What is Qi / Chi in Feng Shui?

What is Qi / Chi in Feng Shui?

Chi Qi

Chi Qi

Qi as the key feng shui concept

Feng shui is the art, philosophy and science of creating healthy, safe, resourceful homes and workplaces. This art is based on fundamental principles of balance and harmony (yin and yang). The purpose of feng shui is to increase your overall vitality or life force, called by the Chinese: Qi or Chi. This concept is present in many cultures; for example, the Japanese call it Ki, and in Hindu tradition, it is called Prana, and Christians call it the Holy Spirit.

Ambient and radiant energy is present everywhere, and like art, it is expressed in many forms and behaves in different ways. The key function of feng shui is to maximise positive energy and minimise the negative, draining ones. The more energy you have, the more you can do. In fact, everything could be said is one energy in motion (E=mc2). There is a distinction between your personal chi, other people’s chi and the environment’s chi. Potentially, our personal chi has the most power over others and the environment.

Definitions of the concept of qi/chi

The classical Chinese definition of qi

Qi is usually translated as ‘breath’ or ‘air’ or universal life force. Qi is the most important aspect of Chinese medicine. Qi is “the idea that the body is pervaded by subtle material and mobile influences that cause most physiological functions and maintain the health and vitality of the individual.” (Micozzi, 2015). Classical feng shui texts suggest that qi gathers on the surface of the water (feng shui = windwater).

“The Classic says that if qi rides the wind it is scattered; if it is bounded by water it is held. Ancient men gathered it, causing it not to be scattered and curtailed its area of circulation. Hence this is referred to as fengshui. The method of fengshui is, first of all, to obtain water and secondly to store from the wind.” Guo Pu, Gu Ben Zang Jing Nei Pian (Book of Burial Rooted in Antiquity), in Jin Dai Bi Shu, no. 42, vol. 5 of Ji Gu Ge

The classical feng shui doesn’t tell us what qi is because it doesn’t know what it is in essence. The classical feng shui is just trying to define and characterise the behaviour of qi – what it does. The classical feng shui tells us absolutely nothing about the intrinsic nature of qi – how qi is in and of itself. The classical feng shui, especially the compass school, is trying to define qi with a mathematical, quantitative mindset with qualitative features of reality such as size, shape, geometry, location, direction, motion and so on – features that can be captured on a feng shui compass – luopan and with feng shui astrology. It is trying to describe qi in terms of its behaviour, what qi does, not what it is.

“Qi circulates through the earth according to the geodetic force of the earth. It gathers where the geodetic force stops. The qi follows the trunk of a hill and branches along its ridges. The Classic says that if the qi rides the wind it is scattered, if it is bounded by water it is held.” Guo Pu, Gu Ben Zang Jing Nei Pian (Book of Burial Rooted in Antiquity), in Jin Dai Bi Shu, no. 42, vol. 5 of Ji Gu Ge

To sum up, if you know how qi behaves, it’s very useful because you can manipulate, moderate, mediate and modulate qi and qi flow. But if we only know what qi does, we only know about its relationship between itself and other things and how it’s affected by other things. Physics, physical science and electrical engineering are the best tools to unravel how it works. So, we still don’t know what qi is and its intrinsic qualities and characteristics independent of its relationships with other things, independent of its behaviour. This is called the problem of intrinsic nature.

Qi concept in other cultures

Most cultures around the world have a similar concept of life force, so the concept of qi is not unique to Chinese culture. For example, this life force is called prana (India), lung/loong (Tibetan), ki (Japan), barraka, sakina (Islam), neyatoneyah (Lakota Sioux), num (Bush People of the Kalahari), pneuma, ichor (Greece), ruah (Jewish), aether (Latin), akasha (Hindu), asha (Iranian), astral light (Theosophy), awen (Welsh), bliss fields (generic), inua (Inuit), ka (Egyptian), maban (Australian Aboriginal), mana (Polynesian), manitou (Anishinabe), mumen (Latin), orenda (Iroquois), presence, light (generic), seid (Norse), shekinah (Jewish), teotl (Aztec), väki (Finnish), vital force or élan vital (Bergson/vitalism), Holy Spirit (Catholic), life force or The Force (StarWars) or just energy in popular culture. Or perhaps a metaphor/construct/concept….

