Qi


Qi
Qi (Ch'i)
Qi 3 forms.jpg
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese
Simplified Chinese
Japanese name
Hiragana
Kyūjitai
Shinjitai
Korean name
Hangul
Hanja
Thai name
Thai ชี่
RTGS Chi
Vietnamese name
Quốc ngữ khí

In traditional Chinese culture, (also chi or ch'i) is an active principle forming part of any living thing.[1][2][3] Qi is frequently translated as life energy, lifeforce, or energy flow. Qi is the central underlying principle in traditional Chinese medicine and martial arts. The literal translation of "qi" is breath, air, or gas.

Concepts similar to qi can be found in many cultures, for example, Prana in Vedantic philosophy, mana in Hawaiian culture, Lüng in Tibetan Buddhism, and Vital energy in Western philosophy. Some elements of qi can be understood in the term energy when used by writers and practitioners of various esoteric forms of spirituality and alternative medicine. Elements of the qi concept can also be found in popular culture, for example The Force in Star Wars.[4] Notions in the west of energeia, élan vital, or vitalism are purported to be similar.[5]

Contents

Term and character

The etymological explanation for the form of the qi logogram in the traditional form is “steam () rising from rice () as it cooks”. The earliest way of writing qi consisted of three wavy lines, used to represent one's breath seen on a cold day. A later version, 气, identical to the present-day simplified character, is a stylized version of those same three lines. For some reason, early writers of Chinese found it desirable to substitute for 气 a cognate character that originally meant to feed other people in a social context such as providing food for guests.[citation needed] Appropriately, that character combined the three-line qi character with the character for rice. So 气 plus 米 formed 氣, and that is the traditional character still used today (the oracle bone character, the seal script character and the modern "school standard" or Kǎi shū characters in the box at the right show three stages of the evolution of this character).[6]

Traditional Chinese character qì, also used in Korean hanja. In Japanese kanji, this character was used until 1946, when it was changed to .

Definition

References to concepts analogous to the qi taken to be the life-process or flow of energy that sustains living beings are found in many belief systems, especially in Asia. Philosophical conceptions of qi from the earliest records of Chinese philosophy (5th century BC) correspond to Western notions of humours and the ancient Hindu yogic concept of prana, meaning "life force" in Sanskrit. The earliest description of "force" in the current sense of vital energy is found in the Vedas of ancient India (circa 1500-1000BC),[7] and from the writings of the Chinese philosopher Mencius (4th century BC). Historically, it is the Huangdi Neijing translated as, The Yellow Emperor's Classic of Medicine (circa 2nd century BC) that is credited with first establishing the pathways through which qi circulates in the human body.[8][9]

Within the framework of Chinese thought, no notion may attain such a degree of abstraction from empirical data as to correspond perfectly to one of our modern universal concepts. Nevertheless, the term qi comes as close as possible to constituting a generic designation equivalent to our word "energy". When Chinese thinkers are unwilling or unable to fix the quality of an energetic phenomenon, the character qi (氣) inevitably flows from their brushes.[10]

—Manfred Porkert

The ancient Chinese described it as "life-force". They believed qi permeated everything and linked their surroundings together. They likened it to the flow of energy around and through the body, forming a cohesive and functioning unit. By understanding its rhythm and flow they believed they could guide exercises and treatments to provide stability and longevity.

Although the concept of qi has been important within many Chinese philosophies, over the centuries the descriptions of qi have varied and have sometimes been in conflict. Until China came into contact with Western scientific and philosophical ideas, they had not categorized all things in terms of matter and energy. Qi and li (理, li, pattern) were 'fundamental' categories similar to matter and energy.

Hand written calligraphic Qi.

Fairly early on, some Chinese thinkers began to believe that there were different fractions of qi and that the coarsest and heaviest fractions of qi formed solids, lighter fractions formed liquids, and the most ethereal fractions were the "lifebreath" that animates living beings.[11]

Yuán qì is a notion of innate or pre-natal qi to distinguish it from acquired qi that a person may develop over the course of their lifetime.

Pronunciation

Other spellings include in simplified Chinese: ; traditional Chinese: ; Mandarin Pinyin: ; Wade–Giles: ch'i; Jyutping: hei. Qi is pronounced /ˈtʃiː/ in English and [tɕʰî] in Standard Chinese; Korean: gi; Japanese: ki; Vietnamese: khí, pronounced [xǐ]) The approximate English pronunciation of qi, similar to "chee" in cheese, should also be distinguished from the pronunciation of the Greek letter chi, which has a hard c sound, like "c" in car, and a long i, similar to other Greek letters phi, psi, xi.

