What is Qi?

I’m going to give you guys some history on how the idea and character of Qi or life force first appeared in ancient China and why it’s so important in medicine. The most ancient finding was in the Shang Dynasty (1600-1028 BC) in oracle bones of turtle shells (fig.1).

Then it was found again in bronze inscriptions as three horizontal lines in the Zhou Dynasty (1028-22 BC) depicting “a mist that rises from the earth in order to form clouds.” It was also used to describe “the heat waves that rise from the heated surface of the earth” and most recently used to describe “the exhaled breath that can be seen on a cold day.” If you guys are interested in reading more about the history of this complex subject, I would recommend the book A Brief History of Qi by Zhang Yu Huan and Ken Rose.

In traditional Chinese medical diagnosis, Qi or life force is used to understand the internal transformation of the body’s energy and this idea came about because ancient Chinese medicine masters realized that there was a substance that runs throughout everything and connects us all in the earth and the universe. In more recent years the psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Carl Jung talks about this force and he called it “the collective unconscious.” This collective unconscious is when every experience or memory in every human psyche is being shared unconsciously with everyone. A good analogy I use to explain this concept to people is that Qi is like the current of the river, you don’t see what is moving the water but you can clearly see that the water moves in one direction most of the time. When this current is not disturbed it creates a whole ecosystem of living beings surviving because of the movement of the river. If you barricade the river, the water that gets stagnant and all the beings suffer because of this lack of movement.

What I explained about the river’s current being stagnant affecting the living beings that thrive because of the current and the movement of water is what happens in a small scale within out bodies. When you have a trauma in your body, this affects the flow of energy that is circulating through your body. That’s why sometimes when you have had an injury ten years ago and now for some odd reason that area has an ache or the areas surrounding it do as well. This is because of the idea of the trauma being like a barricade in your body’s energetic circulation. An acupuncturist look for all these dams in your body through palpating the channels or meridians, which are basically the energetic system of the body starting with the breath (the lungs), traveling through the organs and energetic channels of the body. We have other ways on finding all these stagnant areas through pulse, tongue diagnosis and following the symptoms of the patients. To us it is really important that patients share their story and the symptoms that they are experiencing because this could tell us where we need to start looking. The first substance that gets affected in a trauma is Qi, and if this is not fixed the lack of energetic circulation will affect the blood creating poor circulation through the body. This concept is overlooked because it can’t be measured, but this concept of energy, vibes or frequency it’s talked about all over the world and it affects us so deeply.

” If you align with the Qi within your body, you’ll live longer.”

Qi can be material like water and also substance like air. It is believed that all physical transformations happens through the guide and the influence of Qi.

Taoist alchemy disciples traditionally taught that Qi is the materialization of an original energy call Yuan Qi. The materialization of these energies is as follows in Fig.2.

According to the Tao Te Ching, a classic text on both philosophical and religious Taoism which also strongly influenced other schools of Chinese Philosophy like Legalism, Confucianism and Buddhism. In the Tao Te Ching, it is said: “Within the entire universe, there is but one Primordial Breath (Yuan Qi). It is from this inexhaustible reservoir, that all things derive their existence.” The laws of physics have demonstrated that matter and energy are interchangeable, therefore the matter is simply another form of energy. Energy is constantly vibrating in the form of particles or wave forms and it creates matter this way.

There are two vital shapes of Qi. The vortex and wave. The vortex is a sucking, sinking or rising energy, and the wave is a moving flow in a constant motion. There are two types of vortexes in nature, the yang and yin vortexes that compliment and oppose each other. They have aspects that are crucial to nature development and our physical and emotional development as well. In the next blog I’ll be talking the substances that acupuncturists look for in the diagnosis, I’ll include the medical application of yin and yang as well.

See you next time! Stay tuned!

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