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The Definition of "Qi"
By: Diane Joswick, L.Ac., MSOM
Qi (pronounced "chee") can be defined as the "force" or "vital substance" that animates and controls the observable functions of living beings. The basic foundation for Asian medicine is that this vital substance flows through the body on channels known as "meridians" that connect all of our major organs.

According to Chinese medical theory, illness arises when the cyclical flow of Qi in the meridians becomes unbalanced or blocked. The basis of acupuncture is expressed in this famous Chinese saying:

"Bu tong ze tong, tong ze bu tong," which means, "free flow: no pain, no free flow: pain."

In other words, any kind of pain or illness represents an obstruction in the normal flow of Qi or life force. Simply put, acupuncture moves Qi, restoring free flow.

Similar concepts in other cultures
The concept of a life-energy inherent in all living beings seems to be a fairly universal archetype, and appears in numerous ancient religions and systems of metaphysics (in addition to having been borrowed by George Lucas's science-fiction films – the force).

Analogies to numina in other societies include:
  • Polynesian mythology: mana
  • Egyptian mythology: ka
  • Greek mythology: pneuma
  • Hebrew mythology: ruah
  • Inuit mythology: inua, sila
  • Norse mythology: seid
  • Druidry: awen
  • Yoruba mythology: oloddumare
  • Hindu philosophy: prana
Also related are the philosophical concepts of:
  • European alchemy and philosophy: aether (ether), quintessence
  • Hindu philosophy: prana