Biography of Xuan

There was a government official by the name of Zhou Xuan. He worked for others as a dream interpreter. When one official named Zhen dreamed of a snake that had four feet and dwelled in a hollow within his gatehouse, Xuan told him the meaning. He said that the dream was about women bandits who would die. He could tell  this because women are associated with snakes. This came to pass soon after. Another occurrence was with the emperor Wen. He told Xuan that he saw two tiles fall from the ceiling and turn into ducks that flew away. It was interpreted to mean that a woman in the palace would die. Wen admitted that he lied and was only teasing him. Xuan was not laughing however. He said that even if the dream is a lie, if it has enough articulation to be spoken  it can become true depending on the spirits. The interpretation becomes reality after Xuan said this. What mattered was that the spiritual forces that guided the emperor to lie about the dream were the same forces that would have been active if the dream actually happened. The biography ends with saying that he was very accurate.


“Doctors, Diviners and Magicians”. In An Anthology of Translations: Classical Chinese Literature, Vol. 1: From Antiquity to the Tang Dynasty. Edited by John Minford and Joseph S. M. Lau, 359-370. New York: Hong Kong: Columbia University Press; The Chinese University Press, 2000.

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