The phrase “Purple Qi from the East” (紫气东来 zǐqì dōng lái) occasionally appears in Chinese cultivation novels. But what exactly is it?
In Chinese culture, the color Purple is auspicious and associated with immortality and spiritual awareness. It was also an Imperial color.
The North Star used to be called the Purple Star (紫微星). It’s surrounded by the Purple Forbidden Enclosure (紫微垣), which was thought to be the palace of the Celestial Emperor. To complement this, the Forbidden City (the palace of the Chinese Emperor) used to be called the Purple Forbidden City (紫禁城).
Additionally, Purple Qi (紫气) is an auspicious omen in Daoism and Chinese astrology.
Qi (气) is “spiritual energy”, but it can also mean “air” or “cloud”. At sunrise and sunset, it’s not unusual to see clouds dyed a beautiful purple. This is perhaps the true origin of the idea that Purple is profound and auspicious.
In his old age, Laozi grew weary of the moral decay in society, and so he decided to become a hermit and journey westward into the unsettled frontier. He then left the city of Chengzhou and headed to the Hangu Pass on the back of a water buffalo.
Yinxi, the guardian of Hangu Pass, noticed a strange phenomenon in the sky… Purple Qi was coming from the east! He felt that it was a good omen which indicated the approach of a sage.
When Laozi arrived, Yinxi earnestly begged him to provide some guidance. Laozi agreed. He stayed at the Pass and wrote all 81 chapters of the Dao De Jing, which would later become a fundamental text of Daoism. Afterwards, he continued on his journey to the West.
Hopefully this explains the Purple Qi which appears in several cultivation novels. Simply put, it’s a profound spiritual energy and supernatural phenomenon closely linked to Daoism!