☯ What a House Plant can Teach Us About Qi and Blood

I sometimes find the traditonal sayings quoted in TCM distracting and even a little unhelpful. When I was a student I simply memorized these quotations. As a instructor, I now try to ground the quotes in concrete examples.  

One of the most famous of these traditional sayings is:

This is a beautiful TCM concept: two distinct entities, Qi and Blood, linked together intimately. Throughout TCM, Qi and Blood are discussed as two different substances. At the same time tradition teaches that they are never isolated from one another. Giovonni Maciocia’s, The Foundation of Chinese Medicine clearly says, “Qi and Blood are inseperable.” 

How are we to think of Qi and Blood? Are they one thing? Or are they two? How can two things be so inseperable? 

This is where a houseplant can help.


A plant gets nourishment from a mixture of soil and water where it is planted. The soil and water are two distinctly different substances. The soil is full of nutrients which the plant needs. The water provides the mechanism by which the nutrients are absorbed through the roots. Both the soil and the water are indispensable to the plant. A big pot of just water does not help the plant. Neither does dry soil. Both soil and water need to be present for the plant to thrive. 

Look at it from the plant’s perspective –— the soil and water are essential to life and linked together. If the plant could talk and write a TCM book, the plant could very well say, “Soil and Water are inseparable.”

If it was a very poetic plant it might even go so far to say, 

In this sense we can see how two clearly distinct substances can be intimately linked together. The same is true of Qi and Blood. Each provides energy and structure for the other. Each needs the other to move through the body. Qi without Blood is soil with no water. Blood without Qi is a puddle of water. Together, Qi and Blood provide substance and energy to the whole body. 

The traditional sayings of TCM have lasted hundreds of years because they express profound truths about the human condition. These sayings are beautiful and enduring, and when grounded in the real world, even more helpful.