A Yin-Yang Theory of Human Communication.
Increasing number of scholars in different disciplines have been exploring the concepts of ambiculture (e.g. Chen & Miller, 2010), ambidexterity (e.g., Simsek, Heavey, Veiga, & Souder, 2009), co-opetition (e.g., Brandenburger & Nalebuff, 2011), glocalization (e.g., Thompson & Arsel, 2004), and etic-emic balance (e.g., Morris, Leung, Ames, & Lickel, 1999) in both research and application since the globalization trend was in flux in the 1990s. All these concepts refer to "paradox theories" in philosophical discourse and strategy literature. They deal with paradoxical tensions inherent in human interaction and activities, which stipulate the idea that seemingly polar and opposing forces can co-exist and be true at the same time. In other words, the two opposing forces are not necessarily to be a dichotomy or an "either-or" dilemma. The argument is similar to the Chinese yin-yang discourse.
As shown in Figure 1, the yin-yang discourse illustrates a dialectical interaction of the two opposite forces, i.e., the yin force (the white hemisphere in the left side) and the yang force (the dark hemisphere in the right side). The yin-yang model dictates a dynamic, interdependent, and interpenetrative process, which aims to reach a state of holistic equilibrium, productive integration, and cyclical transformation embedded in harmony and reciprocity (Chen, 2013).
Unfortunately, in research paradox theories have been criticized as lacking conceptual coherence and empirical evidence (Li, 2012; X. Li, 2014; Paparchoni, Heracleous, & Paroutis, 2014). The problem, according to Smith and Lewis (2011), is mainly caused by the rapid change of human society due to the impact of globalization trend, which makes organizational environments and human interaction more dynamic, dialectic, and competitive. This paper aims to tackle this problem by focusing on the study of yin and yang through the attempt to theorize the two concepts from the perspective of social sciences. The paper first lays down the yin-yang philosophical assumptions, then discusses the development of the yin-yang theory of human communication, and this is followed by the conclusion of the analysis.
It is hoped that this effort can provide a possible direction for a more reliable and valid empirical observation and application of yin-yang concepts in future research. In order to achieve this goal, in this paper theoretical statements in the form of assumptions are presented as fundamental definitions and descriptions upon which subsequent theoretical axioms and theorems are based. The axioms here are general in scope, and are descriptive statements about relationships between constructs. A theorem is a secondary statement and, although general in scope contains constructs that can be operationally defined and empirically observed. Research questions and/or hypotheses can be directly derived from a theorem (Hawes, 1975).
Philosophical Assumptions of Yin-Yang Theory
The concepts of yin and yang are embedded in the ancient Chinese cosmological belief that the universe is an endless but orderly and cyclic process of movement ([phrase omitted]), which dictates that "change" is the fundamental principle of the universe (Chen, 2008; Liu, 1992; Wang, 1983). The universe is transforming like alternation of the four seasons, succession of the sun and the moon, and ebb and flow of the ocean tides. While both Western and Eastern cultures embrace the nature of the universe as a changing process, Chinese philosophers employed the concepts of yin and yang to stipulate the nature of change of the universe. Based on yin-yang philosophy, the first two fundamental assumptions can be generated:
Assumption 1: The universe is an endless but orderly and cyclic process of movement.
Assumption 2: Yin and yang are the essence of cyclic change of the universe.
Etymologically, yin refers to the shady (dark) side and yang the sunny (bright) side of the hill.
Following the movement of the sun, the yin/darkness will gradually transform into the yang/brightness. This gradual overshadowing of each other between yin and yang therefore forms an endless cyclic pattern of transformation of the universe and a particularly interdependent, interpenetrative relation between yin and yang. Yin and yang were further developed to represent the two basic elements of the universe, i.e., the two opposite but complementary forces that constitute the qi (energy, vital force) of the cosmos. It is conceived that the dialectical interaction of the two elements becomes the foundation of the constant movement of the universe (Chung, 2011).
In its symbolic function, yin symbolizes the supreme feminine force, embodied by the characteristics of darkness, submissiveness, weakness, sensitivity, and softness; and yang represents the supreme masculine force, is characterized by brightness, dominance, strength, creativity, and hardness. The dynamic interaction of yin and yang determines the reality of nature and the laws of the universe. As Chen (2008) indicated, the yin force is receptive and capacious. When in a state of rest, it is receptively closed; but when in motion, it is open and vast. According to Wilhelm (1990), the movement caused by yin force is in an open manner characterized by dynamic vastness, which represents the quantity of change. The yang force is creative and straightforward. It is creatively solid in a state of rest, but it is direct, straight, and ceaselessly moves ahead without interruption. The dynamic greatness produced by the yang force represents the quality of change.
Based on the principle of "the yang alone will not germinate, and the yin alone will not grow" specified in I Ching (Zhu, 1974), the interaction of the two forces has to happen in order to demonstrate the reality of existence. Thus, the synthetic unity of yin's capacious and yang's straightforward movement establishes an endless, cyclic pattern of change, which is manifested in the dialectical tension between yin's contraction and yang's expansion. The two opposite forces therefore create a dialectical whole or totality sustained by the constant pushing and pulling between opposition and cooperation, or rivalry and fellowship.
