Heaven and Earth - Taoist Cosmology

In ancient China, the phrase "heaven and earth" meant the universe according to Taoist cosmology (the study of the origin and structure of the universe). In the beginning was the Tao, conceived of as an empty void of infinite potential. Then, over a period of many eons, out of the Tao emerged qi (vital energy or breath). Taoists believe that all things are made of qi, which is in a constant state of movement and flux. Originally the universe was in a state of chaos but eventually the light qi rose and formed the heavens, while the heavy qi sank and formed the earth.

Taoists believe that physical matter cannot be distinguished from its basic substance, qi, and thus matter and energy are fundamentally the same. The shifting patterns of qi are governed by the shifting balance of yin and yang, two complementary forces that emerged from the primordial Tao, and whose opposing interaction defines and regulates the mechanisms of the universe. Yin is dark, heavy and feminine; yang is light, airy and masculine. Both energies harmonized to form humanity. In ancient China, yin and yang were respectively depicted by the tiger and dragon, and in later times by the Taiji diagram (yin/yang symbol). The Taiji diagram illustrates the unity and interdependence of yin and yang within the Tao. It is the constant, cyclic transformation of the yin to yang and yang to yin that gives birth to the manifold forms of the universe.

The human body is seen as a microcosm of the world, holding within itself the energies of both heaven and earth. The concept of qi is at the heart of Traditional Chinese Medicine, which views illnesses as caused by imbalances of yin and yang, resulting in blockages of the free flow of qi through the body. Acupuncture and other therapeutic modalities are designed to promote the proper movement of qi, thereby restoring balance and health.

Taoism also teaches that, in order to be content, human being must accept the reality that only constant in the universe is change.