The dan tian and why it’s important in Qigong and Tai Chi

It is considered that our primary reservoir of qi is located within the body in the area between the navel and the pubic bone: the Dan tian (elixir field). There are three such fields in the body: lower, middle and upper, each having a different character of qi, but when “the dan tian” is unspecified it refers to the lower field. Over time, Qigong progressively leads us through these fields or centres of energy.

As Bruce Frantzis puts it,

Feeling the energy of your body makes it possible for you to understand the energy of your thoughts and emotions, and this leads to comprehending the energy of the spirit. From here is possible to fully understand the energy of meditation or emptiness’[1]

Kenneth Cohen[2] writes that the lower dan tian

is like the root of the tree of life. If a tree’s roots are in good soil, then it will grow. If we neglect the roots and only prune the branches, the tree will die. Or if we try to build a temple too quick or too high – working with the upper dan tian before the lower – then the temple will topple over. This is why Qigong emphasises the primacy of rooted standing, breathing, and body awareness.’

And perhaps it is also why the saying goes ‘yi shou dan tian’: ‘the wisdom-mind is kept at the (lower) dan tian’, a fundamental instruction for all martial artists and Qigong practitioners.


[1] Frantzis, Bruce (2006), ‘Opening the Energy Gates of Your Body’, Berkeley, California, North Atlantic Books, p25.

[2] Cohen, K. (1997), ‘The Way of Qigong, The Art and Science of Energy Healing’ New York, Ballantine Books, Random House, pp35-36