Qi and Science

The Chinese word Qi (pronounced chee) is usually translated as 'vital energy'. This is a most appropriate translation when it comes to oriental medicine: we tend to see it as 'energy' that animates our body as opposed to 'matter' which forms our body tissues. And of course it is hard for us to conceive that energy and matter could be from the same origin.


However, our modern Quantum Physics now came to the conlusion that certain events in the world of quantum particles cannot be explained when we see particles simply as material objects. For example, during some experiments electrons start to behave like waves - they become prone to interference and difraction. One electron can simultaneously go through two distinct holes and interfere with itself! Modern physics explains this as a "wave-particle duality". It says the matter may be seen as wave, which is a form of energy.

To formalise this, Einstein came up with his famous formula: E=mc2. The meaning of it is that the potential energy of 1 m2 of matter is 90'000'000'000J, which is an enormous amount of power if it is ever released. So, it looks like energy and matter are actually one. Matter - is a trap for the energy!

Chinese philosophy

Now let us have a look at the Chinese charater for Qi. The very structure of this character already contains this duality. The "covering" part of it means "vapor" or "gas". The inner part means "cooked rice". Thus, the character refers to something immaterial and material at the same time.

In Chinese cosmogony Qi is seen as a primordial matter of the Universe. Everything is made of Qi. The Qi may be very disperse, and for us it is more like energy - light, electromagnetic waves, electric impulses, souls, spirits. More denser forms of Qi is what we call 'matter' in the West. It is something that we can touch and feel with our five senses.

The Yellow Emperor's Canon of Internal Medicine (circa 250BC) states: "When Qi is disperse it forms Heaven. When Qi is condenced - it forms the Earth". See how the galaxies are made - isn't it similar?

Life on Earth

We live on Earth. This is a place where a lot of energy is trapped in the atomic bonds to form a very dence form of Qi - the earthly matter. Life here is not so much dependent on our will. Rather, we have to obey a huge amount of laws that hold us within our physical limitations. In a way, Earth is similar to some far-away regions of Northern Siberia. It is cold here, and we have to fight all the time to survive.

However, being quite tangible and material, every creature on our planet is still suffused with all sorts of more subtle matter, given that the planets are still enveloped within the greater worlds formed from the subtle forms of Qi (see the pucture of the galaxy again).

This more subtle matter that we can only define as "energy" is a building material from which the subtle structures of our bodies are made. We cannot perceive these structures through our five earthly senses, because our five senses belong to the most gross "physical" realm, and their spectrum of perception is extremely limited.

Furthermore, this "subtle matter" despite of constantly being produced and transformed by our bodies, does not accumulate in our system just by itself. The "subtle matter" however may be accumulated in the body counsciously and systematically, using certain practices and exercises, performed regularly.

Chinese Qigong is but one type of this exercise. Building up our Qi, just like we can build up our muscles, we are able to access subtle realms of the Universe and act from them, thus surpassing some of our physical limitations.