Psycho-Sinology, 3


3. (pp. 25-46) Michel Strickmann : "Dreamwork of Psycho-Sinologists : Doctors, Taoists".

p. 27 categories of Chinese literature on dreaming

"Most large encyclopaedias devote special sections to quotations about dreams;

there are essays, poems, and diaries recording and discussing dreams and dreaming;

and many paintings and woodcuts depict individual dreams in progress. ... .

... we now have examples of spells used against nightmares dating from the 3rd century B.C., which were found in a tomb at Shuihu-ti, Hupeh, in 1975. Significantly, similar spells ... are still in use today".

pp. 27-8 the 10 types of dreams according to Wan Fu : C^>ien-fu Lun ("Essays by a Hidden Man"), from the mid-2nd century Chr.E.




"1. direct;

2. symbolic;

3. "concentrated" or "essential dreams," apparently dreams produced by the dreamer’s "concentrated sincerity," as when ... he "earnestly seeks" a dream;

4. thought dreams, that is dreams recalling one’s [waking?] thoughts;

6. dreams whose meaning varies with the status of the dreamer;

6. dreams produced by the environment;

7. dreams corresponding to the seasons;


8. antithetical dreams;

9. dreams indicating physical disorders or imbalance;

10. dreams whose meaning varies according to the dreamer’s temperament; that is, taking into account the dreamer’s personal likes and dislikes."

{Most dreams would fall into at least several of these categories simultaneously.}

p. 28 "Dream Rhapsody"

"From the 2nd century A.D., too, comes Wang Yen-shou’s "Dream Rhapsody" ("Meng fu") – an account of a nightmare ... . It is evident that the poem itself was intended not only as a narrative of a fearful dream-experience; it was itself designed as a potent spell against night-roaming, dream-invading demons (Harper, 1987)."

Harper 1987 = Donald Harper : "Wang Yen-shou’s Nightmare Poem". HARVARD J OF ASIATIC STUDIES 47.1.

pp. 28-9 manuals on dreaming




"Among the Tun-huang manuscripts discovered ... at the beginning of this [20th] century are thirteen incomplete manuscripts of dream manuals. The most extensive of these has been published, with study, translation, and cross-references to other literature, by Jean-Pierre Drege ("Clefs des songes de Touen-houang," in Soymie’, ed., Nouvelles contributions aux etudes de Touen-houang, Geneva 1981).


Such medieval books contain long lists of dream-signs, carefully organized according to categories :

celestial bodies;

terrestrial matters;

mountains, forests, plants;

knives, swords, bows, cross-bows;

husband and wife;

cosmetics, and so forth."


"Specialized dream-books of this sort have been investigated by Wolfram Eberhard, Jean-Pierre Drege and Michael Lackner, whose study of an encyclopaedic book on dreams, the Meng-lin hsuan-chieh (Secret Interpretations from the Forest of Dreams, 1636), was published in 1985 : Der chinesische Traumwold (Frankfurt)."

pp. 29-30 medical literature on dreaming


medical literature


"The Yellow Monarch’s Book of Medicine provides the basic information, arranged according to each of the vital organs. These data were extracted and gathered into the short, systematic disquisition, The Book of the Divine Pivot (Ling-shu ching, 2nd century A.D.)[.]


The book’s basic argument is that when alien, pathogenic agents invade the body, they dislodge the souls (hun and p>o), causing them to flutter about. This experience causes pleasurable dreams.

{This is, or course, likewise Siberian (and other) shamanisms’ basic argument; though there often stated in the specific way as the patient’s "health" being thus dislodged.}


The book further assumes that physical imbalances [excesses and deficiencies] determine the subject matter of the patient’s dream."


an excess of __ vital breaths

causeth the patient to dream of __



"crossing a great body of water"



"fire and scorching heat"


"A superabundance of both vital principles with produce dreams of killing."


excesses in the __ part of the body

will produce dreams of __








a __ person

dreameth of __








"Superfluity of vital breaths in any organ produces dreams related to the emotions governed by that organ –

anger from the liver;

terror, weeping ... from the lungs, and so forth."


a depletion centred in the __

produceth dreams of __



"hills, mountains"



"singular objects made of gold and iron"


"The standard, early 7th century source on disease symptoms and nomenclature, Ch>ao Yuan-fang’s Chu-ping yuan-hou lun, links wet-dreams in men to a demon’s capturing the subject’s breath-depleted, undefended kidneys. ... this produces dreams of intercourse with demonic beings ... .


Women’s intercourse with demons or ghosts has similar origins, according to this and other sources. Says one text, The Secret Formulae from the Jade Alcove (Yu-fang pi-chueh),

The ailment of demonic sexual relations comes about when a woman’s sexual desire is so great as to cause demons and phantoms to take on human form and couple with her. They say that it is greatly superior to having intercourse with ordinary men. If it goes on for a long time, the woman becomes deluded, keeps it secret, and is unwilling to tell anyone what is happening, so wonderful does she find it. ...

