Dan Tien

Dantian, dan t'ian, dan tien or tan t'ien is loosely translated as "elixir field", "sea of qi", or simply "energy center". Dantians are important focal points for meditative and exercise techniques such as qigong, martial arts such as t'ai chi ch'uan, and in traditional Chinese medicine.[1][2]


Traditionally, a dantian is considered to be a center of qi or life force energy.[1][2] The dantians are important points of reference in neidan, qigong, neigong, tao yin and other self-cultivation practices of exercise, breathing, and meditation, as well as in martial arts and in traditional Chinese medicine. The lower dantian is particularly important as the focal point of breathing technique as well as the center of balance and gravity.[3]

Taoist and Buddhist teachers often instruct their students to center the mind in the navel or lower dantian. This is believed to aid control of thoughts and emotions. Acting from the dantian is considered to be related to higher states of awareness or samadhi.

The Taoist concept of dantians as energy centers is similar to the Indian yoga concept of chakras as key points through where prana is stored (see also nadis). The major difference, however, is that Taoist dantians are the major energetic storage mechanisms whereas the yogic chakras are not so much storage centers, but energetic vortices which act as intake and output ports. Many traditions consider the dantiens and the chakras to be separate, albeit cooperative energetic mechanisms.

Major dantians

Different schools of thought categorize dantians in various manners. Three main dantians are typically emphasized:[1][2]

  • Lower dantian (下丹田, Xia Dantian): below the navel (about three finger widths below and two finger widths behind the navel), also called "the golden stove",[4] associated with cultivating life energy (qi) and with vital essence or sexual energy (jing);
  • Middle dantian (中丹田, Zhong Dantian): at the level of the heart, associated with storing life energy (qi) and with respiration and health of the internal organs, in particular the thymus gland;
  • Upper dantian (上丹田, Shang Dantian): at the forehead between the eyebrows or third eye, associated with the energy of consciousness and spirit (shen) and with the pineal gland.[3][5]

Importance of the lower dantian

The term dantian used by itself usually refers to the lower dantian, which is considered to be the foundation of rooted standing, breathing, and body awareness in qigong and martial arts. The lower dantian has been described to be "like the root of the tree of life".[2]

In speaking of the lower of the three points, the term dantian is often used interchangeably with the Japanese word hara (腹; Chinese: ) which means simply "belly". In Chinese, Korean, and Japanese traditions, it is considered the physical center of gravity of the human body and is the seat of one's internal energy (qi). A master of calligraphy, swordsmanship, tea ceremony, martial arts, among other arts, is held in the Japanese tradition to be "acting from the hara".

The lower dantian corresponds to the yoga concept of the swadhisthana chakra. In yoga philosophy, it is thought to be the seat of prana that radiates outwards to the entire body.[6]

See also


  • Chia, Mantak. Cosmic Orbit: Connect to the Universe from Within. Universal Tao Publications, 2005. ISBN 974-85401-4-6.
  • Jefferson, R.B. Doctrine of the Elixir. Coombe Springs Press, 1982. Full text here
  • Lu K'uan Yu. Taoist Yoga. Rider, 1970. ISBN 0-7126-1725-6.
  • Porkert, Manfred. The Theoretical Foundations of Chinese Medicine. MIT Press, 1974. ISBN 0-262-16058-7.
  • Rouselle, Irwin. ‘Spiritual Guidance in Contemporary Taoism’. In Spiritual Disciplines: Papers from the Eranos Yearbooks. Princeton University Press, 1960. ISBN 0-691-01863-4.
  • Wang, Mu. ISBN 978-0-9843082-5-5.

External links

  • Doctrine of the Elixir by R.B.Jefferson
  • Secret of the Golden Flower
  • Seiki tanden
  • The Three Dantian, Hara and Seika Tanden
  • Tai Chi Chuan Tao, The Dan Tian
  • Cinnabar Fields, by Fabrizio Pregadio. [From The Encyclopedia of Taoism.]

^ Dantian Qigong video course on QigongJournal.com

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