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What is Qi? There are Many Forms of Qi (Vital Substances) in Chinese Medicine. Qi Forms in TCM Acupuncture Theory include Jing (Essence), Prenatal Jing, Kidney Jing, Defensive (Wei) Qi, Yuan Qi, Gu Qi, Zong Qi, Nutritive Qi (Ying Qi), Zhong Qi or Postnatal Essence and Body Fluids (Jin Ye).

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  What are the Many Forms of Qi (Vital Substances) in Chinese Medicine? What is the Difference Between the Qi Forms in TCM Acupuncture Theory including Jing (Essence), Prenatal Jing, Kidney Jing, Defensive (Wei) Qi, Yuan Qi, Gu Qi, Zong Qi, Nutritive Qi (Ying Qi), Zhong Qi (Postnatal Essence) and Body Fluids (Jin Ye)? 

There are numerous forms of Qi and fluids generated and circulated throughout every part of the body by the ubiquitous Sanjiao (Triple-Energizer Metasystem). Rather than reinvent wheels regarding the description of the various forms of Qi that empower the body, I searched the Internet for authoritative articles that accurately described the various forms of Qi and fluids and their functions in detail. The following articles in their entirety appear numerous times throughout cyberspace, and I could not determine the original eloquent author(s). Subsequently, I chose to cite the website articles (212, 213, 214) below to describe the various constituents produced by the San Jiao.

This enlightening book is easy to understand, and is essential reading for everyone wishing to know more about the function of the various forms of Qi produced and circulated by the mysterious Sanjiao aka Triple Heater, or as I call the primordial organ, the Triple-Energizer Metasystem. Analogies of these Qi forms are being elucidated by recent medical research on a regular basis. This informative book can be securely purchased by clicking the ‘BUY NOW’ button at the bottom of this page.

47.1 Prenatal Jing (Essence) (Preheaven Essence or Congenital Jing)

Jing (translated as Essence) is an essential and precious substance in Chinese Medicine and should be protected and not squandered or misused. The following information is derived from the website article titled ‘Jing (Essence)—Vital Substances in Chinese Medicine’ (213). At conception, the Prenatal Jing is transferred from each of the parents to the embryo. Prenatal Jing, in harmony with energy derived from the Kidneys of the mother, continues to sustain and nourish fetal development during pregnancy. The transferred Prenatal Jing controls and defines the constitution, strength, and vitality of the newborn. Prenatal Jing is a quantified absolute that is entrenched at birth and is unable to be added to. This Prenatal Jing is stored in the Kidneys. Prenatal Jing can be conserved and protected by conservative and balanced lifestyle measures. For example, moderation in diet, avoiding excesses, avoiding low-quality junk foods, not overworking, and having sufficient rest and sleep all help to conserve Jing (Essence). Excessive sexual activity and ‘maladjusted affairs of the bedroom’ should be avoided—this one always made classmates smile during lectures as lecturers evaded supplying a definition of ‘maladjusted affairs of the bedroom’. Specific breathing exercises, Tai Chi, and Qi Gong all help to conserve and fortify Prenatal Jing integrity.

47.6 Kidney Jing Produces ‘Marrow’

Interestingly, the marrow of TCM has no exact counterpart in Western allopathic Medicine. Kidney Jing produces Marrow, and the Marrow produces bone marrow, the brain, and the spinal cord. In TCM, the Brain is called the Sea of Marrow. Subsequently, if the caliber of Kidney Jing is weak, the brain will be undernourished, which will result in poor memory, poor concentration, a fuzzy or cotton wool or empty feeling in the head, dizziness, etc.

47.7 Kidney Jing Determines Our Vitality, Integrity, and Constitution

The strength and integrity of our Defensive (Wei) Qi determines our immunological strength and resistance to attack from external pathogens. Nevertheless, the vitality of Kidney Essence also impacts our strength and resistance. If Kidney Essence is weak or squandered, the person may have poor immunity to exogenous pathogenic influences and may be chronically ill with cold, influenza, allergies, and other debilitating medical conditions.