The holistic view based on the dynamic synthesis of yin and yang illustrates the contradictory but interdependent relationship between the two forces. Moreover, all contradictions and conflicts in the universe should be resolved in this dynamic cyclic process in the course of yin-yang interaction and transformation. In order to bring continuity into it and successfully regulate change, Chinese philosophers believe that only through the means of harmony can the goal of equilibrium be achieved. In other words, Chinese emphasize that "when a change is in harmony with the laws of the universe, the desired goal will be attained" (Chen, 2008, p. 14). Chinese philosophers further indicated that zhong (centrality, the middle way) is the way to reach the state of harmony or equilibrium through the interplay of yin and yang. As Chen (2016a) pointed out, zhong regulates the interplay between yin and yang in order to reach the holistic state of equilibrium of the universe. It is considered not only the most effective way of cultivating self-competence, but also the key to the success of social competence in the process of human interaction.
Xu (2001) succinctly summarized the Chinese cosmological view of yin-yang cyclic universality into three characteristics: (1) the alternation of yin and yang is the way of the universe; (2) yin and yang are two competitive rival forces; and (3) the yin-yang system is a process of holistic harmony. This yin-yang philosophy produces a set of paradigmatic assumptions that underpin Chinese worldview. It in turn becomes the guiding principle of Chinese thinking and behaviors. Four central paradigmatic assumptions based on Chinese cyclical cosmological view include: (1) ontologically, yin-yang holistic reality dictates that the universe is a whole in which everything is running like a river without a beginning and an end; (2) epistemologically, yin-yang relational interdependency dictates that interconnectedness is the origin of the meaning of existence, through which all things in the universe become meaningful and perceivable in relation to others; (3) axiologically, yin-yang harmonious necessity dictates that harmony is the cardinal value of human society, which is the key to untying the knots that connect all components of the universe; and (4) methodologically, yin-yang symmetric centrality dictates that zhong is the way to uphold the great harmony of the universe (Chen, 2009a; Cheng, 1987; Fang, 1981; Fung, 1983).
Four succinct assumptions can be generated from the above paradigmatic views embedded in the yin-yang philosophy. That is, Chinese yin-yang philosophy mandates that
Assumption 3: Wholeness is the ultimate reality of the universe.
Assumption 4: Interconnectedness is the way to perceive the existence of the universe.
Assumption 5: Harmony is the cardinal value of the universe.
Assumption 6: Zhong is the way to achieve the harmony of the universe.
The four yin-yang philosophical assumptions serve as the foundation for theorizing the concept of human communication in the next section.
A Yin-Yang Theory of Human Communication
Human communication is conceived as the process of exchanging symbols in order to achieve mutual understanding between two persons. Numerous models and theories of human communication have been developed by scholars, especially from the Western society. Although communication activity is a universal phenomenon for human beings, as Chen (2009a) mentioned, people from different cultures have various ways to perceive communication elements and exercise communications activities. The yin-yang theory of human communication proposed in this paper shows the unique way of Chinese communication. It can be used to compare with existing models of human communication from Western scholars. For example, Chen and An (2009) argued that, unlike the West, the holistically ontological view makes Chinese culture orient towards collectivism by expecting individuals to submerge in a group; the emphasis on harmony results in a more indirect and consensual communication style for the Chinese people; and the focus on interconnectedness as the epistemological foundation demands a more reciprocal and hierarchical relationship for the Chinese.
The alternation of yin and yang that creates the cyclic transformation of the universe dictates the dynamic nature of human communication. That is, human communication is an endless but orderly changing process, which is prescribed by the dialectical nature of yin-yang philosophy. Yin-yang dialect stipulates three important properties of human communication: (1) change--human communication is a dynamic and transformative process, which is constantly moving from one stage of interaction to another; (2) contradiction - human communication is oppositional with the tension between centripedal and centrifugal forces of the two interactants; and (3) holism--human communication is a holistic system, which indicates the interconnected and interdependent relationship of all elements in the process of interaction defined by constant change and contradiction (Altman, 1987; Baxter & Montgomery, 1996; Li, 1994; Peng & Nisbett, 1999; Zhang, 2010).
As shown in Figure 2, Chen and Starosta (2015) used the yin-yang concept to develop a model of human communication. Person A and person B at center of the model assemble yin and yang respectively as illustrated in Figure 1. The two are mutually penetrating forces that continue to produce and reproduce (C1-C4 and D1-D8) through a constant process of dialectical transformation embedded in a cyclic motion of the two oppositional but interdependent forces. Furthermore, Chinese philosophers asserted that the success of human communication based on yin-yang philosophy depends on the ability of the two interactants to keep this holistic interactional system in a state of equilibrium or harmonious balance. Therefore, human communication can be conceptualized as a dynamic inter-determining process, in which interactants aim to develop an interdependent relationship through constant creation and exchange of symbols in a holistic network (Chen, 2009a).
