When I was a kid, there were mornings when I woke up and was eager to tell my mom about the dreams I’d had. But she would say, “Don’t tell me about your dreams until you brush your teeth, otherwise the bad dreams will come true, and the good dreams won’t.” I always sincerely believed this was an important rule as a kid until I grew to realize it was probably just a trick that my Mom played to get me up and about in the morning.
I’m still not sure if that’s a common superstition about dreams which other people hold, or whether my mom made it up. What is certain though is that it’s an ancient tradition to interpret the symbolic meaning of dreams.
Zhougong (the Duke of Zhou) is a semi-legendary figure who lived around 3,000 years ago, credited with founding much of what we know as Chinese culture. Among the works attributed to him is a book called Zhougong’s Dream Dictionary (《周公解梦》 Zhōugong jiě mèng), which gives interpretations of dreams, in particular, unusual and weird ones. This book has been passed down through generations, and is still popular and widely read nowadays.
In this book, dreams are categorized and interpreted based on the subject of the dream. Many of the dream interpretations don’t make much sense or have much of a connection to reality. We provide some here, for entertainment purposes only.
Dreaming of a snake biting you is a sign that you will get a lot of money;
Dreaming that someone is dying means the person you dreamed of will live a long and healthy life;
Dreaming of the sun or moon rising means your family will be prosperous;
Dreaming of bamboo trees growing healthily in your front yard means there will be good news;
Dreaming of walking with your wife means you will be buying a property;
Dreaming of visiting a temple means you will experience good fortune;
Dreaming of seeing a dead person coming back to life means you will be earning a lot of money;
Dreaming of someone blowing a flute or hitting a drum means there will be a celebration party soon;
Dreaming of someone killing a chicken, goose, duck, or pig is a sign of good fortune;
Dreaming of a dragon, phoenix or peacock implies good fortune.
The last one makes sense because Chinese people have always treated the dragon and the phoenix as tokens of wealth and eternity. But not all dreams are good omens, according to the book. Below are some examples.
Dreaming of your wife being pregnant means she will commit or is committing adultery;
Dreaming of picking up money means your late ancestors are short of money, and want you to burn more paper money for them.
Though dream interpretations are largely a matter of superstition, some do believe that the objects or scenes that show up in dreams have a close relationship with the dreamer’s health or mental status. So perhaps the Duke of Zhou was onto something after all.