Is there scientific evidence for the existence of chi/qi?

I’m looking for insight into studies that have been done on chi (or “life energy” as some like to call it), and all of its theories and possible sightings in the scientific literature.

For example, the “gut’s brain” is said to have some anatomical relationship to the tantien (considered to be the center/source of chi energy). I don’t think any studies have really gotten close to figuring out what chi really is; it is popular in western science to say it is an imagined entity.

Thanks in advance for your information and ideas.

It could well be an imagined entity, which would prohibit ANY scientific inquiry from finding anything reliable out about chi, or any “life energy”.

On that note, I’m sure that there have been at least some scientific attempts to see if “chi” or “lifeforce” energy is scientifically quantifiable. The fact that no credible sources are readily available might start pointing you in the direction of “chi” being an imaginary force.

I opened a book on dogs yesterday and saw a chapter on “life energy” in dog food. The author opened the chapter with the premise “ALL fresh and raw foods contain ‘life energy’, and cooked or processed foods have NO ‘life energy’ whatsoever.”

I immediately recognized that I was reading the work of a charlatan.


I used to take Kirlian photographs. They were pretty, and interesting, but hardly scientific.

There’s been plenty written debunking Kirlian photography. There’s no a priori reason to think that these discharge phenomena correlate with any sort of “aura” or “bioenergy”, it’s been demonstrated that the apearance is strongly affected by all sorts of effects unrelated to one’s mental or emotional state (like the frequency and amplitude of the applied field, the humidity , and whether or not you’re surreptitiously grounding yourself by pressing your knee against the table leg), and the much-discussed “phantom leaf” effect has proven highly elusive when they try to intentionally reproduce it. Just Google it, along with “skeptic” and see what pops up.

I’m interested in building one; is that what you did?

I don’t know of any scientific studies that have been done on ‘chi’. It has certainly never been detected.
Here is a claim by a religion:

Li preaches that the “qi,” “ki,” or “chi” — the “energy substance in the human body” — can, through practice of Falun Gong, be activated, changing the physical state of the body, achieving healing and health. Through such training, he says, one can emit a “high-energy cluster that is manifested in the form of light with fine particles and high density.”

Since there is no evidence that ‘chi’ exists, there is no reason to believe in it.

There’s lots of science behind it! Kirlian images are created by the photoemissions from high-voltage corona discharge. If that’s not an “aura” then I don’t know what is. :wink:

Well, I’m sure it is not manifested in light or anything like that. I’m just looking to collect information.

I did some pubmed searches, and there was an interesting study on the effects chi had on mitochondria. It seemed, though, that the P values were too small to determine anything definitive.

Yeah, it seems the cause of kirlian photography, the corona discharge, is just an anomaly or artifact.

You mean any studies that shows any of these things are real? A real scientific study will most likely conclude they are not. Any study showing Chi actually exists will be worth at least a million, and that’s only from Randi.

Just get hold of a high-frequency, high-voltage generator. The flyback circuit from a TV works fine. Don’t hurt yourself.


Maybe this will help you get started:

Some of the claims for ‘chi’ are:

  • you can heal yourself
  • you can fly
  • you can deflect bullets

It would be a lot easier to test these claims than the study you mention.

The reasons that ‘Western science’ can’t detect ‘chi’ are:

  • they are suppressing the information, because the power of ‘chi’ scares them
  • ‘chi’ can only be detected by people who believe in it
  • ‘chi’ can only be detected by people who are members of the appropriate religion

‘Chi’ must exist because it is an ancient belief and merely by paying to join a religion, you will receive its power…

Again, I think part of the issue here is that you’re starting with a base assumption that “chi” energy exists, and thus are looking for some sort of information on “what” it affects rather than “does such a thing in the first place exist to affect something”.

IIRC, and I may even be exaggerating at that, some forms of acpuncture or massage therapy, etc., are said to be “chi” based, focusing on different pressure points, and such, but it was later found that a biologically based explanation, such as connected nerve clusters, caused the effects that were attributed to a mysterious “life energy”. Still interesting work, but it’s not nearly the sort of mythical energy you seem to be presupposing exists.

I’m not saying that chi is what anyone says it is, but I am going on the assumption that there is something there that is misunderstood (or has been overlooked completely). I’m using the name chi in order to define that I am talking about what “all those” easterners have been talking about, but I’m not saying that chi is what they say it is. This is why I’m looking around for some insight - or scientists theories (besides “those people are retarded”) - on what chi is. It is apparent that we have seen the effects of chi (or the effects of those who practice qigong (“chi cultivation”). For example, one Harvard study has monks agree to be tested in labs. The were put in freezing rooms with wet towels around them, and the towels were dried off within a half our. One cannot say this this “IS CHI,” but it certainly is showing an effect of something there - something that, as of now, we certainly don’t understand.

Maybe I should post “Does Chi Exist” in the debate forum, and hope that there will be some passionate and well thought-out arguments.

I think the issue is that “Chi” is used as a generic blanket explanation for stuff. We can give you science’s current attempts at explaining those things, but that requires a case-by-case explanation. Your question is somewhat akin to asking how Vegas magicians do their tricks - there isn’t a single explanation; you have to show us the specific case to explain.

You are greatly exaggerating the monks-with-towels bit. Anybody would be able to dry off the thin sheets that they used; the impressive part was that the monks didn’t get hypothermic, because they were able to regulate their body by lowering their heart rate and stuff (Here’s the original article: Still impressive, but it hardly qualifies as a phantom form of energy.

I didn’t mean to make it sound magical in any sense, but how many people in this world can willingly raise parts of their bodies 17 degrees? Furthermore, infrared imaging has shown that others can raise it even higher. This is certainly a by-product of a not yet understood phenomena, no? In other words, lets try not to think of it as a “phantom form of energy,” but as something which feels like energy to its practitioners - and has some resemblance to energy in its supposed applications.

actually, it is fairly well understood, it doesn’t really require any form of energy beyond what is normally found in the body. The monks have a lot of training and intense concentration in order to control body functions that are normally automatic. Think of it this way. everybody can learn to hold their breath, it’s a very common control method over what’s normally an automatic body function, nobody “thinks” about breathing 24/7. In the same way, nobody really “thinks” about their heart beating, but these monks have spent years doing just that. This sort of control over one’s body is very impressive, but well within defined scientific limits and understood body control mechanisms, not an outside energy force.

I understand that you’re using “chi” as an example term, which is why I’ve substituted “life force” or “life energy” in most of my posts. My point has always, and will continue to be, that the scientific community as of right now contends that there is no force outside of those biologically understood. I have yet to see any convincing evidence to the contrary personally, as well, though I won’t rule out such a thing possibly existing.

Heck, I can raise my body 90 degrees just by getting out of bed.

Well, it’s kind of hard to minutely examine and quantify feelings; we can only go with measurable results. The approach you’re proposing will naturally lead to confirmation bias: any test result that seems vaguely mysterious is proof of chi, any test result that tends to disprove chi is just looking in the wrong place.

human_extinction– if you want to learn the Secrets Of The Universe…study Physics.