Chen (2009a) further identified three specific characteristics of human communication based on the concepts of dialectical yin-yang philosophy: (1) human communication is holistic; (2) human communication is interconnected; and (3) human communication is harmonious. The following expounds the three characteristics.
Human Communication is a Holistic System
According to I Ching (The Book of Changes) (Zhu, 1974), the successive interaction and alternation of yin and yang constitutes the Tao. This mutual transformation of the two forces forms the cyclic system of change. It reflects the nature of human communication which never ceases to move, and the cyclic movement keeps producing and reproducing as a result of the tension between yin and yang or A and B in Figures 1 and 2, respectively. This constant dialectical interpenetration between the two interactants further entails the unity or the totality of the interaction. Although each of the two forces of yin and yang, or the two interactants of A and B, is a separate entity and each constitutes a self-changing unit, yin-yang philosophy suggests that only through the constant interaction and transformation between the two forces could the nature of the universe or human communication be manifested (Chai & Chai, 1964).
Thus, human communication is a holistic system on the basis of the interplay of yin and yang. The totality of human communication reflects the dynamic interplay or dialectical tension not only between the unified opposites of the two interactants as a dyad within the system, but also between the dyad and external environment that form a complete wholeness (Baxter & Montgomery, 1996). This suggests that in order to understand human communication as a totality, we have to examine the interconnected network woven by A and B as a dyad, and the dyad with all other individual components in the holistic system. As suggested by Zhu (1978) in the Doctrine of the Mean, the unity of the holistic system refers to One Principle, through which it creates and imbues infinite components; and the cyclic nature of the universe absorbs infinite components in return to the One Principle. All components within the One Principle are potentially correlated with the pair formed by yin and yang components as the foundation of human communication. As Chang (1963) stated, "in unity there is the infinite interfusion of diversities but in each diversity we find the total potentiality of unity" (p. 68), which displays the mutual dependency between the parts and the whole of holism.
The one-all, part-whole, or multiplicity-unity interdetermination also reflects the ceaseless production and reproduction as the virtue of yin-yang holism (Fang, 1981), in which sensitivity and creativity become the key concepts to reflect the meaning of the cyclic movement of human communication (Chen & Starosta, 2004). Sensitivity refers to the movement from all to one, and creativity from one to all. As Chen and Starosta pointed out that sensitivity is the ability to contract "diversity into unity", and creativity is the ability to expand from "unity to diversity" (p. 13).
The holistic view originated from yin-yang philosophy further implies that human communication is a process of relations, interdependence, interpenetration, and mutual transformation. The relational nature of the holistic system of human communication is discussed in the next section. In addition, the dialectical totality of human communication never refers to a perfect or a complete state of webs that connect all components as a whole. Contradictions and continuous tensions in the dyad and between the dyad and external environment laid down by the principle of yin-yang discourse indicate that the interaction between the elements in the holistic system of human communication is a fluctuating and unfinished process in which positive and negative emotions and feelings are constantly emerging and submerging.
According to Baxter and Montgomery (1996), to better perceive the holistic nature of human communication from a dialectical perspective, three concepts embedded in contradiction, namely, location, interdependency, and contextualization, should be added. Location indicates that the dialectical tension oh human communication is located at the level of dyadic relationship. It emphasizes that the unit of analysis for tension between A and B in Figure 2 exists in the relation or interaction between the two, rather than in either A or B as an individual element. Thus, the dialectical tension, as a unit of analysis, is inherent in both A and B on the basis of synchronous or asynchronous interplay of yin and yang forces.
Interdependency reflects the fact that multiple contradictions exist within the holistic system of human communication. In addition to A and B in figure 2, there exist inexhaustible layers of interrelations changing over time, in which different pairs of A and B represent subsystems and the suprasystem. Thus, contradictions also include the internal ones between A and B, and external ones between the pairs of A and B and other pairs in different layers of the system in the endless running river of time. Each contradiction refers to an interdependent connection. Together, they form a highly complex network of human communication, and through the observation of these relational knots the nature of human communication becomes perceivable.
The contextuality of contradiction refers to the localized, particular, or emic nature of the dialectical interplay of each pair of A and B. In other words, while contradiction is a universal phenomenon inherent in human communication, the dialectical interplay of internal and external contradictions is dependent on the context, which may vary in interpersonal, group, organizational, and national levels of human communication. For example, Fang and Faure (2011) and Faure and Fang (2008) applied the paradoxical nature of yin-yang philosophy to deal with unique characteristics of Chinese cultural values in the contexts of communication and management. Beveridge and Kadura (2016) applied Chinese paradox management model to examine international service dynamics in China through ethnographic method. M. J. Chen's (2002) and Chen and Miller's (2010) ambicultural model of yin-yang middle way was used to promote paradoxical integration of organizational management. Moreover, Chen (2001) developed a harmony theory based on yin-yang philosophy to explain Chinese communication behaviors in interpersonal level.
