At the basis of all is Qi. Because of its fluid nature, Qi is very difficult to define; it assumes different manifestations and can be different things in different situations. The concept of Qi is not exclusively Chinese; Hindus refer to it as “Prana”, the Greek “pneuma” and the Hebrew “ruakh” all have much in common with it. It has been translated as “energy”, “material force”, “matter”, “ether”, “matter-energy”, ”Vitality”, “vital power”, “vital force”, “life force” or “moving power”. Qi is the basis of all the infinite manifestations of life in the universe, including minerals, vegetables, man and animals. Ancient Chinese philosophers believed that life and death themselves are nothing but an aggregation and dispersal of Qi.
“Qi produces the human body just as water becomes ice. As water freezes into ice, so Qi coagulates to form the human body. When ice melts, it becomes water. When a person dies, he or she becomes spirit [shen] again. It is called spirit, just as melted ice changes its name to water”.
Wang Chong (AD 27-97)
The workings of the body and mind are the result of the interactions of Vital Substances all of which are manifestations of Qi in varying degrees of materiality, ranging from the completely material, such as Body Fluids, to the totally immaterial, such as the Mind or Spirit (Shen).
Blood is a dense form of Qi, which flows all over the body. There is a saying that “where the mind goes, Qi flows and where Qi flows the Blood is sure to follow.” Blood’s primary function is to nourish the body and complement the nourishing action of Qi. The Blood relies on the generating, pushing and holding action of Qi, while Qi relies on the nutritive function of Blood. When lying down, the Blood regenerates itself in the Liver, it is important to have adequate rest (especially lying down), in cases of insufficient Blood.
Blood has a moistening function, which Qi does not have. The Blood ensures that body tissues do not dry out. It moistens the eyes and sinews, so that the eyes can see properly and the sinews are flexible and healthy. It also moistens the skin and the hair, ensuring that the skin is not too dry and that the hair remains shiny and healthy. Blood also provides the material foundation for the Mind; it houses and anchors the Mind, providing the harbor within which the Mind can flourish. The “Spiritual Axis” says: “When Blood is harmonized, the Mind has a residence”. If Blood is deficient, the Mind will be without foundation and become unhappy or uneasy. This may manifest as a vague anxiety, slight irritability, or a feeling of dissatisfaction. When asleep at night the Blood naturally embraces the Mind, but if Blood is deficient the Mind “floats” resulting in insomnia. The main sources of Blood are the Spleen and Stomach. Lung makes Blood move. In Chinese Medical thinking, Blood is generated by the interaction of the Stomach, Spleen and Kidney. To nourish Blood, tonify the Spleen and Kidneys. The Heart, Spleen and Liver are the most important organs in relation to Blood. The Heart governs Blood, the Spleen holds Blood in, and the Liver stores and cleans the Blood.
Blood and Essence mutually affect each other. Each can transform into the other. Essence plays an important role in the formation of Blood. On the other hand, Blood continually nourishes and replenishes the Essence.
Essence, also known as “Jing”, is derived from a process of refinement. It is a precious substance to be cherished and guarded. The term “Essence” occurs in traditional Chinese medical books in three different contexts with slightly different meanings: “Pre-Natal Essence”, “Post-Natal Essence” and “Essence”. Continue reading Jing
Body Fluids, also known as “Jin-Ye” in Chinese, originate from food and drink, and are transformed and separated by the Spleen. There are two types of body fluids: “Jin” meaning “moist” or “saliva”, which is anything fluid and “Ye”, meaning “liquid” which are the liquids of living organisms. “Jin-Ye” could be translated as “organic fluids”.
Fluids (Jin) are clear, light, thin and watery. They circulate on the Exterior (in the skin and muscles), move quickly and are under the control of the Lungs, which spreads them all over the body. Their function is to moisten and nourish skin and muscles. They are exuded as sweat and also manifest as tears, saliva and mucus. These fluids also thin the Blood and prevent its stasis.
Liquids (Ye) are more turbid, heavy and dense. They circulate within the Interior, move slowly and are under the control of the Spleen and Kidneys for their transformation. Their function is to moisten the joints, spine, brain and bone marrow. They also lubricate the orifices of the sense organs, i.e. eyes, ears, nose and mouth.
Without the transforming and transporting power of Qi, Body Fluids would accumulate giving rise to disease. Qi also holds Body Fluids in the same way as it holds Blood. If Qi is deficient, fluids may leak out, and gives rise to urinary incontinence (Kidney deficiency), spontaneous sweating (Lung deficiency) or chronic vaginal discharges (Spleen deficiency). The Stomach is the “source” of Body Fluids; wet, slippery foods (such as rice or oat porridge) are beneficial to the Stomach. The Spleen principally carries out the formation of Body Fluids; a result of a series of purification processes, each stage further separating the fluids into pure and impure parts. A deficiency of the Stomach and Spleen may eventually cause deficiency of fluids. After a significant loss of fluids, such as from profuse sweating, Qi also becomes deficient, and one may suffer from cold limbs, pallor or a dislike of cold. The Spleen is always treated in any type of disorders of Body Fluids. Blood and Body Fluids come from the same source and mutually nourish each other.
The body and mind are a vortex of energy and Vital Substances interacting with each other to form the organism. The Vital Substances are Qi (pronounced Chi), Blood, Essence (Jing) and Body Fluids. At the basis of all is Qi. Because of its fluid nature, Qi is very difficult to define; it assumes different manifestations and can be different things in different situations. The concept of Qi is not exclusively Chinese; Hindus refer to it as “Prana”, the Greek "pneuma" and the Hebrew “ruakh” all have much in common with it. It has been translated as “energy”, “material force”, “matter”, “ether”, “matter-energy”, ”Vitality”, “vital power”, “vital force”, “life force” or “moving power”. Qi is the basis of all the infinite manifestations of life in the universe, including minerals, vegetables, man and animals. Ancient Chinese philosophers believed that life and death themselves are nothing but an aggregation and dispersal of Qi. Continue reading Nourishing Vital Substances