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Hallie Ford Museum of Art Exhibits

The Yin and the Yang

The Yin and Yang, Dali

Chinese alchemical beliefs are tied closely with the philosophy and religion of Taoism. Although there are many Chinese alchemical texts, few have been studied. However, the fundamental beliefs of Chinese alchemy are so similar to Western alchemy that some scholars believe they may have shared a common origin. One of these shared ideas is the concept of two opposite principles. In Chinese alchemy, these manifest as the Yin and Yang. Like Philosophic Mercury, Yin is feminine, negative, and passive. Yang, then, is like Philosophic Sulphur: masculine, positive, and active. 

Dalí's rendering of the Yin and Yang is vibrant with explosive color and chaotic shapes, illustrating the birth of the cosmos. The Yin and Yang take up the bottom half of the print, interlocked and radiating energetic lines. At the top of the print is a faceted jewel similar to other prints in Alchimie des Philosophes. Inside the jewel is an equestrian figure in profile, raising a purple jewel (physically attached to the print) above his head. Below this is another equestrian figure at a three-quarter view. This figure is orange and red, rendered in bold brushstrokes instead of the thin lines used for the other equestrian figure. Dalí was particularly interested in figures on horseback, which is especially evident in his prints from the 1970's. During this decade, when Alchimie des Philosophes was created, his interest in horses shifted from cavaliers, or knights fighting on horseback, to triumphant equestrians resembling Roman emperors. As is the case with The Yin and Yang, many of his figures on horseback wear laurel crowns and classical clothing. 

Excerpts from the alchemical texts in Alchimie des Philosophes: 

 “And the Chiu-hsiao chun (Lord of the Nine Heavens) says: the Water of the South, the Fire of the North; the Yin which dwells in the Yang, the Yang which dwells in the Yin; in their going and their coming they are steadfast, in their rising and their setting they are as husband and wife, one in thought and heart; towards the end of their years, their life-blood all but spent, they share together their pillows and bedcloths." -Che Ling Cha Louen

“In its enormity and its omnipresence the Tao encompasses heaven and earth, it governs the movements of the Yin and the Yang, and is responsible for the perfection of the Universe in space and time. In its roundness the sky is Yang and faces left; earth, through its density, is Yin and faces right. The Sun is of the nature of Yang and follows a daily course; the Moon is under the influence of Yin and pursues a nightly course. Sun and Moon cause their brilliance to descend into the womb in which is engendered man.” -Concerning the Yin and the Yang