• From traditional Chinese culture, the quintessential, intrinsic force which flows continuously through all things and which sustains harmony, health, energy, and balance in all life forms. (Note: often capitalized – "Qi").


Countless philosophies, religions, therapeutic practices, television gurus, holistic healers, and many more have touted the cultivation of Qi as essential in attaining inner harmony. They say that Qi, which is reputed to connect all things, holds the potential to balance one's energy force and therefore vastly improve quality of life. Nebulous though the concept may be, it holds undeniable appeal for many who find themselves swept up in the stress of the modern world.

Qi (氣) is a crucial concept in traditional Chinese ethos and philosophy, describing a definitive underlying essence found in all living things. Although there are many variations among the specific definitions of Qi, all characterize it as a subtle flow of energy that is intangible yet vital to maintaining life. According to traditional Chinese philosophy, Qi, sometimes spelled Chi or Ch'i, courses like air through the very nature of all things, linking living beings with each other and with their surroundings, connecting systems as vast as the entire universe and as small as a boy with an inchworm on his finger. This energy flow is often seen as a measure of vitality and stability, and consequently many ancient Chinese medicine systems are based on their ability to effect and sustain a person's Qi. Because of its billowing, ever-flowing nature, it is believed that the flow of Qi through the body can, to some extent, be directed or controlled; hence, specific meditations and movements are believed to bolster the current of this critical energy and allow one to channel it in desired ways.

Example: Meditation is an excellent way to quiet inner disharmony and thus foster one's Qi.

Example: The old Chinese master taught me a series of graceful movements designed to improve my Qi.

Similar Words

Chi, another spelling of Qi, is also the 22nd letter of the Greek alphabet. Although the English spelling is the same, the Greek Character for Chi looks like the capital English letter X and is pronounced with a long I sound (as in eye).


Although Qi is thought to have entered the English lexicon sometime around the 1850s, the concept can be traced back thousands of years to ancient Chinese medicinal practices. Scholars generally agree that the idea of Qi originated at the very latest during the Warring State Period (481-221 B.C.), and many posit that the practices based on it had been established years earlier. Qi is translated from Mandarin as meaning "air" or "breath", and various ancient inscriptions have linked it with such images as cloud vapor, fire, and even steam rising from the cooking of rice (thereby connecting the idea of Qi with the life-sustaining nourishment of food). Ancient Chinese philosophers such as Laozi and Zhuangzi wrote extensively on the concept of Qi as an energizing life force, and their writings are among the earliest to describe how one's Qi can be controlled through directed breathing and movement.

In Literature

From Garri Garripoli's Qigong: Essence of the Healing Dance:

Through cultivating your inner Qi, you become strong, not as an "individual" against the world but as an integral part of the world....

In this quote Garripoli, an author and advocate for traditional Chinese wellness practices, emphasizes the idea that having strong Qi fosters the inner harmony that allows one to be at peace with the physical world.


  • Qi is inner energy, you see?


Hafner, C. What Is Qi? (and Other Concepts). Taking Charge of Your Health and Wellbeing.

The Conceptual Scheme of Chinese Philosophical Thinking – Qi. Literati Tradition.

Qi - Wikipedia

Bring out the linguist in you! What is your own interpretation of qi. Did you use qi in a game? Provide an example sentence or a literary quote.