47.9 Yuan Qi Is Jing in Motion

In the website article titled ‘Forms of Qi—Vital Substances in Chinese Medicine’ (212), regarding the primal nature of Yuan Qi, it is stated, ‘Yuan Qi is said to be Essence that has been transformed into Qi, or Jing in motion. Yuan Qi has its root in the Kidneys and is spread throughout the body by the San Jiao (Triple Burner). It is the foundation of all the Yin and Yang energies of the body. Yuan Qi, like Prenatal Jing, is hereditary, fixed in quantity, but nourished by Postnatal Jing.’

47.11 The Functions of Gu Qi (Food Qi) within the Body

Regarding the functions of Gu Qi within the body, the article titled ‘Forms of Qi—Vital Substances in Chinese Medicine’ (212) explains that when food enters the Stomach, it is initially ‘rotted and ripened’ there before being directed to the Spleen, where the incomplete intermediate Gu Qi is derived. Intermediate Gu Qi is directed upwards from the Middle Burner (housing the Stomach and Spleen) to the Upper Burner, which houses the Lungs and Heart. One portion of the Gu Qi reacts with air to generate Zong Qi, while the other portion of Gu Qi is also directed to the Lungs; from there it is transferred to the Heart, where both Yuan Qi and Kidney Qi will help transmute it into Blood.

47.15 The Functions of Wei Qi (Protective Qi) within the Body

Regarding the functions of Wei Qi within the body, the article titled ‘Forms of Qi—Vital Substances in Chinese Medicine’ (212) advises that Wei Qi is more Yang than Nutritive Qi (Ying Qi) and that it is fast-moving, slippery, and is easily motivated. Wei Qi is located primarily on the exterior of the body in the skin and muscles. Wei Qi travels both inside and outside the channels. Protective Wei Qi flows primarily in the superficial layers of the body, especially in the Tendino-Muscular meridians. Wei Qi shields and protects the body from external pathogenic influences and attacks, including the adverse influences and stimuli from Wind, Cold, Heat, and Dampness. Protective Wei Qi nourishes, moisturizes, and warms the skin and muscles and controls the body temperature via sweating by regulating the opening and closing of the pores. While the Lungs regulate the circulation of Wei Qi to the skin, they also distribute fluids to moisten the skin and muscles. The function of perspiration is dependent on the capacity of the Lungs to circulate fluids and Wei Qi to the surface of the body. Subsequently, if there is a deficiency of Wei Qi, then the pores do not open and close correctly, and the fluids leak out, causing spontaneous sweating. When an external pathogen (for example Wind-Cold) invades the Exterior, the pathogen can obstruct the pores and inhibit the regulatory function of the Wei Qi and prevent the cooling function of sweating. In this case, the practitioner would have to restore the dispersing function of the Lungs and reinforce the Wei Qi to produce sweating and expel the pathogen. This protocol of sweating therapy (diaphoresis) is beneficial in the early stages of a Wind-Cold pathogenic invasion to eliminate the pathogen.

47.17 The Functions of Zhong Qi (Central Qi) within the Body

Regarding the functions of Zhong Qi within the body, the article titled ‘Forms of Qi—Vital Substances in Chinese Medicine’ (212) explains that Zhong Qi or Postnatal Essence is the Qi form that is derived from consumed food by the Stomach and Spleen and is associated with the potential of epigenetics. The vitality and integrity of the Postnatal Essence or Central Qi is an indicator of the Qi of the Middle Jiao, which embodies the Center. When the Central Qi is weak, the holding function of Spleen is compromised, and organ prolapses (hemorrhoids, prolapsed bowel, etc.) can occur.

47.19 The Nature and Circulation of ‘Jin’ throughout the Body

The article titled ‘Body Fluids (Jin Ye)—Vital Substances in Chinese Medicine’ (214) states that Jin ‘fluids are clear, light, thin and watery, and circulate in the exterior of the body (skin and muscles) with the Wei Qi’. The Lungs in the Upper Burner control the transformation and movement of the Jin fluids throughout the body to moisturize and partly nourish the skin and muscles. Jin fluid is exuded as sweat but is also used to produce tears and saliva and is similarly used in the manufacture of Blood to keep it thin and flowing so that stasis and coagulation stuckness does not occur.

