What does it mean to dream of a cow in China? We tell you here

What does it mean to dream of a cow in China? We tell you here

In the last few days I have stumbled upon several documents dealing with dreams in China, and some with certain fragments explaining, in particular, the meaning of dreaming about a cow. 

One of the most famous dreams with a cow occurs during the Three Kingdoms period, in the expectations for power in the Kingdom of Shu. It appears in the chapter dedicated to the life of Jiang Wan in the Historical Records of Shu Han. It is translated into English in Liu Wenying’s book[i].

It is told that one night Jiang Wan dreamed that he saw the head of a bull bleeding profusely at the door. When he woke up, he felt very upset and went to see the dream scholar, Zhao Zhi, who told him it was an auspicious dream.

«Seeing blood makes everything clear,» he told him. «The head of a bull with two horns is the image of the Chinese character 公 (lord). You will attain the position of one of the three great ministers. Therefore it is a good omen.»

The first sentence must have been quoted from ancient dream books that no longer exist. The image of the character 公 (lord, part of the highests officials) was interpreted by the glyphomancy method. The upper half 八 looks like two horns; the lower half 厶, the head of a bull. Indeed, soon after Zhuge Liang’s death, Jiang Wan was promoted to the position of magistrate of the imperial secretariat and became one of the three top ministers of the kingdom. The history books considered that the divination of this dream was fulfilled.» (Liu 1995: 85).

A Chinese website has digitized some of the classic works of dream interpretation in this country, such as The Forest of Dreams, Duke Zhou’s Interpretation of Dreams, and Dunhuang’s Forest of Dreams. In all these works there are numerous mentions of the interpretation of the dream with a cow (or ox or bull, as we know that niu encompasses all three).

The Interpretation of Dreams of the Duke of Zhou

The Duke of Zhou Dream interpretation tells us that seeing a cow in your dream is a good omen, it means that wishes will be fulfilled. A fat cow indicates that you will live a rich life of abundance, and a skinny one, that you will need to work harder to get rich little by little.

Some ideas seem quite clear because dreaming of a cow is a symbol of motherhood and fertility, prosperity in the family. A pregnant woman dreaming of a cow predicts that mother and child will be safe. And to dream of a bull, has virile connotations. To dream of bulls fighting, symbolizes strength and virility. In a man in love, it can represent his desire for passion. And if it is a woman who dreams of a bull, it may symbolize her strong temper or her sexual desire for a newly met man.

Others are not so clear. Thus To dream of a wild bull, is a sign that a stranger will need your help, with a male buffalo is a bad omen, as it suggests that there will be a funeral (perhaps involving the sacrifice of an ox). Although to dream that a yellow buffalo comes to the house is a sign of great wealth and prosperity, the elderly will live a long life and the family will be harmonious.

The bull often seems to represent man, as we see happening also in other aspects of Chinese culture, and thus:

To dream that a strong yellow bull passes you is an auspicious sign, suggesting that you will be fit as a yellow bull. If you are sick, it implies that you will recover soon. While if you dream of a yellow, thin, bony cow lying down, it may be a sign of a serious illness.

Other dreams are related to the ideas of cows in the Chinese imaginary. Thus:

To dream of a cow grazing is a symbol of peace and prosperity, indicating that the dreamer will accumulate wealth. To dream of plowing a field or climbing a mountain with an ox indicates that one is getting rich through hard work. To dream of a herd of cattle going down a hill, portends that things will go smoothly, and even if you encounter difficulties, you will overcome them naturally. But beware, if the cattle in the dream are very thin, it indicates that there will be problems, and if they have a lame leg, these will be very serious.

As we have already pointed out, to dream of a bleeding bull’s head symbolizes sacrifice and celebration, so it foretells happy events in the family or at work.

A pregnant woman dreams of a cow

But in some of these books very precise instructions were given on how to interpret dreams, depending on their content and the situation of the dreamer. Thus, it is said that if a pregnant woman dreams of a cow she predicts that she will give birth to a daughter. And if the cow is docile, the daughter will be charming. While if a pregnant woman who dreams that she is chased by a cow predicts that she will give birth to a healthy, and obedient child. And if she dreams of a cow fighting she will have to pay more attention to the development of her baby.

More simple to interpret is that if a pregnant woman dreams of a cow with horns, it predicts that she will give birth to a son, and if it does not have horns, that she will give birth to a daughter. And finally, if a pregnant woman dreams of a herd of cows, it is a sign that her family, relatives, and friends are expecting a baby and that the baby will have a happy life.

[i] Liu Wenying. An oriental interpretation of Dreams. China Social Sciences Publishing House. Beijing. 1995.

To cite this post: Ceinos-Arcones, Pedro, "What does it mean to dream of a cow in China? We tell you here," in Ethnic China, 11 febrero 2021, https://ethnic-china.com/what-does-it-mean-to-dream-of-a-cow-in-china-we-tell-you-here/.
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