Category Archives: Others

Chinese Dreams Dictionary

It is not uncommon amongst the Chinese to ask someone who has just awaken from a short nap if he or she has just visited Grandmaster Zhou for a discussion. But what is this so?

Grandmaster Zhou (also known as Zhou Gong) who lived approximately 3000 years ago is credited with the earliest Chinese Dream Dictionary known as “Zhou Gong’s Book of Auspicious and Inauspicious Dreams”. Legend has it that this is the same person who is credited with the development of the Yi Jing or the Book of Changes.

Therefore whenever you dream, it is like paying a visit to Grandmaster Zhou!

You can find a section of his book in the Chinese Almanac which until recent times is found in most Chinese household. This also explains the popularity. It is not uncommon during my parent’s and grandparent’s time to refer to this section of the almanac whenever a member of the family has a dream, more so a strange one.

In the Chinese Almanac (also known as the Tung Shu or Tong Sing) dreams are presented in seven categories. They are astronomy, home and surroundings, gods and spirit, person or body, music and disharmony, living creatures and lastly clothing and miscellaneous items.

Some of the interpretations are somewhat logical. For example if you dream of sunset, then you parents are sad. Or of you dream of eating cooked meat versus eating raw meat, it is a sign of good luck.

Some of the interpretations are not so logical. For example if you dream of a blue snake it is a good sign. Or if you dream of sharing an umbrella with someone, you will be separated from your family members.

Some are hilarious. For example if you dream of your own wedding, then it is a sign that you will be separated from your wife! Worst if you dream that your wife is pregnant. It means that she is engaged in an adultery affair!

I would strongly urge you not to take the dream interpretation too literally especially the one mentioned in the last paragraph.

You may be interested to know that the type or meaning of dreams was use – in conjunction with other methods – as a medical diagnostic tool. You can find it in Yellow Emperor’s Medicine Classic – Miraculous Pivot that dates back over 4000 years!

Different type of dreams e.g. fearful, sad dreams, relates to deficiency in different parts of the body! For example falling dream is due to deficiency in the upper and excess in the lower part of the body. This is often seen in water retention in the kidneys and deficiency of yang in the heart.

That is interpreting dreams for you – Chinese style!

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The Hungry Ghost Festival

The Hungry Ghost Festival is also known as the Zhong Yuan (中元) Festival. Some people fell that the term hungry is inappropriate as it shows disrespect for our ancestors and that is should simply be called the Ghost Festival or better still, the Happy Ghost Festival.

Since ancient times, the Chinese believe that the gates of hell are open between the 1st and 30th day of the Chinese lunar 7th month. During this period hungry ghost are allowed to wander on earth to look for food.

There is a popular Buddhist legend on this festival about a Buddhist priest by the name of Mu Lian. He was very concerned for his bereaved mum who was apparently not a very good person when she was alive.

He remembered Sakyamuni Buddha teachings that when the wisdom eye is opened, one can see anything. Tapping on this teaching and his own power, he looked everywhere for his mother. Finally he found his mother – in hell.

He was saddened. His mother was competing with the other ghosts for food and looking miserable. Seeing that, he sent food (by making offerings) to his mother but to his dismay, the food turn into burning coal and burnt her mother’s mouth.

He went to his teacher for advice. His teacher told him to make offerings (plenty of it) on the 15th Day of the 7th lunar month. Strangely it worked and his mother was fed.

From that day onwards, people made offerings to the ghost in the form of prayers, food and paper money.

In Malaysia, pieces of gold and silver coloured paper are rolled into tubes and folded in both ends to make them look like silver and gold ingots. The Chinese believe that by doing so, they would receive blessings from the gods and spirits (Somehow feeding the ghost became secondary to money).

During this period, the ghost (and human beings) are also entertained with public performance of Chinese operas on make shift stages erected in open spaces.

This is however changing as Chinese operas troupes are dwindling and harder to come by. Replacing them are performances by Chinese pop artists.

In addition to the offering and performances, dinners and auctions are also held raise fund for temples and other charitable organizations.

What has this got to do with Feng Shui? The Chinese believe the 7th month is a dangerous month with so many ghosts wandering in the streets. It is a taboo to move house or get married during this period. This is the connection to Feng Shui!

Not everybody however subscribe to this taboo. In my practice, I normally ask my clients if they adhere to his belief. If they do, I would select a ‘move’ date outside of the lunar 7th month. It so happens that the 8th month is highly auspicious.

The Chinese have other taboos about the 7th lunar month. It is a month of excessive yin and therefore one should not wear black coloured clothing to avoid absorbing negative energy into the body.

Also it is not a good time to attend funerals, visit the sick or attend any ‘yin’ celebration. It is a good time to do some charity work and take vegetarian meals on the 1st and 15th day. And do not stay out late.

Many people claim that there are more disasters and accidents during the 7th month. They also claim that more people fall sick during this period. I have not done any research on this but it is something worth looking into.