The three concepts of location, interdependency, and contextuality of dialectical contradiction are similar to temporal contingencies (shi) and spatial contingencies (wei) proposed by Chinese scholars for dealing with the dynamic contradiction between yin and yang. Shi and wei provide the structure and form of yin-yang holistic system (Chen, 2001; Wang, 1970; Wu, 1976). In I Ching the dynamic contradiction of yin and yang is displayed in the six hierarchical and interrelated lines (yao) of each hexagram, and the stability of this harmoniously dialectical network formed by the six lines is dictated by temporal and spatial contingencies. In other words, in order to manage the dynamic contradiction between yin and yang, one needs to know when is the right time (shi) in a specific context (wei), plus the ability to detect the imperceptible trace of change (ji) (Chen, 2009a; Wilhelm, 1990).
Three assumptions and one axiom can be derived from the discussion above:
Assumption 7: Human communication is a holistic system.
Assumption 8: The totality of human communication is entailed in a constant dialectical interplay between the two interactants (i.e., yin and yang).
Assumption 9: The dialectical interplay of the two interactants is embedded in continuous tensions caused by contradictions inherent in yin and yang forces.
Axiom 1: An increased knowledge of location, interdependence, and contextuality of contradiction will increase the understanding of the totality of human communication.
Human Communication is an Interconnected Network
The transforming and cyclic interaction between yin and yang that dictates a holism of human communication gives the structure of dynamic relational balance among interactants. This structure based on yin and yang interaction generates an interrelated network, in which relationship defines the interconnectedness between and among components in the system. While the dialectical nature of yin-yang network makes the relationship in the system dynamic, unique, and irreplaceable, it carries two arguments that distinguish it from traditional dialectical thoughts.
First, yin-yang philosophy indicates that the development of relationship is rooted in the process of "ganying" (co-responding or acting on and responding), the spiritual and ethical resonance of yin and yang forces in the organic whole of human communication (Xiao & Chen, 2009). Ganying is an inherent co-responding capacity of interactants that connects the organic parts into a harmonious whole through symbol exchange. Thus, interactants must have the ability to produce adequate acts and responses in order to find their own position or successfully develop harmonious relationship in the holistic world. In other words, communication competence in yin-yang dialectical interaction relies on the ability to act in the process of ganying. The yin-yang ganying also emphasizes the power of moving the heart of one's counterpart for a positive response (i.e., ying), which is based on the internal or spiritual encoding (i.e., gan) process of the sender. Xiao and Chen further argued that communication competence should be perceived as a moral issue from the perspective of ganying. Moral competence therefore becomes a major criterion for measuring the success of human communication, or, more specifically, a way to establish a relationship that dictates the interconnectedness of yin-yang holistic system.
Second, because yin-yang philosophy indicates that a harmonious relationship, dictated by yin-yang interconnectedness, can only be achieved through moral competence, hierarchy is required in the relationship network of the holistic system. A complex system of relational dialectics based on yin and yang interaction that forms a hierarchical relationship network was illustrated in I Ching. It enunciates that the development of human communication is moving on the six lines (yao) of the hexagram from the bottom to the top level in a cyclic manner with each line possessing either yin or yang force. That is, lines 1, 3, and 5 are yang, and lines 2, 4, and 6 are yin. From the perspective of change the symbolic development of the six lines is expressed as (1) line 1 (the bottom line)--the foundation of the movement, (2) line 2--the sprouting or forming stage, (3) line 3--the stage of embodiment, (4) line 4--the stage of strong growth, (5) line 5 - the blooming stage, and (6) line 6 (the top line)--the fullness stage, implying the time for transformation to another new cycle (Chen, 2008).
Xu (2001) pointed out that I Ching provides three interdependent criteria, for the evaluation and measurement of relationship development of dialectical yin-yang structure of the six transformative lines, namely, positioning, corresponding, and paring. First, "positioning" generally refers to whether one stands in the right place at the right time with proper attributes. Structurally, lines 1, 3, and 5 possess yang qualities, and lines 2, 4, and 6 possess yin qualities. Disadvantages are imputed to those positioning mismatches and vice versa. While it is not difficult to observe the positioning fitness of each line, a more valid result can only be obtained through the analysis of all six lines as a cyclic system. This involves the examination of corresponding and paring relations.
Second, "corresponding" refers to the distant connection between line 1 and line 4, line 2 and line 5, and line 3 and line 6. It indicates the relationship between internal environment and external environment of the hexagram; the former is formed by the first three lines as the inner trigram, and the latter by the top three lines that form the outer trigram. Based on the structural essence, it is called "appropriate corresponding" between line 1 and line 4 (and 2 and 5, and 3 and 6). However, this static relationship between the lines within and the others without is further complicated by the impact of transformation. That is, this theoretical nature of yin-yang structural positioning toward each line needs correspond with the functional forces of yin and yang, as yang represented by positive or strong quality and yin by negative or weak quality (Xu, 2001; Zhong, 1992). In human communication, for example, if line 1 (a yang line) is occupied by a weak force, then the corresponding between line 1 and line 4 becomes a yin-yin match. Thus, practically, the functional force of yin and yang will change the quality of the corresponding relationship. The ideal pattern will be yin-yang or yang-yin corresponding, rather than yang-yang or yin-yin. An "appropriate corresponding" or the right match is the foundation of "ganying" mentioned previously, which will lead to a mutual attraction. It is also the basis of harmony. The yang-yang or yin-yin rivalry or negative corresponding is the cradle of potential conflicts in communication, which tends to result in a mutual exclusion (Chen, 2008).
