The Dreaming Mind and the End of the Ming World

Hardback: $84.00
ISBN-13: 9780824875251
Published: March 2019
Paperback: $32.00
ISBN-13: 9780824888367
Published: November 2020

Additional Information

332 pages | 13 b&w illustrations


  • Winner of the Geiss-Hsu Book Prize for the Best Overall Book in Ming Studies, 2024
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  • About the Book
  • From the mid-sixteenth through the end of the seventeenth century, Chinese intellectuals attended more to dreams and dreaming—and in a wider array of genres—than in any other period of Chinese history. Taking the approach of cultural history, this ambitious yet accessible work aims both to describe the most salient aspects of this “dream arc” and to explain its trajectory in time through the writings, arts, and practices of well-known thinkers, religionists, litterateurs, memoirists, painters, doctors, and political figures of late Ming and early Qing times.

    The volume’s encompassing thesis asserts that certain associations of dreaming, grounded in the neurophysiology of the human brain at sleep—such as subjectivity, irrationality, the unbidden, lack of control, emotionality, spontaneity, the imaginal, and memory—when especially heightened by historical and cultural developments, are likely to pique interest in dreaming and generate florescences of dream-expression among intellectuals. The work thus makes a contribution to the history of how people have understood human consciousness in various times and cultures.

    The Dreaming Mind and the End of the Ming World is the most substantial work in any language on the historicity of Chinese dream culture. Within Chinese studies, it will appeal to those with backgrounds in literature, religion, philosophy, political history, and the visual arts. It will also be welcomed by readers interested in comparative dream cultures, the history of consciousness, and neurohistory.

  • About the Author(s)
    • Lynn A. Struve, Author

      Lynn A. Struve is Professor Emerita of History and of East Asian Languages and Cultures at Indiana University, Bloomington.
  • Reviews and Endorsements
    • Historians have long noticed that educated elites across various cultures and periods like to write about their dreams, yet most historians tend to discard dream reports as unreliable historical data or dismiss them as fantasy or superstition. In The Dreaming Mind and the End of the Ming World, Struve shows that dream reports merit serious scholarly attention. Based on psychoanalytical readings of the Ming literati writings, she probes into different types of anxieties and frustrations experienced by the writers as they coped with crises in their lives. Moreover, by highlighting the unique fashion in which the Ming literati tirelessly chronicled and intensely reflected on what they dreamed about day to day, Struve connects the emotional lives of these individuals to the central themes that define the sociopolitical and intellectual history of their era.
      —Yuzhou Bai, Princeton University, H-Buddhism, November 2020
    • Struve demonstrates brilliantly how dreams served as a coping mechanism in a time of profound distress. Her readings of dream-writings show not only how Ming writers drew on the historical and contemporary cultural repertoires available to them, but how profoundly their intensely personal writings about dreams shaped this period. . . . Over the course of her career, Struve has given a great deal to the field of Ming Studies. With this extraordinary book, she transforms what we know about the period by revealing its protagonists’ innermost thoughts and experiences. The Dreaming Mind provides the concrete evidence for what many of us have long suspected: that the Ming was a period like no other, not just in Chinese history but in world history.
      —2024 Geiss‐Hsu Book Prize Selection Committee