Abdominal dan tian

Abdominal dan tian


Could you please tell us more about the abdominal dan tian. In our school it is obviously very important, compared to other dan tian like ming men, hui yin, bai hui etc.



"Dan tian" is in Chinese and it literally means “field of elixir”. It is a field, not a point. In my early years, some classics mentioned that the abdominal dan tian was located about two inches below the naval. Other classics mentioned that it was located about three inches below the navel.

Initially I was puzzled. Was the abdominal dan tian located two inches or three inches below the navel? Later I discover that it was a field and not a point. As a field, to say that it was located two inches or three inches below the navel were both correct.

Later I discovered that the abdominal dan tian of a master could extend beyond two or three inches. It could also extend beyond his physical body.

It is helpful to know that “inches” here refer not to the Chinese inches or the British inches, but to the biological inches. There are three small bones in your index finger. The space between the first joint and the second joint of your index finger is your biological inch. So, starting from the tip of your index finger, if you bend it at the first and second joints, and measure it two and a half times down your navel, that is roughly the centre of your abdominal dan tian.

About two biological inches below your navel is an energy point called qi-hai, which means “sea of energy”. About three biological inches below your navel is an energy point called quan-yuan, which means “original gate”, i.e. the gate where your mother’s energy originally enter into you when you were a foetus. This is one of many important reasons why we must always be grateful to our mother.

The abdominal dan tian is sometimes called the central dan tian. If you measure yourself from head to feet, your abdominal dan tian is in the middle.

The abdominal dan tian is also called the natural dan tian. If you stand upright and be totally relaxed, your vital energy will naturally be focused at your abdominal dan tian. The pulsation of the natural dan tian is quite obvious in babies, especially when they are lied flat on the ground,

Dan tian is a field of elixir. Elixir here means where vital energy accumulates and coalesces into a pearl. For our purpose, we normally translate dan tian as an energy field.

Besides the abdominal dan tian, there are other energy fields in our body where our vital energy is focused, and these energy fields are often named after the vital points where the vital energy accumulates.

At the top of the head is the bai-hu dan tian, which means energy field where energy from hundreds of meridians accumulates. It is also called the top dan tian as it is located at the upmost top.

Lower down at the front of the face about the middle of the two normal eyes is the tien-mu dan tian, which means the energy field of the heavenly eye. It is called heavenly eye because at an advanced level when this vital point is open, the person can see things across space and time that normal persons cannot see.

In front of your body in between the two breasts is the tian ting dan tian, which means the energy field of heavenly pavilion. It is called heavenly pavilion because here is where the spiritual heart, often called the spirit or soul in Western terms, is located. In Western biology, it is the solar plexus.

Some classics refer to this energy field as the middle energy field, which may cause some confusion with the abdominal dan tian. As I have mentioned before, chi kung and kungfu terms are meant for convenient; they are not scientific definitions, which define the limits of their meanings.

At the bottom of the body (apart from the limbs) is the hui-yin dan tian, which means energy field where the the two yins (the sexual organs and the anus) meet. This is sometimes called the bottom dan tian, as it is located at the bottom of the body (apart from the limbs).

At the back of the body opposite the navel is the ming men dan tian, which means energy field of the gate of life. Apart from the quan yuan dan tian, this ming men dan tian is also where the mother’s energy enters the foetus and starts life. It is believe in Chinese biology that life starts at the kidneys, and the ming men dan tian is a crucial energy field for the kidneys.

Going up the du mai, or the governing meridian, opposite the tien-ting dan tian is the ling-tai dan tian, which means energy field of spiritual platform. As its name suggests, this energy field has an important impact of the person’s spiritual health.

All these dan tians mentioned above are single dan tians along the ren mai and the du mai or the conceptual meridian and the governing meridian. On the palms and feet are two pairs of dan trans.

At the centre of each palm is the lao-gong dan tian, which means energy field of palace of labour, so called-because the hands are important for work. When a high-level kungfu master strikes an opponent with his palm, energy shoots out from this dan tian to injure the opponent.

At the bottom of each of both feet, about one-third the length from the toes, is the yong-quan dan tian, which means energy field of gushing stream. If you are full of vitality, stand upright and be totally relaxed, you may feel energy gushing out from these two dan trans.

At first I wondered whether this person would be drained of energy as energy was gushing out, yet classics which described this phenomenon describe it as a sure sign of good health and vitality. I later discovered that as energy gushed out from the yong-quan energy fields, fresh energy from the Cosmos flowed in. Energy could gush out freely only when the person was full of energy, which meant he had good health and vitality.

The abdominal dan tian, located at the qi-hai and guan-yuan vital points, is the most important. If unqualified, when someone mentions “dan tian”, he refers to this abdominal dan tian. If he wants to refer to the bai-hui dan tian, for example, he would say bai-hui dan tian, top dan tian or the dan tian at the top of the head.

Like the central bank of a country, this is the central bank of a person’s energy. If the abdominal dan tian is lacking of energy, the other dan tians will also be lacking of energy, and the person will be weak or sick. If his abdominal dan tian is full of energy, his other dan tians will be full of energy too, and he will have good health, vitality and longevity.

No matter what types of chi kung exercises a practitioner may perform, at the end of the exercise he returns the energy to his abdominal dan tian. In some exercises, the extra energy may be stored at an appropriate dan tian, but eventually it will be returned to the abdominal dan tian.

For example, a practitioner practicing Iron Palm may consciously or unconsciously have his energy stored at the lao-gong dan tian. After some time the excess energy at the lao-gong dan tian will be transferred to the abdominal dan tian. This can be effected consciously, like the practitioner thinking of his abdominal dan tian at the end of his training session. Or it may occur unconsciously, with the practitioner doing nothing special, and the normal activities of the practitioner will result in his energy returning to his abdominal dan tian.

If this does not occur, like the practitioner purposely keeps his energy at the other dan tian, or the passage along his other dan tian and his abdominal dan tian is blocked, his energy will not be in balance and it will affect his health, vitality and longevity.

Our students often have such experiences. After performing Pushing Mountain, for example, they may feel their hands and arms very powerful. But after some time, the power appears less. It is not that their energy has drained away but that the energy has flowed to their abdominal dan tian.

Some chi kung exercises specially focus energy at the abdominal dan tian. Abdominal Breathing is an excellent example. But the energy does not just stay at the abdominal dan tian. It also flows to other parts of his body, overcoming health problems he may not consciously know, and giving him good health, vitality and longevity. The energy must be flowing to give him benefits, otherwise if it just remains at the abdominal dan tian it may become stale and harmful. But it is focused at the abdominal dan tian — not static at the abdominal dan tian.

dan tians

Other dan tians

The above discussion is reproduced from the thread 10 Questions on Cosmic Breathing in the Shaolin Wahnam Discussion Forum.



Courses and Classes