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What is Dantien?

Mary McMahon
Updated Feb 07, 2024
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Dantien is a concept which frequently arises in Asian philosophy, medicine, and martial arts. The dantien is the body's center of gravity, and in theory the storage center for qi, or life force. It is located just below and behind the navel, although some traditions suggest that the body actually has three points of dantien, at the navel, heart, and forehead. Students in courses which deal with traditional Chinese philosophy such as qi gong classes are often introduced to the concept of dantien at an early stage.

You may also see dantien spelled as dan tien, dantian, tan t'ien, or so forth, due to the fact that Romanization from Chinese characters is often highly imperfect. The term translates as “red field,” and many people visualize the dantien as a physical field of energy, in addition to a spot on the body. Dantien is sometimes thought of as a ball of energy in the body which can be manipulated or adjusted.

Philosophy aside, the stomach is very close to the center of gravity for the human body, and as athletes know, learning to utilize the center of gravity can help to generate more power. Being aware of the center of gravity and bringing it low in the stomach can also improve balance, which is useful for athletes like boxers and fencers, as it can prevent a fall when the body is extended in an attack. The concept of dantien, therefore, is very important in martial arts, with instructors encouraging students to center their energy in the dantien for more powerful blows and greater balance.

There are a variety of contexts in which dantien may come up. In meditation, people may be encouraged to breathe deeply into their dantien, and to focus their minds on the energy it contains. The dantien is also used in Traditional Chinese Medicine, with practitioners exploring the flow of the body's energy and the amount of energy stored at this key point in the body. Some practices such as qi gong are supposed to improve the flow of energy and strengthen the dantien, chambering energy for later use.

The idea of the lower belly as the seat of life force and energy is hardly unique to Asia. This part of the body has potent symbolism in many cultures, and it appears in a wide variety of traditional medicinal practices and sports, although it may not always be explicitly defined as a powerhouse of mental energy in Western athletics.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGeek researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments
By anon315099 — On Jan 21, 2013

My Sensei says focusing mind on dantien increases your mental ability, calmness, stability and even memory. And while doing Tai Chi, he advises us to focus on dantien and for a novice like me, it's not an easy job because my mind wanders quite often, but I guess the benefits are there.

In yoga also, there is the concept of Chakra and also there is the heart chakra, naval chakra and also the third eye chakra (forehead). It is believed that after a bath, if you apply common salt (common salt purifies energy) to the chakras and wash it off after couple of seconds, your vitality goes up. I do it at times after returning from work and I do get the benefit.

By Clairdelune — On Jun 11, 2011

@PinkLady4 - Dantien and tai chi definitely connected. They both involve very ancient Chinese ways of viewing the mind and the body. I think Dantien is more of a philosophy and tai chi is a way of exercising the mind and the body.

Tai chi is a specific way of exercise to calm the mind and work on balance and strenth in a very graceful, flowing way.

Tai chi often involves shifting your weight from one foot to another. For older people, this aids in balance, so you are less likely to fall and get injured. This low-impact shifting of weight helps over weight folks become stronger in their legs. These exercises force you to pay attention and helps you be more aware - a real plus for seniors.

By PinkLady4 — On Jun 09, 2011

The concept of dantien makes sense to some degree. It seems logical that the navel area is the center of gravity. In most meditation methods, you use your belly to inhale and exhale.

This idea that the stomach is the center of athletic movement is very useful.

I'm not sure about the notion that there are three dantien spots, the heart, the forehead, and the belly.

Are tai chi exercises connected to this dantien philosophy?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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