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Title: Imperial dreams and oneiromancy in ancient China -- we share similar dream motifs with our ancestors living two millennia ago
Authors: Prof. YU Kai Ching, Calvin 
Issue Date: 2022
Source: Dreaming, 2022, vol. 32(4), pp. 364-374.
Journal: Dreaming 
Abstract: Oneiromancy has been the most important form of divination throughout Chinese history. Details of oneiric practice can be found in ancient Chinese records written during and after the Zhou dynasty (1046–256 BC). Like The Yellow Emperor’s Canon of Internal Medicine, some ancient Chinese works of oneiromancy—such as The Lofty Principles of Dream Divination—enumerated some dream motifs, which resemble typical themes dreamed by people in the modern world. There have been no studies systematically comparing dream narratives across historical records and against the typical themes identified by contemporary dream research. This study therefore examined whether dreams documented in the earliest Chinese archives (475 BC–445 AD) contained typical themes that people dream in the present day. In addition, it analyzed how ancient Chinese oneirocritics interpreted those dreams. A total of 76 dreams were found in 14 ancient Chinese classics. More than half were dreamed by either emperors or empress dowagers. Around 76% contained at least 1 typical theme, the most prevalent theme featuring a person already dead as alive. Giving a reason for taking a certain action was the most common dream oracle. Indirect representation via collective or personal symbols was a more common mode of dream expression than direct representation. The evidence converged in suggesting that typical themes dreamed by people today can be traced back to the earliest recorded history, although the same themes might carry varying meanings that match the dreamers’ preoccupations and historical backgrounds.
Type: Peer Reviewed Journal Article
ISSN: 1053-0797
DOI: 10.1037/drm0000195
Appears in Collections:Counselling and Psychology - Publication

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