etymology of Dantian

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etymology of Dantian

Postby D_Glenn on Mon Mar 15, 2010 5:04 pm

丹 Dan- red; cinnabar (red mercuric sulfide, used as a pigment)

"There are two reds in Chinese. The more common term is 红 (a phono-semantic character: silk 系 + phonetic 工) and is linked to fortune and revolution.
From what I can find, the other red, 丹, had more numerous associations as a color in ancient China and now lives on only in a few fossilized expressions. It is still used, however, as a reference to red mercuric sulfide, whence the character’s etymology. Because the pigment was first mined from the earth, things associated with 丹are deep and special: a ‘red field’ (丹田) refers to the pubic region (dantian) and a ‘red heart’ (丹心) means loyalty."

丹 Dan - special, great, extraordinary

田 Tian - field, cultivated land, area


丹 Dan comes from 井 jing - water well, mine.

Cinnabar was mined or found in hot springs. "To produce liquid (quicksilver) mercury, crushed cinnabar ore is roasted in rotary furnaces. Pure mercury separates from sulfur in this process and easily evaporates. A condensing column is used to collect the liquid metal."

"The most popularly known use of cinnabar is in Chinese carved lacquerware, a technique that apparently originated in the Song Dynasty. The danger of mercury poisoning may be reduced in ancient lacquerware by entraining the powdered pigment in lacquer, but could still pose an environmental hazard if the pieces were accidentally destroyed."



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Re: etymology of Dantian

Postby Doc Stier on Mon Mar 15, 2010 5:46 pm

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Cinnabar, the common ore of Mercury, transfers its healing qualities to the blood. It has a positive effect on the immune system, increases resistance to pathogens, and helps to avoid infections.

Cinnabar contains negative as well as positive components. On the one hand, it is the source of the poisonous metal, mercury, while on the other it possesses various healing powers.

Luster is adamantine to submetallic in darker specimens.
Transparency crystals are translucent to transparent.
Crystal System is trigonal 32.
Crystal Habits: individual, well formed, large crystals are scarce; crusts and crystal complexes are more common; may be massive, or in capillary needles. Crystals that are found tend to be the six sided trigonal scalahedrons that appear to have opposing three sided pyramids.

It also forms modified rhombohedrons, prismatic and twinned crystals as described above. Cleavage is perfect in three directions, forming prisms. Fracture is uneven to splintery. Hardness: 2 to 2.5 Best field indicators are crystal habit, density, cleavage, softness and color.


Specific Gravity is approximately 8.1+ (very heavy for a non-metallic mineral)
Color: red. Streak is red. Associated Minerals are realgar, pyrite, dolomite, quartz, stibnite and mercury.
Other Characteristics: slightly sectile and crystals can be striated.

Notable sources include Almaden, Spain; Idria, Serbia; Hunan Province, China; and California, Oregon, Texas, and Arkansas, USA.
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Re: etymology of Dantian

Postby bailewen on Mon Mar 15, 2010 6:03 pm

Interesting question. I love linguistics and etymology etc.

Gotta head out to work but just off the cuff:

"There are two reds in Chinese.

There's also 朱 and 赤。
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Re: etymology of Dantian

Postby edededed on Mon Mar 15, 2010 6:10 pm

Quite true! I have never heard anyone use "dan" or "zhu" or "chi" in normal speaking, though. "Zhu" and "chi" can be seen in 4-character idioms and old words, but does anyone use "dan" for "red?" There are some other more rare ways to write red, but I forget how to pronounce them...

I think "dan" just means cinnabar for the most part, well, "pill" for Chinese medicine, too.
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Re: etymology of Dantian

Postby Miro on Mon Mar 15, 2010 6:34 pm

丹 Dan- red; cinnabar (red mercuric sulfide, used as a pigment)

Dan also means "elixir" and that is the first and foremost meaning of "dan" in Taoist alchemy and in Chinese martial arts - it means elixir of immortality, of course. Therefore we can translate "dantian" also as "field of elixir" or "place where the elixir is created/transformed" etc.

