Qi (Pronounced Chee) is the vital force or life energy that flows through your body. The concept of Qi energy dates back thousands of years in Chinese History. Qi is written about extensively in The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine written around 2700 BC by numerous ancient physicians. This manual is still required reading for many doctors of traditional Chinese medicine.

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, there are three sources of Chi Energy. You are born with Chi energy transmitted to you at conception from your parents. The other two sources of Chi are obtained from the food we eat, the liquids we drink along with the air we breathe. This energy derived from our environment through such processes as nutrition and respiration is converted into an absorbable form by certain organs and is stored in the body and distributed throughout the body.

Pictures shows the main meridians in the body. (Source: Meridians – Qi Pathways on about.com)

Meridians are the pathways of Qi through the body. Qi flows continuously from one meridian to another. Any break in the flow is an indication of imbalance. If a person’s vitality or energy is recognizably diminished it is an indication that the body’s organs or tissues are functioning poorly, therefore the Qi flow is inadequate.

Meridians are not identical to nerve routes or other anatomical structures are known to Western medicine.

Maintaining good Qi flow throughout the body is the key to keeping your body in balance and achieving optimal health. In today’s fast-paced world, we are continually exposed to negative energy from everyday stresses of life and the toxins that pollute our food and environment. When negative energies invade your body, blockages are created that impede the flow of Chi causing stagnation. If the balance is not restored, the normal physiological functioning of the body becomes impaired, which results in a lack of energy, physical pain, reduced mobility, injury, depression, rapid aging or illness.

Chinese health care practitioners have used a variety of techniques to restore a balanced flow of Qi through the body. Acupuncturist and other practitioners use needles or pressure to manipulate points or gates to open blocked meridians restoring Qi flow. In addition, Chinese doctors use herbal teas to help open blockages and maintain a smooth flow of Qi in the body so it can heal itself. Traditional martial artists have used certain movements (Tai Chi and Kung Fu), breathing exercises (Qi Gong), and meditation to enhance the flow of Qi throughout the body. Masters for centuries have used these techniques to achieve longevity and a higher quality of life.

A key principle of Traditional Chinese Medicine is that when Qi flows smoothly your internal systems function optimally, blood circulation improves, allowing more oxygen and nutrients to be delivered to all areas of the body so it can more effectively heal itself. More and more, the concept of an energy system in the body is being recognized by Western Medicine. In addition, there are many clinical studies examining and supporting the benefits of acupuncture, herbs, breathing exercises, and meditation toward long-term health.

This brief description of Qi is not intended to be a comprehensive definition or statement of Qi, but is intended to give one not familiar with the concept a quick overview and basic understanding. Additional information can be found on the web or in the many books referenced below.

Movies and Videos

This National Geographic Channel clip highlights how monks through the centuries in China have developed Chi through traditional martial arts training.

A clip from “Healing and the Mind with Bill Moyers” Vol.1. Featuring David Eisenberg and a demonstration of Chi by Shi Ming.


Encounters with Qi: Exploring Chinese Medicine by David Esienberg M.D. (1995).

Healing and the Mind by Bill Moyer (1995)
This is the companion book to the PBS TV series exploring Eastern medicine.

Voices of Qi: An Introductory Guide to Traditional Chinese Medicine by Alex Holland (2000).

Web Sites

Classics of Traditional Chinese Medicine on the National Institute of Health website.

What is Chinese Medicine on WebMD.

What are Tai Chi and Qi Gong on WebMD.

Qi: The Journal of Traditional Health and Fitness.

There are many other online sources. QiVantage does not endorse any of these sites. They are solely meant to be a starting point for learning about Qi.