The Power of Qi
resembling a steaming
bowl of rice
The Chinese philosophical notion of a cosmic qi or breath that permeates the universe dates from the Shang and Zhou periods. Qi is regarded as having created the cosmos and the Earth, and given rise to the complementary opposing negative and positive forces of yin and yang. Every physical change that occurs in the world is seen as a product of the working of qi. In the Daoist Daode Jing, qi is synonymous with Dao (“the Way”). The qi character (shown here) represents a bowl of rice with steam, where the rice’s power or qi is manifested, rising above. The concept of qi runs through all areas of Chinese thought: it is a guiding principle in both traditional science and the arts.
exercises, is based on the concept of qi.
Daoists traditionally associated lengthening
the breath with lengthening life. Today,
qigong is used to enhance well-being.
Qi informs multiple practical and applied fields. When Chinese medicine became formalized during the 2nd century BC, for example, qi was established as its central concept. It was seen as the vital substance of living things, circulating in the body through a network of channels or meridians (see Traditional Medicine).
Through concentration, practitioners,
such as monks of the Shaolin Monastery,
perform extraordinary feats of fitness
chart and other instruments to trace the
flow of qi within an office building. Feng
shui is popular in Hong Kong, where it is
less frowned on as a superstitious practice.
Chinese geomancy, or feng shui (“wind and water”), is based on ideas of qi. Feng shui posits that the appropriate layout of a building or room, for example the position of doorways, affects the flow of qi and hence the inhabitants’ general well-being.
The Chinese classic, the Yijing (I Ching), or Book of Changes, has been consulted as a divination guide book for thousands of years. In it the bagua are combined into 64 hexagrams of six yin or yang lines each. The hexagrams represent even more complex states of qi than the bagua.
to divine the future. Outside temples in Hong
Kong, worshipers can be seen scattering
the sticks on the ground. A practiced diviner
reads the pattern by picking out bagua shapes.
Eight bagua, or trigrams, ranged around a yin-yang symbol make up the basic bagua chart, an attempt to codify the working of qi. Each trigram consists of three lines–yin (broken) or yang (unbroken). Together they make up all possible permutations of such sets of lines and describe potential movement between different qi states.