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Re: etymology of Dantian

Postby Scott P. Phillips on Mon Mar 15, 2010 7:23 pm

I was taught that it has the duel meanings of Ritual Platform and Alchemy.
The ritual platform was a large area of packed earth, three levels like stairs, that was used for Han Dynasty imperial rituals. (I suppose the earth could have been red? It also could be a reference to sacrifices done there?)
Alchemy was early chemistry, as described above, and dates back at least to the early Han Dynasty as seen in tomb relics.
The practice of meditation with the circulation of Qi goes back to the Neiye (400 BCE), but the mixing of alchemical language and meditation probably didn't happen until later part of the Han Dynasty. (Pregadio is a good source here:
http://www.daoiststudies.org/dao/node/11562 )

During the Tang Dynasty, rituals from Tantric Buddhism, Dzogchen, and Tianshi Daoism were all practiced by princes and princesses who, along with their teachers, combined all these into the Shangqing tradition of Daoism. Inner alchemy became unified with inner ritual.
http://www.daoiststudies.org/dao/node/11562

So many important writers were initiates of Shangqing Daoism, including China's greatest poet Li Po, that the term Dantian was widely understood to have all these meanings.

I heard/read somewhere that a large computer scan had been done of old Chinese texts, including the Daozang, specifically to look for consistency in descriptions of the location of the dantian. There was little consistency over the centuries. (sorry don't know where I heard or read that.)
Last edited by Scott P. Phillips on Mon Mar 15, 2010 7:25 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: etymology of Dantian

Postby D_Glenn on Mon Mar 15, 2010 8:45 pm

Cinnabar technically has the full name of 丹砂 Dan Sha


丹 Dan- also means "pill"

and there's 煉丹術 Lian Dan Shu- Skill of refining, distilling the pill of immortality,

which also gives rise to the term "Daoist elixir of immortality" - 仙丹 Xian Dan

And then there's: 煉丹八卦爐 liàn​dān​bā​guà​lú​ - eight trigrams furnace to cook pills of immortality / symbol of the alchemist's art / Fire burn, and cauldron bubble

So where/when does the term 'elixir' or 'pill' come into being? Is it from the cooking/ creation of herbs and the realization that the same TCM effects could be achieved with the mind.

Also look at one of the most powerul qi/blood movers, called the "meditators herb" as it aids in the movement of qi especially helpful for sitting meditations, called 丹參 Danshen (Salvia miltiorrhiza).

We also have 萬靈丹 wàn​líng​dān - a panacea / or cure-all pill or rather:

靈丹妙藥 líng​dān​miào​yào​ -effective cure, miracle medicine (idiom); fig. wonder-cure for all problems / panacea / elixir


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Re: etymology of Dantian

Postby grady on Mon Mar 15, 2010 10:13 pm

丹/dan1​ can under circumstances connote the meaning of 圆/yuan2/"round" ... think of the round shape of a pill.

Just as 田/tian2 can connote 方/fang1/"square" ... think of the squared shape of a fenced-in field.

Thus 丹田/dan1tian2 taken together as a word can amongst its other meanings also imply "the circle in the square" or "squared circle" (in the sacred geometrical sense).

Just another correspondence.

You're on the right track with sulfur, mercury, & cinnabar ... all internal alchemy has its roots in external alchemy.
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Re: etymology of Dantian

Postby Wuyizidi on Tue Mar 16, 2010 10:05 am

D_Glenn wrote:...

So where/when does the term 'elixir' or 'pill' come into being? Is it from the cooking/ creation of herbs and the realization that the same TCM effects could be achieved with the mind.

...


The word 丹dan has many meanings. For example the earliest reference is to the red sands found in Ba Yue (southern China). For the purpose of our discussion here, the most relevant definition is this one "丹者、石之精。故凡藥物之精者曰丹。" - "dan, [is] the essence of stone; hence for any medicine, its [pure] essence is called dan" (from Eastern Han dynasty reference work Shuo Wen Jie Zi 说文解字).