Finally, "paring" refers to the neighboring relationship between two lines in the internal trigram (i.e., line 1 and line 2, and line 2 and line 3) and in the external trigram (i.e., line 4 and 5, and line 5 and 6). In addition to the rule of yin-yang, yang-yin, yang-yang, and yin-yin effects, which favors the yin-yang or yang-yin pairing, the neighboring relationship between the two close lines specifies top-down and down-top as two types of the paring (Xu, 2001). The top-down paring dictates that the top line dominates the down line, forming a dominant pattern of relationship. Thus, the top line is assumed to be strong and the down line to be weak functionally. The down-top paring dictates a receptive pattern of relationship that requires the down line to be submissive to the top line. For a positive paring, the top line must be equipped with strong/yang and the down line with weak/yin attribute. A contrary paring with the weak quality on the top line is ominous for the relationship development (Hong, 2014; Li, 1987; Wen, 1993). This yin-yang relational dialectic is the way to stabilize the social system, which is symbolized by the hexagram embedded in the dynamic interaction among the six lines. Figure 3 illustrates the hierarchical relationship network based on the six yao/lines
The hierarchical structure of yin-yang relationship was further developed into Confucian's Five Code of Ethics that regulates Chinese unequal and complementary relations between ruler and subject, father and son, husband and wife, brothers, and between friends for more than 2000 years (Chen & Chung, 1994). More specifically, through Confucianism, the system was expanded to create a set of distinct patterns of human relationship in the Chinese society. It emphasizes particularistic, long-term, in-group, formal, and personal relationships (Chen, 2001, 2011). The yin-yang relational pattern provides an effective tool to observe and better understand Chinese communication.
The following assumptions and axioms can be derived from the above discussion:
Assumption 10: Human communication is an interconnected network.
Assumption 11: The interconnected network is defined by its relational components.
Assumption 12: Ganying (co-responding) is the foundation of relationship development.
Assumption 13: Moral competence derived from ganying defines yin-yang communication competence.
Assumption 14: Hierarchical structure characterizes the yin-yang relationship.
Assumption 15: Hierarchical structure of yin-yang relationship is illustrated through the emphasis of particularistic, long term, in-group, formal, and personal relationships.
Axiom 2: An increase of moral competence will increase the opportunity to establish a successful relationship.
Axiom 3: An increase of the ability to establish a particularistic (long-term, in-group, or personal) relationship will increase the degree of competence when communicating with Chinese.
Human Communication is a Harmonious Process
Yin-yang philosophy mandates that all contradictions in the dialectical cyclic process should be resolved in order to bring in continuity to keep the relationship in a state of harmonious equilibrium. In this sense, tension derived from the dialectical contradiction is not perceived as a conflict. Unlike Western dialectics, yin-yang dialectics underline the constructive way to attend to tensions (Wang, 1957; Yu, 2005). Instead of being confrontational, yin-yang philosophy stresses harmony by employing a more indirect, subtle, or adaptive way to cope with contradictions in the process of human communication (Chen, 2016b).
As Chen (2001) indicated, the Chinese emphasis on harmony results in three main differences between Chinese and Western communication. First, harmony is treated as the end rather than only the means of human communication. Second, human communication is a process in which interactants strive for interdependence and cooperation through other-oriented adaptation. Lastly, the aim to reach harmony suggests that human communication contains an ethical appeal, thus demanding from the interactants to show a whole-hearted concern for their counterparts. Harmony, as mentioned previously, hence becomes the cardinal value and ultimate goal the Chinese pursue in the process of human communication. It is "the process of adapting to and accommodating with each other towards fellowship and interdependence through a sincere display of whole-hearted concern for one's counterpart dictated by a set of ethical principles" (Chen, in process). It is considered the natural outcome of human communication after interactants successfully regulate the cyclic and transforming process of interaction. The ability to reach the state of harmony is therefore a critical criterion to evaluate whether one is competent in Chinese communication.
Chen (2001) further organized nine concepts through which yin-yang philosophy aims to theorize harmony in the context of human communication,
(1) Intrinsically, individuals must be able to internalize three principles: jen (humanism), yi (righteousness), and li (rite); (2) extrinsically, individuals must be able to accommodate three components: shih (temporal contingencies), wei (spatial contingencies), and ji (the first imperceptible beginning of movement); and (3) strategically, individuals must be able to exercise three behavioral skills: guanxi (inter-relation), mientz (face), and power. (p. 58)
Based on these nine concepts, Chen developed a harmony theory of Chinese communication that consists of four propositions, 23 axioms, and 23 theorems. Those axioms and theorems are directly derived from the nine concepts shown in Appendix A. Two additional assumptions and one axiom based on the discussion above are as follows:
Assumption 16: Human communication is a harmonious process.
Assumption 17: Human communication aims to reach a harmonious state of relationship.
