Frontiers of Philosophy in China

, Volume 3, Issue 2, pp 194–212 | Cite as

A differentiation of the meaning of “qi” on several levels

  • Cunshan LiEmail author
Research Article


In Chinese philosophy, although the concept of “qi” has numerous meanings, it is not completely without order or chaotic. Generally speaking, “qi” has several different levels of meanings, such as in philosophy, physics, physiology, psychology, ethics, and so on. On the philosophical level, “qi” is similar to “air,” and it is essentially similar to the “matter-energy” or “field” in physics, which refers to the origin or an element of all things in the world. It is from this point that the meanings of “qi” in physiology, psychology, ethics as well as aesthetics are derived. This paper analyzes the meanings of “qi” on five levels and seeks to clarify misunderstandings about “qi,” such as its alleged pan-vitalistic, conscious and pan-ethical characters.


Chinese philosophy qi several levels of meaning 


中国哲学的 “气” 概念虽然含义极广, 拢卢但并非毫无条理的混沌。 大致说来, “气” 概念有物理、 生理、 心理、 伦理、 哲理等几个层次的含义。 哲理意义的 “气” 是指作为世界万物之本原或元素的 “气”, 它可以化生万物, 其本身与物理意义的 “气” 相通, 而生理、 心理、 伦理乃至文论、 美学等意义的 “气” 都由此衍生而来。 这种分析有助于澄清对 “气” 概念的 “泛生命性”、 “有知觉” 和 “泛伦理性” 等的误解。


中国哲学 气 意义的几个层次 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Aristotle (1959). Metaphysics (in Chinese). Beijing: Shangwu YinshuguanGoogle Scholar
  2. Chan, Wing-Tsit (1963). A Source Book in Chinese Philosophy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University PressGoogle Scholar
  3. Cheng Hao, Cheng Yi (1981). Er Cheng Ji 二程集 (Collection of the Works of Cheng Hao and Cheng Yi). Beijing: Zhonghua ShujuGoogle Scholar
  4. Dai Zhen (1962). Mengzi Ziyi Shu Zheng 孟子字义疏证 (Annotation and Explanation of Mencius). Beijing: Zhonghua ShujuGoogle Scholar
  5. Fang Yizhi (1937). Wuli Xiao Shi 物理小识 (General Knowledge of Material). Beijing: Shangwu YinshuguanGoogle Scholar
  6. Feng Youlan (2000). Sansongtang Quanji 三松堂全集 (Sansongtang Collections), Vol. 6. Zhengzhou: Henan Renmin ChubansheGoogle Scholar
  7. Hegel (1959). Lectures on the History of Philosophy (in Chinese), Vol. 1. Beijing: Shangwu YinshuguanGoogle Scholar
  8. Huang Hui (1990). Lun Heng Jiao Shi 论衡킣释 (The Collation and Interpration of Lun Heng). Beijing: Zhonghua ShujuGoogle Scholar
  9. Huang Lin (2000). Yuan Ren Lun 原人论 (Discussion about the Discovory of Human Being). Shanghai: Fudan Daxue ChubansheGoogle Scholar
  10. Jiang Nanhua (1995). Xunzi Quan Yi 荀子全译 (Complete Interpretation of Xunzi). Guiyang: Guizhou Renmin ChubansheGoogle Scholar
  11. Jin Liangnian (2003). Mengzi Yi Zhu 쏏子译注 (The Interpretation and Annotation of Mencius). Shanghai: Shanghai Shudian ChubansheGoogle Scholar
  12. Li Cunshan (1990). Zhongguo Qilun Tanyuan yu Fawei 中国气论探源与发微 (The Origin and Its Develoment of the Doctrine of Qi in Chinese Philosophy). Beijing: Zhongguo Shehui Kexue ChubansheGoogle Scholar
  13. Li Cunshan (2003). “Qian Zhexue Gainian” de “Qilun Zhexue Yanjiu”—Ping Zeng Zhenyu Zhu “Zhongguo Qilun Zhexue Yanjiu” “前哲学概念” 的 “气论哲学研究”—评曾振宇著 «中 国气论哲学研究» (“Philosophical Research on the Doctrine of Qi in ‘the Pre-Philosophy Concepts'—Comments on Zeng Zhenyu's Philosophical Research on Chinese Qi” ). Xueshu Jie, Issue 6Google Scholar
  14. Li Jianzhong (2007). Zhongguo Gudai Wenlun 中国古代文论 (On the Ancient Articles in China). Shanghai: Huazhong Shifan Daxue ChubansheGoogle Scholar
  15. Needham, Joseph (1986). Li Yuese Wenji 李约瑟文集 (Collections of Joseph Needleham's Works). Shenyang: Liaoning Kexue Jishu ChubansheGoogle Scholar
  16. Ruan Yuan (1980). Shi San Jing Zhushu 十三经注疏 (Annotations and Explanations to the Thirteen Canons). Beijing: Zhonghua ShujuGoogle Scholar
  17. Sheng Shuli (1998). Zhongguo Wushenlun Shi Ziliao Xuanbian 中国无神论史资料选编 (Selective Compiling of the Historical Data about Antitheism in China). Beijing: Zhonghua ShujuGoogle Scholar
  18. Wang Xianqian (1987). Zhuangzi Jijie 庄子集解 (Collected Annotations of Zhuangzi). Beijing: Zhonghua ShujuGoogle Scholar
  19. Wang Xianqian (1988). Xunzi Jijie 荀子集解 (Collected Annotations of Xunzi). Beijing: Zhonghua ShujuGoogle Scholar
  20. Wang Yangming (1992). Wang Yangming Quanji 王阳明全集 (Collected Books of Wang Yangming). Shanghai: Shanghai Guji ChubansheGoogle Scholar
  21. Zeng Zhenyu (1997). Dong Zhongshu Qi Zhexue Lungang 董仲舒气哲学论纲 (The Outline of Dong Zhongshu's Philosophy of Qi). Kongzi Yanjiu, Vol. 2Google Scholar
  22. Zeng Zhenyu (2001). Zhongguo Qilun Zhexue Yanjiu 中国气论哲学研究 (On the Philosophy of Qi in China). Jinan: Shandong Daxue ChubansheGoogle Scholar
  23. Zeng Zhenyu (2004). Lun “Qi” 论“气” (On “Qi”). Zhexue Yanjiu, Vol. 7Google Scholar
  24. Zhang Dainian (1989). Zhongguo Gudian Zhexue Gainian Fanchou Yaolun 中国古典哲学概念范畴要论 (Key Concepts in Chinese Philosophy). Beijing: Zhongguo Shehui Kexue ChubansheGoogle Scholar
  25. Zhang Xikun (2000). “Qiyun” Fanchou Kaobian “气韵” 范畴考辨 (The Study on the Category of “the Rhyme of Qi”), Vol. 2. Beijing: Zhongguo Shehui Kexue ChubansheGoogle Scholar
  26. Zhang Zai (1978). Zhang Zai Ji 张载集 (Collected Works of Zhang Zai). Beijing: Zhonghua ShujuGoogle Scholar
  27. Zhu Jieren (2002). Zhuzi Quanshu 朱子全书 (The Complete Works of Zhu Zi). Shanghai: Shanghai Guji ChubansheGoogle Scholar
  28. Zhu Xi (1987). Zhou Yi Benyi 周易本义 (Original Implications of Zhou Yi). Shanghai: Shanghai Guji ChubansheGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Higher Education Press and Springer-Verlag GmbH 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of PhilosophyChinese Academy of Social SciencesBeijingChina

Personalised recommendations