SA Companion Release – Life According to Lai

Happy Saturday everyone!

Sometimes I kick around ideas and write about them on my patreon. This was one of those ideas, but I thought it had potential so I thought I’d share it with everyone. This is a small explanation of Qi, and how it works practically in every-day situations for people who work with Qi. Read to the end, where I’ll explain our pilot program, Life According to Lai. Check it out after the jump!


What is qi?

The concept of it is central to a lot of wuxia, as I understand it. So what is it? You hear it described as energy, force, or just Qi. None of that explain what it is, though.

In fact, no one really knows. That’s true for the real-life Qi Eastern doctors work with today. We know what it does, we know its component parts mostly, but not what it is precisely. It’s something like air, not easily defined or quantified.

As such, people who specialize in the manipulation of Qi will either tell you the manifestations of imbalance, or can claim to sense them. No one’s been able to see or map Qi in a clinic setting yet, so qi is still considered theory. To give a practical example, patients who are anxious, irritable, manic or the like is widely considered to have an excess of the more motive yang qi. People with darker complexions, who are lackadaisical or depressed may have an abundance of yin. Because of the interrelation between yin and yang, a reduction in one will lead to a subsequent excess of the other, so we have to watch for that as well.

There is also more than just one Qi, at least according to Traditional Chinese Medicine. Each organ system has its own qi, performing different duties. A quick list follows;

Lungs – reception of external qi, body defense, dissemination of qi throughout the body, water metabolism

Spleen – transforming and transporting ‘food qi’, lifting of body organs, creation of blood

Heart – Houses the spirit, governs sleep and mental stability, dreams, helps blood creation

Pericardium – protects the heart

Liver – holds blood, moves qi of the whole body

Kidneys – governs the reception of qi, stores congenital and acquired essence, governs the yin and yang of the whole body

These are very basic explanations of six the of the twelve main organ systems of the body. These are called the ‘Six Zang Organs’ and are all considered Yin in nature. They are more generative and storing. The Six Fu organs – the large intestine, small intestine, gallbladder, urinary bladder, stomach and three body cavities (known collectively as the San Jiao or Triple Burner) – are all Yang, and provide the energy and materials needed for generation.

Aside from the Qi of these organ systems, there are also types of qi that work independently. Wei Qi, or defensive qi, circulates on the outside portion of our body most of the time. Its primary purpose is to block evil qi – yes, bad stuff has qi, too. Exogenous Evils, as they’re called – viruses, bacteria, etc – are also composed of qi that can trick or assail our own qi. Sickness, is essence, is a Qi-battle between our defensive qi and pathogenic qi.

Zong Qi, or Chest Qi, is another kind that protects the important organs of our chest and bolsters Wei Qi. Nutritive Qi makes stuff and supplements others. Yuan-Primary Qi underlines all of these within our body, and is a product of Essence – not qi. There’s also clear qi from the air around us, and food qi in the food and drink we eat.

Complicated, right? These different types of Qi also play with each other and combine to create other things. Essence, food qi and primary qi make blood. Yin essence and nutritive qi make body fluids. Pectoral qi and primary qi make defensive qi, so on and so forth.

What about Qi in all these stories? The phenomenon of Qi has about as much anecdotal evidence as you could ever want, stating that someone somehow manipulated this invisible essence to almost mystical effect. Whether or not it’s quantifiable, it’s pretty clear that there are methods for tapping in to this… whatever it is we call Qi.

Taiji and Qigong in particular focuses on learning to control the flow of Qi through your body. Lan Jue uses Taiji in his fights and achieves superhuman results, but is that real? Yes and no. Taiji is a legitimate martial art with real stopping power. Much like what I imagine Aikido teaches, Taiji is about maintaining balance within yourself, and redirecting the external force wherever you like. And there’s the thing about real yin and yang – it’s about balance. That’s boring, and doesn’t lend itself well to dramatic tales of heroism. Lao Zi, the mythical founder of Daoist thought, wrote that a man could learn all he needs to know of the universe without ever leaving his front door. Achieving and maintaining balance between yin and yang is the goal of yin-yang, and any philosophy attuned to it. Health, in Chinese medicine, is when yin and yang are in balance, along with all its qi parts.

If we were to look at Lan Jue’s skills from the lens of real Qi theory, it raises some serious questions. For instance, the entire universe is predicated upon the balance of yin and yang. Willy-nilly changing the values would be like screwing with your monitor’s RBG values. Screw it up bad enough and everything is illegible.

