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In Asian tradition, chi is the life force which permeates the world. In addition to being in all living beings, chi is also found in spaces such as homes and gardens. Although chi is a metaphysical construct, rather than something which can be physically quantified and measured, belief in chi is widespread in many Asian nations and disciplines including Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), martial arts, and feng shui, a Chinese art which involves balancing objects within their environment.
Like other Chinese words, chi is seen spelled in English in various ways including qi and xi. The pronunciation of the word is difficult to render in the Roman alphabet, but the word sounds like “chee” when spoken. The meaning of the word is linked to “air” and “breath,” which are believed to vital parts of life. Like air, chi is a form of energy which waxes and wanes in the body depending on health, and in a space depending on arrangement.
Many cultures have a concept of some sort of vital energy which runs through all things, such as prana in the yogic tradition. When it is in a proper state of balance, the energy moves smoothly through the space which it inhabits, and supports rather than fights against the space. Balancing this energy is a crucial part of living a healthy and calm life for many people in Asian countries, and the concept of energetic balance has been adopted by some Western nations as well.
An imbalance of chi can lead to ill health or discomfort in an environment. In the case of living beings, practices like acupuncture, acupressure, and other types of TCM are used to right the imbalance, by unblocking the flow of chi through the meridians of the body. A practitioner of TCM checks in with the patient's whole body in order to assess overall health, and takes corrective measures as necessary.
In the case of spaces, many Asian traditions surround organizing objects within an environment to make the space harmonious. An imbalance of chi in a space is believed to lead to bad luck and ill health, and many rules surround how things should be arranged from bedrooms to graveyards. As the rules which govern arrangements can be quite complex, some wealthy households hire professionals to arrange their spaces, who are analogous to interior designers in the West, although their function goes beyond pure aesthetic consultation.