Psycho-Sinology, 4-6


4. (pp. 47-53) Roberto K. Ong : "The Hermeneutics of Traditional Chinese Dream Interpretation".

p. 48 antiquity and prominence of dream-omens

"References to dreams and dreaming are found in the oracle bone inscriptions, which date from the [1]5th century B.C., as well as in the subsequent dynastic histories, philosophical writings, medical treatises and, or course, poetry and fiction."

"various kinds of information were supposed to be conveyed by natural phenomena such as

the light and hue of the sun,

the shape and location of clouds and rainbows,

the direction of winds,

the duration of fogs,

the paths of lightning,

the barking of dogs,

the shrieking of crows, and so on (Ong 1985:174). ...

In practice these techniques were nothing but methods of prognostication or divination, among which, according to an Eastern Han ... source, dream interpretation was the most prominent."

Ong 1985 = R. K. Ong : The Interpretation of Dreams in Ancient China. Bochum : Studienverlag Brockmeyer.

p. 49 instances of legendary dreams

"Confucius ... is reported to have dreamed, seven days before he died, that he was seated between two pillars, with sacrificial offerings set in front of him (Ong 1985:15-16).

... King Tang, founder of the Shang dynasty ... dreamed that a man came to him carrying a cauldron on his back and a chopping-block in his hands. ... Yi Zhi, a recluse who lived in the wilderness ... showed up at Tang’s court, bringing with him indeed a cauldron and a chopping block. ... Tang didn’t require his culinary services. For the word zai in archaic Chinese means both "cook" and "minister." As was expected, Yi Zhi became Tang’s right-hand man (Ong 1985:10-11)."

p. 50 being motivated by spirits to praetend to dreamings {Heaven-&-Earth treat all mortal folk like unto straw-hounds. ("TTCh5"}

"fake dreamer" about alleged "straw dogs" : "Zhou told him that

since straw dogs were primarily used as sacrificial offerings,

his first dream report suggested that he would get a good meal.

When the sacrificial ceremony was over, the straw dogs were thrown out and crushed under wheel.

Thus the second dream report prefigured his fall from a carriage ... .

After they had been crushed, the straw dogs were carted away as firewood.

Hence, the third dream report warned him of a fire

(Ong 1985:128-29)."

"TTCh5" = Tau Te Ching, cap. 5


5. (pp. 55-65) Floyd Bruce Galler : "Western ... and Asian Dreams".

p. 60 Iron House metaphor in Lu Xun : Call to Arms.

"Suppose there were an iron house without windows which it is impossible to destroy. Inside are many sound sleepers ... .

{The "Iron House" may be intended as a place of confinement for souls in the Netherworld; if so, the tale would imply human souls sojourn in the Netherworld during sleep.}

Now if you shout loudly and rouse some of the comparatively light sleepers, thus causing those unfortunate few to experience ... death ... ."

{It is widely believed that to awaken a sleeper too abruptly could cause the sleeper to die. Perhaps Lu Xun was implying that death could similarly be caused by a divine denizen of the Netherworld’s awakening mortals’ souls sleeping therein.}

p. 60 a talking hound in a dream

[Lu Hsun : Wild Grass. Peking, 1974. p. 40 "The Dog’s Retort"] "I dreamed that ... a dog ... said, "... I don’t known how to distinguish copper coins from silver ones, nor to distinguish cotton from silk, nor officials from commoners, nor masters from slaves ..."

I jumped up and ran.

"Not so fast. Let’s talk," he urged from behind.

But then I ran ..., running right out of my dream".


6. (pp. 67-79) Carolyn T. Brown : "Lu Xun’s Interpretation of Dreams".

pp. 67-8, 78 dreams in the writings of Lu Xun

p. 67

"Nine of the twenty-three prose poems that comprise Wild Grass begin "I dreamed" (wo meng jian), or with a similar evocation of the "dream state." ...


Dreams also appear elsewhere in his works, such as in the short stories

p. 68

"The True Story of Ah Q" and "Brothers," and as repeating metaphors in his essays".

p. 78, n. 2

"dreaming and waking from a dream are prominent metaphors in Lu Xun’s famous essay, "What Happens After Nora Leaves Home" ("Nala zou hou zenyang" ...) ... . A dream journey to hell provides the structure of "Knowledge is a Crime" ("Zhishi ji zhi zui e")".

pp. 68-70 the dream "Dead Fire" in Lu Xun : Wild Grass. Peking, 1974. pp. 37-9

p. 68

"I dreamed that I was running along a mountain of ice. ... At the foot of the mountain was the

p. 69

forest of ice ... . But suddenly I fell into the valley of ice. ... Yet over the pallid ice lay countless red shadows, interlacing like a web of coral. Looking beneath my feet, I saw a flame.


