The Qi in Daoism & The Force in Star Wars


A brief comparison of Daoism and Star Wars.

The Force is a narrative device used in Star Wars movies, books, comics, and TV series. It is based in large part on certain tropes of traditional Chinese culture that came to life and abide in Daoist thought, imagination, and legend.

Daoist Energetics refers to the study and practice of qi. Qi (气- 氣 - 炁) is a Chinese word and concept used to describe the vital energy animating everything that is, was, or could be. The character for Qi (炁) often used in Daoist texts and charms has the same meaning, but also carries references to breath magic, incantational powers, and primordial cosmological energy. There are also possible hints about the semi-secret practices of inner Daoist sexual Alchemy.[1]

Although at times Qi may seem bafflingly intellectual and philosophical, it is actually a practical concept meant primarily to be used for human well-being, spiritual growth, and success in the martial arts. More about Qi is at (accessed March 26, 2021).

The purpose of the Force is to help tell a story, and to make money—a lot of money. By January 2021 The Star Wars film franchise alone had grossed over 10.2 billion U.S. dollars.[2] 

George Lucas, the creator of the Star Wars series, explained the Force this way, The act of living generates a force field, an energy. That energy surrounds us; when we die that energy joins with all the other energy. There is a giant mass of energy in the universe that has a good side and a bad side. We are part of the Force because we generate the power that makes the Force live. When we die, we become part of that Force, so we never really die; we continue as part of the Force." [3]yodaYoda partially resembles an immortal Daoist master: he is over 800 years old; he is all wise; leads a simple hidden existence (at least in the 1980 film); at death he physically rises up to join the Force. Picture source: Lucasfilm.

In the first released Star Wars movie (1977), Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, Obi Wan-Kenobi (played by Alec Guinness) says, "The Force is what gives a Jedi [warrior monk] his power. It's an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together."

A classic explanation of the Force is given by Yoda in The Empire Strikes Back, (1980). For my ally is the Force, and a powerful ally it is. Life creates it, makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us and binds us. Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter. You must feel the Force around you; here, between you, me, the tree, the rock, everywhere, yes. Even between land and ship

The Star Wars canon has life itself as the creator of the Force. Daoism has "Qi creates life; it is life."[4]

Note: "canon" refers to an authoritative list of books, films, and all other media that the Lucas Licensing editors consider an authentic part of the official Star Wars history.

Qui-Gon Jinn

The movie Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999) introduces a new Jedi Grand Master, Qui-Gon Jinn. His name is no accident: Qui-Gon is derivative of the Chinese words ‘Qi Gong’ which mean Life Force accomplishments. Jinn is based on Arabic; its base root being ‘genie’ sometimes translated as ‘tutelary spirit.’ Qui-Gon Jinn [therefore] can be interpreted to mean ‘Spirit of the Life Force.  Paul F. McDonald. The Star War Heresies. McFarland, 2013, p.40. 

Aspects of Qui-Gon Jinn’s use of the Force[5] resemble the use of qi in various Daoist practices.

1. Mindfulness: A philosophical warrior, Qui-Gon Jinn believed heavily in what he referred to as the ‘Living Force,’ a method of focusing on the moment rather than contemplating the Force in all its degrees.

2. Meditative Trance: He also applied a meditative trance known as Serenity, granting him renewed strength and focus as seen during the momentary break in his final duel with Darth Maul.[6]

3. Breathing: He could also control his breathing for a considerable amount of time.

4. Extraordinary Abilities: Jinn had considerable skill with telekinesis; lifting people or objects, dislodging enemies with a single Force Push. He was able to receive Force visions,  despite his preference to focus on the present rather than the future. In addition, he had some knowledge of Force healing, as displayed in his futile attempt to save Tahl moments before her death. One of Jinn's lesser-known Force powers was animal friendship. He controlled the mind of a draigon [sic.]  and rode on its back for as long as he needed until he reached his destination.  Note: "Draigon" is a Scottish variant of "dragon." Daoist Immortals are known to ride on the backs of dragons.

immortalsImmortals Riding Dragons. From E.T.C. Werner. Myths and Legends of China, 1922.

Qui-Gon Jinn added a new concept to the Force which does not appear in Daoist texts or legends. He calls it "Midi-chlorians." Midi-chlorians are a microscopic life-form that reside within all living cells and communicates with the Force….Without the midi-chlorians, life could not exist, and we would have no knowledge of the Force. Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (1999) movie script. (accessed March 25, 2021).

