Mark Edward Lewis has some excellent material on qi in early Chinese texts in his book, _Santioned Violence in Early China_. He examines a ritualistic system from the Han called “watching the vapors” (wang qi) that relates to the resonance of musical notes that you cited.
“This practice was based on the beliefs that the annual cycle was produced by cyclic alternation within the qi, a formless energy that underlay all physical existence, and that this cycle could be traced through the mutual interaction between the qi, the seasonal winds in China, and music. . . . the wind was regarded as the tangible form of qi and music as a controlled, intelligible wind. Consequently, shifts in the character of the cosmic qi would affect the properties of musical tones. The twelve tones that defined the Chinese musical gamut corresponded to the twelve months of the year, and these tones were defined by a set of twelve pitchpipes of specified lengths.” (Lewis, p. 140)
Lewis writes that “As applied to human beings, qi in its broadest sense meant vital spirit: ‘Human life is the concentration of qi; when it is concentrated they live, but when it disperses they die.’ [Zhuangzi] More narrowly, it appeared as the energetic drives and emotions that propelled human action, and among these energies and passions it was particularly associated with anger and belligerence. In the writings of the Confucian school qi regularly appeared in the phrase ‘blood and qi,’ where it meant something like ‘animal energies,’ but the most common expression of these energies was in fighting or combat.” (p. 222)
Lewis notes, however, “The authors of the military treatises set themselves explicitly against the bellicosity and valor that characterized qi, insisting instead on the primary importance of the unity negated by individual heroism. . . .Qi was essential to victory, but it had to be shaped by the general’s mind into the formations and maneuvers that were decisive in battle. And just as natural qi was guided by the ruler through the power of music, so the military commander directed his men through the use of drums and bells.” (p. 226)
He recounts the advent of the wu dance by the Zhou troops prior to overcoming the Shang dynasty, which became the basis for later traditions: “During the Warring States such war dances continued, but they were used as elements of military training in which men practiced precise movements in unison to the beat of the drum. Advancing and retreating, assuming square formations and shifting into circles, kneeling and rising, each of these was collectively rehearsed under the guidance of music and chant.” (pp. 226-227)
“In addition to providing the pattern for collective action in training,” Lewis writes, “music was also the mode of imposing order and communicating commands in the field. According to the highly schematic model of the Zhou li, each level of the military hierarchy had its own distinctive drum to signal commands. Drums were used to signal the rhythm of the march and to communicate orders to men who were too far away to hear the voice or see the gestures of their commander. The patterns of music thus formed the nerves through which the commands of the general’s mind passed to the collective body of his army, or in the images of natural philosophy they musically gave direction, harmony, and order to the formless qi of the troops. . . .In addition to providing a rhythm for collective action and relaying commands, [drum] music was also employed to stir up the qi of the troops. . . .” (p. 227)
As I’ve mentioned before, some classical taiji writings evidently use this early military idea of troops as a collective body united by a commander as a model for the somatic grammar of the individual taiji practitioner. Li Yiyu’s idea of jin being “integrated” so that “the jin of the whole body is trained to be one family” evokes this. The military imagery of signal flags and banners is appropriated to depict the somatic relationship among the mind (as a ‘commander’), qi, and body configuration.
This appropriation of the collective body of troops as a model for individual cultivation is something that Lewis also highlights. “In several texts the qi of the troops was explicitly contrasted with the mind of the commander, in the same manner as other passages cast the troops in the role of collective body to the general’s mind. Just as the mind of the commander had to rule over the qi of his troops, so in the individual, as Mencius observed, ‘The will is the commander of the qi, while the qi is that which suffuses the body.’ [II:1.2.9] Qi was a surging, formless energy that could not calculate or restrain itself; reflection and analysis were reserved for the army’s leader.” (pp. 223-224) Wu Yuxiang’s “Mental Elucidation of the Thirteen Postures” is evidently directly inspired in part by Mengzi’s thoughts and language regarding qi and self-cultivation.
[This message has been edited by Louis Swaim (edited 06-10-2006).]