But it probably wouldn’t even get that far. One aspect of yin and yang is that they’re interchangeable. When one is in excess, the natural response of yin and yang is to revert to a more balanced state. Thus, either the deficient energy will increase or the excess will turn in to its opposite to create homeostasis. In the story, when Lan Jue focused all of his abilities through yang-lightning, it would probably be too erratic to control on any level. Part of what yin does is to stabilize yang, otherwise it scatters and dissipates. This is similarly true for joining them, too, which is the basis of Lan Jue’s training. In reality you couldn’t do that, either, because there would be none of the division necessary to create all the things the universe is made of.

There’s an argument that someone with sufficient control could break or suspend this function. And I suppose you could but a.) Lan Jue is no Paragon, and you’re talking about a power that underpins even protogenia and b.) you’d essentially break reality. Without anything to keep yang in check, it would consume everything until it burned itself out, and then disappeared. It would basically be the instantaneous and simultaneous explosion of every bit of matter ever made. Without yang, yin would sink, condense and stagnate in an impossibly small space and do – nothing. For eternity.

This is really only the very beginning of yin-yang theory and how it relates to health and human life. It’s also a fun topic! Analyses like this will occasionally be made available on my patreon, so check them out! Also, since we’ve now achieved ten subscribers, I’m going to pilot something new.

Let’s call it; Life According to Lai

Once a month, I will take a question or two, depending on how many I receive, and I’ll attempt to answer it through the lens of traditional Chinese theory. I can’t promise they’ll be good answers, but they’ll at least be unique. Answers will be posted here on Wu Xia World.

Any question is fine, feel free to submit them by messaging me on Discord, sending them to [email protected], or telepathically catapulting them at me.


32 thoughts on “SA Companion Release – Life According to Lai” - NO SPOILERS and NO CURSING

  1. Interesting! Thanks for the explanation. Congratulations in hitting 10 Patrons, I hope it keeps picking up steam in the future 🙂

    As far as questions go this might be a bit off topic, but how does Chinese culture view superheros such as Superman and Batman? I wonder if someone has tried to convert American heroes into a Chinese Wuxia/Xianxia setting. Like, Superman has some crazy-strong solar-powered innate constitution that lets him do crazy things.

        1. my parents are opposed to my reading here. (especially my dad. he’s hell-bent on it. ugh dads.) they say this ‘manga manga’ thing is not productive and takes most of my time. what else do they expect me to do when they won’t even let me out of the house and it’s summer break? should i spend my precious vacation studying and being happy about it? you see this is partly why i don’t have friends (main reason being that i don’t feel so inclined to speak to members of my own biological species).

          well enough of that. yesterday i tried asking my mom (which was practically just begging) if i could borrow her card to pay for “my subscription to this chinese literature site on the internet that i find really interesting /AND/ educational.” i even told her that i’ll give her back whatever amount i used. but she said *stern mom voice* “i’ll reconsider when you’re already capable of making your own money.”

          but… that money is from my art commissions… that’s money i made. :<

          i'm not even 18 i still can't get a part time job (i don't even have the basic social skills for this) much less a real professional job :((

          i'm doing all i can to support you guys (and to at least rid my conscience of the guilt of a freeloader)


          how long does it take for a chapter to be translated and edited? how much of your time daily does translating take up?

          you see it's my 'side-dream' to be a translator or an editor probably. i'll be taking mandarin classes starting next year yay!

          1. Don’t for a second think that paying for something is the only way to show support. Thank you for reading and being part of the community. For us translators, that’s what makes this fun.

            Good luck with Chinese!

          2. Why don’t you start learning mandarin on your own? Or do both, take the classes next year and learn on your own now.
            Well, there’s nothing you can do about your parents (Or school, which almost certainly gets in your way too, don’t expect the things that you memorize in school to ever be useful) until you are 18. But you can polish your art skills until then, so as to make money that way and leave when you are.

          3. It might be possible to sign up for a PayPal account. Not sure what their requirements for age are though. You might need an adult to cosign. Have any cool aunts or uncles?

            Instead of monetary support, why not draw a couple characters you like from Skyfire Avenue for Xiao Lai? It’s pretty awesome when a fan enjoys your work so much that they make art for it 🙂

  2. Let’s be honest there is no such thing as qi. It is time to end all religions and ancient beliefs. Eating tiger balls won’t help you no matter how much qi it has inside.

