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  Traditional Acupuncture
       Qi        Yin/Yang        Five Elements        Channels        Points
       Diagnosis        Zang-Fu Organs        Chinese Syndromes
  QI Next   Back to Top
The concept of Qi (sometimes spelled "Chi", pronounced "chee") is a central concept in Tao teaching that lays the foundation of Chinese Medical thought and acupuncture.
Qi is commonly interpreted as the vital energy that gives life to all living matter. There is nothing comparable in allopathic (conventional Western) medicine. While human physiology in allopathic medicine is organized according to specialized function, Chinese medicine is more concerned with the dynamics of the interrelationships, especially the patterns of vital energy.

  More about Qi Next   Back to Top

"There is no place that Qi is not."
The Nei Jing - The Yellow Emperor's Classic of Internal Medicine; circa 200 BC

The meaning of Qi (Chee) in Chinese medicine is very difficult to translate. In the West, it is often interpreted in simplified form as "life-force" and associated with such definitions as energy.
One of the reasons it is so difficult to translate correctly lies in the fact that Qi can mean and be different things in different circumstances at different times.

This is best explained by understanding the Chinese character for the word Qi:

The symbol for Qi is made up of two characters:
which symbolizes 'steam' or 'vapor' and
which represents 'uncooked rice'.

This brings the image of "a steam raising over the bowl of rise" so frequently used by Tai Chi instructors and Chi Gong masters, which they ask their students to visualize. (It is surprisingly close to "a pie from the oven": the commonly used metaphor adopted in western professional sport to describe an athlete's peak of the psycho-physical condition and performance.)

This illustrates that Qi can be both ethereal like vapor and dense or solid like uncooked rice.

Thus in Chinese medicine Qi often refers to the functional activity of the internal organs as well as such definitions as life-force or energy (these are symbolised by the "steam" aspect of the Chinese character for Qi).
It can also refer to the more material aspects of the body such as the nutrition we receive from food and the oxygen we receive from air (these in comparison are more symbolized by the "uncooked rice" aspect of the Chinese character for Qi).

The functions of Qi
The main functions of Qi are generally defined as:
- Impulsing: the growth and development of the body,
- Warming: the maintaining of appropriate body heat,
- Defending: against stresses and pathogens,
- Controlling: the Blood and Body fluids,
- Transforming: metabolizing Qi, Blood and Body fluids.

The forms of Qi
Although the Western medical model does not recognize Qi concept, it is possible to view this ancient Chinese tradition through contemporary eyes.

For example, consider the
Three principal Forms of Qi:
- Yuan Qi = Original Energy
- It is one's inherited vitality or constitutional charge.
- The precursor of all other Qi activity in the body expressed through growth, development, reproduction, transformation and senescence
- It is the genetic component, what we know today as the DNA

- Wei Qi = Defensive Energy
- It is the energy that protects the body from pathogens (viral, bacterial or toxins) and from harmful environment
- It is what we call today the immune system

- Zhon Qi = Nourishing Energy
- It refers to the circulatory system where the heart is pumping the blood to the rest of the body to deliver nourishment
- It refers to the respiratory system where the blood absorbs oxygen from the lungs
- It elude to the digestive system, where foods are converted to basic nutrients that can be absorbed into the blood stream

There is terminological inconsistency in the description of the forms of Qi that reflects discrepancy in the teachings of different schools of TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine).

According to some sources, TCM defines the

Five Main Forms of Qi Energy:

- Qi (Matter-Energy): The vital energy of every living organism and the source of all movement and change in the universe.
- Xue (Blood): Not only the fluid that circulates in the vascular system, but also the Qi within that fluid that vitalizes its nourishing function as well as its flow. Qi and Xue have mutually interdependent functions.
- Jing (Essence): The Essential energy of all living organisms which is derived both from the energy we inherit from our parents and from the energy we acquire in our daily lives, principally from air and food.
- Shen (Spirit): The material/non-material mental-emotional-motivational aspect of consciousness that is stored in the Heart. (Heart is capitalized to remind that we are referring to the Chinese concept of Heart, not the Western, which views the organ as simply a pump. The Chinese Heart has many other functions including the seat of the Shen. Other organs and organ systems are capitalized to further illustrate this distinction.
- Jin Ye (Body Fluids): The functional secretions of the body, including tears, sweat, saliva, milk, mucus, hydrochloric acid and genital secretions. Jin are the lighter, purer and more yang fluids which, via the Lung, moisten and nourish the skin and muscles; Ye are the denser, more yin fluids which are processed in the Spleen and Stomach to moisten and nourish the Zang Fu (internal organs), bones, brain and orifices (mucus for sensory orifices and others).