Cause a man to have [sexual] intercourse with her, without ejaculating, day and night without ceasing. Even the worst cases with be cured within seven days."

{Our comment on so-called incubi and succubae :- Throughout the world, amongst unoppressed classless (not oppressed by exploitive ploutokrats) societies, sexual intercourse (and marriage therewithal) in dreams is highly recommended as a source of spiritual power; but oppressive exploitive ploutokrats (including Chinese ones) maintain their dominance by frightening off the oppressed social classes from freeing themselves from oppression with the assistance of divine spouse and divine affines acquired in dreams.}

pp. 30-1 Ko Hun’s methods




"Another form of demonic dream-possession ... occurs in Ko Hung’s early 4th century Methods within Easy Reach for Use in Emergencies (ch. 1, p. 9). In this "sudden demonic possession" the sleeper cannot awaken. This is because in their external wanderings, his aerial and spermatic souls have been detained by some alien, malific spirit-agency. Though they want to return to their body-domicile, they are unable to do so; so the victim sleeps on. ... Prevention takes the form of "holding fast," that is, clasping the thumbs inside closed fists as on lies in bed prior to sleep. It is widely believed in Europe, too, that this mano fica {‘hand-fig’} mudra keeps off the nightmare.


Once possession has occurred, however, ... Calling loudly the dreamer’s name will cause his death. Rather, uttering his name softly in the dark is best – at least according to later works. ... Ko Hung’s text offers further instructions :

Spit several times into his face ... .

Or blow into his nose through a tube.

Or ... tickle his nostrils ... . Or take blood from the comb of a cock and blow it through a tube into the dreamer’s throat.


Or ... let his head hang down into the well and call his name.

{Harut and Marut "hang by their feet in a well in Babylonia until the Day of Judgment." ("SGDM"; "H&M")}


Or place the patient on the ground, draw a circle around him with the tip of a sword ... . He will start to speak in demon-language ... . Interrogate him [the possessing demon] as to his identity and reason for coming. Having received these answers, rub out a little of the magic circle with your finger at the patient’s shoulder, and the demon will depart".


"H&M" = "Harut and Marut"

pp. 32-4 dream-revelations to Yan Hsi at Mao S^an




"the Mao S^an Revelations, texts produced under divine inspiration by Yang Hsi from A.D. 365 to 370. In these, dreams constitute a primary mode of communication between the Taoist adept and spiritual beings from the celestial realms ... . The "revelations" proper consisted of scriptures and hagiographies, as well as night-to-night, in-person spirit communications to Yang Hsi ... . ... . But the majority of dream materials are annexed to the revelations themselves ... . ... We have Yang Hsi’s accounts of four of his dreams, two of them quite long.


Yang ... dreamed that he had spent half a day climbing a great mountain. When he reached the top, he found there an enormous palace with a thousand rooms of indescribable opulence. The mountain was surrounded by vast bodies of water. He looked into the heavens and beheld a white dragon, a hundred feet long, flying eastwards and illuminating all the sky with its radiance. Looking them to the East, he saw a beautiful woman in white advancing in the air toward the dragon. Three times she entered the beasts mouth, and three times emerged a moment later, then stood facing Yang to his right. An old man in brocaded robes, supporting himself on a red staff, then appeared on Yang’s left. Yang entered into conversation with this venerable elder, discovered the young lady’s name (and that she was refining her body by means of the dragon’s fiery breath), and learned that the mountain was the legendary paradise, Mt. P>eng-lai, of which the oldster was chief administrator. "Can the dragon be ridden?" he asked, and the old man informed him that it was reserved for four riders, whom he named. One of them was Hsu Hsi, the thrity-year-old son of Yang Hsi’s patron.

The dream proceeds, other deities appear and recite symbolic poems".


"the earliest of Yang Hsi’s recorded dreams, and the most fateful ... occurred on the 27th day of the fourth month in the year 365. ...


Yang dreamed that he saw a man in a vermilion robe with two official tablets in his hand; two more projected from the collar of his robe. He said that he had come to summon Hsu Hsi. He showed the inscription on the tablets, which read – "Summoned to serve as Chamberlain." ...

Five years later, young Hsu Hsi ... intentionally killed himself by taking an alchemic elixir."

p. 33 later divine summons at Mao S^an

"Just 150 years later, in 515, the editor and annotator of these Mao Shan documents, the great pharmacologist and polymath T>ao Hung-ching (456-536), recorded a dream in which he had been summoned to a position in the invisible world. He was just approaching his sixtieth birthday, a most significant moment for a Chinese ... . ... T>ao Hung-ching lived on for another twenty years (Strickmann, 1979).

But nearly at the same time, ... a nineteen-year-old disciple of T>ao’s at Mao Shan ... too experienced a dream summons, which was followed by a series of nightly visions, in which the immortals came to him directly while he was awake. In 516, confident of his posthumous destiny, he killed himself by swallowing an elixir compounded of cinnabar and toxic mushrooms (Strickmann, 1978)."

