Chinese Taoist Ying Yang Symbol with hexagrams

The Chinese view of dreams

     As one might expect, the Chinese were interested in dreams as well. In his book Our Dreaming Mind, Robert Van de Castle said that in the T'ung Shu, a text with roots nearly 4000 years old, "there is a section on dreams called 'Chou Kung's Book of Auspicious and Inauspicious Dreams' that dates back to 1020 B.C. and was written by Chou Kung, a mathematician reputed to have assisted in the compilation of the I Ching." He went on to relate that "The term 'Mr. Chou' has ever since been associated with dreaming and even today, a student dozing in class is likely to be awakened by his teacher with the question, "Have you been visiting Mr. Chou?'" (Van de Castle, 1994, p. 57).

     I hope you will allow me to quote Mr. Van de Castle at length about what he further said with regard to Chinese dream interpretation and practice:

     "The Lie-tseu is a Taoist work that defines several classes of dreams, such as ordinary dreams (without previous emotion), dreams of terror, dreams of thought (what one thought about during the day), dreams of waking (what one said during the day), and dreams of joy. The work discusses how everything is in union, the correspondence between the microcosm and the macrocosm, and the concept of Yin and Yang energy. If Yin is strong, for example, one might dream about crossing water; if Yang is strong, one might dream of walking through a great fire. The powerful need for harmony and reciprocity leads to what we would currently call "compensation" in dream function: a sated man might dream of giving or a hungry man of taking. If one dreams of singing and dancing, one will weep. The role of physical factors was also considered; it is mentioned that if one sleeps lying on a belt, one dreams of a snake. In order to interpret a dream, one must also take into account the year and season when it occurred, as well as the positions of the sun, moon, and stars.

     "Incubation of dreams in temples was widely practiced. Various preparatory rituals, including burning incense, were carried out before the image of the temple god. If the supplicant had a dream, he or she would go through a further step of divination to determine whether the dream was really sent by a god. If it was thought to come from a god, the dreamer would carefully study the dream or consult a dream interpreter to decide on a course of action. In the province of Fu-Kien, it was customary for people to sleep on a grave to induce a dream revelation. The Buddhist monk, Kwan Hiu (832-912 A.D.), recited a prayer so that his dreams would reveal the likeness of a saintly figure known as an Arhat. He eventually painted the sixteen with bushy eyebrows, drooping cheeks, high noses. In honor of this artist, a temple was erected called the "Hall of the Arhats Corresponding to Dreams.

     "Incubation temples also served a political function among the Chinese up to around the sixteenth century. Before any high official visiting a city was accepted, he had to spend his first night in a temple of the city's god to receive dream guidance for his mission. Judges and other government officials were also required periodically to seek dreams in these temples to obtain the insight and wisdom necessary for balanced political judgment. It's fascinating to speculate what would happen if our government encouraged its officials to spend some nights in a dream temple, seeking and sharing guiding dreams" (Van de Castle, 1994, p 58).

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