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In English we pronounce qi 'TCHEE'. The Japanese pronounce it 'Kee'. You may often see it spelled as Chi or Ch'i.
It literally translates as air, breath, steam.
Originally derived from the Chinese character for steam rising over boiling rice, the concept is fundamental in Chinese medicine.
Translation: life force or life energy - but that implies that inanimate objects and vacuums contain none of it, which they do, because they exist.
If you are religious, might you regard it as being the ‘breath of God’, that enables the universe and everything within it to exist?
Grand Prismatic Hot Spring
© Geoffrey Kuchera
Dreamstime Stock Photos
There are an infinite number of different aspects of qi.
As regards our health, traditional Chinese medicine regarded it as being what enables life to exist within us.
With it, we live!
Without it we do not live - although what remains as our body after we die continues to be represented as matter until it changes into something else through deterioration or destruction.
The rest of this page gets a bit technical, meaning lots of Chinese words and explanations.
However, the Chinese have spent 3000 years thinking about our health and ill-health from this point of view and we should respect their ideas.
Normal qi is also called 'upright' or 'true' (Zheng) qi. It arises or is created in our bodies through the interaction of three factors:
i/ Our inherited qi (which is also called Yuan qi, Source qi or Congenital qi), is said to exist in the area between our kidneys;
ii/ Qi from food we eat (also called grain qi, or Gu qi, from the essence within food);
iii/ The qi in air we breathe.
Once created within our bodies it takes many forms of which five are important:
1/ The qi of our internal organs (zang fu). For example, heart qi, kidney qi, lung qi, stomach qi.
(The qi of each of these internal organs works in different ways.For example, in health lung qi, heart qi, kidney qi, stomach qi, large intestine qi, small intestine qi and bladder qi should all descend, spleen qi should ascend, and liver qi should ascend and enable all the others to flow smoothly. In addition, the steam and water from the Kidneys should ascend. )
For more about this flow see diagram below right.
2/ The qi that flows along the meridians or channels (jing luo), giving life to all parts of the body. See the meridian path of the Large Intestine meridian on the left. As you see, and may be surprised to read, the pathway goes nowhere near your large intestine. (Actually, it does go to your colon, but via an internal path.)
3/ Nourishing qi (Ying qi) which travels within the blood to nourish the body and all its parts
4/ The qi that defends us (wei qi), which circulates also at an outer level of the body defending it against external disease-forming factors
5/ Ancestral qi (Zhong qi). This is created in the chest and nourishes mainly the lungs and the heart.
However, qi also takes lighter or more tenuous forms, such as thoughts, ideas, and heavier, thicker forms, such as blood and bones.
In health there are checks and balances in how qi moves.
Lung qi descends and Liver qi ascends: they balance one another.
But if you get angry, more (Liver) qi ascends. You feel this as tension in your shoulders and neck, the tightening of your jaw and facial muscles, the constriction in your chest and the desire to argue, even shout - or grit your teeth!
What do you do? Either you let it out assertively or you calm yourself down by taking a few deep breaths to encourage your Lung qi to descend more strongly, so sending it all down.
If you let it out destructively, then there was no moderating counter-balance from your Lungs.
If you realised what was happening and contained the energy until dealt with constructively, then your Lung energy steadied you.
Stomach qi descends and Spleen qi ascends.
If Stomach qi fails to descend, you’ll be nauseous and won’t want to eat.
If Spleen qi fails to ascend, you’ll get diarrhoea but more than that, the essence of food won’t be sent up to nourish the ancestral (Zhong) qi in your chest.
So you’ll feel weak and perhaps breathless.
Where you are having problems often suggests which zangfu organs are acting 'wrongly'.
That can narrow down the field very quickly.
Qi problems take many forms, for example:
Qi problems cause an imbalance between yin and yang.
You could say that this entire website, indeed, all Chinese medicine, is about this imbalance.
When you visit me one of my first jobs is to assess your Qi and where there may be weaknesses.
The consultation may be short or long, but that basic diagnosis is vital if I'm to plan a good treatment.
There's no point in shortening the appointment if doing so stops me making the right diagnosis.
To book an appointment click here.
All the books in the 'Chinese Medicine in English' series should be fully accessible on Kindles and Kindle apps. (Or you can buy the softback print editions, of course.)
('Western Astrology and Chinese Medicine' published 1986, was never available in a Kindle version.)
If, having read one of my books you can write a review - preferably positive - that would help others decide whether to read it.
You can put your review on Amazon or, on this site, here.
And if you think it was terrible?
Well, let me know so I can improve it for the next person. (Ideally let me know before cursing it in public!)
Here are some of the books I (Jonathan) have written.
Subscribers to Kindle Unlimited can borrow the first four for 'free'.
Published 1986 and, amazingly, still selling. Was apparently used back then by at least one acupuncture college to help students understand Chinese medicine!
Four Reviews so far. (Despite the lurid cover, it explains the five main types of phlegm and what works best for each type. I hope it's easy to read and will be much more useful than all the websites on the subject.)
Alternatively, ring him on 07950 012501 or freephone (only free to telephone within the UK) 0800 298 7015.
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