The Biggest Obstacle to the Integration of Acupuncture: The Meaning of Qi from the Ancients to Einstein

Author: Clare Foley1, Gerhard Litscher2,3,4
1 Biophysics (MSc, Ac.Lic.), Dublin, Ireland.
2 International Society for Medical Laser Applications (ISLA Transcontinental), Göttingen, Germany.
3 German-Chinese Research Foundation (DCFG) for TCM, Heidelberg, Germany.
4 European Federation of Acupuncture and Moxibustion Societies, Graz, Austria.
Conference/Journal: Med Acupunct
Date published: 2024 Feb 1
Other: Volume ID: 36 , Issue ID: 1 , Pages: 5-11 , Special Notes: doi: 10.1089/acu.2023.0054. , Word Count: 159

Qi continues to be questionably translated in the West as the biblical idea of lifeforce. The true meaning of qi may be closer to the Western scientific definition of energy as the material basis of everything in the Universe. To illustrate this, parallels are drawn between the writings of ancient Chinese thinkers and Western definitions of energy, including the laws of thermodynamics underlying Western scientific thought and yin-yang theory underlying Chinese scientific thought. The focus is on the similarities in theories of material reality while acknowledging how differences in cultural mindset create distinct styles of description of the same ideas. The purpose in establishing a more accurate translation of qi, by removing Western projections, is to improve patient-practitioner communication and to remove obstacles to the acceptance of acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine as a mainstream medical intervention in the West.

Keywords: Traditional Chinese Medicine; Western medicine; acupuncture; energy; lifeforce; qi.

PMID: 38380173 PMCID: PMC10874819 (available on 2025-02-01) DOI: 10.1089/acu.2023.0054