconscious components of the mind.

In this way, the sun and moon work to perfectly mirror the concepts of the yin yang, creating a unique and gorgeous tattoo imbedded with mystical meaning.

Yin Yang Tattoo Mandala

The mandala is a highly spiritual symbol often used within the Buddhist and Hindu religions. It is said to represent the universe and the concept that everything is connected.

The beautiful design of the mandala works great as a tattoo, and truly works to compliment the yin yang imagery, both visually, and symbolically.

Yin Yang Flower Tattoo

Flower tattoos of all kinds have always been a popular selection, but you can create a more unique and meaningful design by adding in additional elements like the yin yang.

Since flowers each possess their own unique meaning, you can personally tailor your yin yang flower tattoo, creating something more closely aligned with your intended message.

Yin Yang Dream Catcher Tattoo

The Native Americans have long used dream catchers to help explain the nature of our reality. The dream catchers circular shape and woven design are said to represent the concepts of connection to all, and the circle of life.

Combining a yin yang and dream catcher within a tattoo creates a multifaceted and highly complementary piece, sure to assist you along your spiritual journey!

Yin Yang Tree of Life Tattoo

The tree of life yin yang tattoo is another great example of two spiritual symbols that work synergistically with one another.

This imagery within a tattoo works to express the importance of balance, and can serve as a reminder that harmony in energy sparks the ability to grow and prosper.

Yin Yang Tiger Dragon Tattoo

Pairing dragon and tiger imagery with your yin yang tattoo creates a highly powerful look that seeks to increase both yin and yang energy within.

The tiger is traditionally known as the animal that represents the yin side of the circle, while dragons are associated with the desirable masculine qualities connected to yang energy.

These facets ensure that the tattoo itself is balanced in its energy, making it a great selection for anyone wishing to bring more harmony into their lives.

Yin Yang Heart Tattoo

The yin yang heart tattoo is an excellent way to creatively combine imagery typically associated with concepts of higher and lower self, or “good” and “bad” counterparts.

Yin yang heart tattoos can be used to demonstrate ideas about polarity within one’s heart, or to illustrate the soul connection to the yin yang.

Matching Yin Yang Tattoos

Couples, best friends, and those wishing to commemorate their journey together, have often elected to get matching yin yang tattoos.

Some choose to get the same full design tattooed, while others get an individual half. If you’re looking to split your yin yang matching tattoo, you can either choose the side you’re wishing to balance within yourself, or choose a side based upon gender. You can always add in additional symbols and imagery to best represent your connection to the other person and the yin yang symbol.

When selecting a unique yin yang tattoo as a couple, there are a plethora of style and design options to choose from! Some choose to utilize geometric elements, unusual placements, and varying design elements to make their matching yin yang tattoo stand out.

We hope you enjoyed this collection of yin yang tattoos! Make sure to upload your new yin yang piece after your booked appointment happens! We have so many artists to choose from and so many ideas that we know it will be a tattoo you treasure forever.

Jennifer R Donnelly
Written byJennifer R Donnelly

Freelance Journalist | Tattoo & Art Collector