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The Dreamscape of Early Medieval China

UC Berkeley's Center for Chinese Studies presents a talk by Robert Company on the views on dreams in ancient China.

September 18, 2009 4:00pm to 6:00pm

Robert Campany, Religion and East Asian Languages and Cultures, University of Southern California

Robert Ashmore, East Asian Languages and Cultures, UC Berkeley, discussant

In early medieval times, there was not one unitary Chinese view—or, for that matter, one unitary Daoist or Buddhist, or elite or popular, view—of what dreams are, how they signify, and what, if anything, they portend.  Rather, there was an array of coexisting, sometimes competing views on these matters, each view performing certain functions and each mobilized in certain practices.  In my talk I will offer a preliminary mapping of this complex, multidimensional dreamscape of early medieval China.  The mapping is based on a study of certain genres of documents with an eye to questions such as these:  What was the perceived relation between the dreamer and what is dreamed?  How did dreams carry meaning?  How were they interpreted, and by whom?  To what uses were dreams put?  With what other sorts of assumptions and arguments were assumptions and arguments about dreams intertwined?