Traditional belief about relationship between qi and lifespan is as follows: we were born with qi, which is called xian tian qi (pre-birth qi). The experience of living in this material world, the assault from both outside (pollution, injury, etc) and inside (seven emotions) all reduces this qi. When this qi is exhausted, we die. But this world also provide us with ways of making up for the lost qi - from heaven (air), earth (food, water, ...), and human sources. The qi obtained this way is called hou tian qi (post-birth qi).

One fundamental difference between Chinese and non-Chinese religious/spiritual traditions is that in religions like Christianity and Buddhism, the physical body is not regarded as important, soul is considered the essence (the eternal aspect) of our being. In Daoist practices (at least low and middle level), while soul/spirit is also regarded as the essence, the goal of practice is to achieve immortality of both body and mind. This is called 性命雙修 xing ming shuang xu - cultivation of body spirit and body.

Early efforts to achieve immortality were crude. It was based on one hand the simple observation that things in nature can change states - even hard metal can be melted down to liquid, then evaporated into air (seemingly to nothingness). So the thought was, if we can melt down metal and rocks to their essence (dan) in liquid form, if we ingest that, then maybe we can transform ourselves to a higher-state pure being. The assumption here is we are like other earthbound things, are heavy with impurities. And that immortals, up there, in the air/heaven, are clean, light, and pure. The process of cultivation then is to remove impurity. A process which, of course, is man's biggest secret.

This goes hand in hand with the other basic idea that "we are what we eat" - here that means whatever quality you want to enhance in your body, you want to ingest something of that quality. So if you have liver trouble, you eat livers of other animals. If you want to have an incorruptible body, you ingest something in nature that is known to be highly incorruptible. The most visible examples of which are heavy metals like gold, lead, mercury, which rust (oxidation, technically same as combustion) very slowly. Unfortunately, in liquid form they also happen to be highly toxic for humans.

So several hundred years and many poisoned emperors later, people realized this approach represented a deadened. So they started looking inward. Within the body it was thought there are three essential treasures: jing, qi, and shen. Shen of course is the spirit, the highest level. So over thousands of years, nei gong practices were developed to first transform jing to qi, then qi to shen. What we call qi gong is actually a basic skill in nei gong. If you can't move and manipulate qi around the body, then none of this can be accomplished. Using qi gong, people transport jing from lower dantian (hui yin point) to middle dantian (what most people in martial art refer to as dantian, right below the navel). In the middle dantian 'cultivation' is done to harvest the jing, transforming it into qi. Afterward, this qi product, is transported to upper dantian (eyes) to supplement shen. Since this qi product is thought to have the same effect as external magic elixir (transformation into shen), it's also called dan.

That's the basic idea behind all neigong practices. Each school differ in the manipulation/cultivation, and transport methods. This approach, using raw materials from within the body rather than from the outside world, is called nei dan gong, or simply nei gong. The previous one is called wai dan gong. Since the method of immortality is still the biggest secret, people retained the same terminologies used for wai dan gong, terms like dan (elixir, herb/medicine), field, cauldron, picking, etc, to keep things secret from outsiders.
Last edited by Wuyizidi on Tue Mar 16, 2010 1:02 pm, edited 24 times in total.
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Re: etymology of Dantian

Postby Daniel on Tue Mar 16, 2010 3:17 pm

Some interesting info here, guys, thanks. Wuyizidi and others, do you know if this is the same background to the phrase "red dust" in Daoism?


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Re: etymology of Dantian

Postby internalenthusiast on Tue Mar 16, 2010 4:17 pm

cinnabar is a cultivation term. IMO. field of cinnabar, dantien, neigong, etc.

red dust is, the infiltration/adhering of societal expectations on our more pure being.

to me the phrases are very different...one implies development of oneself. the other, the impingement of society's/others' values upon our intrinsic selves.

i'm not too clear in my statement, but i hope it's of help.

this is all in my present understanding...

fwiw...
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Re: etymology of Dantian

Postby Wuyizidi on Tue Mar 16, 2010 7:33 pm

Daniel wrote:Some interesting info here, guys, thanks. Wuyizidi and others, do you know if this is the same background to the phrase "red dust" in Daoism?


