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The text runs:

If your front door is directly opposite your back door the Qi will just charge straight through your house and out the back without stopping for a cup of tea.
If you stand in the hallway with a tennis racket it might slow it down long enough for you to stuff it in a teapot.

What is "Qi"? I've looked it up on Wiktionary, and it gives:

1.A Chinese surname
2. A state during the Zhou dynasty

Also, it seems to be a variant spelling of "chi", "chi" meaning:

chi , ch'i or qi 2 (tʃiː)

— n ( sometimes capital ) (in Oriental medicine, martial arts, etc) vital energy believed to circulate round the body in currents

If this is the case, why would the fact that your front door and back door are directly opposite cause your vital energy to flee out the back door?

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6  
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feng_shui –  aedia λ Sep 9 '11 at 20:53
    
@aedia, thanks heaps. That made everything clear. See, this is an architectural piece I'm reading –  Thursagen Sep 9 '11 at 20:57

2 Answers 2

up vote 5 down vote accepted

"Qi"/"chi"/"ch'i" is a Chinese concept that is also used to refer to a general life energy that all things have, not just present in your body. The quote is referring to a desire to capture the vital energy that's circulating in the environment in order to have more of that vital energy in your house.

I believe the text you are quoting is referring to Feng Shui which is a Chinese-origin practice of spatial orientation to optimize the flow of energy (Qi). In English-speaking countries such as the United States it's commonly misapplied, misunderstood and ridiculed.

The overall phrasing of the quote indicates that it is trying to be humorous. I don't know if it's referring humorously to an actual Feng Shui belief or inventing a Feng Shui belief for the purpose of humor.

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"Qi" is simply "air" in Mandarin Chinese; when one breathes (呼吸, or just 吸), one breathes air (吸氣). It is not at all "life energy", and while a good many fatuous New Agers and cynical fraudsters (Chinese, Japanese, and Occidentals alike) love to pretend differently, it hasn't got the least bit of analogy to "energy" at all. It really is "air", or -- in Fengshui (as it's used here), it is used to refer to "air" as an abstract, inorganic, mystical nutritive that exists within the earth. "Qi" in Chinese is essentially the same concept (and exactly the same written word) as "ki" in Japanese, which is used in "Ai-ki-do" or "Rei-ki".

The key here is "mystical"; New Age books aside, Fengshui in Asia is basically just a hodgepodge of loose superstition, and not much else. Supposed "fengshui masters" are most often charlatans with little or no education in any actual tradition; those who actually do learn a tradition are quite few, and far more conservative in their usage of this term than popular literature and movies would have us believe.

The reason it is spelled "qi" here is because the Hanyu Pinyin romanization of the Chinese word "氣" is being used. In other romanization forms, it has been spelt other ways, most typically "ch'i" and "chi". These other romanizations are, however, inaccurate in their phonological systematization, and so Hanyu Pinyin was developed by Chinese linguists to correct the problem. The reason the "q" is used is for two reasons; first, "ch" represents a phonologically distinct sound in spoken forms of Chinese, and second, Hanyu Pinyin draws as much on the Cyrillic alphabet and phonology as it does the Latin one, and in Russian, "Q" is a sound close to the Mandarin one it represents here.

Because of political reasons, the US has been quite late in adopting the use of Hanyu Pinyin; last i checked, Wade-Giles was still the Library of Congress' official romanization. The rest of the world (excepting Taiwan), however, now uses Hanyu Pinyin as its official system.

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