Ki in Japanese and Qi (pronounced chee) in Chinese is what my master calls:  “living energy” of “life energy”.

So, I was wondering if the Chinese and Japanese definition of ki/qi is really the same?    I was reading a fellow blogger Ben’s article, “Two Kinds of Chee” on his blog called Please stop by Ben’s blog, as we are quite similar in our interests but he writes from China and gives his British perspective on Chinese culture;  he’s got some very good stuff going on.  Okay, back to the article.  He discusses the “living energy” qi.   The most fascinating point to me was that he said in qi gong, a type of slow moving exercise that incorporates slow movements and breathing to circulate and increase your qi, the center of your body is your upper lip!  Never would have guessed that one – please read his article.  The other is Ru Chee – what I would simplify as “internal body temperature.”  I have come across this when living in Singapore.  All Chinese are very well meaning when one is sick.  If you are coughing, they say not to drink anything cold because it promotes more coughing.  They all know which foods are “cooling” and which are “heating” meaning they all can identifying foods that regulate your inner temperature.  It is believed that when your internal temperature is balanced you are ‘healthy’.

In Japan, we don’t use ki in that manner.   ki is more related to internal energy, so it is similar to the definition of “life energy”.  The character “ki” is used in many words such as “genki“, “aikido”, “reiki“, “kiai“.  Let’s take the word “kiai“.  It is what I would call internal energy when you psyche yourself up before a tournament, game, performance or even speech.  If you ever watched a sumo match, you would see the two sumo wrestlers stare each other down 3 times before actually wrestling.  This ritual allows them to increase their “kiai” so they are ready to give it their best.  This is similar to a football player, mentally pumping themselves up before a game.  They jump up and down, sometimes letting our verbal cries or pound their bodies.  These are all forms of building their “kiai“.

In Japanese, we also use it to describe the energy of a person, place or thing.  You could have good ki and bad ki, like good vibes and bad vibes.  We all get some sort of “feeling” or intuition when entering  a space.  What we are feeling is the ki/qi/energy within the area.  This is where feng shui becomes a tool to guide one to find concrete explanations to why the space has good ki or bad ki.  It all starts with the form, that is why I became a student of  Master Hsu, who teaches Form School Feng Shui at the Blue Mountain Feng Shui Institute.

In conclusion, Japanese and Chinese may use ki/qi in a different context but regardless of what subject we are talking about, ki/qi is internal energy and life energy.  Everything in the universe carries energy, tangible or not.

8 thoughts on “Japanese say Ki, Chinese say Qi”

    1. Shang Lee thanks for your thoughts. Funny you should say that! Tomorrow I am going to go to my first Tai Chi lesson and on Saturday my first qi gong class! It will be good to get a physical appreciation of qi. I do yoga now, but again that’s different too.
      Do you do Tai Chi and how to you define chi?

  1. Pingback: First Law of Thermodynamics/ Internal Energy | Energy Alternatives New Zealand

  2. I am in my massage class and we are studying some asian types massage. The question I have is how you say Ki in Japanese. I have studied Japanese (mostly by watching anime in japanese) and what I have learned is Ki is pronounced like Key such Kikyo, but my classmates keep saying that since the Chinese way is Qi or Chi that is the same way you pronounce the Japanese way the same. Non of my classmates know any other language besides English. So I would like to confirm who is correct about the pronunciation. Please and thank you.

    1. Hi Nessa,
      Yes, you are correct. In Japanese, we say Ki and it is pronounce key, as in a key for your door lock. Koreans also pronounce qi as key, while the Chinese say chee.
      I also think learning Japanese through anime is a wonderful way to go. That’s how my kids learned new vocabulary too! Keep it up and thanks for dropping by.

  3. I have studied Tai Chi Chuan under a Master from Taiwan.
    Later I was “Healed” I think it was more like given a gift from a Ki Master from Japan known as “his Eminence” his aids told us after he gave an impressive demonstration of how he is able to see energy and colors (Auras) and asked us to close our eyes; in Asia he preformed mass healing on thousands of people(at once!) I did feel and see a blue light, I now realize it’s source energy that we learn to communicate to the Universe vibrational energies to attain health, or manifest it using pure focus and intent. Later I would meet a Taoist master who did similar work from Taiwan, I learned so much in those early days, the main thing was to love the Master but continue to master the art of Allowing, in all it implies, Chi, Ki- the feeling behind the word is all that matters vibrationally. I would endorse any Chi excersize; Chi is a subtle stream of pure positive energy, our very connection to source and we all must cultivate it through practice(creating the habit to use it) and activate the Universe to respond to it, not only will enhance your sensitivity to it but to your own inner self.

  4. @Shang – thanks for the advice. I did try tai chi and don’t know if it’s for me. Then I tried qi gong and enjoyed it. Am studying it on my own and some with my master Hsu.

    @Nessa – I’m so sorry I didn’t answer you sooner. I thought I did and now realized it never went through – don’t know why. In Japanese, you are correct to pronounce Ki as key and the Chinese pronounce it as Chi. In Japan we do not use chi.

    @Brian – Thanks for sharing. Sounds like you’ve had a long, wonderful journey through Chi! It’s great that you have learned so much. I enjoy my studies too and realized this is something that takes a lifetime and more…My master, Dr. Hsu, originally from Taiwan was Master Ping Sian Tao’s first disciple and studied Push Hands, through Taiji Quan. You may enjoy Master Ping Siang Tao’s book, Taiji Push Hands. Check out Dr. Hsu’s website at

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