D.

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If you're thinking of Hong Chen 红尘 (red dirt/dust). That's originally a Buddhist term, referring to human society, world of mortals. There's a common expression called 看破红尘 kan puo hong chen - to be disillusioned with the mortal world, literally seeing through (kan puo) the vanities of life. Usually used to describe what happens when an adult, after some severe disappointment/tragedy, decided to "exit society" by going into the monastic life.

In China, Buddhism, Daoism, and Confucianism were often combined, as many people believe at their highest levels the goals are very similar. And Hong Chen is one of those religious terminologies that became popular as everyday vocabulary, so it wouldn't be surprising if Daoists use it too.
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Re: etymology of Dantian

Postby Scott P. Phillips on Tue Mar 16, 2010 8:12 pm

Wuyizidi,
OK. But what you are giving here is the anti-superstition movement's Republican era explanation.
Obviously it leaves out the most important set of metaphors which pertain to ritual. It was the centrality of ritual in Chinese society that made the creation of martial arts possible. There are plenty of warrior cultures that never produced martial arts forms because they did not consider ritual to be an important part of their daily lives. The term dantain has a strong association with ritual! Deal with it.

And by the way,

So several hundred years and many poisoned emperors later, people realized this approach represented a dead end.


Classic. People in the past were stupid? But we're smart now.
--I don't think so. I think they knew exactly what taking cinnabar would do--and there are people still taking it for the same reasons.
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Re: etymology of Dantian

Postby D_Glenn on Tue Mar 16, 2010 8:27 pm

Wuyizidi wrote:The word 丹dan has many meanings. For example the earliest reference is to the red sands found in Ba Yue (southern China). For the purpose of our discussion here, the most relevant definition is this one "丹者、石之精。故凡藥物之精者曰丹。" - "dan, [is] the essence of stone; hence for any medicine, its [pure] essence is called dan" (from Eastern Han dynasty reference work Shuo Wen Jie Zi 说文解字).

Traditional belief about relationship between qi and lifespan is as follows: we were born with qi, which is called xian tian qi (pre-birth qi). The experience of living in this material world, the assault from both outside (pollution, injury, etc) and inside (seven emotions) all reduces this qi. When this qi is exhausted, we die. But this world also provide us with ways of making up for the lost qi - from heaven (air), earth (food, water, ...), and human sources. The qi obtained this way is called hou tian qi (post-birth qi).

One fundamental difference between Chinese and non-Chinese religious/spiritual traditions is that in religions like Christianity and Buddhism, the physical body is not regarded as important, soul is considered the essence (the eternal aspect) of our being. In Daoist practices (at least low and middle level), while soul/spirit is also regarded as the essence, the goal of practice is to achieve immortality of both body and mind. This is called 性命雙修 xing ming shuang xu - cultivation of body spirit and body.

Early efforts to achieve immortality were crude. It was based on one hand the simple observation that things in nature can change states - even hard metal can be melted down to liquid, then evaporated into air (seemingly to nothingness). So the thought was, if we can melt down metal and rocks to their essence (dan) in liquid form, if we ingest that, then maybe we can transform ourselves to a higher-state pure being. The assumption here is we are like other earthbound things, are heavy with impurities. And that immortals, up there, in the air/heaven, are clean, light, and pure. The process of cultivation then is to remove impurity. A process which, of course, is man's biggest secret.

This goes hand in hand with the other basic idea that "we are what we eat" - here that means whatever quality you want to enhance in your body, you want to ingest something of that quality. So if you have liver trouble, you eat livers of other animals. If you want to have an incorruptible body, you ingest something in nature that is known to be highly incorruptible. The most visible examples of which are heavy metals like gold, lead, mercury, which rust (oxidation, technically same as combustion) very slowly. Unfortunately, in liquid form they also happen to be highly toxic for humans.

