(Translation) 1910年 朴海溟 賣夢明文

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==Introduction (Irina) In Korea since ancient times omens has played an important role. Often significant state decisions or family affairs have been resolved by the emergence of divine signs that have been interpreted by a professional fortune teller. One of these signs is the dream. Every great event is thought to be preceded by an auspicious dream. In folk culture the dreams of conception, which precede the birth of a son, are particularly important. Until recently in Korea, the main role and task of the woman was to give birth to a son who would continue the lineage. Respectively the inability of a woman to give birth to a son was the main cause of anxiety. So, a number of superstitions were practiced to help conceiving a son, including buying an auspicious conception dream. Usually the woman or her husband buys the dream of someone who has dreamed an auspicious conception dream, most often a dragon or a tiger. Dreaming a dragon or tiger precedes the conception of a great and heroic son. It is considered that the “deal” is valid only if the buyer pays with money or some object.

We can trace the tradition of buying and selling dreams back in time, when the story of the Munhui, sister of the great commander Kim Yu-shin (595 – 673), was recorded. Munhui buys her sister's dream and thanks to it she marries the future ruler King Taejong Muyeol ((604 – 661) and gives birth to a great son. In return she pays with silk skirt (Samguk Yusa, Book 1, Taejong Kim Ch’un-ch’u).

Original Script

Classical Chinese English


右明文事 切有用處故 陰


必有禎祥 右夢放賣於右

前 而錢文千兩依數捧用是

遣 右前永永放賣爲去乎

日後若有雜談 以此文記





First Part (by Jong Woo): The fourth year of Yunghi (1910), fourth month, third day. This document has the following usage. The twenty-third day of the second month of the lunar calendar, I saw in my dream a dragon and a tiger. This [dream] should be auspicious.

Middle Part (by Kim Young): I sell this dream to this person and receive a thousand 錢文... ;P

Discussion Questions

Further Readings



Student 1 : (Irina)

  • Discussion Questions:

In Korea faith in auspicious dreams has a long tradition and this tradition is still alive. Which are the dreams regarded most auspicious in modern Korea?

Student 2 : (Kim Young)

  • Discussion Questions:

1. This document does not specify the buyer's name, and there is no space to fill in the buyer's name. Given this, is it possible that the writer of this document was not actually looking for a buyer, but was being playfully satirical about something?

Student 3 : (Masha)

  • Discussion Questions:

1. What is the significance of dreaming about dragons and tigers? Why it was considered auspicious? What did they stand for?
2. Could the date of the dream be of any significance?
3. What does it tell us about the spread of bureaucratization and commodification at the time where even dreams could become part of a contract agreement?

Student 4 : (Jong Woo Park)

  • Discussion Questions:

Chosŏn government often tries to control and "rectify" the so-called evil custom. Was there any governmental interference in the transaction of dream?

Student 5 : (Kanghun Ahn)

1. If they sold their dreams based on contract, was there any standard as to measuring the value of them?

2. Koreans seem to have a long-standing tradition of selling one's dreams to others, which is still being passed down on to this day. What are some of the factors that make it possible? And is it something unique only in Korean culture?

Student 6 : (Write your name)

  • Discussion Questions:

Student 7 : King Kwong Wong

  • Discussion Questions:
  1. What does this document tell us about the legal practice of commercial activities in the late Choson period? How does it different or not different from previous period?
  2. Why would a person sell his/her dream? And why would one buy it? What does the practice of selling dream tell us about the religious and social aspect of Choson society?

Student 8 : (Write your name)

  • Discussion Questions:

Student 9 : Martin

  • Discussion Questions:

1. What is the historical significance of Dragon-Tiger dreams? What does it stand for and why is it considered auspicious?

Student 10 : (YoungSuk)

  • Discussion Questions:

Dreams could be meaningful at times for many people for some mysterious reasons or visions. What is the basis of this dream seller? Is he selling superstition, faith, a vision, or a comfort?

Student 11 : (Write your name)

  • Discussion Questions:

Student 12 : (Lidan Liu)

  • Discussion Questions:

1. Since dream is intangible, how can people verify whether the seller actually had an auspicious dream? Couldn't someone simply make up dream to make money? 2. Does this dream selling activity have any support from any religion or local believes?

Student 13 : (Write your name)

  • Discussion Questions:

Student 14 : (Write your name)

  • Discussion Questions: 1) Did joseon people generally believe that they could buy and sell dreams? 2) Why do you think this document does not bear the name of the person who buys the dream? 3) Let's say someone bought this dream, what roles would this document have played?

Further Readings