Carving - Part of a pair of Daoist zodiac signs

This part of a pair of wooden plaques that depicts Tai Yin and Fu Xi (shown here), are representations of Yin and Yang respectively. They were possibly mounted together with other constellation deities or zodiac signs in the ceiling of a tomb. Such anthropomorphic symbols of Yin and Yang are rare. Traditionally, Yin represented the absence of sunshine, that which is dark while Yang represented the presence of light and sunshine. This interpretation was further expanded into Yin symbolising femininity, cold and softness, and Yang symbolising masculinity, heat and hardness. The two forces work in tandem, one cannot survive without the other to achieve an equilibrium ideal for human survival. These two correlates were also visualised as primordial cosmic forces by the Daoists. The creation of the universe was believed to be the direct result of their interaction.

Liao dynasty, 12th century
Northern China
Object size: L26.4 x W20.0 cm
Accession No.
Collection of
Asian Civilisations Museum

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