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The Chinese Medicine Sampler - Qi Anatomy & Physiology

Qi - Anatomy & Physiology

Functions of Qi

Functions of the Qi of the Organs

Spirit - Intangible Qi


Spirit is poor translation for Shen. Western ideas of spirit mostly separate from it the body. But human beind are much more fluid in their processes. Any state of being, healty or unhealthy is simply a moment in time of a process; processes which are in constant flux. Emotions and thoughts are Qi moving in a direction. Muscles, veins and nerves are all Qi. But there is no difference between the tangible Qi of flesh and the ethereal Qi of thought excepting their behavior. Spirit and flesh are simply two aspects of the same thing.

The predominant TCM model of the mind and/or spirit is mostly derived from the Five Element school of thought. The five aspects of the mind are Wood - Hun, Fire - Shen, Earth - Yi, Metal - Po, Water - Zhi. Collectively these comprise the Shen. This term includes the Fire Element Shen. Below are a very simplified definition of each aspect.

  • SHEN 
    That which makes humans more than an object in motion.
  • Shen - Mind
    Waking consciousness, waking thought, the Shen resides in the Heart.
  • Hun - Ethereal soul
    Somewhat like western notion of spirit, resides in the Liver.
  • Po - Corporeal soul 
    Soul of the body, provides physiology, resides in  the Lungs.
  • Yi - Intellect
    Scholarly memory, resides in the Spleen.
  • Zhi - Will
    Urge to exist, urge to do, willpower, resides in the Kidneys.

Notice that the five aspects are distributed throughout the body. There is no distinction between mind and body; they’re one entity. The ethereal affects the substantial and the substantial affects the ethereal. They’re both Qi which is manifesting as one person.

It‘s interesting to note that this is contrary to the new-age notion that everything, especially illness, stems from the mind. If everything stemmed from the mind then Moving Liver Qi or Tonifying Kidney Yang would have no effect. The temptation to understand Oriental Medicine by fitting it into western models is strong. But reconciling eastern and western medicines is a vast ocean that is almost entirely uncharted.


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