qi

On the one hand, it’s good to stretch yourself intellectually; on the other hand, when you do so you might pull a muscle. In my recent essay on Cosmotechnics, I got in over my head — delightfully so, for me, but it led to at least one embarrassing error.

In my first footnote I talk about Yuk Hui’s use of the word qi and I get it wrong. I received a very kind email from a Sinologist named Nils Wieland explaining my mistake:

qi 氣 is the Qi non-Chinese speakers have heard of as some sort of energy or spirit, which Yuk Hui romanizes as Ch’i.

qi 器 doesn’t have the same popularity, it’s a standard Chinese word meaning container, vessel or instrument, and it’s the Qi from Yuk Hui’s Dao-Qi-duality.

(Both qi’s sound exactly the same, so I guess differentiating them by romanization is a good approach; what’s odd is that he chose the nowadays standard Pinyin spelling for the less famous qi – throwing people off 😉 )

Dammit! I knew something like this had to be the case; you wouldn’t believe how long and fruitlessly I googled the question. Again, this is what happens when your reach exceeds your grasp — and (trying to be meaningfully self-reflective here) I think on some level I was afraid that if I contacted a Sinologist I’d get the information but would also be told that my whole essay was nonsense. And I really wanted to write that essay.

I also have received a very kind message from Tongdong Bai, whom I quote in my essay, pointing to other work of his on the political implications (or lack thereof) of Daoism. Nils Wieland suggested some further reading too. So while I am embarrassed at my rookie error I have some interesting next steps to take in this project.