Huang Di: “Is it supported?”
Qi Bo: “The Grand Qi holds it.”
This passage from Chapter 67 of the Su Wen1 illustrates a big part of what I am trying to convey about the word qi. It is being used to describe a specific force with a specific effect, but because of the lack of scientific knowledge they used the catch all phrase; qi. We now know that it is gravity that holds the celestial bodies, including the earth, in place. It is quite amazing when you think that 2,000 years ago the ancient Chinese knew there was some force that kept the earth “supported” “within the Great Void” of space. So I don’t mean to denigrate the achievement of the ancient Chinese. But if you went to a conference of scientists nowadays and said the earth was supported by the “Grand Qi” instead of using the term gravity, you would sound like an idiot! Similarly, if you went to a conference of M.D.’s and said that qi circulated with the blood in the blood vessels, you would sound like an idiot.
It is amazing, incredible, and laudable that the ancient Chinese described the function of the vascular system (and other bodily systems) as necessary to human life. They accurately described many attributes of the vascular system but because of a lack of scientific knowledge, they used the catch all term qi to describe these attributes or functions. We can describe them much more exactly now.
I’m putting forth some tentative guidelines on the use of the word “qi”.
Doctor Schneedle’s grammatical rules for the use of the word qi;
1. Use qi as an abbreviation. Instead of saying that amino acids, triglycerides, glucose, oxygen, and other substances that are vital to health or life, flow with the blood in the blood vessels. We can say that qi and blood flow in the blood vessels. This is using qi in a traditional way but with the knowledge that it is describing something more complex that we as medical practitioners should know and understand.
2. Use qi as a “black box”. In electronics, when the input is known and the output is known but the intermediary steps are unknown, they will call that a “black box”. We can see an input and an output but something mysterious and unknown happens inside the “black box”. That is a good time to use the word qi, but with the understanding that with further study, knowledge, and elucidation we will be able to explain it without the word qi. But then we may use qi as in #1 above.
Please leave comments below so that we can all learn and understand more.
1Huang Di Nei Jing Su Wen Vol 2. Unschuld and Tessenow p.198, 199.