Early philosophical texts

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The earliest texts that speak of qi give some indications of how the concept developed. The philosopher Mo Di used the word qi to refer to noxious vapors that would in due time arise from a corpse were it not buried at a sufficient depth.[12] He reported that early civilized humans learned how to live in houses to protect their qi from the moisture that had troubled them when they lived in caves.[13] He also associated maintaining one's qi with providing oneself adequate nutrition.[14] In regard to another kind of qi, he recorded how some people performed a kind of prognostication by observing the qi (clouds) in the sky.[15]

In the Analects of Confucius, compiled from the notes of his students sometime after his death in 479 B.C., qi could mean breath,[16] and combining it with the Chinese word for blood (making 血氣, xue-qi, blood and breath), the concept could be used to account for motivational characteristics.

The [morally] noble man guards himself against three things. When he is young, his xue-qi has not yet stabilized, so he guards himself against sexual passion. When he reaches his prime, his xue-qi is not easily subdued, so he guards himself against combativeness. When he reaches old age, his xue-qi is already depleted, so he guards himself against acquisitiveness.

—Confucius, Analects, 16:7

Mencius described a kind of qi that might be characterized as an individual's vital energies. This qi was necessary to activity, and it could be controlled by a well-integrated willpower.[17] When properly nurtured, this qi was said to be capable of extending beyond the human body to reach throughout the universe.[17] It could also be augmented by means of careful exercise of one's moral capacities.[17] On the other hand, the qi of an individual could be degraded by averse external forces that succeed in operating on that individual.[18]

Not only human beings and animals were believed to have qi. Zhuangzi indicated that wind is the qi of the Earth.[19] Moreover, cosmic yin and yang "are the greatest of qi."[20] He described qi as "issuing forth" and creating profound effects.[21] He said "Human beings are born [because of] the accumulation of qi. When it accumulates there is life. When it dissipates there is death... There is one qi that connects and pervades everything in the world."[22]

Another passage traces life to intercourse between Heaven and Earth: "The highest Yin is the most restrained. The highest Yang is the most exuberant. The restrained comes forth from Heaven. The exuberant issues forth from Earth. The two intertwine and penetrate forming a harmony, and [as a result] things are born."[23]

"The Guanzi essay 'Neiye' 內業 (Inward training) is the oldest received writing on the subject of the cultivation of vapor [qi] and meditation techniques. The essay was probably composed at the Jixia Academy in Qi in the late fourth century B.C."[24]

Xun Zi, another Confucian scholar of the Jixia Academy, followed in later years. At 9:69/127, Xun Zi says, "Fire and water have qi but do not have life. Grasses and trees have life but do not have perceptivity. Fowl and beasts have perceptivity but do not have yi (sense of right and wrong, duty, justice). Men have qi, life, perceptivity, and yi." Chinese people at such an early time had no concept of radiant energy, but they were aware that one can be heated by a campfire from a distance away from the fire. They accounted for this phenomenon by claiming "qi" radiated from fire. At 18:62/122, he too uses "qi" to refer to the vital forces of the body that decline with advanced age.

Among the animals, the gibbon and the crane were considered experts in inhaling the qi. The Confucian scholar Dong Zhongshu (ca. 150 BC) wrote in Luxuriant Dew of the Spring and Autumn Annals:[25] "The gibbon resembles a macaque, but he is larger, and his color is black. His forearms being long, he lives eight hundred years, because he is expert in controlling his breathing." ("猿似猴。大而黑。长前臂。所以寿八百。好引气也。")

Later, the syncretic text assembled under the direction of Liu An, the Huai Nan Zi, or "Masters of Huainan", has a passage that presages most of what is given greater detail by the Neo-Confucians:

Heaven (seen here as the ultimate source of all being) falls (duo 墮, i.e., descends into proto-immanence) as the formless. Fleeting, fluttering, penetrating, amorphous it is, and so it is called the Supreme Luminary. The dao begins in the Void Brightening. The Void Brightening produces the universe (yu-zhou ). The universe produces qi. Qi has bounds. The clear, yang [qi] was ethereal and so formed heaven. The heavy, turbid [qi] was congealed and impeded and so formed earth. The conjunction of the clear, yang [qi] was fluid and easy. The conjunction of the heavy, turbid [qi] was strained and difficult. So heaven was formed first and earth was made fast later. The pervading essence (xi-jing) of heaven and earth becomes yin and yang. The concentrated (zhuan) essences of yin and yang become the four seasons. The dispersed (san) essences of the four seasons become the myriad creatures. The hot qi of yang in accumulating produces fire. The essence (jing) of the fire-qi becomes the sun. The cold qi of yin in accumulating produces water. The essence of the water-qi becomes the moon. The essences produced by coitus (yin) of the sun and moon become the stars and celestial markpoints (chen, planets).
—Huai-nan-zi, 3:1a/19

