Before any scientific inquiry into Qi, it is necessary to know the concept of Qi and its properties in Chinese philosophy, in order to evaluate how much it fits with any modern scientific interpretation.
Qi is a fundamental concept or terminology in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) with multiple levels of meanings. If you read enough in TCM, you will find that TCM seems to use & ldquo; qi & rdquo; to describe almost all the invisible forces that influence life and human health. More specifically, Qi can devote invisible forces both outside and inside the human body in many different ways (1). We will introduce some of these uses here as we define the basics of qi in Chinese philosophy and culture.
Qi could be discussed for the first time by Chinese philosophers (2). Huai Nan Zi, a Taoist book of 122 BC, states that the Tao, originating from Emptiness and Emptiness, has produced the universe. The universe produced Qi, & ndash; Here it was very likely that it referred to qi energy outside the body.
Zhang Zai (1020-1077) said that the Great Emptiness consists of Qi. The Qi condenses to become a myriad of things. It clearly understood the concept of matter-energy continuum, in the sense of modern physics, even if these ideas were conceived centuries later. He also saw the indestructibility of energy-matter as revealed by his statement “Qi in the dispersion is substance and so is in condensation”. Since Qi forms a myriad of things it implies that Qi should also involve information, in modern terminology. He also said that every birth is a condensation and every death a dispersion of Qi. So just like & ldquo; Qi & rdquo; it is the energetic foundation of the universe, it is also the physical and spiritual substratum of human life. Zhu Xi (1131-1200) confirmed that the condensation of Qi can form beings and conservation of energy, when he stated: “When you disperse Qi creates the Great Emptiness, only regaining its original nebulous characteristic, but not perishing; when condensation becomes the origin of all beings & rdquo;.
From these classical discussions, we should say that a modern scientific explanation of Qi must involve aspects of matter, energy and information, which remind us of new discoveries in physics, the “hidden dimension”. & Rdquo;
This universal Qi, postulated by the Chinese philosophers, will be denoted by & ldquo; Qi & rdquo; differentiate itself from its use in Chinese medicine, which will be indicated by the Qi (without quotation).
TCM used the concept of Qi primarily in two senses. The first use is in abbreviation of function or condition. Qi is used to describe the complex of functional activities of any organ. For example, Heart-Qi, is not a refined substance in the Heart, but indicates the complex of the functional activities of the Heart, such as, by governing the Blood, controlling the blood vessels, etc. Thus, there is Liver-Qi, Heart-Qi, Lung-Qi, etc. In the sense, it is also used to indicate disorders of organ function or body disorder & ndash; for example, & ldquo; Qi Bi & rdquo; (Constipation Qi) and “Qi Liu” (Tumor Qi). These abbreviations will not be discussed in further detail here, but it will be Qi as a refined substance.
The second use of Qi is life energy, which derives from the Chinese character for Qi (气). The Qi can be decomposed into two radicals, which stand for “steam, steam or gas”; and (uncooked) & ldquo; rice & rdquo; or wheat. In the second case, it is the energy or the vital resource within the grain that is called “qi”, not the material or chemical part itself. This is shown by the fact that rice could lose its taste and “gain qi” after being offered as an oblation to the soul.This use implies that Qi can be used as immaterial as steam and as dense and material as rice also implies that Qi could only be a thin substance (steam) produced from a coarse (rice), just as cooking rice produces steam, so synologists generally agree that Qi is matter-energy in the sense of modern physics.
Natural energies, which are not tangible or visible, are special specializations of this use of & ldquo; Qi & rdquo; & Ndash; for example, seasonal Qi, Qi Heavely, terrestrial Qi and food Qi. Other examples are environmental factors or forces that can affect human health, such as cold, humidity, dryness, etc.
Just like & ldquo; Qi & rdquo; it is the energetic foundation of the universe, it is also the physical and spiritual substratum of human life. In Chinese medicine, the terminology used depends on the state of energy-matter. The energetic material, which goes from less dense to more dense, is called: Spirit (Shen 神), Energy (Qi 气), Essence (Jing 精), Blood (Xue 血), Body fluids (Jin Ye 津液), Marrow ( Sui 髓) and Bone (Gu 骨).
The three most important energy substances for body function are Jing, Qi and Shen, which represent different stages or phases of the phenomenon of life. These are known as & ldquo; Three Treasures & rdquo; or & ldquo; San Bao & rdquo; (三宝).