The Dark Side of the Force

"Lucas uses 'the dark side', and 'paths to the dark side’ as devices to suggest the distinction between good and evil is not a distinction between 'us' and 'them'—but rather a battle within ourselves, reflecting the frailty of human nature and our own competing (and equally compelling) internal impulses towards kindness on the one hand, and cruelty on the other." [from Dark Side (Star Wars). [at] (Star_Wars) (accessed March 25, 2021).

In The Empire Strikes back (1980) Yoda gives a classic explanation of the Dark Side.

Yoda: A Jedi's strength flows from the Force. But beware of the dark side. Anger, fear, aggression; the dark side of the Force are they. Easily they flow, quick to join you in a fight. If once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny, consume you it will.
Luke Skywalker:  …  Is the dark side stronger?
Yoda: No, no, no. Quicker, easier, more seductive.
Luke Skywalker:  But how am I to know the good side from the bad?
Yoda: You will know... when you are calm, at peace, passive. A Jedi uses the Force for knowledge and defense, NEVER for attack.

 In the same movie, The Phantom Menace (1999), Yoda summarizes it this way: Fear is the path to the dark side - fear leads to anger - anger leads to hate - hate leads to suffering.skywalker instructingLucasfilm. Luke Skywalker instructing Rey in Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017).

The movie continues,
Luke Skywalker:
 Close your eyes. Breathe. Now, reach out. (Rey closes her eyes and reaches out and Luke starts tickling her hand with a leaf.)
Rey: I feel something.
Luke Skywalker: You feel it?
Rey: Yes, I feel it.
Luke Skywalker: That’s the Force.
Rey: Really? Wow, it must be really strong with you. I’ve never felt any… [then like a Chan Buddhist master, Luke strikes Rey to clear her mind].
Rey: Ow! …  I’ll try again

Luke Skywalker: Breathe. Just breathe. Reach out with your feelings. What do you see?
Rey: The island. Life. Death and decay that feeds new life. Warmth. Cold. Peace. Violence.
Luke Skywalker: And between it all?
Rey: Balance. An energy. A Force.
Luke Skywalker: And inside you?
Rey: Inside me that same Force.

Rey continues: There’s something else beneath the island. A place. A dark place. Balance. Powerful light, powerful darkness. (The rock beneath her starts to crack). It’s cold. It’s calling me.
Luke Skywalker: Resist it, Rey. Rey! Rey!
(Rey snaps out of her vision.)

Luke Skywalker: You went straight to the dark.
Rey: That place was trying to show me something.
Luke Skywalker: It offered something you needed. And you didn’t even try to stop yourself.

In the above quote, Rey envisioned the Force as a Powerful Light, a Powerful Darkness, a Balance. With this movie, The Last Jedi (2017), A yin/yang-like Balance has now become part of the Force.

It seems a strange thing for Luke Skywalker to say, that the Dark Side has things that Rey needs. But he knows that she cannot know and experience—and therefore be able to use—the "Powerful Light" [good] without knowing and experiencing the Dark Side [bad] to be victorious over it; (i.e., in the ultimate battle with the Jedi's arch-enemy, Emperor Palpatine.) However, Luke knows that before that happens, she must first experience and then control the dark side within herself. 

In Daoist thought good and evil are not absolute qualities, they are relative: you cannot know or understand one without the other. As with yin and yang, each is constantly morphing towards and into the other. 

With Daoism—in contrast to certain other religions—there is no overriding or obsessive preoccupation with such things as what is good and what is evil, for to assume one is to create the other.

If I am "good" those who are not like me are "bad"—which all too often can lead to senseless destruction and killing. (From author’s conversation with Mantak Chia, June 7, 2011.)

Furthermore, as a tightened spring causes the hands of a wrist watch to move, the tension between opposites can enable movement; for without such resistance, movement will stop. (This is also so with tàijíquán (太極拳), Daoist energetics, and modern physics.) In Star Wars this struggle can take place within an individual, (here Rey), or a political group, here aptly named the "Resistance."

The Force rather than only being light (i.e., "good") becomes something of both light and dark. The Force, as with "energy" in physics, can be in a potential kinetic state ready to burst forth to do good or evil, or both, or something in between. Doing selfless actions that bring about harmony is in alignment with the Light side of the Force. Doing acts for personal gain to achieve power is in alignment with Dark side. Luke now proposes it is necessary to know and balance these two aspects of the Force to end the constant wars and destruction. In Chinese thought this is understood as the prerogative to continually and properly balance (to harmonize, not "make equal") yin and yang.