The modern and scientific definition of chi – charge and consciousness

In physics, charge (Q) is the closest concept to chi. A charge is composed of positively and negatively charged particles which would fit the concept of yin and yang, which is a matter of attraction and repulsion. Also, plasma (which is a cloud of charge) relates to chi, and scientists suggest that 99.9% of the visible universe is made of some form of plasma. See the video below about plasma to understand the electrical, ambient and radiant nature of chi. One oriental  feng shui book, the Burial Book, states “Chi is dispersed by the Wind and gathers at the boundaries of the Water.” The Oriental people accurately noticed that chi is attracted to water, which is confirmed by science, i.e. water attracts a charge. Dan Winter and I are probably the only experts to define chi as charge. Most feng shui authors regurgitate the old adage that chi is a life force without understanding what it is and without explaining what this mysterious ‘life force’ is.

However, some authors suggest that chi is everywhere, which would exclude charge since there are places where charge is not present. For example, objects that have an equal number of protons and electrons are electrically neutral. This means that the positive and negative charges balance out, resulting in no net charge. In a perfect vacuum, where there are no particles, there is no charge. However, quantum physics suggests that even vacuums are not entirely empty due to quantum fluctuations, but these are on a scale that does not involve conventional electric charges as we understand them in macroscopic terms.

qi = charge + consciousness

Some scientists could argue that charge is just another external description of the behaviour of qi – just one perspective, as it is from the outside in terms of its behaviour. Some researchers suggest now that qi, from the inside and its intrinsic behaviour, is pure consciousness.

In short, qi could be described from two perspectives. Physical science could describe it from the outside, from a quantitative perspective, in terms of its behaviour as a charge. And qi, from inside, from a qualitative perspective, in terms of its intrinsic nature, is constituted of forms of consciousness. This is a kind of panpsychism in action, which is the ancient view that consciousness is the fundamental, ubiquitous, underlining feature of reality – the type of panpsychism that is or could be stripped of any mystical connotations. To my understanding, so far, nobody has postulated this simple and elegant working definition and explanation of what specifically qi is: charge and consciousness.

More on charge…

The concept of ‘chi’ (or ‘qi’) in traditional Eastern philosophies, particularly in feng shui and various Chinese practices, is often subject to various interpretations and discussions. While chi is commonly understood as a vital force or energy that permeates everything, its comparison to physical phenomena like electric charge can lead to intricate discussions.

Chi as a Universal Life Force
In many Eastern philosophies, chi is considered a universal life force that exists everywhere and in everything. It’s not just confined to living beings but is also believed to flow through inanimate objects and spaces. This understanding of chi is more metaphysical than physical. It encompasses a broad range of experiences and phenomena, not easily quantifiable or measurable by conventional scientific methods.

Chi vs. Electric Charge
The comparison of chi to electric charge is intriguing but potentially misleading. Electric charge is a physical property of matter that can be measured, quantified, and is governed by the laws of physics. It exists in specific particles (like electrons and protons) and can be absent in certain spaces or conditions.

Chi, on the other hand, as per the traditional beliefs, is omnipresent and not confined to the physical and measurable properties of matter. It’s more akin to a spiritual or life energy that transcends the boundaries of physical laws as understood in modern science.

The Limitations of Scientific Comparison
Some authors argue against equating chi with any physical phenomenon like charge, precisely because chi is believed to be present everywhere, unlike charge which can be absent or neutralised in certain conditions. This viewpoint suggests that chi operates on a different level or dimension that is not fully encompassed by our current scientific understanding.

Chi in Practice
In practices like acupuncture, tai chi, and feng shui, chi is manipulated or harmonised to achieve health, well-being, and environmental balance. These practices are based on the understanding that chi flows through channels or pathways in the body or space and can be influenced by various factors, including physical alignments, balance of elements, and mental and spiritual states.

A Metaphysical Perspective
From a metaphysical standpoint, chi could be considered an all-encompassing energy, integral to the fabric of existence, transcending physical properties like electric charge. This view aligns with the Eastern spiritual and philosophical traditions where chi is an integral concept, guiding principles of living and well-being.

Qi, as conceptualized in feng shui and traditional Chinese medicine, doesn’t have a direct counterpart in the realm of scientific measurement that you would find in physics or chemistry. It’s a philosophical and metaphysical concept that encompasses more than just a measurable entity.

Definition and Nature of Qi

Philosophical Aspect: Qi is traditionally understood as the vital life force that circulates through all things and is essential to their functioning and vitality. It is often described as the force that animates life and flows through pathways in the body known as meridians, similar to how blood flows through vessels.

Manifestation in the Environment: In feng shui, qi refers to the energy in spaces that affects the health, wealth, and happiness of those living there. It’s believed to be influenced by the arrangement of space, orientation, and environmental factors.

