What is this Qi Stuff?
I asked my good friend and senior instructor for the WTBA and authority on Traditional Chinese Medicine, Wally Simpson to write this chapter putting forth the T.C.M. view of what Qi is. Wally has at this time one video production covering Chinese Massage and related topics. You could contact him via the WTBA should you wish to purchase the video. It is well worth a look for anyone seriously interested in T.C.M.
any of the ancient races of the world believed that the body and I y I indeed the Earth itself contain energy fields that surround and permeate them. The Indians talk of Prana, Nadis, Chakras and Kundalini, the Japanese of Ki and the Chinese of Qi, and both Chinese and Japanese speak of Channels and Collaterals and orbs of influence. The idea of Qi is fundamental to the martial arts and Traditional Chinese or Traditional Oriental Medicine in general. So what is Qi?
According to Chang Cai, "Every birth is a condensation (of Qi). Every death is a dispersal (of Qi). Birth is not a gain; Death is not a loss. When condensed, Qi becomes a living thing, when dispersed, it is the substrata of mutation".
Chang Xu stated "Man is a moment in the universal mutation. Take an embryo just conceived - this is between Heaven and Earth - If it went back immediately to its origin, it would be a still birth. If it survives it would only be for some short years (Life of humans is incredible short when compared to that of the universe). There is little difference between a short life and a long life, we are alive as a result of a mutation, we die because of a mutation."
Chu Li claimed "Life is like a loan from the universal Qi"
From the Yellow Emperors Classic of Internal Medicine comes a book called the "Su Wen" and it states^ "That which was from the beginning in Heaven is Qi. On Earth it became visible as form - Qi and Form interact giving birth to the myriad of things. Qi activates all processes of the body, the unceasing circulation of blood, the dissemination of fluids in the skin and flesh, joints and bone hollows, the lubrication of the digestive tract, sweating, urination, etc. Thus one is only able to smell if Lung Qi penetrates the nose. One can only distinguish the 5 colours if the Liver Qi penetrates the eyes. One can only taste if the Heart Qi penetrates the tongue, one can only know whether one likes or dislikes food if the Spleen Qi penetrates the mouth. The capabilities of the orifices depend on the penetration of Qi from the 5 solid organs. The channels are the pathways of the transforming action of Qi in the solid and hollow organs. So it would seem that our known Universe, in all it's manifestations, is an expression of Universal Qi."
So we can say that every thing in the Universe, organic or inorganic, is made up of and defined by its Qi. Qi however is not merely the nebular of space that condenses to become matter, nor is it merely vital energy although it is most often translated as such. According to Ted Kaptchuk in his book "The Web that has no Weaver", Chinese thought dose not distinguish between matter and energy, but perhaps views Qi as matter on the verge of becoming energy, or energy on the point of materialising. Neither the Classical nor modern Chinese texts speculate on the nature of Qi, nor do they attempt to conceptualise it. Qi is perceived functionally by what it can do.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) texts tell us that Qi is composed of force plus material (they do this because our western minds need to have some concepts to wrestle with). Material is the structural, Yin aspect, while force is the Yang aspect. Thus Qi can be likened to very fine matter that has material and nonmaterial aspects. The behaviour of Qi is analogous to the behaviour of an electron. The electron consists of a measurable mass and thus is material. However its behaviour is very much like that of energy, it has the power to split the nucleus of an atom; it has the power, because of its nature, to alter the positive and negative polarities of the atom or molecule. Therefore it is composed of material plus force.
At a seminar that I did recently on Monaka Japanese style Acupuncture, Qi was likened to Information. While the information channels remained open and flowing the body worked well, when the information became dysfunctional in any way, warning signs and symptoms appear, if the warning signs and symptoms are not addressed, disease results, if the disease is not addressed then death may occur.
When speaking in general terms about all the Qi of the body, in TCM terms it is called Zheng Qi (Upright Qi) or Zhen Qi (True Qi). This is Qi before it is differentiated into its different forms or associated with specific functions. There are 3 main sources of Zhen Qi according to TCM. When sperm and ovum combine at conception, Jing (Pre-heaven Qi or congenital Qi) is created.
Manfred Porkett in his "Theoretical Foundations of Chinese Medicine", translates Jing as "refined distilled product", it is " the structive potential of the individual. Its functions are to control growth, reproduction and development. It nourishes the internal organs and is the catalyst for many reactions and transformations in the body. It is essential for life".
The English Journal of Chinese Medicine volume 7 reflects that "The functions of Jing are many. It controls growth and development in children, the growth of bones, teeth and hair, normal brain development and sexual maturation. After puberty, it controls the reproduction function. Jing is in charge of what Western Medicine terms hormonal changes both at puberty and menopause. It also governs fertility, pregnancy, childbirth and lactation. The individual receives a definitive amount of Jing at conception, this is supplemented after birth by the Qi extracted from food, drink and air." (Jing can be maintained by correct lifestyle, eating, breathing and drinking habits.) But through out life, the quantity of Jing slowly diminishes until it is completely depleted, here death will occur.