Force Powers

There are hundreds of Force Powers. For further information about them consult "Force Power." Wookieepedia. [at] (accessed March 21, 2021). And also: "Star Wars: All 33 Light & Dark Side Force Powers In Canon [UPDATED]." [at] (accessed March 22, 2021).

With each new Star War movie more appear. Rian Johnson (author and director of The Last Jedi (2017) observed that, "Every Star Wars movie introduces new Force powers to meet that film's story needs.[7]

For the purposes of this article the most important Force Powers are Healing, Martial Arts, Immortality, and Floating Meditation. 

Healing. This use of the Force made its first major appearance with The Rise of Skywalker (2019). Watch the clip here: "Healing The Serpent …YouTube. — (accessed March 17, 2021). In the screenplay Rey explains how she did it, "I just transferred a bit of life. Force energy from me to him." Rey is then able to transfer the Force to heal people. In the film even the dead are able to be brought back to life—though doing that can cause a huge loss of their internal Force-Life Energy, and even bring about their death. 

From the Shénxiān chuán (神仙傳). Biographies of Spirit Immortals, partially attributed to Ge Hong (283-343). If someone is wounded by a weapon, blow on the wound, and the bleeding will stop. If you hear of someone who has suffered a poisonous insect bite, even if you are not in his presence, you can, from a distance, blow and say in incantation over your own hand (males on the left hand, females on the right), and the person will at once be healed even if more than a hundred li away. And if you yourself are struck by a sudden illness, you have merely to swallow pneumas [qi] in three series of nine, and you will immediately recover. (Daoist_immortal) (accessed March 17, 2021). 

There are two basic techniques used in sending qi: First, leading and guiding external qi through you to its target-destination. The second is sending out your own internal qi. 

In the novel The Rise of Skywalker (2020) [p.93] Rey is described as having done both: She channeled the Force [external qi]. … This time she would give [from her internal qi].  

In the movie and the novel, Rey prepares to heal, and then does heal, an enormously large wounded serpent: Whenever she fought, or leapt through the jungles of Ajan Kloss, or even mind-tricked a stormtrooper into releasing her shackles, she channeled the Force, using it for her own advantage in some way. But this would call for a different technique, something she’d learned from the Jedi texts when she was mending Luke’s kyber crystal. This time she would give. A hum resonated in her chest as she gathered something inside her, offered it up to the serpent. Her own energy. Her own life. It was part of the Force, too, and she didn’t have to keep it all to herself. She felt the vexis [the serpent] calming. Its pain was receding. After a moment she dared to open her eyes. What she saw made her gasp. The wound had closed.

I have been repeatedly told by my teachers that it is best not to send your own qi, but to be a conduit … a channel … for the transfer of external qi. In The Rise of Skywalker when a character uses their personal qi to heal, often experience a major loss of their internal life-qi and subsequently die.  I cannot be a spoiler to the story so I should write no more about that. [John Voigt].

Martial Arts. From its inception in 1977, the Star War series has constantly displayed violent combat scenes that were heavily influenced by the gong fu of Asian martial arts. Here is a clip of "The Last Jedi - Rey and Kylo vs. Praetorian Guards." YouTube. (accessed March 17, 2021).

Loosely compare it to "Wudang Sword 武當劍 Wudang Taoist Sword Form." YouTube. (accessed March 17, 2021).Palpatine modimage source: Lucasfilm. "Palpatine brings down ships with Force Lightning – TROS." YouTube. (accessed March 31, 2021).

Force Lightning. Throughout Chinese marital arts there are thousands –or more—instances of qi being projected from the hands. This ability is used throughout the Star war series, but it reached a new intensity in The Rise of Skywalker (2019).

"Rey's Force Lightning - STAR WARS: RISE OF SKYWALKER Movie Clip (2019)".  YouTube. (accessed March 22, 2021)

This is actually a Dark Side power forbidden to the Jedi. Rey did it here by mistake.

Force Lightning at its most intense is seen from 0:38 to 2:06 on "Palpatine's Force Lightning Attack - STAR WARS: RISE OF SKYWALKER Movie Clip (2019) HD." YouTube. (accessed March 22, 2012).

"Palpatine brings down ships with Force Lightning – TROS." YouTube. (accessed March 31, 2021). Skywalker diesLuke Immortality. Image source. Marvel Comics. (accessed March 17, 2021).

Immortality. Commonly in the West the word "immortal" means to live forever. The Chinese word (xiān - 仙)  first referred to spiritual immortality, then to physical immortal beings with supernatural powers. In Chinese literature xiān also refers to a genie, nymph, or fairy; and as a metaphor for an extraordinarily accomplished person.