In some years, in addition to the 7th month there is another 7th leap month. Does this means that the ghost are out for 60 days instead of 30. The answer is no. The leap month is not considered!

Are you grateful that the ghosts are out for 30 days only instead of 60?

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Qing Ming: Chinese All Souls Day

Visiting the graves of our ancestors during Qing Ming is an age old Chinese tradition. Apparent it goes back 2000 years to the Han dynasty.

Grave Site
Grave Site

Qing Ming means Clear Brightness in Chinese. In the Chinese solar calendar the season of spring is further sub-divided into 6 divisions of approx 14 days each and it is called the Knots and Qi. Qing Ming is one of sub-season within and normally falls on the 5th or 6th of April.

It is also a period when the days are longer than the nights and is considered to be most ‘yang’. Hence the name Clear Brightness!

The visit need not be made on the first day of Qing Ming. Any time plus or minus 30 days is fine although most people prefer to do it on the weekends immediately prior or after (that is if Qing Ming do not fall on a weekend).

Upon reaching the cemetery, it is customary to visit the ‘Da Bo Gong’ to offer your prayers. The ‘Da Bo Gong’ is like the head deity that looks after the cemetery. A more accurate but less used name is ‘Tu Di Gong’ or ‘Deity of the Earth’. Every cemetery or memorial park has one.

What if you do not offer prayers to ‘Da Bo Gong’ first? It has been rumoured that you may not be able to find your ancestors grave! Some even say that you may lose out in society for not knowing how to shoe respect to the elders.

Upon reaching your ancestor grave, you must first offer prayers to the ‘Hou Tu’. The ‘Hou Tu’ is the deity that looks after the grave and you should offer at least some rice cakes, fruits, wine and tea. Poultry is good too.

The offering of prayers to the ancestors must be done based on seniority. It is unfair but married daughters are ranked the lowest and they can offer prayers only after everyone else has done so.

There is no hard and fast rule on how long you should stay at the site. Most people spend between 30 minutes and an hour.

The cemetery is a place where the Yin energy is very strong. Therefore it is a good idea to wear an auspicious items such as jade or crystals to help ward off such energy. It is also a good idea to wear some light or bright coloured clothes that is full of yang energy to counter the yin energy of the cemetery. Black which is extremely yin is definitely out!

On the way to your ancestor’s grave, you should refrain from stepping on the other graves. If it is unavoidable, quietly ask for forgiveness before doing so.

While at the grave-site, do not talk too loudly and refrain from using foul language. Also be wary of the comments that you make about your ancestor and those of the neighbouring grave. Watch out for the children especially. Do not allow them to play or run around the grave-site or step on the tomb.

By the way, pregnant women should not visit participate in Qing Ming. The ancient Chinese believe that the extreme yin energies there can affect the unborn child.

It is customary to take a bath immediately after returning home is water soaked in pomelo leaves. It is believed that Pomelo is very yang and can wash off any yin energies that you may absorb from the cemetery!

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Chinese Wedding Gifts

The delivery of gifts in a Chinese wedding is commonly known as ‘Guo Da Li’.

Wedding Gifts
Wedding Gifts

The delivery of Chinese wedding gifts is an affirmation of his intent to marry, a display of respect and also demonstration of the groom’s ability of support the family after marriage.

This is normally done within a month from the date of the marriage.

The gift from the groom-to-be would normally include the following:-

  • Dowry
  • Wedding Biscuits
  • Two pieces of red cloth
  • Seafood e.g. abalone, dried scallops, dried shrimps, dried squid, sea cucumber, mushrooms, shark fins, fish maw and the must have ‘fa cai’
  • Cooked chicken
  • Roasted pig (or a piece of it)
  • Big fish (signifies abundance)
  • Coconut (usually in pairs)
  • Wine (use to be rice wine but nowadays substituted with imported ones)
  • Dried fruits e.g. dried longan, dried lychee, dried plum and ground nuts
  • Others e.g. tea leaves

In this modern day the list of the gift are constantly simplified based on cost and environmental sensitivity. For example, the size of the abalone package has shrunk due to the high price and shark fins may be eliminated from the list in order to be politically correct!

The gifts are delivered by the groom to be accompanied by relatives. There is normally no ceremony and the groom-to-be will take this opportunity to update the bride and in-laws-to-be on the progress of the wedding arrangement. Since many relatives of the bride will be present, this is also an opportunity for the groom-to-be to chat and foster goodwill.

The acceptance of the Chinese wedding gifts is an affirmation from the women’s side of the marriage.

The bride-to-be has to return some gifts in acknowledgement and they would normally include tea leaves, fruits, a pair of trousers, belt, wallet (with a red packet inside), pair of shoes and the remains of the roast pig (after the bride’s family and friends have they way with it!).

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Chinese Wedding Ceremony

In ancient times, the Chinese wedding ceremony is held to get recognition from society. It comprise of many ceremonial processes that include the wedding proposal, engagement and the actual wedding.

Today recognition is given by the Registry of Civil Marriages who issues the certificate of registration of marriage once they are satisfied that you have complied with the requirements. The couple is then considered legally married and come under the protection of the law.