Attempts to Understand Qi Scientifically

Scientific Exploration: While traditional descriptions of qi do not align directly with empirical scientific methods, some researchers have attempted to study aspects of qi or similar concepts using the principles of bioelectromagnetics, psychology, and physiology. For example, the effects of acupuncture (a practice based on manipulating qi through meridians) have been studied for their impacts on pain relief and neural activity, suggesting physiological changes that might correspond to these traditional concepts.

Measurability Challenges: Despite these studies, qi remains a concept that eludes direct measurement or quantification in scientific terms. Its effects are often described in subjective terms or through personal experience rather than through the objective, quantifiable data that characterize scientific inquiry.

Modern Interpretations

Integrative Perspective: Some modern practitioners of feng shui and Chinese medicine view qi more symbolically or metaphorically, aligning it with concepts of energy in a broader, more abstract sense. They may discuss qi in terms of energy flow and balance, aligning it with psychological well-being and environmental comfort rather than a physical force measurable by instruments.

In conclusion, while qi is a central concept in feng shui, its definition and understanding are rooted in cultural, philosophical, and spiritual contexts rather than scientific empiricism. This doesn’t diminish its value or importance to those who practice and believe in feng shui, but it does mean that qi operates within a different framework from scientific concepts like electric charge or energy as defined by physics.

While the comparison of chi to electric charge is intriguing, it’s important to acknowledge the limitations of such analogies. Chi, in the context of Eastern philosophies, extends beyond the realm of physical properties and measurable forces. It is a concept deeply rooted in a holistic understanding of the universe, where every entity and space is interconnected through this vital force. This understanding of chi encourages a broader perspective, where the focus is on balance, harmony, and the subtle interplay of energies in our lives and environments.

More energy = more everything

Obviously, others and poets talked about similar insights. For example,  William Blake said beautifully and concisely, “The World, when every particle of dust breathes forth its joy.” echoing the consilience of knowledge and wisdom, matter and consciousness. And then Blake marvels at “How do you know but ev’ry Bird that cuts the airy way, Is an immense world of delight, clos’d by your senses five?”

“Information is physical.” Rolf Randaur

Charge is chi / qi. Watch how charge affects water droplets.

“I regard consciousness as fundamental, matter is derivative from consciousness. We cannot get behind consciousness. There is no matter as such; it exists only by virtue of a force bringing the particle to vibration and holding it together in a minute solar system; we must assume behind this force the existence of a conscious and intelligent mind. The mind is the matrix of all matter.” Max Planck, 1918 Nobel Prize in Physics

More and more people recognise that we now live in the age of energy. From the Internet to all forms of communication to energy medicine to quantum physics – the fact is we are now living in a world where at least half of what is influencing and controlling us is in energy form.

Watch Dr Bruce  Lipton (Biology of Belief) explaining what is chi/qi and how environmental factors affect our biology and behaviour

Factors affecting chi

There are many factors affecting qi:

    1. ourselves
    2. others
    3. environment / feng shui
    4. events
    5. the global situation
    6. other

So, feng shui can affect your chi and the chi of your environment, but it’s not the most important factor. Nelson Mandela was affected by the chi of his prison cell, but his personal chi and chi of others was the key influencer.

In feng shui, your qi is influenced by many things, such as light, colour, plants, shapes, the arrangement of furniture, etc. Together, these characteristics create the chi of the home and workplace. Chi is maximised when extreme environment characteristics (yin and yang) are in balance.

Quantum physics 

In quantum physics, there is the concept of the observer effect, which states that observing a situation or phenomenon changes that phenomenon. Some researchers suggest that consciousness is an informational field or morphic field in which all phenomenon takes place. Others suggest that we live in a holographic/virtual / matrix/simulation reality where we are the co-creators of this reality.

Qi as a frequency

All energy travels in waves or frequencies, and each element has its own frequency band. Recognising and enjoying a particular element opens our minds and hearts to the natural energy resonant with the element. Through this process of resonance, we begin to pull in. When a C note is played on the piano and a guitar is nearby, the guitar string automatically will begin to resonate and make a C sound. In a similar manner, as you feel natural energy, you can begin to resonate with all the frequency of nature and open yourself to increase your access to it. In a sense, each element is like a particular channel on TV. All of the stations are always being broadcast. When we turn to a new channel, we pick a different frequency. The frequency is always being sent out regardless of whether or not they are being picked up. When elements are rich and vibrant in pure natural energies, then these particular frequencies are awakened in you and you can begin to access these energies. A fresh rose, for example, is one of the most healing frequencies in nature (80/100 – hence the name of my feng shui school – The White Rose Feng Shui School).