Axiom 4: An increase in the ability to achieve harmony in Chinese communication will increase the degree of communication competence.
Finally, an important question left to answer is how to achieve this harmony or reach the equilibrium state of human communication that is dictated by the yin-yang philosophy? The answer is "zhong dao" (the middle way). Zhong (the middle, centrality) prescribes the interplay of yin and yang forces. It is the center of human activities, or the centrality of human communication (Cao, 1986; Chen, 2006; Xiao, 2003). As illustrated in the yin-yang model of zhong in Figure 4, zhong refers to the state of great harmony constituted by the balancing interplay of yin and yang. Zhong ([phrase omitted]) is the central point or center of yin-yang dialectical interplay and transformation. According to Wilhelm (1979), this zhong integrates opposition and fellowship, i.e., yin and yang forces, in the process of human communication, acting as lubricant to smooth the interconnected knots of interactants. It is "the axis of interaction between the two opposite forces of the universe, or the vessel that untangles all the contradictions caused by the movement of qi" (Chen, 2016a. p. 26). Thus, "zhong dao" (the middle way) or "shou zhong" (nurturing the middle way or centrality) is the best way to reach the cyclic, holistic, and harmonious state of the universe. Chen (2016) argued that it is also the ideal way for cultivating competence in Chinese communication.
Scholars from different disciplines have attempted to develop zhong dao models to deal with the tensions between dialectical contradictions, so that the state of yin-yang balance could be reached. For example, Jing and Van de Ven (2014) employed a yin-yang model to study the organizational change of Chengdu Bus Group. Chung (2011) proposed a chi model of yin-yang interaction to examine public relations in a globalizing society. M. J. Chen (2002) and Chen and Miller (2010) suggested an ambicultural approach to promote yin-yin paradoxical integration in the process of management. M. J. Chen (2008) further applied the concept of zhong dao to reconceptualize the competition-cooperation relationship. Li (2012, 2014) advocated an integrative management framework based on yin-yang balance. Fang (2012) stipulated characteristics of Chinese communication from a yin-yang perspective. And Chen (2013) and Chen and An (2009) created a zhong dao model of management and leadership in the global context.
All these attempts to theorize yin-yang philosophy in the context of human communication provide a great possibility to transform the highly philosophical and abstract yin and yang concepts into scientific and empirically observable variables and to practical behavioral levels for implementation. The zhong dao model developed by Chen (2013) and Chen and An (2009) well displays this great leap in the study of yin and yang. The model incorporates three dimensions with each dimension consisting of two elements for yin-yang management: (1) self-cultivation--includes sensitivity and creativity, (2) context profundity--includes multicultural mindset and environmental mapping, and (3) action dexterity--includes interaction adroitness and coordinating shi, wei, ji. The model provides a guideline for successfully communicate with the Chinese. The concepts in the model can not only help to generate axioms and theorems but can also help to directly derive testable hypotheses.
The discussion of "zhong dao" above provides the following assumption and axioms.
Assumption 18: Zhong dao (the middle way) is an ideal way to reach the yin-yang cyclic, holistic state of harmony.
Axiom 5: An increase of the ability to employ zhong dao (the middle way) will increase the degree of Chinese communication competence.
Axiom 6: An increase of self-cultivation (context profundity and action dexterity) will increase the degree of Chinese communication competence.
Table 1 lists all the assumptions and axioms proposed in this paper.
This paper attempts to bridge the gap between abstract philosophical discourse and empirical observation of concepts through the process of building a yin-yang theory of human communication. Theoretical assumptions and axioms were derived from the analysis of yin-yang philosophy. This effort may help to better understand the concepts of yin and yang from theoretical and application perspectives. Nevertheless, this paper does not attempt to devalue the traditional philosophical perspective of interpreting yin and yang; rather, it hopes to increase the utility of the yin yang research by suggesting its possible applications in scientific research'. Several limitations and implications of this study are discussed below. First, although yin-yang philosophy is a heuristic and influential especially in China, it only represents an emic thought. According to X. Li (2014), yin-yang study continues to suffer from conceptual ambiguity and the lack of rigorous operational methods in China. This may suggest that even as an emic approach, the yin-yang concept is being challenged by scholars and is facing challenges in the academic research. The lack of rigorous research evidences regarding yin and yang leads to doubts about whether the concepts can be employed to validly or even legitimately explain Chinese behaviors.
Second, as an indigenous concept, yin-yang philosophy may not be superior to dialectical philosophies from other cultures, such as Greek dialectic, Indian negative dialectic, Hegel's dialectic, and Bohr's complementarity principle, in explaining human communication in different cultures (Wong, 2006). Although change is a key concept shared by various dialectical philosophies, the way to deal with this change on a practical life level tends to vary. For example, Chinese yin-yang dialectic treats harmony as the means and an end of the universe, including human communication, while in the West confrontation seems to be a more preferable means for problem solving. Hence, scholars should be cautious when trying to universalize one dialectic philosophy to explain human behaviors in different cultural contexts.
