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An Essay on Qi(氣)

The concept of Qi has been accepted as the root of universe energy. It is generally thought to have appeared in Chinese history, between about BC 1600 to 1200. Although Qi is closely connected and correlated to every life phenomenon, it principally has cosmic origin.
It is interesting to trace of the Chinese character Qi() which is a combination of two hieroglyphs. In the beginning, Qi was first expressed as a hieroglyph with a cloud meaning air (Fig.1)( ) for breathing. Another part of the character Qi showed rice or grain as the origin of nutrition for humans, animals and plants (Fig.2)(米).

Qi is ubiquitous without form, but easily  recognizable when it becomes  concrete,  embodied in things such as blowing wind, running water, circulating blood, or the feeling of pain.
Considering this background, it seems to me more understandable to classify Qi into two categories, that is, energy of macrocosmos and that of microcosmos. We may call latter “life energy” or “vital energy” for the total human being, including mind and body.

Qi, as active life force, circulates, transmits, or travels as two main types: nourishing Qi (営氣) through the bodily meridians and the lymph- and blood-vessels, and protecting Qi (衛氣) using the skin and subcutaneous tissues. This network is very similar to that of the internet system with the wires and wireless system. Any information of the human mind and body may be conveyed either by the close wired system or by the open wireless system.
Disease comes from a disturbance of harmony or flow either by excess or lack in the body’s Qi, either in an organ or tissue or in the whole human being. For example, sensory or motor disturbance in neurology, such as hyperesthesia or paralysis, may indicate disturbance of Qi flow. Therefore, mankind has an excellent transmission system for many different types information, such as pain, various types of touch, different feelings throughout the body  as well as for changing states of mind like sorrow, joy, or happiness. I think that modern science, even though it has developed nanotechnology, still much inferior to a human being in sharpness or delicacy of feeling and in the system of fine sensors in every tissue.

Yoshiro Yase
Kansai College of Oriental Medicine

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