Publication details [#68109]

Feng, Mei. 2021. Towards a cultural model of qi in TCM: Based on the conceptual metaphors of qi in Huang Di’s Inner Classic. Review of Cognitive Linguistics 19 (1) : 1–25.
Publication type
Article in journal
Publication language
Language as a subject
Journal DOI


This paper aims to construct a cultural model of qi in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) by probing into its conceptual metaphors based on a contextualized semantic analysis of qi in Huang Di’s Inner Classic (HDIC). It is found that there are eight conceptual metaphors of qi, each involving experiential correlation between source and target concept. To be specific, cause for effect builds up a major metonymic basis for the metaphorical mappings from the source concept of qi (i.e., substance) to the target concepts, including physiological function, breathing, climate, pathogenic factor, disease/syndrome, odor, property of drugs and time. It is worth special noting that time is understood in terms of the motion of qi in TCM. The conceptual metaphor time is qi is Chinese culture-specific. On the whole, conceptual metaphors of qi form a conceptual network and further constitute a cultural model: qi as the substance origin of human life is believed in TCM to function by ceaseless motion, giving rise to wellness or illness. This cultural model reflects a pair of inseparable concepts in ancient Chinese philosophy, viz. substance and (its) function, with the former being primary, essential and original, while the latter, secondary, concomitant and derivational.