    1. You have a good argument, but I would counter that several thousand years of concentrated research, experimentation, and wide-spread use are cogent counterpoints. This answer would require a whole essay! I may get to that sometime. Thanks for the question, sorry I don’t have an immediate answer, but the short version is – you may be right!

      1. People are known for doing stupid things for thousands of years. When everyone around them is saying qi or God exists and have these books and priests, it’s hard to come up with something on your own. Look also at Chinese martial arts. Thousands of years of history but I don’t see anyone using them in MMA.

        1. MMA is an interesting example, but the socio-political role of China in a modernizing world has to be taken in to affect. Don’t misconstrue my comment to mean I believe this theory was completed wholesale three thousand years ago. Humanity is an inevitable march forward. that said, everything starts as a theory, born from recorded phenomenon. The efficacy of traditions like Acupuncture work,the argument now is exactly how much, and by what mechanism. Maybe it is Qi – some invisible force that we can speculate on but can’t yet measure like Dark Matter. Maybe it’s simply a mechanism of the central nervous system that we don’t understand yet. Both are equally possible.

          1. MMA is seen to be the pinnacle of fighting in modern day but the truth is that it is a sport. So yes MMA fighters are badass and they beat the living daylights out of each other brutally but they are constrained by rules and regulations which traditional martial arts did not evolve from.

            Wiki definition is “Martial arts are codified systems and traditions of combat practices, which are practiced for a number of reasons: as self-defense, military and law enforcement applications, mental and spiritual development”

            If you think about why a fighting system would be created offensively, it would be to either incapacitate or kill your opponent as efficiently as possible. This means hitting weak spots (ie throat, eyes, crotch), manipulating small joints and breaking joints and bones.

            Also, MMA is a 1v1 fighting sport where as other systems will also practice for group situations.

            In summation, MMA fighters are great at what they do but they aren’t the same as traditional martial arts

  3. I was randomly breezing through recent posts before I saw this out of nowhere. I don’t read SA but I’d like to thank you for such an informative post on qi! 🙂

  4. Hey, this article isn’t that bad. It’s not exactly correct, but it’s not completely far of. It’s just missing a lot of base components. The theory isn’t so bad either. It won’t consume everything as there’s a limit but it does consume a lot. A cultivator learns to control the so called energies so they don’t dissipate when they run out of it. With what the modern cultivation system does is to prolong your life by keeping your energy more tightly bounded and controlled. Of course, it doesn’t stop the dissipation of energy or your own consumption of it. Yep, I experimented with the so called “RGB” values you were talking about. Not a fun or pleasant experience. Did I learn anything from it? Yeah. Our modern cultivation techniques are flawed. Pls give fix. Drawing energy in cultivation techniques are flawed. If anything, modern cultivation will simply let you live forever, but you’d be weak af and never getting stronger. What a nightmare.

    1. From what I gather, centralizing energy (or Qi) is merely the first step. The next step is converting this energy into a different (higher?) form, for ease of control, or something like that. Once you’ve managed to achieve that, the way your body works will also change, allowing you to live forever, among other things. Moreover, there is a precondition of you being perfectly healthy to even be qualified to start cultivating. Which also means no old or hidden injuries nor weaknesses. Any less can lead to very unfun results.

  5. The article is very informative and fun to read. I must say, though, I’m mostly skeptical of the actual existence of such hypothetical discipline. But the concept of yin and yang remains not too far off from the functions of our universe. The strongest point of the theory being:

    “One aspect of yin and yang is that they’re interchangeable. When one is in excess, the natural response of yin and yang is to revert to a more balanced state. Thus, either the deficient energy will increase or the excess will turn in to its opposite to create homeostasis.”

    This creates significant relations to scientific truth with great emphasis on bodily mechanisms.

    Now this here is something I thought about after reading the article. I basically went on a journey through galaxies just thinking about it. My mind might literally break if i kept on pressing this idea so I’m just gonna leave this here:

    Equilibrium is needed to maintain a coherent universe. This is possible through natural laws. /Ideally/, in this design, the endpoint of any imbalance becomes balance. Otherwise, persistent imbalances may consist a larger scope of balance. In essence, yin and yang may well be representations of opposite forces creating a net force which is basically the principle with which most of everything in the universe work. Complexities aside, the theory of yin & yang and the energies & biological functions existent in our universe revolve on one common concept–that is, balance.*

    *By the book, balance = equilibrium = 0 net force. In this vast universe, it is impossible to quantify the myriad of factors supplemented in any matter concerning an extensive level and thus its resulting net force. But it’s safe to say that it’s not zero net force. So let’s just take the terms ‘balance’ and ‘equilibrium’ figuratively.