Some other sources utilize different terminology:

- Yuan Qi (Original Qi)
- Gu Qi (Food Qi)
- Zong Qi (Gathering Qi)
- Zhen Qi (True Qi)
that consists of
Ying Qi (Nutritive Qi) and Wei Qi (Protective Qi)
- Zhong Qi (Central Qi)
- Zheng Qi (Upright Qi)

To make matters even more confusing look at the revue of literature:
Definitions of Qi, Jing, and Shen.

Despite the terminological complexity, the fundamental concept of Qi presents the system that looks at the totality of our being in all aspects; the model of disease or illness is viewed as multi-factorial phenomenon.
This is an advanced system of thinking, given that this concept originated more than 2000 years ago.

  Yin/Yang Next   Back to Top
Yin and Yang are counter poles; they are each other's opposite in which life is searching for harmony and balance.
Health in this philosophy means balance between Yin and Yang. Illness means that one of the two is too strong or too weak.
The theories of Yin and Yang and Five Elements that exist in dynamic balance and are organized in the systems of cyclic autonomic regulation, by its essence represent the Confucian ideology.
Within this philosophy, all aspects of the invisible and visible world exist in mutual dependence. This view, in turn, explicates the teachings of "Yin-Yang" and of the "5 phases of transformation".
Learn more about this topic...
  Five Elements Next   Back to Top
Another basic concept of acupuncture is the teaching of the Five Phases of Transformation (also known as the Five Elements, more common term and less accurate).
According to the Five Elements philosophy, everything, including energy, passes through cycles. In nature, this can be seen in the four seasons and in the body it is evidenced by the interactions between the main organs.
The Five Elements theory assumes relationships between Metal, Wood, Water, Fire and Earth.
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  Channels Next   Back to Top
According to Chinese medicine, the invisible Qi circulates along a system of conduits. They form a complex network of main channels, minor capillaries and collaterals. There are 14 main interconnected pathways called "meridians" through which this energy circulates, and surface to about 400 acupuncture points. Each meridian is intimately connected with one of the viscera of the body, and each manifests its own characteristics and bears the name of the organ related to it. For example, there's a Liver channel, Heart channel etc.
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  Points Next   Back to Top
The 14 main meridians (channels), through which Qi circulates, emerge to the skin surface at the precise locations called acupuncture points. Local stimulation of different acupuncture points (needling, laser, electricity, etc) can influence the activity of corresponding meridian in specific and predictable manner.
361 Points on the meridians described in the classical ancient Chinese medical manuscripts. They are complimented by 171 Extra-Meridian Points with their specific features. Over the last fifty years, 110 "New" Points and 142 Auricular Points discovered.
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  Diagnosis Next   Back to Top
In ancient times, laboratory analyses and tests were not available and acupuncture diagnosis relied mostly on observation. Observation of the skin, eyes, tongue, pulse, etc. can tell a seasoned acupuncturist more than you can imagine. Different schools emphasize different techniques. For example, Japanese acupuncturists do not examine the tongue, but instead palpate the abdomen as part of a routine exam and treatment.
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  Zang-Fu Organs Next   Back to Top
The zang-fu theory explains the physiological function, pathological changes, and mutual relationships of internal organs. Zang and fu consist of the five zang and six fu organs. In traditional Chinese medicine the zang and fu organs are not simply anatomical substances, but more importantly represent the generalization of the physiology and pathology of certain systems of the human body.
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  Chinese Syndromes Next   Back to Top
The basic syndromes of traditional Chinese medicine provide foundation for understanding of the nature of disease; signify the location of pathological changes, the condition of body resistance and pathogenic factors.
There are different methods for differentiating syndromes based on a variety of concepts: "the eight principles"; the theory of zang-fu organs; the theory of six channels; the theory of wei, qi, ying, and xue; the theory of the sanjiao; the theory of qi, blood, and body fluids; according to etiology, etc. Each of these methods has its characteristics and emphasis, while in clinical practice they are interrelated and complement each other.
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  This page last updated: 14-Mar-2015 Back to Top
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