This article is the first attempt at what I hope to be an ongoing series of articles about daoism, tea and other subjects written both in English and Chinese. Chinese is not my first language and so this series of articles is also meant to be a chance for me to practice writing in Chinese in hopes of eventually being able to write coherent and interesting Chinese language articles.
As such, please feel free to critique my writing, as it will help me to make progress as I develop this skill.
Recently some classmates studying the immortality school of meditation asked me
the question “what is Dantian?” (the elixir field). It gave me pause to think about
how to answer them.
In the Chinese Daoist arts, Dantian has many different meanings.
If we want to talk about the real meaning of Dantian, we must first be somewhat
specific about the field of study under discussion.
Every type of art in Daoism has its own interpretation of Dantian, and when first
studying basic methods we might think they are different from one another.
For instance, people who practice the martial arts might believe that dantian is a
collection of muscle in the centre of our waist, just under the belly button. This is
what we might call the physical aspect of the lower Dantian.
People who practice the martial arts need to use this area of the body to help them
connect the upper and lower aspects of their bodies while executing movements.
However, people who do Qi Gong might believe that the Dantian isn’t something
that we find in the physical centre of the body, rather it is associated with the
energy of the physical form.
This energetic body could emerge in many different places, or it could be the three
major centres of the head, chest, and lower abdomen which make up what are
called the “three elixir fields.”
These Dantian in Qi Gong are all correctly defined as such.
As a final consideration, let’s take the internal alchemy school as an example.
People who practice internal alchemy seated meditation have many different
interpretations of the word dantian. Maybe the Dantian is the same one practiced
in martial arts and Qi Gong, or perhaps it refers to the entire energetic body of
humanity and the universe. The different ways of interpreting it are tremendously
So understanding exactly what a Dantian is is really not that simple. Dantian
seems to refer to too many different things!
However, there is one completely correct interpretation of Dantian and after saying
it, all of our classmates and friends ought to be totally clear about its true meaning.
Dantian refers to energy and wherever there is energy, there is dantian. Wherever
there isn’t energy, there also isn’t dantian.
So what is energy?
Don’t spend too much time complicating your thought processes over this. Energy
is the core characteristic of all living things in nature. If you have energy, you can
live, if you don’t have energy, you will die.
Therefore if we want to study dantian, qi, or life, we must start from the
term “living” in order to understand the basic concept of our study. Life
isn’t an organism and it doesn’t have a specific shape or form. You can’t
isolate it and look at it or perceive it, but it is contained in the basic spirit
of all living things. Anything that is alive, has a body, a person, a plant or
anything all have this basic energy. The more that something has it, the
more it seems to grow healthy and luxuriantly.
Even though you can’t see its basic energy, you can still see quite clearly whether
someone does or doesn’t have very much spirit.
For instance, a young child with bright eyes will often be called clever, while a tired
looking, dull child seems to have a dis-spirited look.
So when we think about what dantian really is, we can’t forget that the quality we
are trying to identify isn’t part of the body, it is a type of formless, imageless
energetic strength and we all have it in our entire bodies. So we shouldn’t ask
“where is dantian,” we would be better to ask where it isn’t.
This question is very important because anywhere that doesn’t have dantian
doesn’t have life.
Researching where life comes from and what is dead is the central concern of the
study of life, longevity, and every major type of scientific research.
If we can discover where our vital energy comes from, then we may be able to
grasp every living person’s deepest wish, to be a long living person who does not
become feeble with age and to protect our fundamental essence, become
enlightened and ascend the mundane realm.
please share this to help friends and classmates find their direction and live a
better, happier life.