    1. Also, the article reminded me of some scientific ideas that might illustrate the yin-yang balance thing:

      A long way back into the Carboniferous Period in the late Paleozoic Era, everything used to be much bigger. Dragonflies grew to the size of modern seagulls, as did other insects like cockroaches. This bizarre evolutionary innovation, scientists believe, was due to the organisms adapting to the surplus of oxygen in their environment. (amount of oxygen > organisms’ growth) thus became (amount of oxygen = organisms’ growth).

      Another example is the supernova. Supernovas result from imbalance between binary star systems or within a single star that has reached the end of its life. In binary star systems, one of the stars steals matter from its companion star. After accumulating too much, the star explodes, resulting in a supernova. In the latter type, a star nearing the end of its life runs out of nuclear fuel, in which case, some of its mass then flows into the core. Eventually, it will not be able to withstand its own gravitational force because of the resulting mass of its core. The core will then collapse, forcing the star to explode and eject most of its mass. (pressure capacity < mass) thus became (pressure capacity = mass).

      I don't know if I'm making any sense cos I always tend to get off-topic.

    2. Zero net force sounds like a yin-domination, though, if I’m reading this right.

      It’s like the Heat Death of the universe. Each disparate particle is so separate from the others in an expanding universe that everything dies. Nothing interacts or changes. That’s sort of the ‘balance’ that the thermodynamic laws require.

      But, in an interesting theory, after the universe has died from Heat Death, the possibility of quantum tunneling can inexplicable give that little spark of yang to a dead yin universe, and start the whole thing all about again!

      1. Got a bit too excited that I totally overlooked some really important details.

        1.) balance =/= equilibrium =/= stability

        Considering their technical definitions, balance and equilibrium are out of the question. Stability is what we need for a coherent universe.

        2.) /External/ forces must be acting on a /single isolated/ object to determine its net force.

        a.) The universe is a collective existence. b.) As far as the limits of our knowledge go, what lies outside the observable universe is unknown. Not to mention, there’s also the paradox that is a singularity which, in theory, is a one-dimensional infinitely small space within the center of a black hole. Given that we use the speed of light for measurement, the hypothetical area of space inside a black hole is beyond the boundaries of the observable universe.

        In this case, it’s impossible to produce a net force.

        3.) Forget a dead universe, such a ‘universe’ won’t even exist much less die. If our universe really had those working principles, it would likely fall apart on the spot and we’re talking 0.000 nanosecond.

        4.) It’s pointless to think about these things. I haven’t even figured out which course I should take up in college. I’ll probably fall apart even before this theoretical universe does.

        5.) I don’t know a thing about this. I just like to go around running my mouth then regretting it the next day.

        But I really hope you share more of these in the future. I really like that beautiful brain of yours.

  6. I already thought about this qi concept a few times.

    My thought is that every kind of energy that our scientists know, has to be detectable by a way or an other. Essentially, we can only detect energy by its use: movement or heat (Joule effect). This movement can be macroscopic (walking ect.. or microscopic: chemical reactions, electron movements, or even quantum: nucleons/quarks spin).

    Logically, if there’s in this universe a “perfectly pure energy”, by definition, it’s impossible to detect it, since there’s no heat/movement at any level that proves his existence. It’s a dead energy, unusable by our actual means. However it doesn’t mean that such an energy doesn’t exist.

    If Qi should exist, i see it like this kind of energy, because it’s the only way to somehow theorize his existence. However it’s a vast debate. The same kind as whether the soul exist or not ect…

    My thought about that is that if you think in your heart than there’s no soul/afterlife, just some neuronal net that builds your biological conscience, you can as well suicide, since you would be no more than a robot that acts and moves to satisfy some desire and need that doesn’t come from anything else than a well programmed machine.

    If you don’t want to suicide nor think that you’re just a wellmade biological robot, then you can as well accept the idea that you have a soul, and then thinks than our universe is a bit more than just logic and science.

    I will conclude by saying that it doesn’t mean that we are not just some wellmade biological machine, but at least it’s a good purpose of life, and who knows, maybe there’s some truths behind all these myths. Can a redfish think about time travel, god, physical laws, black hole? Maybe somewhere a much smarter specie thinks the same about humans, and for them qi/soul or any other things that we can’t think about is something obvious for them.

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