In ancient China, people had very little knowledge of electricity. They only knew from acupuncture that when a needle was inserted into the acupuncture cavities, some kind of energy other than heat was produced which often caused a shock or a tickling sensation. It was not until the last few decades, when the Chinese people were more acquainted with electromagnetic science, that they began to recognize that this energy circulating in the body, which they called Qì, might be the same thing as what today’s science calls “bioelectricity.”

It is understood now that the human body is constructed of many different electrically conductive materials, and it forms a living electromagnetic field and circuit. Electromagnetic energy is continuously being generated in the human body through the biochemical reaction of food and air and circulated by the electromotive (or electromagnetic) forces (EMF) generated within the body by, for example, thinking or movement.

In addition, you are also constantly being affected by external electromagnetic fields such as that of the earth, or the electrical fields generated by clouds. When you practice Chinese medicine or Qìgōng, you need to be aware of these outside factors and take them into account.

External Magnetic Fields

Countless experiments have been conducted in China, Japan, and other countries to study how external magnetic or electrical fields can affect and adjust the body’s Qì field. Many acupuncturists use magnets and electricity in their treatments. They attach a magnet to the skin over a cavity and leave it there for a period of time. The magnetic field gradually affects the Qì circulation in that channel.

Alternatively, they insert needles into cavities and then run an electric current through the needle to reach the Qì channels directly. Although many experimenters have claimed a degree of success in their experiments, none has been able to publish any detailed and convincing proof of his results or give a good explanation of the theory behind his experiment. As with many other attempts to explain the How and Why of acupuncture, conclusive proof is elusive, and many unanswered questions remain. Of course, this theory is quite new, and it will probably take a lot more study and research before it is verified and completely understood. At present, there are many conservative acupuncturists who are skeptical.

To untie this knot, we must look at what modern Western science has discovered about bioelectromagnetic energy. Many bioelectric-related reports have been published, and frequently the results are closely related to what is experienced in Chinese Qìgōng training and medical science. For example, during the electrophysiological research of the 1960’s, several investigators discovered that bones are piezoelectric; that is, when they are stressed, mechanical energy is converted to electrical energy in the form of electric current.1 This might explain one of the practices of Marrow Washing Qìgōng in which the stress on the bones and muscles is increased in certain ways to increase the Qì circulation (electric circulation).

Dr. Robert O. Becker has done important work in this field. His book The Body Electric reports on much of the research concerning the body’s electric field.2 It is presently believed that food and air are the fuel which generates the electricity in the body through biochemical reaction. This electricity, which is circulated throughout the entire body through electrically conductive tissue, is one of the main energy sources which keep the cells of the physical body alive.

Whenever you have an injury or are sick, your body’s electrical circulation is affected. If this circulation of electricity stops, you die. But bioelectric energy not only maintains life, it is also responsible for repairing physical damage. Many researchers have sought ways of using external electrical or magnetic fields to speed up the body’s recovery from physical injury.

Richard Leviton reports that “Researchers at Loma Linda University’s School of Medicine in California have found, following studies in sixteen countries with over 1,000 patients, that low-frequency, low intensity magnetic energy has been successful in treating chronic pain related to tissue ischemia, and also worked in clearing up slow-healing ulcers, and in 90 percent of patients tested, raised blood flow significantly.”

Mr. Leviton also reports that every cell of the body functions like an electric battery and is able to store electric charges. He reports that: “Other biomagnetic investigators take an even closer look to find out what is happening, right down to the level of the blood, the organs, and the individual cell, which they regard as ‘a small electric battery’.”3 This has convinced me that our entire body is just like a big battery which is assembled from millions of small batteries. All of these batteries together form the human electromagnetic field.

Acupuncture is Scientific

Furthermore, much of the research on the body’s electrical field relates to acupuncture. For example, Dr. Becker reports that the conductivity of the skin is much higher at acupuncture cavities, and that it is now possible to locate them precisely by measuring the skin’s conductivity. Many of these reports prove that the acupuncture which has been done in China for thousands of years is reasonable and scientific.

Some researchers use the theory of the body’s electricity to explain many of the ancient “miracles” which have been attributed to the practice of Qìgōng. A report by Albert L. Huebner states: “These demonstrations of body electricity in human beings may also offer a new explanation of an ancient healing practice. If weak external fields can produce powerful physiological effects, it may be that fields from human tissues in one person are capable of producing clinical improvements in another. In short, the method of healing known as the laying on of hands could be an especially subtle form of electrical stimulation.”

Another frequently reported phenomenon is that when a Qìgōng practitioner has reached a high level of development, a halo would appear behind and/or around his head during meditation. This is commonly seen in paintings of Jesus Christ, the Buddha, and other Oriental gods. Frequently the light is pictured as surrounding the whole body. This phenomenon may again be explained by body electric theory. When a person has cultivated his Qì (electricity) to a high level, the Qì may be led to accumulate in the head. This Qì may then interact with the oxygen molecules in the air, and ionize them, causing them to glow.

Although the link between the theory of the body electric and the Chinese theory of Qì is becoming more accepted and better proven, there are still many questions still to be answered. For example, how can the mind lead Qì (electricity)? How actually does the mind generate an EMF (electromotive force) to circulate the electricity in the body? How is the human electromagnetic field affected by the multitude of other electric fields which surround us, such as radio and television waves, or the fields generated by household electrical wiring or electrical appliances? How can we readjust our electromagnetic fields and survive in outer space or on other planets where the magnetic field is completely different from earth’s? You can see that the future of Qìgōng and bioelectric science is a challenging and exciting one.

It is about time that we started to use modern technologies to understand the inner energy world which has been ignored by Western society.

  1.  “Life’s Invisible Current,” by Albert L. Huebner, East West Journal, June 1986.
  2.  The Body Electric, by Robert O. Becker, M.D. and Gary Selden, Quill, William Morrow, New York,
  3.  “Healing with Nature’s Energy,” by Richard Leviton, East West Journal, June 1986.

The above is an excerpt from The Root of Chinese Qigong: Secrets for Health, Longevity, & Enlightenment, Third Edition, by Dr. Yang, Jwing-Ming, Publication Date September 2022, YMAA Publication Center, ISBN 9781594399107.