Look at these two characters:
Xī 夕 = sun down or anything in the evening; kŏu 口 = mouth or an opening or entrance
If you put these two characters together, it refers to something that you have to open your mouth for at night. Why? Because when you walk at night in the dark, your friends can’t see you and don’t know who you are, so you have to announce your name. When these two characters are combined, they create: míng 名 which means “a person’s name, or someone who is well-known, famous”.
Now look at these characters:
rì 日 = the sun, very bright or the time between sunrise to sundown yuè 月 = the moon, a month or darkness.
What happens when you put the sun and the moon together? The meaning changes to “brightness”. When you have both the day and the night, you see everything clearly, so combined, they create: míng 明 which means “brightness, understanding, transparency, good eyesight and good judgement”.
Both these words, míng 名 and míng 明, have the same pronunciation, but they represent two totally different ideas. The first one is “I’m announcing my name in the dark so you know who I am”. The second one is “I understand the dark and the light. I understand Yin and Yang and therefore I have a clear understanding.”
There is a saying that uses these two different meanings of míng:
Bù hé míng shī xué, Zhi hé míng shī xué
“Don’t study with a famous teacher; Learn from a teacher who understands.”
Here is another word that uses the character míng 明: míng baì 明白 = to understand
Míng means “bright” and baì means “white or purity”, so you have day and night and purity together which suggests a very clear understanding.
When we practice Taiji, we are seeking understanding of the energies of Yin 阴and Yang 阳, so clearing the mind is the first step to entering into this understanding, into this míng 明. If you can clear your mind, you can find your path and say, “This is the way I want to go”.