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What Is Dantian?

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  • Written By: Page Coleman
  • Edited By: Allegra J. Lingo
  • Last Modified Date: 30 November 2016
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Dantian are centers or gates for qi, the life force energy in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) philosophy. Depending on the specific tradition, there may be three to seven of these centers. They are used in practices such as qigong, Tai Chi, silk reeling, and acupuncture.

These energy centers, also known as dan tien, are located throughout the body. The main one is located in the abdomen, underneath the navel. This center is also called the lower dantian, and is the most powerful.

The crown of the head contains the top dantian. A center known as the forehead dantian shares a position with the pituitary gland and the Hindu third eye chakra. Just below the heart near the thymus resides the middle dantian. In some traditions, the soles of the feet also hold an energy center.

As happens with many ancient traditions, the details of some concepts may vary. Depending on the specific tradition, the Chinese energy centers may line up with the seven Hindu chakra system. In these cases, the lower, head, third eye and heart dantian are usually still considered to be the more important centers.

The concept of qi as it moves through the body and the various energy gates or centers is important in TCM. In practices such as qigong and Tai Chi, students focus on working with qi in prescribed fashions. Though both practices are related, they may use qi to achieve different goals.

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Qigong practices often concentrate on healing, and practitioners will use meditation and movement to harvest qi and move it through the energy centers. The meditation practices may involve the practitioner breathing qi into the lower dantian and moving it through the other energy centers. A related practice, Tai Chi, is a martial art and a moving meditation. Practitioners strive to initiate movements from the lower dantian and to control their qi to remain balanced, centered, and more powerful.

Silk reeling is a concept that may be used in qigong and Tai Chi practice. The movements begin from the lower dantian. Each movement must be smooth, continuous, and neither too fast or too slow.

The concept of these energy centers is used in some alternative medicine practices, especially those related to TCM. These energy centers can be used as acupuncture points. Each center has one or more corresponding points, which may be chosen to treat specific disorders.

In English, dantian may be known by other names. Some common translations are cinnabar and red field, or its direct translation, elixir field. It may also be referred to as tanden.

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