Third, while each dialectic approach possesses an indigenous or emic nature, scholars have to avoid falling into the trap of dichotomous approaches (Chen, 2009b). Dichotomy or either-or approach not only deters the advance of scholarly research, but more seriously also hampers peaceful and productive communication among people from differing cultures. In addition to "change" as the shared feature of most dialectical philosophies, "balance" between the two contradictory forces is the goal pursued by these approaches. Hence, through the process of "integration" to reach the state of balance between the two forces, such as ambiculture, ambidexterity, glocalization, or the model of "theorics" proposed by Naroll (1971), emic-etic integration should be an ideal approach worth promoting in this globalizing human society. Moreover, the integration or balance should not be limited to two forces only. Instead, it should be extended to deal with the tensions between or among different philosophical approaches, demonstrating a need for multicultural or multi-contextual co-existence in global community (Chen, 2005, 2015).
Finally, only propositions and axioms for theory building were derived from the study of yin and yang in this paper. As mentioned previously, for the purpose of direct observation of communication behaviors based on yin-yang interaction, hypotheses must be further derived from axioms and theorems. More and more research on Chinese communication has provided resources for this purpose. For example, in addition to Axiom 3 that contains observable variables on Chinese communication behaviors, other research like Chen's (2002) study on Chinese conflict management specifically extracted five concepts under the Chinese yin-yang philosophy that regulate how Chinese manage conflicts in the process of interaction. The concepts include self-restraint, reciprocity, indirect expression of disapproval, face saving, and particularistic relationship. They are precise enough to be treated as variables for direct empirical observation regarding Chinese communication behaviors.
Acknowledgment. I would like to thank Professor Jensen Chung and Professor Ivana Beveridge for their valuable comments on the paper. My thank is also extended to May Ho for her great help in drawing Figure 3 and Table 1 in this paper.
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Appendix A. Axioms and theorems derived from the nine concepts. Jen (humanism) Axiom 2: The higher the degree of jen, the higher the likelihood that harmony will be developed in Chinese communication. Axiom 3: The higher the degree of being humane, the higher the likelihood that jen will be maintained in Chinese communication. Theorem 1: The more reciprocal a person is, the more competent the person will be in Chinese communication. Theorem 2: The more empathic a person is, the more competent the person will be in Chinese communication. Yi (righteousness) Axiom 4: The higher the degree of yi, the higher the likelihood that harmony will be developed in Chinese communication. Axiom 5: The higher the degree of appropriateness, the higher the likelihood that yi will be maintained in Chinese communication. Theorem 3: The more flexible a person is, the more competent the person will be in Chinese communication. Theorem 4: The more adaptable a person is, the more competent the person will be in Chinese communication. Li (rite) Axiom 6: An increase of the practice of li will produce an increase in the development of harmony in Chinese communication. Axiom 7: The higher the degree of formality, the higher the likelihood that li will be maintained in Chinese communication. Theorem 5: The more skillful a person is in managing honorific language, the more competent the person will be in Chinese communication. Theorem 6: The more skillful a person is in dealing with the hierarchical social relations, the more competent the person will be in Chinese communication. Theorem 7: The more polite a person is, the more competent the person will be in Chinese communication. Theorem 8: The more skillful a person is in controlling emotion, the more competent the person will be in Chinese communication. Theorem 9: The less aggressive a person is, the more competent the person will be in Chinese communication. Shih (temporal contingencies) Axiom 8: An increase of knowing shi will produce an increase in the development of harmony in Chinese communication. Axiom 9: The higher the degree of knowing temporal contingencies, the higher the likelihood that shi will be maintained in Chinese communication. Theorem 10: The more a person knows when is the appropriate time to act, the more competent the person will be in Chinese communication. Wei (spatial contingencies) Axiom 10: An increase of knowing wei will produce an increase in the development of harmony in Chinese communication. Axiom 11: The higher the degree of knowing spatial contingencies, the higher the likelihood that wei will be maintained in Chinese communication. Theorem 11: The more a person knows the communication environment, the more competent the person will be in Chinese communication. Theorem 12: The more a person knows the social context, the more competent the person will be in Chinese communication. Ji (the first imperceptible beginning of movement) Axiom 12: An increase of knowing ji will produce an increase in the development of harmony in Chinese communication. Axiom 13: The higher the degree of knowing the trace of possible consequences of an interaction, the higher the likelihood that ji will be maintained in Chinese communication. Theorem 13: The more a person knows the trace of possible consequences of an interaction, the more competent the person will be in Chinese communication. Theorem 14: The more sensitive a person is, the more competent the person will be in Chinese communication. Theorem 15: The more sincere a person is, the more competent the person will be in Chinese communication. Guanxi (inter-relation) Axiom 14: An enhancement of guanxi will produce an enhancement in the development of harmony in Chinese communication. Axiom 15: The higher the degree of establishing particular relationships, the higher the likelihood that guanxi will be maintained in Chinese communication. Theorem 16: The more a person knows how to establish inter-relation