Qi

By Dr. Yuri Belopolsky

Qi (or “Chi”) is one of the basic concepts of Chinese philosophy. Qi is fundamental to different aspects of Chinese culture including Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). 

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In the Western world, Qi is thought of as life force, vital energy, ether, vital force, and bioenergy. This translation seriously simplifies the original meaning of Qi. This concept is not unique to the Chinese culture: Japanese call it Ki; Tibetans — Rlung; and Hindu — Prana. The father of western medicine, Hippocrates, called it Pneuma. 

 

Classical Chinese theory describes Qi as a dynamic and perpetual phenomenon. It represents and unites space and time; and the material and immaterial aspects of the Universe. It underlies the structure of the Universe where everything exists because of the presence of Qi and its movement. Qi permeates three levels of life: Heaven (Universe), the Human Body and Earth. They are tightly interconnected. Our life and health depend on our bodily Qi. It manifests in our physical, emotional, mental and spiritual levels. Imbalances of Qi in the body lead to health challenges.

There are three main sources of Qi in the animal or human body:

  • Prenatal Qi that comes from our parents, and it is stored in the kidneys. 

  • Qi that is gathered from food and beverages by the Stomach and the Spleen/Pancreas.

  • Qi that comes from the air we breathe through our Lungs. 

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The Chinese character Qi is a combination of two characters "air" and "rice." It emphasizes the existence of Qi at the material and immaterial levels.

The Chinese character Qi is a combination of two characters "air" and "rice." It emphasizes the existence of Qi at the material and immaterial levels.

Although Qi is everywhere in our body, it is also moving through special vessels in the body, acupuncture meridians and channels. Analogously, blood travels through blood vessels. Along the acupuncture meridians, there are certain areas where QI concentrates. These areas are called acupuncture points. By stimulating these points with acupuncture needles, acupressure or other methods, Chinese doctors rearrange the flow of Qi and stimulate the body’s self-healing abilities. 

 

Chinese medicine views a healthy individual as:

  • an individual with a sufficient level of properly moving Qi, 

  • an individual with balanced Yin and Yang,

  • an individual with harmony in and between the twelve main organs from the point of view of Five Phases theory (Five Elements).