Qi is one of the most elusive of knowledge in FengShui. In fact in Chinese Metaphysics everything evolves around Qi, and not many students and practitioners can grasp a firm understanding of this abstract subject.
There had been many contemporary masters who try to explain Qi in plain words and each have their own understanding of this elusive and profound subject.
Here is my understanding of what Qi is. I had written this discourse in three parts. This is part 1.
PART 1 ON QI
THE CONCEPT AND THEORY OF QI
The word Qi 氣, written in its old form, is made up of two separate words: Vapor 气and Rice 米.
The general concept of the origin of the word Qi 氣 comes from the Ancients’ observation of their surroundings and their daily life chores. This word being a combination of two characters of Vapor 气and Rice 米, tells us that the Ancients formulated this word when they observed steam rising from rice being cooked.
Qi 氣, however, is more than just steam rising from a cooking pot. It is something not easily translated or interpreted with our limited language. It is something that is so pervasive and encompassing that it touches and affects everything within our universe. From the ticking of the clock to the changing of seasons, everything involves Qi. Nothing escapes its pervasiveness.
Different Definitions of Qi
Generally, when we talk about Qi, people tend to think of the air that we breathe. Well, this is partly true because air is also part of Qi. But Qi is more than just air. It is a lot of other things, not easily described in one word or a few sentences.
There are a lot of names being given to Qi. Here are a few different names: Subtle Energy; Vital Energy; Life Energy; Cosmic Life Force; Dynamic Energy; Bio-Energy; etc…
In Chinese Metaphysics, all the different branches such as FengShui, BaZi, Divination, Healing…. would have a similar definition and interpretation of Qi. Every explanation given by all the different practitioners of Chinese Metaphysics, points toward ‘something’ that is supposed to ‘give life,’ ‘sustain life,’ ‘wellbeing,’ etc.
Categorization of Qi
In all the similar definitions and interpretations of Qi, there are two and only two ‘main’ fundamental divisions of Qi, as acknowledged by all the branches of Chinese Metaphysics – Yin Qi and Yang Qi.
©Moon L. Chin 2013
Every branch of Chinese Metaphysics would base their subsequent divisions of the different types of Qi on this fundamental Yin and Yang principle, each individual branch of Chinese Metaphysics would have their own categorization of Qi.
For example, in Traditional Chinese Medicine, Qi is divided into two main categories – ‘Congenital Qi’ and ‘Acquired Qi.’
‘Congenital Qi’ is Qi that we are born with and that is inherited from our parents. It consists of Original Qi and Essence (from our parents).
‘Acquired Qi’ is Qi that we take in after birth. It consists of Air and Essence from food and grains.
There also are sub-categorizations of the two mentioned above, but that is not the subject of discussion here. The Qi to which TCM refers all reside in the body of a person. It is very similar to the Qi that is referred to in QiGong and Daoism, as the life force that gives life, health and wellbeing, both physically and mentally.
The QiGong view of Qi is as a life force coursing through our body giving us energy and vitality. They do acknowledge that Qi can be acquired from external sources.
The Daoist, too, have a similar view, but they have a wider perspective world-view than TCM and QiGong. The Daoists view the world as one big vibrating phenomenon that is purely maintained by Qi. That everything from the tiniest molecule to the huge towering mountains is nothing but the manifestation of Qi.
The Daoist view of Qi also encompasses the ‘paranormal’ aspect of worldly phenomena. The traditional FengShui view of Qi, in the olden days, was similar to this Daoist view.
But in contemporary FengShui, there are many who hold a view of Qi that is now slightly different from the Daoist view, in the sense that they have exclude the ‘paranormal’ aspect of the phenomena of Qi. The contemporary FengShui view does not take that into account.
The Origin of Qi
The origin of Qi is a miraculous manifestation. Still today there is no way science can describe how Qi comes about. There are only theoretical postulations. No one can prove mathematically and beyond doubt the formulation of Qi. In this course we shall dwell on the Chinese Metaphysics’ theoretical postulation on how Qi comes about.
The concept of Qi in this course is mainly based on the philosophical concept espoused by a prominent Sung Dynasty Philosopher and Cosmologist, ZhangZai 张载 (AD 1020-1077). ZhangZai was a great adherrent of ZhuangZi’s Yi Philosophy.
©Moon L. Chin 2013
He wrote: “氣之聚散於太虛，猶冰凝釋於水，知太虛即氣，則無無。故聖人語性與天道之極，盡於參伍之神變易而已。諸子淺妄，有有無之分，非窮理之學也.”
