A Chinese word meaning breath or force that is often spelled phonetically as chi. ? The concept appears in various branches of Chinese religion. Daoists claimed that qi was a vital force present in the breath and in bodily fluids. Control of this qi through various physical disciplines or meditation allowed one to manipulate this energy, which was thought in turn to allow one to attain spiritual power and even longer life. The manipulation or mas- tery of qi is also a focus of traditional Chinese medicine and such exercises as Taichi.
The Neo-Confucianists of the Song and Yuan dynasties (9601279) contrasted qi with li, the latter being the true underlying nature or reality of things. For them qi was the vital force that moved through things and might affect them positively or negatively. It was possible to manipulate qi, but li was permanent.
More positive personal qi might be secured through such measures as diet or, most importantly, breath control. On a broader scale qi was thought to be the foundation of the five elements of wood, metal, earth, water, and fire, which are themselves the basis of physical nature. The concept appears throughout Chinese thought in various ways; a common one is the science of feng shui, which at its heart is the attempt to direct qi through physical structures in ways that might be beneficial.