Qi-Transformation and the Steam Engine

Illustration of the steam engine in Hobson, Treatise of Natural Philosophy (1855), p. 18. Citation: Asian Medicine 7, 2 (2012) ; 10.1163/15734218-12341256

This wonderful article recounts some of the important evolutions and modifications of Chinese Medicical theory around the turn of the 19th century (incorporating the recent revelation that was the publication of Grey’s Anatomy in China, and the universal desire to incorporate understanding of the new laws of thermodynamics)…relating the ‘revolutionary’ technology of the steam engine to the vision of Chinese scholars and writers of the time with respect to the term qi, and it’s transformation in physiological processes, which are now considered to be at the heart of TCM. The author thoughtfully discusses the impact of western anatomical illustrations being incorporated into Chinese thought, especially how the differences between the western and chinese visions were reconciled, and the implications of these overlapped visions. In conclusion Mr. Lei gives us a glimpse into the historical origins of translating the term qi as ‘energy’, and the consequences thereof.