Written by Tan Ee Shuen , Year 3 (2018)
The ancient Chinese philosophers believed that Qi is the infinitesimal entity that fills the universe. It is the building block of life that forms the human body, and the fundamental matter that drives and sustains life. It is the vital force behind every activities and processes, including growth and metabolism of the human body.
Qi comprises of two aspects, Yin (阴) and Yang (阳). The Yin portion of Qi is characterised as cold, serene and passive. The Yang portion, on the other hand, is characterised as warm, exciting and active. In the human body, Yin-Qi and Yang-Qi are oppositions but also interdependent. This dynamic equilibrium has to be maintained in order to promote physical processes as well as the sustenance of life.
There are two types of Qi that the body derives from the surroundings. Gu-Qi (谷气) is derived and replenished from the food and water the body intakes. Qing-Qi (清气) is derived from the air the body breathes in.
The forms of Qi in the human body are classified by their origin, location and function.
1. Primordial Qi (元气 Yuan Qi)
Primordial qi or Yuan Qi is inherited from the parents and stored in the kidneys. It is the basis of life, and its activities follow the natural progression of life. The main functions of Yuan-Qi is to promote growth and reproduction, as well as to regulate various metabolic activities.
2. Pectoral Qi (宗气 Zong Qi)
Pectoral Qi or Zong Qi is acquired by breathing. It is stored in the chest area, and directly affects the vital life energy of the body. Its main functions are to regulate breathing, promote blood circulation and aid in the formation of life energy.
3. Nutritional Qi (营气 Ying Qi)
Nutritional Qi or Ying Qi is derived from the ingestion of food and water. It travels within the blood vessels and transports nutrients to all parts of the body. Relative to the defensive Qi or Wei Qi, it is considered Yin due to its nature and activities. The main functions of the Nutritional Qi include the formation of blood and the nourishment of the body.
4. Defensive Qi (卫气 Wei Qi)
Defensive Qi or Wei Qi is also derived from the ingestion of food and water. It travels on the exterior of blood vessels and is responsible for protecting the body. Relative to the nutritional Qi or Ying Qi, it is considered Yang due to its nature and activities. The main functions of the Defensive Qi include the defence against pathogens, providing warmth to the body and regulating the opening and closure of the skin pores.
In addition, every organ in the body has its own Qi (脏腑之气 Zang Fu Zhi Qi) that can be divided into the Yin and Yang portions as well. The Yin portion of Qi is responsible for the cooling, slowing and suppression functions, while the Yang portion is responsible for the warming, activation and acceleration functions. In a normal, healthy body, the two counterparts are in a dynamic equilibrium. When there is a deficiency of Qi, symptoms that show weakness appear, such as the diminishing or loss of function with regards to circulation and defence. There is also the meridian Qi (经络之气 Jing Luo Zhi Qi) that senses, carries and transmits stimulations and information within the meridian system.
Blood (血 Xue)
Blood is the red fluid that circulates the body within the blood vessels. It originates from the food and water ingested, as well as from the Jing (精 “essence”) that is stored in the kidneys.
The formation of Blood involves the Spleen and Stomach transforming the ingested materials and transporting them to the lungs, where the essence of the food is converted into blood with the help of the Heart Qi and Lung Qi. The Kidney stores Jing, which produces Sui (髓 “marrow”). The Marrow is an essential component for the formation of Blood. Hence, the Spleen, Stomach, Heart, Lungs and Kidneys play important roles in the formation of Blood.
The Heart promotes the circulation of Blood, the Lung regulates the flow of Qi in the body, the Liver stores Blood and ensures the fluency of Blood flow, the Spleen prevents the leakage of Blood. Thus, the functioning of the organs such as the Heart, Lungs, Liver and Spleen is essential to the circulation of Blood.
Blood is responsible for the nourishment of the body. When the body receives enough nutrients, it is able to function well. However, when there are insufficient nutrients, not only will the functionality of the body be affected, but the appearance may also reflect to be sallow and dull. Blood also affects the state of one’s spiritual activities. When there is an ample amount of Blood in the body, one will feel refreshed and clear-minded. Otherwise, one will feel tired easily and be unable to focus.
Body Fluids (津液 Jin Ye)
Body fluids are derived from the food and water ingested. It is one of the basic building block of life and is essential for the sustenance of life activities.
The distribution of body fluids throughout the body relies on the synergy between the Spleen, Lung, Kidney, Liver and San Jiao (三焦 “triple energiser” commonly known as “triple burner”). The Spleen transports and disseminates the fluids. The Lung govern the flow of water in the body. The Kidney vaporises and regulates the metabolism of water. The San Jiao is responsible for the passage of fluids in the body.
The body fluids are mainly excreted through urine and sweat. Expired air and stool also help to excrete the body fluids. The Kidney vaporise water and transport metabolic wastes to the bladder for excretion. The Lung direct the flow of water for excretion and expire moisture. The transformation function of the spleen and stomach, as well as the absorption ability of the intestines, also affect the amount of water that will be excreted out of the body.
Note: Certain concepts in Chinese Medicine are literally translated from the Chinese words, but the concepts and meaning behind these words are completely different from modern definition. Hence, the italicized words represent concepts in Chinese Medicine, which differ to their medical counterpart.