Qi Energy

Meditating female figure with energy flow in the nadis

Qi Energy

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Definition

Qi energy or Ki / Chi is the anglicized way of writing the Chinese word for “air” or “life force” (from this point on to be written as qi), which is the vital energy that flows through and animates all living things. Qi energy is fundamental to many of the practices and philosophies behind traditional Chinese medicine.

It is believed that this qi energy flows through our body along invisible pathways called meridians. These meridians meet at different points throughout the body, which are the primary acupoints. It is through the manipulation of qi energy that much of these medicine practices are based.

The concept of qi is not necessarily unique to Chinese culture. It is found in the philosophies of other nations as well. It is called prana is Ayurvedic medicine, mana in Polynesian cultures, and ki in Japanese culture for example.

Qi Energy Forms

Qi energy can take a few different forms. People are born with an inherent type of energy called yuan qi which can be translated to “ancestral qi”. It is believed that there is an energy that surrounds us like an aura and protects us called wei or “protective” qi.

Then there is the qi energy that we ingest or consume from food and liquid or the energy we breath in the air called hou tain qi. Within the body, each of our organs has their own specific energy as well.

The Taoist philosophy is based upon the idea of two opposite, but ideally balanced feminine and masculine energies of yin and yang qi.

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Qi pervades much of Chinese thinking especially in the language. Vitality is literally translated to ”high-quality qi”. The word for health comes from “original qi” and friendly is “peaceful qi”.

Modern science has had little luck in verifying the existence of qi energy or any other vital force. Some have argued that the electromagnetic field that surrounds all living things may be a possible proof of qi, but in general this is regarded by the scientific community as pseudoscience and at best a fine philosophical model.

Electromagnetic field surrounds human body and all living things
The electromagnetic field that surrounds all living things can be a possible proof of qi.

Origin of Concept

The Chinese character for qi dates back from 3,500 years ago, but its meaning has evolved over time. In the works of Confucius, it was used to signify food, breathe, and vitality. Lao-Tze who is the founder of Taoism and was a contemporary (or nearly) of Confucius also used the symbol in his writing. In his usage, it seemed to describe something more similar to a soul.

The qi energy is all around the universe and when it assembles, it becomes a person. When it disperses, the person dies. Mencius used qi to describe a person’s morals.

Portrait of Lao-Tze
Lao-Tze
Ancient Chinese Philosopher / Writer
(6th – 4th century BC)
Don't think you can attain total awareness and whole enlightenment without proper discipline and practice. This is egomania. Appropriate rituals channel your emotions and life energy toward the light. Without the discipline to practice them, you will tumble constantly backward into darkness.

Qi was mentioned in connection to our health as far back as ancient times. It was discussed in the famous text, Yellow Emperor’s Inner Classic (Huangdi Neijing, 黃帝內經), which was written as a discussion between the Yellow Emperor and his minister Qibo. Though the exact date is unknown, it is believed to have been written between the times of the warring states and the Qin/Han dynasty.

Uses of Qi Energy

Qi energy forms the philosophical basis of much of Chinese Traditional Medicine. The general belief is that many of our physical ailments are the manifestation of an imbalance or congestion of our vital energies. The various acupoints in the body correspond to different body systems and body parts and by finding ways to manipulate the energy and increase the flow, one can be healed.

As stated above, there are multiple forms of qi energy, often corresponding to the different body parts. Chinese medicine is therefore based upon ways of controlling these energies.

One of the most popular forms of Chinese medicine is acupuncture, wherein very fine needles are stuck into the acupoints and frees up the qi energy. As it can help stimulate the body’s release of its natural pain killers, it is often used for pain relief and sometimes as an aid to quit smoking, even in the West.

Acupressure is a similar method, but instead of needles, thumb pressure is used to stimulate the acupoints.

Shiatsu is another related offshoot of Chinese traditional medicine that uses massage to break up blockages of qi in the body.

Acupuncture is one of the most popular forms of Chinese medicine
During acupuncture, very fine needles are stuck into the acupoints of the body freeing the qi energy.

Qigong and Thai Chi

Another way qi energy is used is in the two similar practices of qigong and tai chi. These can be seen as not just a type of healing, but an entire philosophy of healthy living based upon the balance of flow of our vital energy.

Qi gong, though quite an old practice, was popularized by Liu Guizhen in the 1950s. It was suppressed by the Maoist government, but eventually regained its popularity. There are three main types of qigong: martial, spiritual, and medical. The first focuses on harnessing the power of qi energy in the body and focusing it to complete seemingly impossible tasks such as breaking bricks or not being hurt during physical attacks. It also helps the body maintain its physical strength.

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Spiritual qigong is quite similar to Buddhism and has a primary focus on meditation and spiritual enlightenment. The final form is the medical, which as the name implies, focuses on healing. This is either done individually through a special diet and exercise practice to help master one’s inner energy or it is a special type of “energy massage” where a master healer uses their hands held above the body to help move energy throughout the body and heal ailments.

Another form of healing that utilizes the concept of qi energy is Reiki, which originated in Japan, but is based upon the same general ideology. The name from the Japanese words “rei”, which is God’s wisdom, and “ki”, which is energy. It was based upon traditional beliefs in Japan, but the modern version was developed by Mikao Usui in the early twentieth century. It is popular worldwide. The healers try to pump qi energy into the body using a set of patterns and symbols to try to break up blockages of stale or negative energy.

Martial Arts

Besides the aforementioned qigong, this vital energy is used in a wide variety of oriental martial arts. Practitioners harness their internal energy to complete various tasks that are thought of as impossible without ki. It is believed that strength comes from a combination of our physical muscle strength and our ability to direct the flow of energy. The most important part is a proper breathing technique. Essentially, one needs to take in qi energy through the breath and hold it within the body, thus charging the person.

Feng Shui

Qi also has some applications for architecture and interior design. It is believed that there is an energy that flows through non-living things as well. The thought is that buildings and rooms can be designed and oriented in such a way that there is a balance of energy and a stimulation of energy in the people who use these spaces. This is done through choices in color, shape, and direction. This particular field or belief is called Feng Shui and has roots going back 5000 years. Originally, it was used for laying out tombs. Since, it has gained popularity in the West and in modern times.

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