The Chinese Dreamscape, 300 BCE-800 CE

The Chinese Dreamscape, 300 BCE-800 CE

by Robert Ford Campany


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Dreaming is a near-universal human experience, but there is no consensus on why we dream or what dreams should be taken to mean. In this book, Robert Ford Campany investigates what people in late classical and early medieval China thought of dreams. He maps a common dreamscape—an array of ideas about what dreams are and what responses they should provoke—that underlies texts of diverse persuasions and genres over several centuries. These writings include manuals of dream interpretation, scriptural instructions, essays, treatises, poems, recovered manuscripts, histories, and anecdotes of successful dream-based predictions.

In these many sources, we find culturally distinctive answers to questions peoples the world over have asked for millennia: What happens when we dream? Do dreams foretell future events? If so, how might their imagistic code be unlocked to yield predictions? Could dreams enable direct communication between the living and the dead, or between humans and nonhuman animals? The Chinese Dreamscape, 300 BCE–800 CE sheds light on how people in a distant age negotiated these mysteries and brings Chinese notions of dreaming into conversation with studies of dreams in other cultures, ancient and contemporary. Taking stock of how Chinese people wrestled with—and celebrated—the strangeness of dreams, Campany asks us to reflect on how we might reconsider our own notions of dreaming.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780674247796
Publisher: Harvard
Publication date: 10/13/2020
Series: Harvard-Yenching Institute Monograph Series , #122
Pages: 310
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x (d)

About the Author

Robert Ford Campany is Professor of Asian and Religious Studies at Vanderbilt University. He is author of Signs from the Unseen Realm: Buddhist Miracle Tales from Early Medieval China and Making Transcendents: Ascetics and Social Memory in Early Medieval China.

Table of Contents

List of Tables xi

Preface xiii

Acknowledgments xv

Note to the Reader xvii

1 Mapping the Dreamscape 1

2 The Elusive Nature of Dreaming 32

3 Interpretations and Interpreters (I) 69

4 Interpretations and Interpreters (II) 92

5 Visitations 132

A Fragmentary Epilogue: The Maps and the Butterfly 161

Notes 165

Bibliography 217

Index 253

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