By Nik Fairuz Hakim bin Nik Omar, D.Ac., M.Ac
Qi or 'chi' is the 'life energy' and is one of the most fundamental concepts of Chinese thinking. It is described as a basis of every living and non-living entity of “Brahmand” (Cosmos). Its nearest equivalent in Hindu philosophy is 'prana' while in homeopathic medical system, it is known as 'vital force.
Biology explains functions of the human body on the basis of biochemical reactions. It explains the physiological processes from fertilisation till death. What it fails to answer are certain basis questions such as: Why should sperm fertilise ovum? What triggers one sperm out of billions to fertilise a single ovum? What is death? Why should the heart stop functioning in an otherwise healthy individual of even 90 to 100 years?
The character of qi denotes a dynamic essence characterized by both substance and function. For example 'clean qi, turbid qi, and the qi transformed from the essence of food are substantial qi, while the qi of the heart, liver, spleen, kidney, stomach, and the qi of the channels and collaterals are functional qi.
Growth of plants, thinking processes of man and the thunder of a storm are all due to qi, which cannot be measured by any analytical method. It is non-material.
Qi means the inner power of healing found in the human beings. It is dynamics in nature, the qi is the power of reaction which liberated by the body to neutralize the inimical force liberated by the natural and artificial influences and agents inside and outside the human organism. Had this power of healing and reaction not been present the living being could not resist the onslaughts of inimical nature and life would have been impossible as it is at present.
Qi activates all processes of the body, ' the unceasing circulation of the blood, the dissemination of fluid in skin and flesh, joints and bone-hollows, the lubrication of the digestive tract, sweating, urination, etc' In Chinese treatises on acupuncture the effect of pricking the skin with a needle is called 'obtaining the qi'. If the needle fails to obtain the qi, the acupuncture treatment in considered as a failure.
Qi controls both the Universe and the human body. Man and Universe are formed on the same principle. Man is Microcosm, Universe is Macrocosm.
Qi in the human body is called 'true qi' and is created by breathing and eating. The qi inhaled from the air is extracted by the lung, and the qi in the food and water by the stomach and its associated organ, the spleen.
If qi is disturbed disease occur, if qi is balance life physically and mentally are normal.
Qi is the main factor in health and disease.
" True qi is the original qi. Qi from heaven is received through the nose and controlled by the wind-pipe: Qi from food and water enters the stomach and is controlled by the gullet. That which nourishes the unborn is the qi or former heaven ( pre-natal) ; that which fill the born is called the qi of the latter heaven ( post-natal)."
-From Zhangshi Leijing.
The classification of qi in the human body varies with its distribution, origin and function.
1. Primary Qi ( yuan qi)
Primary qi is the most important and fundamental qi originating from the congenital essence. It is nourished and replenished by the fundamental substance of food after birth. Primary qi is also known as the qi of the kidney, and is distributed to the whole body via Sanjiao functions. It arouses and promotes the activities of zang-fu organs and tissue. If primary qi congenitally deficient or exhausted due to chronic diseases, then the various pathological changes will occur.
2. Aggregative Qi ( zong qi )
This is the combination of inhaled clean qi through the lung with the fundamental substance qi of the food digested and absorbed by the stomach and spleen. Aggregative qi is accumulated in the chest and has the function of nourishing the lung and heart, thus promoting respiration and blood circulation.
3. Nutrient Q ( ying qi )
Nutrient qi originates from the essential substance of food transformed by the spleen and stomach. It is the component part of blood flowing throughout the body. The Su Wen states ,' Nutrient qi is actually the essential qi transformed from food and water.'
While in the Langshu it is states, ' The nutrient qi is secreted by the body fluid, circulates in the blood vessels and is transformed into blood to nourish the four extremities, the five zang and six fu organs'
4. Defensive Qi ( wei qi )
Defensive qi is mainly derived from the essential substances of food and water which form a part of the human body's yang qi. It circulates outside the vessels mainly spreading through the muscles and skin. Its physiological functions are ( i ) defending the body surface against the invasion of exogenous pathogenic factors ( ii) warming and nourishing the tissues and organs and ( iii) adjusting the opening and closing of the pores.
Qi is continuously flowing in the body, along the meridian complex. This continuously flow of qi is systematic and not erratic. Qi has two components, Yin and Yang
Yin and Yang
Primordial chaos resulted Yin and Yang. They are dynamically opposite yet harmonizing energies. This harmony brings about a balanced state of the universe. Any upset in this balance results in floods, earthquakes and other natural calamities, and disease in living organisms.
Yin signifies that which is female, passive, dark, cold, moist, proceeds from without inwards to the centre (centripetal), negative or deficient in Yang.
Yang signifies that which is male, light, active, warm. Dry, radiates from within outwards (centrifugal), positive or deficient in Yin.
Nothing is absolutely Yin or Yang. Yang always contains some part of Yin and Yin contains some part of Yang. A classical example of this is man himself. Man is a product of two primary elements, Yang (Father) and Yin (mother). Hence he contains qualities of both.
In health, Yin and Yang are in perfect balance but the polarity of energy is interchangeable. When one principle becomes dominant at the expense of the other, disease ensues. Correction of this imbalance is achieved by needling of selected acupuncture points.