"Xian (Daoist Immortal)." New World Encyclopedia. [at] (Daoist_immortal) (accessed April 2, 2021).

In Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) Luke Skywalker dies obtaining immortality in the Force. Image source. Marvel Comics. (accessed March 17, 2021).

Floating Meditation. In The Jedi Path: A Manual for Students of the Force, by Daniel Wallace, page 36: As Initiates you should be meditating five times a day. That’s not enough. Whenever you have a moment to yourself, even if you are standing outside a training chamber waiting for a session to begin, center yourself as you have been taught. The Force will rejuvenate your body and sharpen your mind, even in brief moments.

You can practice deeper states during your daily sessions. Try to achieve Empty Mediation which purges your negative emotions and lets you step back from attachment. Moving meditation is an awake-state that reduces distraction and increases our focus on a task—you may find it improves your ability to repair a device, your skill in shifting through data in the Archives, or your combat drills. Rising meditation broadens your connection  to the Force, to such a degree that you may find yourself levitating. In this state you may hear the visions and prophecies of the Unifying Force [Cosmic Force]. Mediation is a daily expression of self-discipline. If you are having trouble isolating your mind, you can find several meditating chambers inside the Temple that shut out all external stimuli.

floatingRey, trying to connect with Jedi Masters of the past, meditates as she floats in the air surrounded by rocks.

Rey Levitating, trying to connect with Jedi Masters of the past, meditates as she floats in the air surrounded by rocks. From Rise Of Skywalker (2019). Source: "Star Wars The Rise of Skywalker Reys Jedi Training Full Scene." YouTube. (accessed March 22, 2021). (Note: watch it and see what happens when she loses her mental focus.) 

"Leia Organa Flies in Space." YouTube. (accessed March 2, 2021).

In The Last Jedi (2017) General (former Princess) Leia is blown out of her command ship into space and effortlessly floats back to the ship. She appears to be in a meditative state of Wú wéi (no-action). Watch it at “Leia Organa flies in space.” YouTube.

In the novel, The Last Jedi, Leia is described this way: "She did surrender, letting go and allowing herself to slide into darkness." p.105.

Wú wéi - traditional form 無為 ; simple form 无为. Literally "no action." It is an effortless ( yin) practice where the outer will transitions to the inner will and finds the unity of the original spirit ( yuán shén - 原神 ) and the "adept grows to receive the full power of the dao needed in any given moment." More at "How the Alchemist Shapes the Qi Field," by Michael Winn. [at] (accessed April 3, 2021).

Although the concept of the Force is derived from Chinese texts about Qi, it is not the same as Qi. In the novel, The Last Jedi, by Jason Fry, we read, Rey could feel the Force heaving like the sea … whipped into a fury by their [she and Kylo’s] attempts to manipulate it. [p.309].  In Chinese dictionaries the word "Anger" may be a basic definition of one of the aspects of qi; but qi itself cannot be "whipped into a "fury." Such a thing does not happen. Qi may be conceptualized as divine energy and consciousness, but it does not "think" or have "emotions." Qi is the energy that drives the emotions; it is not the emotions themselves.

 In the novel, The Rise of Skywalker, the Force continues to be anthropomorphized into a godlike spirit that must be obeyed. For example, Rey is told, The Force has led you here. You must trust in it. always. [sic]. [p.55]. On p.161 Finn tells when he and his fellow stormtroopers were told to fire on civilians they refused and laid down their weapons. It wasn’t a decision, it was more like, An instinct. A feeling. The Force … it brought me here.  Here the Force seemingly has divine powers. We know the Force is based on Qi, but is this Force/Qi  God? What is clear is a series of dramatic characterizations where the Force behaves like a God as a way to ultimately triumph over the Dark Side.  But Qi is not like that: It doesn’t have intentions or agendas. It is universal and personal life-energy. 

Further discrepancies between the Force and Qi show in their respective cosmologies. In Star Wars we have 1. Life creates the Force. 2. At death a Jedi master possibly can enter the Force. 3. The Force can manifest her or him back to an earthly existence as a "Force Spirit." In the Star Wars canon George Lucas states, We are part of the Force because we generate the power that makes the Force live.[3]. In the first Star Wars movie A New Hope (1977) Obi Wan-Kenobi says, "[The Force] is an energy field created by all living things."  

This relates, but is backwards, to the Daoist cosmology where manifested Qi creates and sustains life

In Chapter 42 of the Daode jing we have 1. The Dao gives birth to Qi. 2. Qi gives birth to Yin and Yang. 3. Yin and Yang by interacting give birth to the realization all manifested and manifesting matter-energy in the universe—including all forms of life.

