What is Qi Gong 氣功?

Posted by Master Aaron Khor (Chinese Medicine Practitioner) on 23 Oct 2020

What Does Qigong Mean?

has several layers of meaning. Qi is translated as ‘energy’, ‘ether’, ‘matter-energy’, ‘vital force’, ‘life force’. The main difficulty of translating the word Qi is its versatile nature whereby Qi can assume different manifestations and be different things in different situations.  

In the Chinese written character, Qigong is written as .

It means breath, the function that enables the body to circulate the oxygen. Qi comes from inhalation and exhalation of the breath. It is like hidden oxygen within the body’s blood just like steam is dormant with water. Therefore, water and steam essentially contain the same substance, as are breath and Qi (). Steam from the water can turn into a powerful energy source as it is transformed, the same is true of ().

Qi is at the same time, both material and immaterial. Separating the characters out in the word (), the top half of the character means ‘vapour, ‘steam’, ‘gas’ and the lower half character is uncooked rice.

Other meanings of Qigong include vital-life energy, internal heat, steam-like vapor for mobilization of blood, internal power, an inherent oxygen in the blood, and externally expressed power.

The word gōng () means “skill,” “work,” or “effort,”. The same character is used in the word Kung Fu which is pronounced as gōng Fu ().    

Therefore, when you combine both words, (Qi) (gōng) means “the skill of breath/Qi” or “to work the breath/Qi”. The word is pronounced as Chi (Qi) and Gong, not Quee Gong which has no meaning at all.

When you are practicing Tai Chi you are learning and practicing the ‘skill of breath’. By exercising the body and learning the breathing technique, you enhance the flow of Qi within your body to improve health or to achieve some exterior objective. There are two forms of Qi Gong… ‘internal’ and ‘external’.

‘Internal ‘Qigong (Nei Dan Qigong) refers to cultivating and nurturing the internal power of the body through the removal of all stress and tension, and development of internal health. ‘External’ Qigong (Wei Dan Qigong) is working the body system and developing raw muscular power of the body.

For an exercise to become Qigong, the body’s physical, emotional, intellectual and energetic aspects would need to be fully involved rather than just performing movements mindlessly.

In Qigong there are several requirements needed whilst practicing the art:

-          Muscular tension within the body to be released. Distinguish between muscle ‘tension’ unnecessary for the performance of the exercise and muscular activity necessary to carry out the exercise. Learn to relax and let go of the body weight, sinking the Qi…a technique is called Soong,

-          The posture should be Upright. This involves proper alignment of the spine to support the flow of Qi throughout the body. and maintain a flowing silk-like movement.

-          The breath should be relaxed using diaphragmatic breathing.

-          The intellectual mind should be focused on maintaining a slow rhythmic speed.

-          The emotional mind should be calm and relaxed, enjoying a comfortable feeling throughout the performance of the whole exercise.


In Traditional Chinese Medicine, ‘Qi’ is used in two major ways:

1. Indicates refined energy produced by the internal organs, which has the function of nourishing the body and mind. The energy changes in different locations healing the body for example Gathering Qi (Zong Qi) is in the chest and nourishes the heart and lungs.

2. ‘Qi’ indicates functional activity of internal organs. In this sense we look at the functional activities of the organ itself ensuring there a smooth flow instead of blockage.

Qi is an energy that manifests simultaneously on the physical and emotional-mental-spiritual level. Qi is in a constant state of fluctuation and always changing, accumulating. Qi gives rise to physical shape and when it is dispersed, it changes to subtle forms of energy.  Ultimately there is only one Qi though it manifests in different forms and parts of the body. Traditional Chinese Medicine looks at many areas of the body healing including Nutritive Qi (Ying Wi) which exists in the interior of the body to nourish the Defensive Qi (Wei Qi) on the exterior of the body helping boost the immune system. Original Qi (Yuan Qi) is the Qi you are born with and given by your parents. Poor circulation of Qi and Blood can result in excessive ‘aggregation’ or ‘condensation’ which means Qi becomes pathologically dense, forming lumps, masses or tumours.

 Qi is the root of a human being which refers to the interaction of natural forces, the environment and Qi.

In Western Medicine, Qi is termed as ‘energy’ since it expresses the continuum of matter and energy. Physicists modern particle physics discovered this from experimentation.

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