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10th December 2007


What is Qi?

Demystifying the Concept of Qi


Qi are ions. Period.

And I am probably the first person to say so. In fact, I already have this notion about Qi being ions for almost a year before I decided to write this article today.

I have read many feng shui books, articles and internet web sites talking about Qi but none have so far been able to give a specific answer as to what exactly Qi is. Many have defined Qi as life breath, life energy, life force, spiritual energy or simply energy but the answers given are equally as vague as Qi itself. This has led me to think that for thousand of years, the Chinese have been talking so much about Qi and yet modern man, with our technological advances, are still unable to unravel this mystery to define Qi in our modern day context.

The ancient Chinese classic by Guo Pu on the Book of Burial has a phrase that says ¡°Qi rides with the wind and is stopped at the boundary of water¡±. This phrase give us a clue that Qi is like wind or part of wind, it flows along with the moving air and is stopped and gathered when it encounter water, which give out water vapour as part of its natural evaporation. This shows that Qi is part of our atmosphere and is attracted to water.

Next, since Qi is part of air, then at its simplest form, it should have a molecular structure. A molecule has at least 2 or more atoms. An atom is the smallest particle still characterizing a chemical element and is electrically neutral due to its equal number of protons and electrons. If the atom loses an electron or gains an electron, the neutral state is upset and it becomes either a positively charged ion or negatively charged ion. Since air is compose of nitrogen, oxygen, argon, carbon dioxide, traces of other gases and water vapour, any of these gases can produce ions of these gases given the right conditions.

Negative ions contain an extra electron , and are created naturally by the sun, wind, and moving water. Such molecules, in high enough concentrations, neutralize odors and make air cleaner. In themselves, they are imperceptible. One theory suggests that oxygenation of the blood is enhanced in highly ionized environments. Ions are also component of ¡°total dissolved solids¡±, an expression of the combined content of all inorganic and organic substances contained in water.

The following are description of various types of ions:-

1. Anions are negatively charged ions. Anions are negatively charged because there are more electrons associated with them than there are protons in their nuclei.

2. Cations are positively charged ions. Cations are the opposite of anions, since cations have fewer electrons than protons.

3. Dianion : a dianion is a species which has two negative charges on it; for example, the aromatic dianion pentalene .

4. Radical ions : radical ions are ions that contain an odd number of electrons and are mostly very reactive and unstable.

As we are constantly surrounded by ions, either positive or negative ions, with or without our knowing, the effects on us are obvious. A typical city environment usually has a high concentration of positive ions while the countryside or forest has a more abundant amount of negative ions. Negative ions make people feel good, refresh, alert and is associated with ¡°sheng qi¡± while positive ions make people feel irritated, stressful, difficulty in breathing and can be termed as ¡°sha qi¡±. In recent time, people have been going for ion therapy or rather negative ion therapy using electronic devices called negative ionizers to make them feel good at home, office and in the car.

In Chinese metaphysics, we often differentiate Qi between Yang Qi and Yin Qi. Yang Qi is associated with the bright and warm while Yin Qi is associated with the dark and cold. The sunny side of a mountain is ¡°yang¡± while the shadow side is ¡°yin¡±. This is shows that the sun or sunlight is also a source of Qi. According to Wikipedia, ¡° All matter in the Sun is in the form of gas and plasma because of its high temperatures ¡±. The corona of the sun, as seen during a total solar eclipse, is basically a plasma atmosphere, generating electromagnetic radiation and giving out magnetic energy. What is plasma? Plasma is ionized gases, containing charged particles.


Plasma is also commonly called the fourth state of matter in physics. Plasma often behaves like a gas, except that it conducts electricity and is affected by magnetic fields. On an astronomical scale, plasma is common. The Sun is composed of plasma, fire is plasma, fluorescent and neon lights contain plasma.

There is a close link between electromagnetic radiation and ionized gases. In solar flares, the magnetic energy given out can reach the planet earth, affecting its magnetic field. Astrophysical plasmas containing predominantly a mixture of electrons and protons, making up as much as 99.9% of all matter in the universe. An astrophysical plasma is a plasma (an ionized gas) found in astronomy whose physical properties are studied in the science of astrophysics. It can emit x-rays through a process called ¡° bremsstrahlung ¡±. The earth is also surrounded by a field of plasma called magnetosphere and at its inner region a plasmasphere.

A different balance of negative and positive ions in the air will result in various types of Qi according to feng shui theories. Ancient classics said Qi comes from 8 directions. In Xuan Kong Flying Star Feng Shui or Xuan Kong Da Gua Feng Shui, Qi can even come from 24 or 384 directions. Given that ions are in the air and whenever there is air, there will be ions. Also, the Sun and stars gives out plasma, which is also a form of ions and depending on the season and timing, can affect the directions which ions can reach us with different intensity and composition, resulting in Qi that can make us sick, healthy, active or passive. Healthy Qi affects or energize us, making us active to pursue things that we wish for. On the other hand, bad qi or sha qi affects our health, mood, making us ill and in turn affecting our relationship with people.

How is ions related to Qi in the body, like the practice of Qigong? In the field of medical science and biology, Qi in the body is related to the amount of oxygen-centered free radicals such as superoxide (anions of O2) and hydroxyl radical (OH). Cells in the body are composed of different types of molecules. Molecules consist of one or more atoms of one or more elements joined by chemical bonds. But when the chemical bonds are weak and it split, free radicals are formed. Free radicals are very unstable and react quickly with other compounds, trying to capture the needed electron to gain stability. Generally, free radicals attack the nearest stable molecule, "stealing" its electron. When the "attacked" molecule loses its electron, it becomes a free radical itself, beginning a chain reaction. Once the process is started, it can cascade, finally resulting in the disruption of a living cell.

A radical ion is a free radical species that carries a charge . According to Wikipedia, ¡° F ree radicals play an important role in a number of biological processes, some of which are necessary for life, such as the intracellular killing of bacteria¡­ ¡± Therefore we can co-relate that free radicals are also ions in the human body which affect our ageing and health in addition to ions that we breathe in through the air. Therefore in Qigong practice, the quality of the air intake and the control of breathe is essential to reduce oxidative stress and to achieve a good balance of free radicals in the body.

With this short article on ions and the Chinese metaphysical Qi, I hope I have given you much insight into the concept of Qi and ions. They are one and the same thing.

So what is Qi? Qi are ions. Period.


By Cyril Quah

¡°The Feng Shui Connoisseur¡±

December 10, 2007

Copyright 2006 Feng Shui Connoisseur. All rights reserved.