“If a geomancer can recognise ch’i, that is all there is to Feng shui.”
Sarah Rossbach, author of Feng Shui Design

Scientific evaluation of qi

Chi has been publicised and studied by the Chinese government, and researchers suggest that the principal scientific view of chi is that it is a low-frequency magnetic field (Sun, 2012). Read this paper by Michael R Matthews on Feng shui and the scientific testing of chi claims. Spoiler alert: This paper is very critical of the whole concept of feng shui and qi in particular: “Chi explanations are incompatible with both a methodological and an ontological naturalist understanding of science.” states Mattews, probably the number one critic of feng shui (just read his book: Feng Shui: Teaching About Science and Pseudoscience (Science: Philosophy, History and Education) – an expensive read ie hardcover about £82 and Kindle £101! I’ve got it and read it – I should summarise it for you all one day:). But read it for yourself and let me know if Michael R Mattews hasn’t thrown the baby out with the bathwater.

Learn to recognise chi

To find comfort, we are automatically attracted to situations that include the element we need most. Some people love to sit in the sun, while others enjoy long baths. This often is because one person needs more fire energy while another requires more water energy. When our hearts are open, we are attracted to what we need, and when our hearts are closed, we are repelled by the elements we need most. For example, when you’re depressed, you may dread going for a walk in nature when that is just the thing you need to do and your intuition is telling you to do so. “When it comes to your physical health – as well as the health of your life – your own intuition always alerts you to imbalances in your body, mind and spirit.” says Caroline Myss, so listen to your intuition.

Max Planck

Max Planck

How to measure chi

“Whatever cannot be measured, cannot be real.”, said Max Planck and then the management thinker Peter Drucker said: “you can’t manage what you can’t measure.” Feng shui, in a nutshell, is about how to manage and moderate chi and chi flow. Many specific aspects of feng shui can be measured with different meters and instruments, for example, electromagnetic pollution and, therefore, solutions and ‘cures’ can be measured too. Other more subtle aspects, such as ‘predecessor chi’, which is a residue left by previous owners of the property, are more difficult to measure (although new developments in space conditioning offer hope of measuring it and changing it). And obviously, we use our senses to detect subtle energetic changes in our homes and workplaces. Also, our language can help us to identify if these sensory experiences are real or not. For example, if you say, ‘I feel the tension in the office’, you are probably right. On the other hand, if you say, ‘I think, there is tension in the office.’ – probably you were just imagining it. If, after installing a geopathic stress harmoniser and negative ions generator, you sleep better and have more energy in the morning – these interventions are most likely working and are real.

