The concept of Qi

When people talk about traditional Chinese medicine, the term “Qi” is always mentioned. Qi is an important concept of ancient Chinese philosophy.

As the concept of philosophy, Qi is the origin of the universe. The cloud, the rain and the wind are the changes of Qi. The seasons are the changes of Qi. Plants, animals, and humans are the changes of Qi. The physical body is the aggregation of Qi. Zhuang Zi, a Chinese philosopher who lived between the 4th century and the 3rd century BC, once said, “The birth of a human is from the aggregation of Qi. The aggregation of Qi means life, and the disintegration of Qi means death.”

Because everything can be explained with the concept of Qi, the functions of organs are regarded as the changes of Qi in traditional Chinese medicine. Organs are the physical form of Qi, while functions of the organs are the impalpable form of Qi. Qi and blood had already been regarded as the most important substances of a human body before the theory of the meridian system was established.

The concepts of Heart-Qi, Liver-Qi, Spleen-Qi, Lung-Qi, and Kidney-Qi show ancient Chinese people’s understanding about the functions of internal organs. Substances are the carriers of functions. After we eat food, the food is digested and transformed into the Qi of organs.

In the nature, there are six kinds of pathogenic factors which are called pathogenic-Qi. They are wind, cold, summer-heat, dampness, dryness, and fire. Fire is also called heat, while summer-heat is a special form of heat that may be mixed with dampness.

The immunity of a human is called healthy-Qi or protective-Qi. It is active on the skin. The Qi that stays within blood is called nutrient-Qi.

In the 17th century, a Chinese doctor named Wu Youxing thought that the pathogenic factor of deadly infectious diseases was a different kind of Qi. It is different from six kinds of pathogenic factors in traditional theory. It invades the human body through mouth and nose, instead of skin.

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