Jing is reflected in the general vitality of an individual. It could be seen as representative of the constitution. Our basic constitution is determined by our parents Jing at conception and may be maintained or depleted after birth by our lifestyle and exposure to or lack of exposure to the environment of our world, including those elements created by nature and man. That old saying, " You are what you eat" is only partly true, " You are what you absorb" is closer to the mark.
So we can maintain Jing by correct lifestyle. One can also improve their constitution by correct lifestyle, just as one can undermine their constitution by incorrect lifestyle. This includes rigidity of thought, emotion and actions, as well as incorrect dietary habits and bad breathing patterns.
The source of Post Heaven Qi, that which is received after birth, is from what we eat, drink and breathe. The Spleen extracts Gu Qi from the food and fluids that enter our Stomach. It is said that the Spleen cooks the food and fluids in the Stomach and extracts the pure essence (nutritive part, Gu Qi) and sends it up to the Lungs. The impure part is sent down to the Intestines by the descending action of the Stomach for further refining. The extraction of Gu Qi and its journey up to the Lungs is under the control of the Spleen's Transforming and Transporting function. This Gu Qi mixes with Da Qi (Great or Big Qi, present in the air we breath, part of the Cosmic Qi) in the Lungs and creates Zong Qi, Qi of the chest. Zong Qi nourishes the organs of the chest (Heart, Lungs, in Western terms this would include the Thymus as part of the Lung function of defending against invading pathogen), promotes the function of respiration, control speech and the strength of the voice, aids the Heart to nourish the blood vessels and affect the circulation of blood to the extremities. The point Shanzhong Ren 17, located midway between the nipples on a male or young female, or on the midline level with the 4th intercostal space, maybe used to influence the Zong Qi and its functions in a positive or negative way depending on how it is dealt with, this is also the point that the great apes of Africa tend to pound with their fists as part of their preparation for battle.
Zong Qi is acted upon by Yuan Qi, this is the physiologically active component of Jing Qi, to catalyse its transformation into Zhen Qi or Zheng Qi. From here Zheng Qi divides into Yin and Yang aspects. The Yin aspect now becomes known as Ying Qi (nutritive or nourishing Qi) and is said to flow through the channels moving blood and nourishing the organs. The Yang aspect now called Wei Qi (defensive or protective Qi) flows more superficially than the Ying Qi and is said to protect the body from external pathogenic factors such as excesses of wind, cold, heat, damp, dryness, fire and traumas such as blows etc. Wei Qi regulates the body temperature by controlling the opening and closing of the skin's pores and because of its Yang nature it is warming to tissue, aggressive, fierce and superficial. Wei Qi circulates outside the vessels and is distributed in the skin and muscles. Weakness or deficiency of Wei Qi leads to excessive trauma of tissue (flesh and muscle) from blows etc or easy access for pathogenic factors. Pathogenic invasion of the body can also occur if the Wei Qi is strong, but the pathogen is stronger or very persistent. Zheng Qi in excess of the body needs is stored in the Kidneys as a supplement for Jing Qi and is used as Yuan Qi for catalytic reactions through the body.
Da Qi translates as Big Qi; this is Qi of the Cosmos that animates life in its many forms. When we breath correctly, we bring into our Lungs part of the Da Qi and it is this which joins with the Gu Qi of digestion and the Yuan Qi from the Kidneys to become Zhen Qi (true Qi of the body).
So the 3 main sources of Zhen Qi in the body can be categorised into two types: - Xian Tian Qi (Pre-Heaven Qi) called Jing and stored in the Kidneys after birth, it makes sperm and ovum and is like a reserve bank of Qi for the body to use when other sources are missing. Hou Tian Qi (Post Heaven Qi) derived from Gu Qi (Extracted by the Spleen from food and fluids) and Da Qi that is in the air we breath and extracted by the Lungs. Zhen Qi (True Qi) or Zheng Qi (Upright Qi) divide into Ying Qi (The Yin aspect of Zheng Qi which resides in the meridians and nourishes the internal organs) and Wei Qi (the Yang aspect of Zheng Qi which protects the body from external invasion and trauma).
The general functions of Qi are to Move (transportation), Transform (substances), Hold (in place), Protect (from the outside), Provide Function (of the internal organs and tissue etc) and Warm (a function of the Yang aspect). The Ying Qi while being the Yin aspect of Zheng Qi has a Yin and Yang aspect just as the Wei Qi though it is the Yang aspect of Zheng Qi has a Yin and Yang aspect. All things have a Yin and Yang, it is said that in every bit of Yang there is a little bit of Yin and in every bit of Yin there is a little bit of Yang. These two complimentary opposites are the substrata of creation and cannot exist in isolation (there must always be some of both).
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