The Problem with Qi: Vitalism, Science and the Soul of Traditional Chinese Medicine by Kaz Wegmüller
Summary of this paper:
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is deeply rooted in the concepts of qi, yinyang, and the five phases, which are essential for maintaining its classical roots and cultural richness, and without these, it would lose its essence and effectiveness. The concept of qi is fundamental to understanding the universe in classical Chinese thought, providing a continuity between material and non-material energies, and it sidesteps the Western philosophical dilemma of materialism versus idealism. The classical Chinese worldview, which emphasises patterns and qualities through direct human sensory experience, is fundamentally incompatible with the Western scientific paradigm that seeks facts and measurements using sophisticated technology. The historical development of the qi concept, originating from Shang dynasty oracle bones, represents ‘curling vapours rising from the ground and forming clouds above,’ highlighting its ancient and profound significance in Chinese culture. The paper argues against the scientisation of Chinese medicine, suggesting that attempts to measure qi with electronic instruments are misguided and culturally inaccurate, as the human body and its sensory apparatus are already effective in experiencing qi. The author emphasises the importance of preserving the classical Chinese worldview in TCM practice, arguing that repackaging it in Western scientific terms would strip it of its unique cultural and philosophical foundations. The paper highlights the need for TCM practitioners to skilfully and convincingly argue for the validity of their practice, emphasising the clinical usefulness and cultural richness of TCM rather than conforming to Western scientific standards. The author acknowledges the challenges faced by TCM in the modern world, including the influence of science, technology, capitalism, and consumerism, but advocates for maintaining the traditional practices and worldview of TCM.
Limitations of this Paper: The paper acknowledges the fundamental incompatibility between the classical Chinese worldview and the Western scientific paradigm, but it does not provide a clear pathway for integrating or reconciling these differing perspectives, which could limit its practical applicability in modern scientific contexts.
While the paper emphasises the importance of preserving the traditional concepts of qi, yinyang, and the five phases, it does not address how these concepts can be effectively communicated to or accepted by the broader scientific community, potentially limiting its impact on the integration of TCM into mainstream healthcare.
The paper critiques the attempts to measure qi using electronic instruments, arguing that such efforts are culturally and historically inaccurate, but it does not offer alternative methods for scientifically validating the efficacy of TCM practices, which could hinder its acceptance in evidence-based medicine.
The discussion on the historical development of the qi concept and its significance in Chinese culture is thorough, but the paper does not sufficiently explore how these historical and cultural insights can be translated into modern clinical practice, limiting its relevance for contemporary practitioners.
The paper highlights the challenges faced by TCM in gaining legitimacy in the modern medical world due to its vitalist foundations, but it does not propose concrete strategies for overcoming these challenges, which could limit its usefulness for practitioners seeking to advocate for TCM within the scientific community.
Although the paper argues against the scientisation of Chinese medicine, it does not provide a balanced view by considering the potential benefits of integrating some scientific methods and technologies into TCM practice, which could enhance its credibility and effectiveness.
The emphasis on the cultural richness and philosophical foundations of TCM is valuable, but the paper does not sufficiently address the practical implications of this emphasis for clinical outcomes and patient care, potentially limiting its applicability for healthcare providers.
The paper’s critique of the Western scientific approach to understanding qi may be seen as dismissive, which could alienate readers who are looking for a more collaborative and integrative approach to combining Eastern and Western medical practices.
Alternative Methods for Validation?
Empirical Clinical Studies: Conducting empirical clinical studies that focus on the outcomes of TCM treatments can provide valuable data on their effectiveness, without necessarily needing to explain the underlying mechanisms in Western scientific terms. These studies can include randomised controlled trials (RCTs) that compare TCM treatments with placebos or standard Western treatments to assess their efficacy in treating specific conditions.
Patient-Reported Outcomes: Collecting and analysing patient-reported outcomes (PROs) can offer insights into the subjective benefits of TCM treatments, such as improvements in quality of life, pain relief, and overall well-being. These outcomes can be measured using standardised questionnaires and surveys, providing a more holistic view of the treatment’s impact on patients.
Comparative Effectiveness Research: Engaging in comparative effectiveness research (CER) can help determine how TCM treatments stack up against conventional medical treatments in real-world settings. This approach involves comparing the outcomes of patients receiving TCM treatments with those receiving standard care, thereby highlighting the relative benefits and potential advantages of TCM.
Integrative Medicine Approaches: Developing integrative medicine approaches that combine TCM with conventional Western medicine can help validate TCM practices by demonstrating their complementary benefits. This can involve collaborative treatment plans where TCM is used alongside Western medical interventions, and the combined outcomes are studied to assess overall effectiveness.
Historical and Cultural Contextualisation: Understanding and validating TCM within its historical and cultural context can provide a more nuanced appreciation of its practices and principles. This involves studying the historical development of TCM concepts like qi and their applications in traditional Chinese society, which can help bridge the gap between Eastern and Western medical paradigms.
Qualitative Research Methods: Utilising qualitative research methods, such as interviews, focus groups, and ethnographic studies, can provide deeper insights into the experiences and perceptions of TCM practitioners and patients. These methods can help capture the cultural and philosophical dimensions of TCM, which are often overlooked in quantitative research.
Cross-Cultural Comparative Studies: Conducting cross-cultural comparative studies can help validate TCM by comparing its principles and practices with those of other traditional medical systems, such as Ayurveda or Indigenous medicine.
These studies can highlight commonalities and differences, providing a broader context for understanding the unique contributions of TCM to global health. By employing these alternative methods for validation, researchers can build a more comprehensive and culturally sensitive understanding of TCM, thereby enhancing its credibility and acceptance in the broader medical community.
Read the full paper: https://www.academia.edu/19708797/The_Problem_with_Qi_Vitalism_Science_and_the_Soul_of_Traditional_Chinese_Medicine

Electrical nature of life

In this introduction to the electrical nature of life, plasma, charge and chi – you can get a good overview of how chi fits into modern feng shui and the science behind it.
Dirty electricity affects our energy – watch the part where Paul talks about dirty electricity – from 1.03.

Posted in Qi Chi.