To understand the concept of Qi, we need to briefly discuss another related TCM concept & ldquo; Jing & rdquo;. Jing is usually translated as & ldquo; Essence & rdquo;. The Chinese character implies that it is a refined substance derived from a coarser one. In many ways, Jing could be the internal source or the basis of the Qi structure. Jing itself can be divided into different types or be looked at from different angles. If Qi is used in the sense of function, Jing would be understood as the physiological structure. If Qi is considered as vital energy, then Jing would be the physiological system that supports energy.
For example, the endocrine system is often referred to as & ldquo; jing & rdquo; in TCM. Keep in mind that there are disagreements about what can be called Jing, what can not. Basically there are three different types of Jing discussed in TCM books.
Prenatal Jing (Pre-Heaven Essence)
At the moment of conception, the Prenatal Jing passes from the parents to the embryo. This essence, together with the nourishment derived from the mother’s kidneys, nourishes the embryo and the fetus during pregnancy. It is the only type of essence present in the fetus.
The prenatal Jing determines the basic constitution, strength, vitality and thus individual uniqueness. Since the Prenatal Jing is inherited from the parents, it is very difficult to influence in old age. Some say that the quality and quantity of Prenatal Jing can not be altered. The way to preserve prenatal Jing is to fight for balance in all life’s activities and nash; moderation in diet, work / rest and sexual activity. Irregularities or excess in these areas waste prenatal Jing. Some exercises help preserve prenatal Jing, such as Tai Chi and Qigong. Turtle breathing can affect it positively.
Post-natal jungle (Post-Heaven Essence)
After birth, the child begins to eat, drink and breathe on his own. Spleen and Stomach extract and refine Qi from food and drink and the Lung receives Qi from the air. Postnatal Jing is the complex of essences so refined and extracted. It is the material basis for the functional activity of the internal organs and the metabolism of the body. The Kidneys store any excess Jing to be released when required.
Postnatal Jing is continually used by the body and replenished by food and drink. The prenatal Jing is enriched and works optimally only through the postnatal Jing action. Without the function of the Prenatal Jing, the Postnatal Jing can not be transformed into Qi.
The kidney Jing plays an important role in physiology. Born from the prenatal and postnatal jings. It is hereditary, like the prenatal Jing and determines its own constitution. However, it is partly reinstated by the postnatal Jing.
The essence of the kidney is stored in the kidneys, but has a fluid nature and circulates throughout the body, especially in the Eight Ancestral (Extraordinary) Vessels. It is said that Kidney Essence has the following functions:
(i) It is the basis for growth, development, sexual maturation and reproduction. & Mdash; It moves in slow and long development cycles (the flow of Essence in cycles of 8 years, women in 7 years) and presides over the main stages of development of life.
During childhood, Kidney Jing controls the growth of bones, teeth, hair, brain development and sexual maturation. When the kidney Jing is weak, there may be a poor development of bones and teeth, stunted growth and mental retardation.
In puberty, Kidney Jing controls reproductive function and fertility, and normal development in adulthood. Developmental problems that may occur at this time, such as amenorrhea, are often related to weak kidney jing.
Conception and pregnancy are guided and controlled by Kidney Jing. When Kidney Jing is weak, signs such as infertility, chronic abortion and other similar problems may occur.
The Jing kidney declines naturally, eventually producing the characteristic signs of aging, such as: loss of hair / teeth, deterioration of memory, etc.
(ii) Kidney Jing is the basis for Kidney Qi & mdash; Jing is fluid and therefore more Yin and so can be considered an aspect of Kidney Yin. Form the material basis for Kidney Yin to produce Kidney Qi. Kidney Yin is warmed by Kidney Yang and the heat of the Vitality Gate (Ming Men) to produce Kidney Qi. However, the kidney Jing is necessary before this transformation can occur.
Kidney Qi may become deficient with age by producing signs such as pain and weakness of the loins and knees, weak bladder, frequent urination, clear or dripping, subtle and abundant leukorrhea.
(iii) Kidney Jing produces Marrow & mash; Marrow produces bone marrow, the brain and fills the spinal cord. The marrow in Chinese medicine does not have an exact equivalent in Western medicine).
The Brain in TCM is called “Sea of Marrow”. So if Kidney Jing is weak, the brain can be undernourished, leading to poor memory or concentration, dizziness, a feeling of emptiness in the head, etc.
(iv) Kidney Jing determines our Constitution & mdash; Protection against external pathogens largely depends on the defensive strength (Wei Qi), discussed below. However, the Kidney Jing state also influences our strength and endurance. If the Essence is “wasted” or poorly stored, the person may have a lowered immunity to exogenous pathogenic influences and be constantly ill with colds, allergies, etc.
