Cat’s opening note:

I’ve been told by some modern practitioners and TCM educators that the concept of Qi is out of date and archaic because it does not fit into the Western medical model of scientific method, double-blind studies, and empirical-only evidence. 

I think this kind of thinking is embarrassingly naive and born of hubris and a desperation for acceptance by modern medicine, a system which systematically fails its’ patients. Embracing the “no such thing as Qi” perspective strips the life and heart out of a system of medicine that has successfully treated patients as whole people for 2500+ years, replacing it with an assumptive mechanistic view of the body that discounts the human being that inhabits this body. Can I prove that Qi exists using scientific method? No. Can they prove it does not? No. 

I will therefore present the information on Qi, as I feel it is vital to take this into account when working as a healer of any variety. 


The Chinese character for Qi (which is also spelled out in English as Chi and Ki) is the character for vapor over the character for rice. Rice and vapor represents the process of cooking.

Qi-symbol-with-vapor-at-Samasati-costa-rica

Mist from the rainforest, Samasati, Costa Rica

Qi can be seen – in food via the vapor of cooking, in the human body through the vapor formed by the breath when it is cold, in the vapor and mist rising from a cloud forest. You can also smell Qi: good food smells, bad food smells, and even body odors, are all Qi smells.

Fluid-like Essence produces Qi when heat vaporizes Essence.

One excellent way to build Qi is through the practice of Qigong. Qigong can strengthen organ Qi quite well. Asthma patients can increase Lung and Kidney Qi by practicing the Six Healing Sounds of Daoism and Qigong with daily practice. During Qigong, Essence is converted into Qi.

Mingmen-CauldronThe pot in the graphic to the right represents the Lower Dantian, the core and gravitational center of the body (located about 2 finger widths below the umbilicus and in the center of the lower abdomen). The Lower Dantian is filled with Essence. The fire is the mind. The oxygen fueling the combustion energy of the fire is the lungs and the breath. Qigong requires regulation of the mind (fire), regulation of the breath (oxygen) and regulation of the physical body – represented by the oven and the pot and its contents.

Qigong is all about playing with and refining the Qi of the body which then translates into benefits to body, mind, and spirit. This is the more mystical and energetic branch of Chinese medicine. Qi is all about energy, conversion of energy into matter, and tapping into a sources greater than our own essence. There are several goals to doing or playing Qigong (and indeed that’s what a Qigong master will often ask you to do – play Qigong).

  • Transportation of the essence into qi
  • Transportation of the qi to the Shen
  • Transportation of the Shen to the Universe.
    That is the goal of Qigong: to re-combine yourself with the universe, tap into the Universal source, and save as much of the body’s energy as possible thereby staying alive and healthy longer.

Cat’s Sidebar: Too much Qigong without the supervision of a good teacher can move your mind out of your body. This is very dangerous and is playing with fire! This is called Qigong Psychosis and results in sleeplessness, hallucinations, and delusions. It’s as if the mind and body disconnect. While you really have to work at it to make this happen, I have actually seen it. It was incredibly sad. We lost a very sweet kid at school as a result. 

Certain psychoactive drugs can also cause these kinds of problems. That’s why ayahuasca is safest when used in the presence of a real deal shamanistic guide, not just some dude who read a book or went through it once.

Now that we’ve discussed the introductory matter, let’s move on to some other topics about Qi.

Difference between Essence and Qi

How they are the same, how they differ.

Types of Qi

Though everything comes from the Universal Source, it gets refined and differentiated by the body into different types of Qi.

Functions of Qi

What Qi does for the body

Movement of Qi

How Qi moves in the various healthy organ systems of the body.

Pathologies of Qi

Good stuff in here for clinicians: all the stuff that can go wrong with Qi and what that looks like in a patient.

The Minimum You Must Know About Qi

If you learn nothing else, this is the barebones information you must remember about Qi.

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