with others, the more competent the person will be in Chinese communication. Theorem 17: The more skillful a person is in distinguishing in-group from out-group members, the more competent the person will be in Chinese communication. Theorem 18: The stronger the "we-feeling" a person has, the more competent the person will be in Chines e communication. Mientz (face) Axiom 16: An enhancement of mientz will produce an enhancement in the development of quanxi in Chinese communication. Axiom 17: An enhancement of mientz will produce an enhancement in the development of harmony in Chinese communication. Axiom 18: The higher the degree of respect towards others, the higher the likelihood that mientz will be maintained in Chinese communication. Axiom 19: The higher the degree of renqin towards others, the higher the likelihood that mientz will be maintained in Chinese communication. Theorem 19: The more a person knows how to increase others' mientz, the more competent the person will be in Chinese communication. Theorem 20: The more skillful a person is in doing a favor for others, the more competent the person will be in Chinese communication. Theorem 21: The stronger the "indebtedness" feeling a person has, the more competent the person will be in Chinese communication. Power Axiom 20: An appropriate exertion of power will produce an enhancement in the development of harmony in Chinese communication. Axiom 21: An increase in guanxi will produce an increase in the development of power in Chinese communication. Axiom 22: An increase in the degree of seniority will produce an increase in the development of power in Chinese communication. Axiom 23: An increase in the degree of authority will produce an increase in the development of power in Chinese communication. Theorem 22: The more senior a person is, the more competent the person will be perceived in Chinese communication. Theorem 23: The more authority a person possesses, the more competent the person will be perceived in Chinese communication. From: Chen, G. M. (2011). An introduction to key concepts in understanding the Chinese: Harmony as the foundation of Chinese communication. China Media Research, 7(4) 1-12. (pp. 4-5)
University of Rhode Island, USA
Guo-Ming Chen, Ph.D.
Department of Communication Studies University of Rhode Island Kingston, RI 02881, USA Email: email@example.com
Table 1. A list of assumptions and axioms (organized by May Ho) Philosophical A Yin-Yang Theory of Human Communication Assumptions of Yin-Yang Theory Assumptions Characteristics Assumption 1: The universe is an endless but orderly and cyclic process of movement. Assumption 2: Yin and yang are the essence of cyclic change of the universe Assumption 3: Human Communication Wholeness is the ultimate is a Holistic System reality of the universe. Assumption 4: Human Communication Interconnectedness is the is an Interconnected way to perceive the Network existence of the universe. Assumption 5: Harmony Human Communication is the cardinal value of is a Harmonious the universe. Process Assumption 6: Zhong is the way to achieve the harmony of the universe. Philosophical Assumptions of Yin-Yang A Yin-Yang Theory of Human Communication Theory Assumptions Assumptions Assumption 1: The universe is an endless but orderly and cyclic process of movement. Assumption 2: Yin and yang are the essence of cyclic change of the universe Assumption 3: Assumption 7: Human Wholeness is the ultimate communication is a holistic reality of the universe. system. Assumption 8: The totality of human communication is entailed by constant dialectical interplay between the two interactants. Assumption 9: The dialectical interplay of the two interactants is embedded in continuous tensions caused by contradictions inherent in yin and yang forces. Assumption 4: Assumption 10: Human Interconnectedness is the communication is an way to perceive the interconnected network. existence of the universe. Assumption 11: The interconnected network is defined by its relational components. relationship. Assumption 12: Ganying (co-responding) is the foundation of relationship development. Assumption 13: Moral competence derived from ganying defines yin-yang communication competence. Assumption 14: Hierarchical structure characterizes the yin-yang relationship. Assumption 15: Hierarchical structure of yin-yang relationship is illustrated through the emphasis of particularistic, long term, in-group, formal, and personal relationships. Assumption 5: Harmony Assumption 16: Human is the cardinal value of communication is a the universe. harmonious process. Assumption 17: Human communication aims to reach a harmonious state of relationship. Assumption 6: Zhong is Assumption 18: Zhong dao the way to achieve the (the middle way) is an ideal harmony of the universe. way to reach the yin-yang cyclic, holistic state of harmony Philosophical A Yin-Yang Theory of Human Communication Assumptions of Yin-Yang Theory Assumptions Axioms Assumption 1: The universe is an endless but orderly and cyclic process of movement. Assumption 2: Yin and yang are the essence of cyclic change of the universe Assumption 3: Axiom 1: An increase of Wholeness is the ultimate knowing location, reality of the universe. interdependence, and contextuality of contradiction will increase the understanding of the totality of human communication. Assumption 4: Axiom 2: An increase of Interconnectedness is the moral competence will way to perceive the increase the opportunity to existence of the universe. establish a successful Axiom 3: An increase of the ability to establish a particularistic (long-term, in-group, or personal) relationship will increase the degree of competence when communicating with Chinese. Assumption 5: Harmony Axiom 4: An increase in is the cardinal value of the ability to achieve the universe. harmony in Chinese communication will increase the degree of communication competence. Assumption 6: Zhong is Axiom 5: An increase of the way to achieve the the ability to employ harmony of the universe. zhong dao (the middle way) will increase the degree of Chinese communication competence. Axiom 6: An increase of self-cultivation (context profundity and action dexterity) will increase the degree of Chinese communication competence.
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