47.20 The Nature and Circulation of ‘Ye’ throughout the Body

Ye fluids are body fluids that are more turbid, dense, and heavy than Jin fluids, and they circulate throughout the interior of the body with the Ying (Nutritive) Qi. Ye moves relatively more slowly than Jin fluids. Ye fluids are transformed by and under the control of the Spleen and Kidneys and are circulated and excreted by the Middle and Lower Burners. The function of Ye fluids is to moisten the joints, spine, brain, and the bone marrow. Ye is also used to lubricate the openings of the sensory organs, including the nose, ears, mouth, and eyes (214).

47.21.6 Involvement of the San Jiao (Triple Burner) with Jin Ye

The San Jiao assists with the transformation, transportation, and excretion of various types of fluids throughout the body.

  1. Upper Burner is compared to a mist, whereby the Lungs disperse fluids to the space under the skin.
  2. Middle Burner is like a muddy pool (or a foam) because the Stomach churns foods and fluids and directs the impure portion to the Small Intestine and the pure portion to the Spleen.
  3. Lower Burner is compared to a drainage ditch or swamp because the Small Intestine separates the pure from the impure, while the Bladder and Kidneys transform, separate, and excrete fluids.

47.25 The Properties of Zhen Qi within the Body

Regarding the properties of Zhen Qi within the body, in the article titled ‘The Location and Function of the Sanjiao’, the authors, Qu Lifang and Mary Garvey (43), describe how Zhen Qi is distributed predominantly inside the established channels and how it also flows inside the internal branches. Zhen Qi is responsible for the communication of physiological information between the various zang or fu organs to ensure that they maintain optimal functionality. If the Qi vitality of any one of the zangfu is weakened, the Zhen Qi within that respective zangfu channel will also be compromised and weakened, and consequently, Pathogenic Qi is able to enter into the weakened channel and penetrate more readily and directly attack the respective zang or fu organ.

47.26 The Nature of Ying Qi

Regarding the nature of the Ying Qi of TCM, the author of the book Gua Sha: A Traditional Technique for Modern Practice, Arya Nielsen (20), on page 34, states:

Like connective tissue, it is said there is nothing the San Jiao does not envelope, including the vessels that hold the Blood and conduct the Ying Qi. Ying is the nourishing, constructive aspect. Ying flows in the blood vessels and channels, Wei Qi flows outside the channels. Ying suffuses the entire body through the vascular system and the meridian system. According to Ross (1985) Ying and blood are often synonymous. The Blood carries Ying, but Ying is not contained only in Blood. Ying Qi is the Qi activated when a needle is inserted in an acupuncture point (Maciocia 1989). (Emphasis is mine)

Remember that as blood courses through the capillaries, it diffuses into the interstitial spaces, whereupon it becomes lymphatic fluid, so these two fluids have a common origin. Nielsen states above that ‘Ying suffuses the entire body through the vascular system and the meridian system’. Recent research has confirmed this possibility, showing that the Primo Vascular System (PVS) ducts flow both inside and outside blood vessels and lymph vessels. It makes perfect sense that these thread-like PVS channels will be determined with future research to actually flow within the acupuncture meridians, which I believe are hollow connective tissues probably predominantly composed of collagen. I love the fact that the citation above by Nielsen states, ‘Like connective tissue, it is said there is nothing the San Jiao does not envelope’.


(20) Nielsen, A., Gua Sha: A Traditional Technique for Modern Practice (New York: Churchill Livingstone, 1995).

(43) Lifang, Q. and M. Garvey, ‘The Location and Function of the Sanjiao’, Journal of Chinese Medicine, 65 (2001), 26–32.

(212) Anonymous, ‘Forms of Qi—Vital Substances in Chinese Medicine’, Available from <>.

(213) Anonymous, ‘Jing (Essence)—Vital Substances in Chinese Medicine’. Available from <>.

(214) Anonymous, ‘Body Fluids (Jin Ye)—Vital Substances in Chinese Medicine’. Available from <>.


I wish to sincerely thank Dr Paul U. Unschuld for the selfless and tireless work he has committed to make many ancient Chinese medical classics available in English for study and research. My book is based predominantly around his scholarly work ‘Nan-Ching: The Classic of Difficult Issues’. I also wish to sincerely thank Professor Unschuld for permission to use citations of his translation in my book. His translation of ‘Nan-Ching: The Classic of Difficult Issues’ can be purchased from the following link:

To Securely Purchase the Book, Click the ‘BUY NOW’ Button!




             Sanjiao’s Mystique Demystified


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