Daode jing - Chapter 42 (excerpt) - Genesis
(Before the beginning was)
Dao from which is born One
(the unmanifested Qi).
One which gives birth to Two
(the static polarities of Yin and Yang). 

Three—a dynamic Qi appears opening Yin and Yang into a harmony of interaction.

And from Three, creation (in time and space) unfolds and all things are born.
In this way, all things carry yin on their backs and embrace yang.
By blending this qi they achieve harmony.
[from: "Qi in the Daodejing—The Way and Its Power."] See: (accessed March 17, 2021). 

Concluding Remarks

Perhaps Qi could be thought of as having a dual reality: one outside the normal keen of intellectual perception; the other reality as spiritually, intuitively, and experientially tangible.

In "Voices" from season 6 of the animated TV series The Clone Wars (2014), the disembodied spirit of Qui-Gon Jinn says to Yoda: I am a manifestation of the Force, a Force that consists of two parts: living beings generate the Living Force, which in turn powers the wellspring that is the Cosmic Force [...] All energy from the Living Force, from all things that have ever lived, feeds into the Cosmic Force, binding everything

[Note: a Jedi warrior would use Living Force with which to fight; a Jedi Master would use Cosmic Force to obtain immortality.]

For possible future discussion it is suggested that there are two basic forms of Qi: The first is "Unmanifested Qi"  which may relate to the Cosmic Force. The second is "Manifested Qi"—i.e., the appearance of all energy-matter—which could relate to the "Living Force."  And further, a reprise from Chapter 42 of the Daode jing: In this way, all things carry yin on their backs and embrace yang. By blending the qi they achieve harmony.

The carried yin suggests unmanifested qi. The yang which is embraced suggests manifested qi. Then: "By blending the qi they achieve harmony."

Depending on your point-of-view, both Cosmic and Living Force and/or Unmanifested and Manifested Qi must be with you (or with any other living thing) in order to remain alive. 


[footnote 1] Michael Stanley-Baker. Qi in Critical Terms for Religious Studies; page 5. Research (accessed  March 29, 2021).

The Daoist ideogram for qi (炁) may also carry hints and allusions to the inner sexual alchemy practices of such things as reversing the outer ejaculation flow of semen upon orgasm, by taking the ideogram Wu (无) - "metaphysical nothingness" and physically modifying it to create the word Jì (旡) - "unable to breathe." (Interestingly the pronunciation of Jì strongly resembles that of Qi, and the primary meaning of qigong is "breath work.") To complete this hypothetical  construction of 炁,  the upper-part of our character (旡) is placed on top of the word biāo  (灬) — "fire" or "blazing fire," which according to our paradigm refers to aroused sexual yang qi. See also: (accessed  March 29, 2021). And Ken Rose [at] (accessed  March 29, 2021).

[footnote 2] "The 13 highest-grossing film franchises at the box office." (accessed  March 26, 2021).

[footnote 3] "Story Conference Transcript for The Empire Strikes Back,"  [as quoted in] Laurent Bouzereau. Star Wars: the annotated Screenplays. Ballantine Books, 1997, p. 181. 

[footnote 4] George Lucas, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda each say that life creates the Force; this is a basic belief in the Star War’s canon. But those knowledgeable of the traditions of Qi say the opposite, e.g., that "Qi creates life; it is life."  Kenneth S. Cohen. The Way of Qigong. Random House, 2018. p.31.

[footnote 5] All from "Qui-Gon Jinn Vs Qel-Droma." [at] (accessed March 17, 2021).

[footnote 6] "What Meditation did Qui-Gon Use during Darth Maul Duel - Explain Star Wars." YouTube. (accessed March 31, 2021).

[footnote 7] Jen Yamato. "Rian Johnson on the evolution of the Force in 'Star Wars: The Last Jedi' and more spoilers". Los Angeles Times, (December 18, 2017). (accessed  March 29, 2021).

Concluding Comment

This article only touches possible relationships of the Force to Daoism. Never-the-less, the following sources could prove helpful in extending the reader’s knowledge of such things, and perhaps put a creative light on their own practices of traditional Chinese gymnastics, energy healing, spirituality, meditation, and the martial arts. Also perhaps help make your next watching of a Star Wars movie more enjoyable and entertaining.


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John Voigt. "Qi in the Daodejing—The Way and Its Power." [at] (accessed March 29, 2021).

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John Voigt is the editor and a contributing author of (see also ).
He occasionally writes articles for Qi-Journal
His work may also be found at

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