Traditional Chinese medicine

Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) asserts that the body has natural patterns of qi that circulate in channels called meridians.[26] In TCM, symptoms of various illnesses are believed to be the product of disrupted, blocked, or unbalanced qi movement through the body's meridians, as well as deficiencies or imbalances of qi in the Zang Fu organs.[27] Traditional Chinese medicine often seeks to relieve these imbalances by adjusting the circulation of qi using a variety of techniques including herbology, food therapy, physical training regimens (qigong, t'ai chi ch'uan, and other martial arts training),[28] moxibustion, tui na, and acupuncture.[29]

Scientific investigation

There have been a number of studies of qi, especially in the sense used by traditional Chinese medicine and acupuncture. These studies have often been problematic, and are hard to compare to each other, as they lack a common nomenclature.[30] Some studies claim to have been able to measure qi, or the effects of manipulating qi, such as through acupuncture[citation needed], but the proposed existence of qi has been rejected by the scientific community.

A United States National Institutes of Health consensus statement on acupuncture in 1997 noted that concepts such as qi "are difficult to reconcile with contemporary biomedical information."[31] In 2007 the MD Anderson Cancer Center at the University of Texas published an article [32] covering the concepts by which qi is believed to work and research into possible benefits for cancer patients. A review[33] of clinical trials investigating the use of internal qigong for pain management found no convincing evidence that it was effective.

Feng shui

The traditional Chinese art of geomancy, the placement and arrangement of space called feng shui, is based on calculating the balance of qi, interactions between the five elements, yin and yang and other factors. The retention or dissipation of qi is believed to affect the health, wealth, energy level, luck and many other aspects of the occupants of the space. Attributes of each item in a space affect the flow of qi by slowing it down, redirecting it or accelerating it, which is said to influence the energy level of the occupants.

One use for a Luopan is to detect the flow of qi.[34] The quality of qi may rise and fall over time, feng shui with a compass might be considered a form of divination that assesses the quality of the local environment.

Martial arts

Qi is a didactic concept in many Chinese, Korean and Japanese martial arts. Martial qigong is a feature of both internal and external training systems in China[35] and other East Asian cultures.[36] The most notable of the qi-focused "internal" force (jin) martial arts are Baguazhang, Xing Yi Quan, T'ai Chi Ch'uan, Snake Kung Fu, Dragon Kung Fu, Lion Kung Fu, Aikido, Aikijujutsu, Kyudo, Hapkido, jian and katana swordplay, Lohan Chuan, Shaolin Kung Fu, Liu He Ba Fa, Buddhist Fist, and some forms of Karate and Silat.

Demonstrations of qi or ki power are popular in some martial arts and may include the immovable body, the unraisable body, the unbendable arm and other feats of power. All of these feats can alternatively be explained using biomechanics and physics.[37][38]