This was dead fire. It had a fiery form, but was absolutely still, completely congealed, ...

{"in dreams ... Cold fire." ("Cold Fire", in BCS)} {"The dream will keep its own free time, ... With cold fire" (BD).} {"lightning ... would appear in dreams and visions ... . ... Receive the power of its cold fire and let it burst forth as a lightning" ("L").} {A commentary on Midsummernight’s Dream hath as its Chapter IV, "Cold Fire" (ShSMP).}


casting its reflections upon the ice all around and being reflected back, it had been turned into countless shadows, making the valley of ice ... red ... .

As I picked up the dead fire to examine it closely, its iciness seared my fingers; but enduring the pain I thrust it into my pocket ... .

From my body wreathed a coil of black smoke, ... . Instantly crimson flames began flowing everywhere, hemming me in like a giant conflagration. Looking down I saw the dead fire was burning again, ... . ... I immediately hailed it, and asked its name.

"I was abandoned by men in the valley of ice," it said ... . ... you ... warmed me and made me live again ... ." ...

p. 70

"[Since the narrator is leaving, it decides to leave too.]

It leapt up ..., and together we left the valley.


Suddenly a large stone cart drove up, and I was crushed to death beneath its wheels,

[cf. p. 50 "crushed under wheel. Thus the second dream report prefigured his fall from a carriage, resulting in broken legs."]


but not before I saw the cart fall into the valley of ice."

BCS = Dean Koontz : The Book of Counted Sorrows. Charnel House, 2003. Fire &

BD = George MacDonald : A Book of Dreams. 1864.

"L" = "Lightning"

ShSMP = Ismail Wali : A Midsummer Night's Dream: Shakespeare's Syzygy of Meaning (Prologue).

p. 71 Bergsonism in the writing of Kuriyagawa

"Through his translation from the Japanese of Symbols of Anguish by Kuriyagawa Hakuson (1881-1923) ..., Lu Xun developed an acquaintance with some of the central tenets of ... dream theory. ... His Preface to the translation briefly summarizes the work, defines the influence of Henri Bergson (1859-1941) ... on Kuriyagawa’s own aesthetic theory, and explains why he decided to translate it. ... As Lu Xun notes, Kuriyagawa draws on the Bergsonians in arguing that the human spirit is torn between the forces of repression (yayi) and the life-giving force (sheng ming li, Bergson’s elan vital)."

p. 73 outcomes in dream narratives by Lu Xun

"If we look at the other "dream narratives" of Wild Grass, we can see ... in "The Dog’s Retort" and "Tombstone," the narrator ... flees. ... A third case occurs through a dream in one of Xu Lun’s short stories, "Brothers" ... .

Another outcome : the bearer of difficult knowledge may despair of having a means to communicate it – "After Death."

Or another : ... the bearer may choose to withdraw in the hope that ... the conscious mind can be relieved of the need to know. This happens in "The Shadow’s Goodbye" and "Tremors of Degradation.""

p. 74 a dream of a riverside scene in a writing by Lu Xun

" "A Good Story" begins with the narrator falling asleep while reading a Tang dynasty work on a "dull, dark night." He sees a beautiful ... idyllic scene on the river bank as it appeared reflected in the water. That scene includes ... traditional emblems of rural utopias ... . Next he describes the dream, in similar imagery, again as it appears in the water.

{In certain necrotopies (such as Keltic and West African), the realm for souls of the dead is assigned to underwater. Perhaps Lu Xun may have intended the same.}

Abruptly awakened, he reaches for a pen to record it, but the memory vanishes before he can set it down".

p. 74 influence on Lu Xun of the writing of C^uan-tze

"Lu Xun had a special fondness for Chuangtze; he echoed his language in several of his essays and used two of his anecdotes as plots for his collection, Old Stories Retold." [p. 79, n. 11 : "Guo Mojo : "Zhuangzi yu Lu Xun," ("Chuangtze and Lu Xun") in Jin Xi Pu Jian (The Rush Sword of Present and Former Times), (Shanghai : Xin wenyi chubanshe, 1954), 275-96."]

p. 75 historical writing and dream-lore of Lu Xun

Lu Xun’s "fine work of scholarship, A Brief History of Chinese Vernacular Literature (Zhongguo xiaoshuo shilue) was a pioneering work of enormous scholarly value. [p. 79, n. 14 : "See John C. Y. Wang’s appraisal of Lu Xun’s scholarship in Leo Lee’s Legacy, 90-103."]

He knew the dreamlore of that tradition ... . Indeed, one of the dream narratives of Wild Grass, "The Good Hell That Was Lost" ("Shidiao de hao diyu"), adapts that tradition’s motif of the dream journey to hell".


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.