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Tag Archives: what is Qi
Before any scientific investigation of Qi, the concept of Qi and its properties in Chinese philosophy must be known, in order to judge how closely any modern scientific interpretation fits.
Qi is a fundamental concept or terminology in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) with multiple levels of meanings. If you read enough in TCM, you would find that TCM seems to use “qi” to describe almost all invisible forces that affect human lives and health. More specifically, Qi can describe the invisible forces both outside and inside the human body in many different ways (1). We will introduce some of these uses here as we lay out some basic background of Qi in Chinese philosophy and culture.
Qi might have been first discussed by Chinese philosophers (2). Huai Nan Zi, a Daoist book around 122 B.C., states that the Dao originated from Emptiness and Emptiness produced the universe. The universe produced Qi. Here it was most likely referred to qi energy outside of body.
Zhang Zai (1020-1077) said that the Great Void consists of Qi. Qi condenses to become the myriad of things. He clearly understood the concept of the matter-energy continuum, in the sense of modern physics, even though these ideas were conceived centuries later. He also saw the indestructibility of matter-energy as revealed by his statement “Qi in dispersion is substance and so is it in condensation.” “Qi forms myriads of things” implies that Qi must also involve information, in modern terminology. He also said that every birth is a condensation and every death a dispersal of Qi. Thus, just as “Qi” is the energetic foundation of the universe, it is also the physical and spiritual substratum of human life. Zhu Xi (1131-1200) confirmed that Qi condensing can form beings and the conservation of energy, when he stated: “When dispersing, Qi makes the Great Void, only regaining its original misty feature, but not perishing; when condensing it becomes the origin of all beings.”
From these classic discussions (and the recent research findings to be presented later), we should say that a modern scientific explanation of Qi must involve aspects of matter, energy, and information, which remind us of the new finding in modern physics, the “hidden dimensions.” Continue reading