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The Chinese Dreamscape, 300 BCE–800 CE


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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.


While the book is written for an academic audience, the writing is wonderfully engaging. In the end, it challenges us to revisit our assumptions about dreams: what can and cannot be known about them and how much is a product of cultural context.
*Asian Review of Books*

[Campany’s] approach to the study of Chinese dreams and dreaming is expansive without falling into the comfortable universals afforded by the perennialism that often creeps into modern studies on dreams. In fact, Campany takes issue with all ‘isms.’ According to Campany, the reification of traditions into monolithic belief systems (e.g., ‘Buddhism’ and ‘Daoism’) only muddies our understanding of these traditions, diverting our attention away from the plurality of information that makes up complex cultural phenomena such as dreams and beliefs. While the book sometimes dwells too long on the critical theory underpinning it, these theoretical forays are for the most part done to great effect. This book is a big and much-needed step forward not only in the study of dreams and dreaming in China but also, more generally, in the fields of religious studies and social history.
*Religious Studies Review*

[The Chinese Dreamscape] delivers an admirable synthesis of past and present oneirological research, in the Chinese context and cross-culturally, while also presenting a compelling new application of the analytical toolkit that Campany has been honing over his last 25 years of scholarship (such as notions of cosmography, discourse communities, and the performative and semiotic functions of storytelling). Moreover, the author’s recognition of dreaming as an embodied process, and of the complex, recursive interactions between dreams, bodies, and cultures, clearly informed his decision to cite relevant theories and examples from across the social scientific corpus (e.g. anthropology, history, psychology). This resulted in a laudably interdisciplinary study, equally relevant to sinologists and oneirologists.
*Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies*

Dreamscape makes major contributions to the field…[It] provides an unparalleled assortment of many facets of dream life; we see sophisticated taxonomies, dream analyses (based variously on wordplay, spoken and written; hexagrams from the Book of Changes; and Chinese medicine), and extensive translations of biographies of elite diviners…‘Seminal’ long ago became an overused characterization in academic book reviews, but one can easily see this work, the product of many years of research, inspiring many future studies to further investigate this fascinating, vital subject.
*History of Religions*

Campany has given us an immensely perceptive, rich, and dense study that will leave its readers with sharpened sensibilities for interpreting dream-related passages in Chinese literature.
*Tang Studies*

Should prove invaluable to scholars interested in traditional Chinese literature and culture as well as comparative studies as diverse as psychology, theology, and literature.
*Journal of Chinese Studies*

Campany’s sixth book, The Chinese Dreamscape, 300 BCE–800 CE, builds on materials, themes, and arguments that Campany has been exploring over his previous five in expanding our understanding of early medieval Chinese religious worlds. Chinese Dreamscape is just as generously spirited, combing through scholarship external to Sinology and religious studies for relevant comparative cases and methodological insights, and then devising novel frameworks for his readers to better elucidate phenomena in their own fields of study, Asian religious traditions or otherwise. It is always pleasurable to consume Campany’s unique scholarly voice—at turns cautiously exhaustive, insistently clear, and playfully poetic—for the space of another book. And Chinese Dreamscape might also represent Campany at an especially self-reflexive moment, as the uncanny nature of dreams themselves continually challenge human attempts to render them sensible. We witness the author in the act of growing and reshuffling his theoretical repertoire to better capture the foreignness of the beings early Chinese people met when they were asleep.
*H-Net Reviews*

This is not a subject that many have written about – nor one that immediately suggests the range and depth of material that the author has succeeded in finding. That Campany has been able to describe consistent patterns of interpretation and approach across such an extended period is as much as tribute to his own scholarship as it is to the remarkable extent of classical Chinese texts that still exist today.
*Kerry Brown Reviews*

Campany has given us an immensely perceptive, rich, and dense study that will leave its readers with sharpened sensibilities for inter¬preting dream-related passages in Chinese literature. I am already looking forward to reading the second volume and to detecting the traces this book is bound to leave in future scholarship of early and medieval China literature and culture.
*Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies*

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