Qi (also often referred to as chi) is a concept borne out of ancient Chinese folk religions which later went on to play a major role in the philosophical and religious aspects of Daoism. Qi is translated variously as “breath”, “life force”, and “life energy”, but often left untranslated because no single word or term can adequately express its meaning.
Qi is a sort of primordial energy that exists both outside and within everything. It permeates all of life in a subtlety that can’t be grasped, even though it is the animating force behind all that we see. Qi is responsible for the existence of the world and all of the objects and beings within it, but it is impossible to articulate a single satisfactory definition for it.
Why is Qi So Hard to Define?
The fact that Qi is so hard to define is a purposeful rather than an accidental consequence of the concept. The goal of speaking so esoterically about Qi is not so that it prevents anyone from grasping, but rather so that one can come to an intuitive understanding that doesn’t need to be grounded in text. As a primordial life force that is the wellspring of all origination, it necessarily eludes the attempt of human language to grasp it.
Is Qi Spiritual or Physical?
While Qi may sound like a purely spiritual concept, especially to the typical Western understanding, it has since it’s inception been seen as a force in the spiritual and physical world. Qi may be beyond the world and the source of everything that comes into creation, but it is also present imminently in the world and constantly supporting each and every animate and inanimate thing.
How Do Yin and Yang Relate to Qi?
Though many people have heard of the concept of Qi and the concepts of Yin and Yang, most don’t realize that Yin and Yang are actually two sides of Qi itself. Yang is the lighter side while yin represents the darkness Neither should be viewed in a moral sense, but rather as two complementary aspects of a harmonious whole.
Yang, being lighter than yin, is thought to make up the heavens. It represents light, movement, boundlessness, and positivity. Because yin is the “heavier” side of Qi, it is thought to make up the earth and all that is in it. Yin represents a negativity, a receptiveness, and a stillness. Neither is better than the other, as yin and yang are equal partners.
Qi keeps the cosmos in a constant, harmonious balance as it flows both through and beyond the universe. It is constantly cycled through all of creation by the dual aspects of yin and yang. Qi, although impossible for the intellect to define because it is so far beyond our understanding, can be known through intuition. It creates, supports, and permeates everything you have ever known.