Strickmann 1979 = Michel Strickmann : "On the Alchemy of T>ao Hung-ching". In :- H. Welch & Anna Seidel (edd.) : Facets of Taoism. New Haven. pp. 123-92.

Strickmann 1978 = Michel Strickmann : "A Taoist Confirmation of Liang Wu Ti’s Suppression of Taoism". J. AMER. OR. SOC. 98:467-74.

p. 33 dreams are sometimes succeeded by waking visions (waking visitations by deities)

"The progression from dreams to visions was thought to be a normal, desirable course for those singled out for celestial favor. Ideally, initiates and ascetics found that edifying dreams were the prelude to direct contact with celestial beings. But this path was not always open, even to the most dedicated. ... Among the first generation of devotees at Mao Shan, only Yang Hsi himself succeeded in having full-scale visions."

p. 34 at divine convocations; post-mortem presence in dreams of other adepts

"He [Hsu Hsi?] ... often ... dreamed that he was flying, or participating in gatherings of divine beings.

{("DWFS") "Then the demon ... would carry her to ... where the witches and devils held their great gathering ... (Ginzburg 1990: 299).. ... From at least the tenth century, women had dreamed of riding through the air with the goddess Diana, or Herodias ... (Flint 1991: 122-5)."}

After his [Hsu Hsi’s?] premature death, he himself appeared in the dreams of Yang Hsi and (later) of T>ao Hung-ching. T>ao tells us that this long-dead young man served as his spiritual mentor, his "Master in the Invisible World," an important position to Mao Shan Taoists but

one usually filled by a celestial personage of opposite sex."

{cf. Zaratustrian guardian angel of opposite gendre from that of mortal human}

"DWFS" = "Drugs, Witches, and the Flight to the Sabbat".

Ginzburg 1990 = Ginzburg, Carlo, 1990, Ecstasies: Deciphering the Witches’ Sabbat, Hutchinson.

Flint 1991 = Flint, Valerie, 1991, The Rise of Magic in Early Mediaeval Europe, Clarendon.

pp. 34-5 ingesting of minerals in order to influence one’s concourse is spirits in the dreaming-world

p. 34

"A Taoist work dated 682 ... tells how after consuming five tablets daily of a twelve ingredient iatro-chemical compound (the predominant ingredient is acetate of iron : iron cyanized with vinegar), the adept will know neither hunger nor thirst; he will wander freely about the mountains, impervious to demons and serpents. Further, it instructs :

You will be able to cut down on sleep considerably until what you behold in your dreams will be just as clear and real as what you see when awake. This will be a sign that you are ...

p. 35

with the spirits; and in due time. you will thus occultly come to know all sorts of things about the invisible world.

In this way, with the dream-enacting souls increasingly directed by potent pharmaco-chemical agents, one’s dream life can become an intense and concentrated quest for secret knowledge (YCCC 78:21b).


Another text ... explains that in everyone’s body there dwell three "corpse-demons" or "corpse-worms." They abide deep within, hating their host and plotting his destruction. They may manifest themselves in dreams, where they may appear as three men dressed in rather old-fashioned costumes. ... If, for example, one dreams of building a house and putting up a fence, this means that the deadly trio are settling in the stomach. A dream of intercourse with a woman means that the corpse worms are having a meeting. If you are being treated by ingesting powdered cinnabar and it is taking effect, you will dream that there is a great fire burning up your house. If you are consuming various other pharmaka, when they start to work ... you will dream that a grave has been destroyed and the coffin has vanished ... . All these are indications that the corpse-worms are being destroyed (YCCC 83:8a)."

YCCC = Yun-c^i C^>i-c^>ien ("Seven Slips from the Bookbag of the Clouds"), a Taoist encyclopaedia of Chr.E. 1022 (HY 1026).

p. 36 child-mediumship

"a short work dated 632 ... entitled "Method of the Patriarchs for treating night-dreams in which, having roamed to various regions, one’s aerial souls are beguiled by jade maidens" (HY 589:6b). ... The Taoist priest uses a young child as a medium. ... . ... he twice recites the name of a deity called "The Immoveable One," then takes a piece of black paper, folds it in two, and has the child hold it between his teeth. Then he wraps the child’s head in a piece of cotton cloth and puts it to sleep ["perhaps by hypnotism"]. Next he inhales twice and recites : "I send the four great spirit-generals to apprehend the jade maidens who have beguiled the souls." He then blows his breath into the mouth of the sleeping child. ... He next goes to look at the patient and then recites : "I send the four great spirit-generals to apprehend the souls which have been beguiled by the jade maidens. I call them swiftly to return!" Then he calls out the sleeper’s personal name and awakens him."

p. 36 "Tantric Buddhist influence is also evidenced by the name, "The Immoveable," who is non other than Acala ..., a prominent Tantric figure". {Or could the name evince that the Vajra-yana deity A-cala is of Taoist origin?}


Carolyn T. Brown (editrix) : Psycho-Sinology : the Universe of Dreams in Chinese Culture. Asia Program, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. University Pr of America, Lanham (MD), 1988.