Fundamental Differences Between Qi and Xue

Southwest Acupuncture College Chinese Medical Theory I:II October 14, 2020

Qi and Xue are two fundamental concepts in Chinese medicine that are part of the Chinese way of life. The English translation of Xue is Blood. The translation of Qi is not so simple. The English language lacks a single word that will accurately encapsulate the true meaning of Qi. Some science fields translate Qi as matter. Other science fields prefer the term energy. Both matter and energy are appropriate translations for certain aspects of Qi but these terms are not all inclusive of what Qi is. Qi represents both tangible and intangible aspects of the human experience (mind, spirit) and the human bodily’s functions (body), thereby representing both matter and energy plus more. Qi and Xue’s tangible and intangible aspects, their relationship with each other, how they are the same, how they differ from one another, how they support each other, their functions within the body, and examples of pathological patterns are described here. Pathological patterns involving Qi and Xue are relational. Qi deficiency depletes Qi which may lead to developing signs of Blood deficiency. Qi deficiency patterns include sweating, shortness of breath or breathlessness, and cold limbs. When the symptoms are prolonged, it may lead to heavy sweating. If Qi is depleted, Blood deficiency will ensue. Blood deficiency patterns include pallor, numbness, dizziness and palpitations. Any patient reporting palpitations is an indication to consider the Heart in the diagnosis. In order to understand how the Heart is involved in the cycle of pathological patterns involving Qi and Xue, we first consider how Qi is involved with the Heart. Since Qi creates, moves and holds Blood in place, Qi has an intimate relationship with the Heart, Blood, and the Blood Vessels, also known as the cardiovascular system in Western medicine. Western medicine’s focus on the tangible (palpitations, dizziness, pallor, numbness) may point a Western medicine trained physician to the Heart as well, but with a different approach than someone with a TCM background. Western medicine will focus on the organ itself whereas a TCM medical professional will consider options that the latter may not find suitable. Part of the disparity stems from Qi’s intangible aspects. Making the connection between the tangible Xue Blood and the Heart is readily made but what exactly is Qi and how is Qi involved with palpitations, dizziness, pallor and numbness? Western medicine’s basic dichotomy of inert matter being pushed into change from external forces is at the basis of Western medical diagnoses, including palpitations. Since the Chinese do not distinguish between matter and energy, the symptoms are recognized as Qi patterns of fluctuating energy. To the Chinese Qi is a kind of matter that is on the precipice of becoming energy, or could reference energy that is at the point of materializing into physical form. The concept of manifestation of any Qi state is that it is dependent on what’s already inherent in that form. To be clear Qi does not cause change. Qi is the Yang force that is present before the change, during and after the metamorphosis has taken place. Qi is the potential and actualization of transformation. Qi is the cause, process and outcome of all activity in the cosmos. Qi is the pulsation of the cosmos itself.

All of the physical and non physical energies in the cosmos possess Qi. Individual energies energize each other. Speech, proximity, contact, and thoughts are some ways in which energy resonates. A resonance with each other’s Qi evokes changes and even transformation in energy forms. If Qi is the link amongst all forms, then resonance is the method for transformation. For the Chinese it is an inner transformation that causes the matter to change, not an external physical force acting upon inert matter, as thought of by Western medicine. Qi is the cosmic breath that unites disparate forms. Without an understanding of what Qi is, how Qi affects the organ systems of the human body, and how disparate forms interact, medicine is left with a piece of meat (organ), surrounding tissues, fluids, and Blood. Blood itself is a form of Qi, a very dense one. Qi is the electrical energy that pushes the Blood through the meridians, yet the meridians are not Qi. The meridians are highways of energetic possibilities. When Qi is not manifested, it is all around. Qi is the Yang aspect while Blood is the complementary Yin aspect. As dualistic forces that complement each other, Qi is warmth, movement and transformation whereas Blood is cooling and nourishing. Qi and Blood are fundamentally different yet as Blood Xue is somewhere in between Qi and Yin, it sort of has functions of both. Blood is associated with the everyday cyclical process of maintenance, nourishment and repair. Blood is also static in time presiding over repetitive cycles. Qi is eternal. Qi has 3 sources. Original Qi (Yuan Qi)-prenatal Qi, Grain Qi (Gu Qi), and Air Qi (Qing Qi). There is no place that does not have Qi and no place it does not penetrate. Once Qi is formed it can be divided into many different specific types of Qi. Qi is a source of growth in the body but also grows with the body. Qi is not the cause of movement because Qi is inseparable from movement. Human life is a condensation of Qi and death is a dispersal of Qi. All that is void and empty is full of Qi. While in a state of condensation it is visible and called a human. Qi is a continuous form of matter, resulting in physical shape when it condenses. Qi is the root of a human being. How is Qi the root of a human being?, I asked myself as I concluded my research. My research led me to the Movie ​Life Beyond II: The Museum of Alien Life​ (Boswell, 2020). In this short film the author attempts to explain how different life forms may evolve under different chemical conditions throughout the Cosmos. The Cosmos cannot be limited to carbon based life forms that breathe oxygen gaseous cocktails. Western medicine’s general tendency towards ethnocentrism leads to the anthropomorphization of ideas that will suit our imaginations. This movie beautifully depicts how different life forms could be everywhere. Since all of life is made possible by Qi’s everlasting presence in the cosmos, this movie illustrates how Qi is the root of a human being but also of all life forms. Qi manifests in the heavens as it does on Earth.


  1. Boswell, J. D. [melodysheep]. (2020, October 07) ​Life Beyond II: The Museum of Alien Life (4K)​. [Video]. ​​. YouTube.

  2. Hall, Ted. (2020) ​Vital Substances​. ​Lecture Notes​:​ Chinese Medical Theory 101/102​. 2-11

  3. Kaptchuck, Ted J. ​The Web That Has No Weaver: understanding Chinese medicine​. 2000: 47-54

  4. Maciocia, Giovanni. ​The foundations of Chinese Medicine​. 2005: 41-64

  5. Xinnong, Cheng. ​Chinese Acupuncture And Moxibustion​: Fifteenth Printing. 2014. 53-56

28 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All