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There is no literal translation for the Chinese term Qi. Generally, it is translated with energy, i.e. the energy of live. But it does not correspond with the energy in physics. Sometimes it is translated with breath. An European synonym may be the term odem or breath of life.

Reading the Chinese Letters

The ideogram for Qi depicts rice (Mi) being cooked. Above the pot we see Yun, which depicts the vapors coming off the top of the pot. The radical Chih represents the pot in which the rice is cooked, or the abdomen in which the liquid (blood) is heated. The vapors coming off the pot are Qi as an energy. They can also be viewed as clouds (earth's steam). Our breath serves not only as a process for sustaining life (as cooking is to eating) but as a catalyst for producing energy (as cooking produces steam). In representing Qi as vapor or steam which drives pistons in powerful engines this ideogram clearly symbolizes the energy and power of Qi.

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