Qi accumulates or disperses within the Supreme Void, like water coagulates to ice or ice melts to water. To know that the Supreme Void is none other than Qi, so it is not ‘Empty’ as the Void is. Therefore, the words of the Sages on the nature of the Supreme Void fully refer to the Change and Transformation of the 5 Elements. The various materialistic presumptions have a dualistic ‘have / have not’ differentiation and is not a study of absolute nothingness.
He also said, “太虛不能無氣，氣不能不聚而為萬物，萬物不能不散而為太虛. 循是出入，是皆不得已而然也.”
The Supreme Void cannot be without Qi, Qi cannot but reside in all phenomena, and all phenomena cannot but disintegrate back into the Supreme Void. The abiding cycle of transformation is but the inevitable spontaneity of nature.
All the phenomena in this universe are none other than the resultant play of Qi. The coming together and the disintegration of Qi all play out their drama within the Supreme Void (that is our universe and the multi-verse).
Mountains, oceans and rivers are all formed from the interaction of Yin Yang Qi. The centrifugal force of the spinning Earth intermarries with the cosmic radiation slamming into Earth’s atmosphere giving rise to myriad things. All things on Earth, animate and inanimate are affected by this interaction. Good or bad, beneficial or malevolent, all depends on the subjective conditions prevailing.
The Qi that is enduring, pervasive and encompassing everything in the universe is Primordial Qi, called Yuan Qi in Chinese. It is something that defies description, time and space.
Primordial Qi that encompasses Time and Space is pervasive throughout the whole universe and multi-verse. Planets and stars swirl and orbit in space due to certain ‘forces’ that scientists called Electromagnetic force and Gravitational force. This is the work of Primordial Qi.
The Ancient Chinese Sages, Metaphysicians and Philosophers had already given it a name – Qi. It is called Qi because it is intangible and formless, like the steam wafting out of boiling hot water. It is also because Qi is closely related to air (Kong Qi 空 气) whose main component is oxygen (Yang Qi 养 气), which is the giver of life.
Qi being pervasive has as its playground, Time and Space. Qi is enduring, so it defies Time. Qi is formless and intangible, so it defies Space. Time and Space too are enduring and intangible. Therefore, Time and Space is where Qi exercises its muscles, stretches its limbs and works its magic.
©Moon L. Chin 2013
Primordial Qi has no Yin or Yang differentiation. Primordial Qi is not objectively good or bad. Primordial Qi does not discriminate, is just and fair, and gives life to all phenomena on Earth irrespectively. Primordial Qi is Neutral.
Primordial Qi cannot be pinned down objectively, but can only be assessed and analyzed subjectively. Primordial Qi cannot be objectively utilized or harnessed, but can only be utilized or harnessed subjectively in relation to the prevailing situation and conditions either physically or metaphysically.
ZhangZai postulated that all the phenomena in this universe are composed of this Primordial Essence called Qi. This Primordial Essence is formless and timeless and is the force or energy that binds or disintegrates all matter that is of Yin or Yang polarity.
When this Primordial Essence condenses and coagulates, it can form rocks and mountains, plants and vegetation, human beings and animals, and every phenomenon of which we can think.
When this Primordial Essence liquefies, it becomes water or fluid of any kind. Smooth flowing low viscosity fluid can be like water. When water coagulates at extremely low temperatures, it becomes ice.
Hot fluid from the center of the Earth becomes lava. Hot embryonic fluid from humans and animals becomes blood or sperm.
When this Primordial Essence disintegrates, it goes back to its primordial state within the Supreme Void. The Supreme Void is adamantine – indestructible, and so is Primordial Qi. It is ever changing and transforming. It can transform into something else and then revert back to its original form. Its versatility is beyond anything. Thus was born the concept of Yi that means ‘Change.’
Thus the playground where Primordial Qi exercises and works its magic is the Supreme Void and ancient FengShui Masters called it – the XuanKong (玄空).
Qi as in FengShui
In FengShui, the main criteria for the consideration of Qi as a ‘force’ or ‘energy’ are Landforms (rivers and mountains), the seasonal changes and finally the cosmic influences on Earth. All these ‘forces’ or ‘energies’ are lumped together in one word – Qi.
Qi as coming from the interaction of water and mountains;
Qi as coming from the different climates of the changing seasons;
Qi as coming from the planetary electromagnetic radiations bombarding Earth.
FengShui, as earlier described in Chapter 1, is simply the manipulation of Qi for the benefit of Man. Therefore, within FengShui, there is a need for the student to really understand and experience what Qi is all about. But before knowing how to experience the workings of Qi, one needs to have a direct knowledge of what Qi really is.
©Moon L. Chin 2013