(v) Essence and Qi are the material foundation for Shen (Mind) & mdash; This postulate is used in Chinese medicine because Jing, Qi and Shen represent three different states of the condensation of “Qi”, from coarse, to rare, to subtle and immaterial, respectively. If Jing and Qi are healthy and abundant, Mind will be happy. If both the Jing and the Qi are deficient, the Mind will suffer.
3. Different types of Qi
To help TCM students understand & ldquo; qi, & rdquo; modern TCM books have started to define different “qi” in one way or another. These explorative definitions discussed below may inspire us to think about the concept of Qi more accurately and comprehensively, can also create new problems or confuse the understanding the true meaning of qi and its applications in TCM However, as long as we think that qi is more a multi-meaning or multi-component concept of a specific matter, energy or function, we would be less likely to deviate from the original meaning of qi .
Some TCM books classified vital energy based on its location and function in the body (2, 3). Here are some examples of the definitions of various qi to start thinking more concretely about this abstract concept:
Prenatal Qi (Yuan Qi)
It is said that Yuan Qi is Essence in the form of Qi. Yuan Qi has its roots in the Kidneys and spreads throughout the body from the San Jiao (Triple Burner). It is the foundation of all the Yin and Yang energies of the body. Yuan Qi, like the prenatal Jing, is hereditary, fixed in quantity, but nourished by postnatal jing.
Yuan Qi is the dynamic force that motivates the functional activity of internal organs and is the foundation of vitality. It circulates through the body in the canals, relying on the San Jiao (Triple Burner) transport system. It is the base of the Rene Qi and it dwells between the two Reni, to the Door of Vitality (Ming Men). Facilitates the transformation of the Qi described below and participates in the production of Blood. Emerges and remains in the 12 points Source.
Qi Center (Zhong Qi)
Energy generated by the Spleen and Stomach, whose function is to transport the Qi from food to the chest where it is combined with the Heart and the Lungs & rsquo; Qi.
Food Qi (Gu Qi)
The food that enters the stomach is the first and the mourning, rotten and seasoned; then transformed into a form that can be used by the Spleen. The energy derived from this food essence is divided into Pure Yang Qi and Impure Yin Qi from the spleen. The Pure Yang Qi is sent upwards to the chest from the Center Qi via the Middle Burner. First, it goes to the lungs where it combines with the
Heavenly Qi to form Gathering (Zong) Qi. Then, it is transported to the Heart, where it joins the Yuan Qi from the Kidneys to produce Blood. The turbid Yin Qi of Gu Qi is sent by the Spleen via the Central Burner to the Lower Burner to be further refined and excreted.
Clear Yang Qi (Qing Qi)
This is the pure form of energy that the Gu Qi sent from the Spleen to the Upper Burner and to the chest through the Central Burner.
Turbid Yin Qi (Zhou Qi)
This is the impure energetic essence of the Gu Qi carried by the Spleen through the Central Burner to the Lower Burner to be further refined and excreted.
Qi Collection (Zong Qi)
This is also called Chest Qi (Xiong Qi), Big Qi Da Qi) and & ldquo; Big Qi of the Chest & rdquo;. The Spleen sends the pure energetic essence of Gu Qi to the lungs, where (with the help of Yuan Qi and Kidney Qi) it combines with air and turns into Zong Qi.
Zong Qi nourishes the heart and lungs. It improves and promotes the lungs in controlling Qi and respiration and the function of the Heart to govern blood and blood vessels. If Zong Qi (Gathering Qi) is weak, the extremities, especially the hands, will be weak or cold.
Zong Qi gathers in the throat and influences the word (which is under the control of the heart) and the strength of the voice (under control of the lungs). The strength of Zong Qi can also be determined by the entry & ndash; weak (strong), weak (strong) Zong Qi. It is easily influenced by emotional problems, such as pain and sadness, which disperse energy in the chest and weaken the lungs.
Lungs and kidneys help each other through Zong Qi and Yuan Qi. Zong Qi flows downward to help the Kidneys while Yuan Qi flows upward to aid in breathing (and Zong Qi’s training). The chest area where Zong Qi is collected is called “Sea of Qi”. Zong Qi and Sea of Qi are controlled by Shanzhong (Ren-17). Collection Qi is also treated by cardiac and pulmonary channels and breathing exercises.