So several hundred years and many poisoned emperors later, people realized this approach represented a deadened. So they started looking inward. Within the body it was thought there are three essential treasures: jing, qi, and shen. Shen of course is the spirit, the highest level. So over thousands of years, nei gong practices were developed to first transform jing to qi, then qi to shen. What we call qi gong is actually a basic skill in nei gong. If you can't move and manipulate qi around the body, then none of this can be accomplished. Using qi gong, people transport jing from lower dantian (hui yin point) to middle dantian (what most people in martial art refer to as dantian, right below the navel). In the middle dantian 'cultivation' is done to harvest the jing, transforming it into qi. Afterward, this qi product, is transported to upper dantian (eyes) to supplement shen. Since this qi product is thought to have the same effect as external magic elixir (transformation into shen), it's also called dan.

That's the basic idea behind all neigong practices. Each school differ in the manipulation/cultivation, and transport methods. This approach, using raw materials from within the body rather than from the outside world, is called nei dan gong, or simply nei gong. The previous one is called wai dan gong. Since the method of immortality is still the biggest secret, people retained the same terminologies used for wai dan gong, terms like dan (elixir, herb/medicine), field, cauldron, picking, etc, to keep things secret from outsiders.


Excellent. Thank you for the post, it answered all those missing pieces.


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Re: etymology of Dantian

Postby D_Glenn on Tue Mar 16, 2010 8:33 pm

Scott P. Phillips wrote:And by the way,

So several hundred years and many poisoned emperors later, people realized this approach represented a dead end.


Classic. People in the past were stupid? But we're smart now.
--I don't think so. I think they knew exactly what taking cinnabar would do--and there are people still taking it for the same reasons.



He wasn't referring to Cinnabar, the reference is to emperors taking pure quicksilver mercury.

There's a ton of toxic herbs in tcm to this day, although many could argue the proper dosages, seasonal guidelines, and required patent mixtures of synergistic herbs to keep them safe is being lost. Here's a list of toxic herbs (including cinnabar) supported by the May 2002 CTCMA outline:

A Wei
Ai Ye
Ba Dou
Bai Fu Zi
Bai Guo
Ban Mao
Ban Xia
Bi Ma Zi
Cang Er Zi
Cao Wu
Chan Su
Chang Chun Hua
Chang Shan
Chong Lou
Chuan Lian Zi
Chuan Wu
Da Feng Zi
Da Ji
Dan Fan
Fan Xie Ye
Fu Zi
Gan Sui
Gou Wen
Gua Di
Guan Zhong
He Shi
Hong Sheng Dan
Hu Er Cao
Hua Jiao
Ji Xing Zi
Jiao Mu
Jin Qian Bai Hua She
Ku Lian Pi
Ku Xing Ren
Lei Gong Teng
Lei Wan
Li Lu
Liu Huang
Long Kui
Lu Feng Fang
Lu Hui
Ma Bo
Ma Qian Zi
Mang Chong
Mi Tuo Seng
Mu Bie Zi
Mu Tong
Nao Yang Hua
Pi Shi
Pi Shuang
Qi She
Qian Dan
Qian Jin Zi
Qian Niu Zi
Qing Fen
Quan Xie
Rou Dou Kou
Shan Ci Gu
Shan Dou Gen
Shang Lu
Shi Di
Shi Jun Zi
Shou Gong
Shui Yin
Shui Zhi
Teng Huang
Tian Nan Xing
Tian Xian Zi
Tian Xiong
Tu Jing Pi
Wei Ling Xian
Wu Bei Zi
Wu Gong
Wu Zhu Yu
Xi Xian Cao
Xi Xin
Xian Mao
Xiong Huang
Ya Dan Zi
Yang Jin Hua
Ying Su Ke
Yuan Hua
Zao Jia
Zao Jiao Ci
Ze Qi
Zhang Nao
Zhe Chong
Zhu Sha

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