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Home > Education > Diagnosis > Qualities of Qi

The Qualities of Qi in Meridian Diagnosis

One of the earliest known methods of diagnosis in Chinese medicine was reading the flow of Qi through the meridians and organs. This was done be sensing the energy flow with the hands, fingers, and eyes.

This is still a major technique, and can be accomplished by holding a meridian end point at a given subject's finger or toe, and passing the free hand over the path of the meridian and the corresponding organ. Any changes in the Qi flow indicate an imbalance in relation to the anatomic position where the change occurred, or in the organ. Some practitioners hold the right finger or toe of a female and the left hand or toe of the male. There are also practitioners who treat using methods similar to diagnosis with External Qi Gong.

The following qualities of Qi can be felt by the hands only with a little practice. The "feel" can then be translated into a communicable system which describes the condition of the individual areas.

The following represents some of the information presented in an excellent class on Tui Na taught by Sifu Carl Totten at the Taoist Institute in North Hollywood, California. Many of these qualities of Qi listed below include the associated pathology to which they correspond. Many do not. For those that do not, we'll let you decide what they mean.


From warm to hot, the knowledge of heat measures yang.


From cool to cold, the knowledge of cold measures yin.


When one senses that the energy is being drawn from one's hand into the subject's body, the following possibilities are indicated:

The attracting field is the result of an energy deficiency which is draining energy from its surroundings in order to maintain balance.

The attracting field is overly strong, and it is draining energy from its surroundings.

The examiner's personal energy is not centered or in balance, and, as a result, their energy is being drawn off. The examiner should then center their own energy.

Repulsing-Pushing Away:

The subject's aura (external yang field) has been emotionally triggered by the presence of the examiner, and is pushing away. This could be indicative of a psychological disturbance, so as to suggest that the patient's body or mind does not want the examiner's hand or person close by.

Internal energy from internal disturbance is affecting the external aura.


Injured, or alarmed, sensitive. The energy withdraws and tightens, then relaxes and approaches.

Tingling, electric:

This indicates the intensity of both yin and yang.


With widely dispersed tingles indicates irritation.

With tingles close together indicates pain. This energy should be approached carefully from a distance in that it could prove painful for the examiner to feel it in the hands. If the energy should flare into the hands, the examiner should relax their muscles and breath the energy into the ground. They should make no resistance to the passage of the energy. This is the energy of excess.


This indicates what is lacking, and its pain is the sharpest.


Its flow is smooth on the surface, and on the interior.


Its flow is rough, irregular. It is rough on the surface and on the interior. Rough is insufficient, breaking up, diminishing.


Without variation.


Having density.


Having little substance or reserve.


No variation in density.


Having the external appearance without the internal substance.


A diminished energy unless it is normal for the subject.


Usually indicating that which is excited, unstable, or out of control. To be fast is to burn up quickly.


Almost empty.


Enduring solidity.


Unattached, unstable.


Restricted, taut, as in strangled.


A normal energy which is slow. The beginning of disharmony.

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