Vero Qi (Zhen Qi)
Zong Qi originates in the lungs. It turns into Zhen Qi with the catalytic action of Yuan Qi. Zhen Qi is the last stage of the transformation and refinement of Qi. It is the Qi that circulates in the channels and also out of the body and nourishes the organs. Zhen Qi has two different forms, Ying Qi and Wei Qi.
Ying Qi (Nutritive Qi)
Ying Qi nourishes the internal organs and the whole body. Spend two hours in each channel, passing through all twelve channels over a twenty-four hour period (called the Horary cycle). During these periods, the corresponding organs are nourished and maintained by the Qi Ying.
It is closely related to the Blood and flows with Blood in the vessels and in the canals. Ying Qi is the Qi that is activated by inserting an acupuncture needle. It is closely related to emotions, since it can be directed by thought.
Wei Qi (protective Qi)
Wei Qi is fast moving, & ldquo; slippery & rdquo; and more Yang than the Nutritive Qi. It flows mainly under the skin and between the muscles, especially in the Tendon-Muscle meridians. Wei Qi protects the body from the attack of exogenous pathogenic factors such as adverse weather conditions, microorganisms, harmful emotions and evil spiritual forces. For example, a deficiency of Wei Qi can make someone subject to frequent colds.
There are also three Wei Qi energy fields that extend several meters from the body. All energy forms of the body, including organs, blood vessels, the nervous system, etc., are accessible and treated through these fields.
&Bull; Wei Qi warms, moistens and helps nourish the skin and muscles. For example, a person with a deficiency of defensive Qi will tend to feel easily cold.
&Bull; Wei Qi regulates the opening and closing of pores; therefore, regulating sweating and body temperature. It is controlled by the lungs, which regulates its circulation. The lungs also spread fluids to moisten the skin and muscles. These fluids mix with Wei Qi. The transpiration function depends on the ability of the lungs to circulate Wei Qi and fluids outward. A weakness of Lung Qi can cause a weakness of Wei Qi and lead to susceptibility to frequent colds.
&Bull; Deficient Wei Qi can lead to spontaneous sweating. When an exogenous pathogen (for example, Wind-Cold) invades the exterior, the pathogen can block the pores, inhibiting the function of the Wei Qi and blocking sweating. Treatment is to restore the lungs & rsquo; disperse function, strengthen the Wei Qi and produce sweating. Sweating therapy is often used in the early stages of the wind-cold pathogenic invasion.
&Bull; Defensive Qi has its roots in the Lower Burner (Kidneys). It is fed by the Middle Burner (Stomach and Spleen) and is spread outwards by the Upper Burner (Lungs).
&Bull; Wei Qi has a complex circulation pattern of 50 cycles during a 24-hour period, 25 times a day and 25 at night. During the day, Wei Qi circulates in the Outside, but at night he enters the Interior and circulates in the Yin Organs. From midnight to noon, the Wei Qi is outside and is at its maximum at noon. From noon to midnight, the Wei Qi gradually withdraws inside, to protect the Yin organs.
&Bull; It is said that sleeping at night under an open window gives exogenous pathogens a better chance of attack than during the day, since the outside of the body is less protected. Thus, it is easier to take a cold during the night than during the day.
&Bull; The Wei Qi can become denser and extends further during the practice of Qigong. Therefore, it may take more time to move inland during the night, causing some Qigong practitioners to have difficulty falling asleep after evening practice.
Vertical Qi (Zheng Qi)
Vertical Qi is also known as rectal Qi. This is not another type of Qi but a generic term to indicate the various Qi that protect the body from the invasion of Xie Qi.
Postnatal Qi (Hou Tian Zhi Qi)
Energy derived from food and drinks (from Earth) and from air (from Heaven) cultivated after birth. Postnatal Qi depends on prenatal Qi for development. Both constitute the foundation for the vital energy of the body.
Organ Qi (Zang and Fu Qi)
This is the energy responsible for the functioning of internal organs. The Yang-Fu, empty bowels, produce Qi and Blood from food and drink. Yin-Zang, solid viscera, stores vital substances. Each organ has its own energy corresponding to one of the five-element energies, which respond to universal and environmental energy fields. Thinking, feeling, metabolism and hormones can affect the Qi organ.
1. Wiseman N. English-Chinese Chinese-English dictionary of Chinese medicine. Hunan, China: Hunan publishes science and technology. 1996.
2. Maciocia, G. Foundations of Chinese Medicine. Churchill Livingstone, New York, 1989.
3. Johnson, J. A. Chinese Medical Qigong Therapy. International Institute for Medical Qigong, Pacific Grove, 2000.