What is Qi?

Qi is not an easy phenomenon to translate! In English it is often translated as ‘Energy’, though this is not entirely accurate as the Chinese language can be interpreted in many different ways depending on the context the character is used.

To begin to explain, it is useful to look at how, within Chinese philosophy, there is no problem with a ‘thing’ and ‘no-thing’ being the same thing! So we could look at Qi as the fundamental material of the Universe (‘thing’) as well as being an invisible, intangible force connecting everything (‘no-thing’); the functional process or activity of something, as well as the thing itself.

So we can view Qi in terms of movement and change, or the process and evolution something goes through. The universe and everything in it, including the human mind and body, is in a constant flux of development and transformation, expressing its self at different rates. These movements can be seen in the cycles of time; the passing of seasons and the cycles of the moon or solar system.

In the human body, for example, the Heart organ is a physical ‘thing’ made of connective tissues, vessels and fibres, but the functional activity of the Heart and the conversion process that goes through (‘no-thing’);. pumping Blood around the body to provide oxygen and nutrients and carry away waste, are the same thing. This is Qi. The physical manifestation (‘Heart’) cannot exist without the transformation (‘blood flow’) and vice versa. .

When we treat Qi with acupuncture we are treating the conversion or mechanic that takes place behind a process. With patients I liken this to an electronic motherboard, with a huge number of connections, memory, information and processes. If one of the links to the motherboard are not communicating properly, the whole system breaks down. So we “wake up” the connection that has stopped doing its job properly, in order to get the whole organization back in harmony with itself. .


Helen Meacham