See also

References

  1. ^ DENG Yu et al,Ration of Qi with Modern Essential on Traditional Chinese Medicine Qi: Qi Set, Qi Element, JOURNAL OF MATHEMATICAL MEDICINE (Chinese), 2003, 16(4)
  2. ^ Ho, Peng Yoke (Oct 2000). Li, Qi, and Shu: An Introduction to Science and Civilization in China. Dover Publications. ISBN 0486414450. 
  3. ^ Frantzis, Bruce Kumar (2008). The Chi Revolution: Harnessing the Healing Power of Your Life Force. Blue Snake Books. ISBN 1583941932. 
  4. ^ Porter, John A. (2003). The Tao of Star Wars. Humanics Trade Group. ISBN 978-0-89334-385-9. 
  5. ^ *Sachs, Joe (2005), "Aristotle: Motion and its Place in Nature", Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, http://www.iep.utm.edu/aris-mot/ 
  6. ^ See p. 804f of Gao Shufan's "Xing, Yin, Yi Zonghe Da Zidian", Zhong Zheng Shuju, Taipei, 1984
  7. ^ Avari, Burjor (2007), India: The Ancient Past, London: Routledge
  8. ^ DENG Yu, ZHU Shuanli, Deng Hai, Generalized Quanta Wave with Qi on Traditional Chinese Medecine, JOURNAL OF MATHEMATICAL MEDICINE, 2002, 15(4)
  9. ^ Ni Maoshing, (1995), The Yellow Emperor's Classic of Medicine, Shambhala Publications, Boston MA
  10. ^ Porkert, Manfred (1974). The Theoretical Foundations of Chinese Medicine: Systems of Correspondence. MIT Press. ISBN 0262160587. OCLC 123145357. 
  11. ^ Definitions and brief historical notes on such concepts can be found in Wei Zhengtong's "Zhong Guo Zhexue Cidian", Da Lin Publishing Company, Taipei, 1977.
  12. ^ Mo Zi, chapter 25, 84/86ths of the way through
  13. ^ Mo Zi, 21:17/19
  14. ^ Mo Zi, 21:5/19 and 6:22/40
  15. ^ Mo Zi, 68:7/23 and 70:98/139
  16. ^ Analects, 10:3
  17. ^ a b c Mencius, 2A:2
  18. ^ Mencius, 6A:8
  19. ^ Zhuang Zi, 2:4/96
  20. ^ Zhuang Zi, 25:67/82
  21. ^ Zhuang Zi, 23:5/79
  22. ^ Zhuang Zi, 22:11/84
  23. ^ Zhuang Zi, 21:7/70
  24. ^ Harper, Donald; Michael Loewe and Edward L. Shaughnessy (1999/2007). The Cambridge History of Ancient China: From the Origins of Civilization to 221 BC.. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press. pp. 880. ISBN 9780521470308. http://books.google.com/?id=cHA7Ey0-pbEC&dq=cambridge++history+of+ancient+china&printsec=frontcover&q=. 
  25. ^ Robert van Gulik, The gibbon in China. An essay in Chinese animal lore. E.J.Brill, Leiden, Holland. (1967). Page 38
  26. ^ Denis Lawson-Wood and Joyce Lawson-Wood, Acupuncture Handbook, Health Science Press, 1964, pp. 4, 133.
  27. ^ Lawson-Wood, p. 4 and throughout the book.
  28. ^ Wu, Kung-tsao (1980, 2006). Wu Family T'ai Chi Ch'uan (吳家太極拳). Chien-ch’uan T’ai-chi Ch’uan Association. ISBN 0-9780499-0-X. 
  29. ^ Lawson-Wood, p. 78f.
  30. ^ White Peter, Golianu Brenda, Zaslawski Chris, Seung-HoonChoi (2006). "Standardization of Nomenclature in Acupuncture Research (SoNAR)". Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine 4 (2): 267–270. doi:10.1093/ecam/nel095. http://ecam.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/4/2/267. 
  31. ^ "Acupuncture: National Institutes of Health Consensus Development Conference Statement". National Institutes of Health. 3- 5November 1997. http://consensus.nih.gov/1997/1997Acupuncture107html.htm. Retrieved 2007-01-15. 
  32. ^ Energy Medicines Will East Meet West
  33. ^ [1] Lee MS, Pittler MH, Ernst E. Internal qigong for pain conditions: a systematic review. Journal of Pain.2009;10(11):1121-1127
  34. ^ Field, Stephen L. (1998). Qimancy: The Art and Science of Fengshui.
  35. ^ Wile, Douglas (1995). Lost T'ai-chi Classics from the Late Ch'ing Dynasty (Chinese Philosophy and Culture). State University of New York Press. ISBN 978-0791426548. OCLC 34546989. 
  36. ^ Bishop, Mark (1989). Okinawan Karate: Teachers, Styles and Secret Techniques. A&C Black, London. ISBN 0713656662. OCLC 19262983. 
  37. ^ Daniel A. James, "Unraisable body: The physics of martial arts", Sports Health, Autumn 2004, Sports Medicine Australia, Canberra
  38. ^ Moore, John. "What is Chi?". Maine Martial Arts. Kongo Tatsu Kai. http://mainemartialarts.com/martial-arts-philosophy/what-is-chi/. Retrieved 13 June 2011. 

Further reading

  • Wright, Thomas; Eisenberg, David (1995). Encounters with Qi: Exploring Chinese medicine. New York: Norton. ISBN 0393312135. OCLC 32998368. 
  • Porkert, Manfred (1974). The theoretical foundations of Chinese medicine: Systems of correspondence. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press. ISBN 0-262-16058-7. OCLC 123145357. 

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