Many people feel that the ancient style traditional wedding ceremony is complicated. In line with the times and to be practical, many of theses ceremonies are simplified or discarded.

Today’s Chinese Wedding traditions consist mainly of the wedding proposal and the actually wedding. Engagement has become less popular.

I will touch on the wedding proposal in another article. Meanwhile let’s focus on the actually wedding itself. It comprises of the taking of the bride, the prayer and tea ceremony, back to bride’s home tea ceremony and the wedding feast.

The day begins with the groom and friends arriving at the bride’s house at a designated auspicious hour. As a customary practice, the bride’s lady friends will put up some resistance to prevent the groom from taking the bride. This resistance is quickly overcome by giving a red packet and they are on their way back to the groom’s house.

When the bride arrives at the groom’s house, she is quickly taken in to perform the prayer ceremony. This is followed by the tea ceremony where the groom and bride serve tea to the groom’s family and friends as a sign of respect. The groom’s family and friends in turn shower her with gifts and red packet. Family members that are younger than the groom will in turn serve tea to the bride and groom as a sign of respect. This is quickly rewarded with red packets from the bride and groom.

The groom and bride then goes back to the brides family for a similar prayer and tea ceremony, this time for members of the bride’s family.

Then it is back to the groom’s house for some much needed rest before going to the restaurant or hotel for the multi-course wedding feast.

Finally it is time to get home and to bed where the marriage is consummated (at least this is how it is suppose to happen in the good old days!).

This brings us to a question from Chinese Astrology. When is a couple deemed to be married? Is it after the marriage ceremony or after signing the documents at the registry?

Many astrologers believe that it is after the couple has stayed together (as man and wife) for 100 days, certificate or not!

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Chinese Marriage Traditions

The processes of an ancient Chinese marriage are encapsulated in a term called Three (3) Letters and Six (6) Etiquettes.

The Three Letters are the engagement, the delivery of gifts and the taking of the bride letter.

Wedding Ring
Wedding Ring

In ancient times, if a man is interested in a woman, he will engage a go-in between (an agent) to convey the message to the woman’s family. If the woman’s family finds him acceptable, they will notify him and he can make the proposal by delivering the formal letter of engagement on an auspicious date.

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The next step is to deliver wedding gifts to the woman’s family. These wedding gifts, usually expensive, are accompanied by the ‘Delivery of Gift’ letter which is essentially a list of items and quantity much like a delivery order! By signing this letter, it signifies acceptance of the marriage. It is also a way for the man to guard against pilferage by the delivery team!

The third letter is known as the Bride Taking Letter as it is the letter that the groom produces when he arrives at the bride’s home on the wedding day. Upon receiving the letter, the bride is considered to be taken (have left home) to become a member of the groom’s family. It is no wonder why the bride mothers weep uncontrollably on wedding days. It is like losing a daughter!

What then are the Six Etiquettes?

It refers to the six main processes in an ancient Chinese marriage. It includes the official proposal, the checking of Ba Zi, selection of auspicious date for the wedding, delivery of gifts, confirmation of wedding dates and finally the wedding itself.

Once the man has set his eyes on the girl, he sends an official proposal to the woman’s family. Once the proposal is accepted, he will seek the services of an astrologer to determine if they are compatible. Research will also be done to ensure that there is no blood relationship between them. At this stage the engagement can be called off if they are not compatible or if their blood line are somewhat connected.

The next step is the selection of auspicious date for wedding followed by followed by the delivery of gifts.

After the gifts are accepted, the woman’s family will seek an astrologer to check the auspiciousness of the proposed wedding. This followed by the six and final etiquette, the wedding itself.

Feng Shui 3 Legged Frog

I live in Malaysia which is a multi-racial country. It is always interesting to know how the different races perceive each other. In a survey conducted recently the result shows that a large percentage of the other races think that the Chinese are greedy! While this is definitely not true, at least not from the Chinese perspective, I can think of at least one reason why they perceive so.


When two Chinese meet, it is customary for one to inquire whether the other has eaten. Food is after all very important to the Chinese. But what is next? It is usually, “Did you make any good money recently?” or “Do you have any good money making opportunity?”! This is probably the reason why they think the Chinese are greedy.

This perception is further reinforced by the many Chinese symbols of good fortune and wealth that is found in many Chinese homes. You may have heard of the Pi Xiu or Dragon Dog and its ability to pull in wealth. There is also the Three Legged Feng Shui Frog (with and without the ancient Chinese coin in the mouth), the Fu, Lu & Shou (Happiness, Wealth and Longevity) trio, God of Wealth and so on.

This brings me to the topic of Feng Shui. My clients know that I do not use such items in my Feng Shui practice. The reason is that Feng Shui is about ‘qi’, while these items of good luck are not.

But do they work? In my opinion, they work but not in the magical way that most people think. Here is what I think.

Symbols can influence the human sub-conscious mind. Let’s take the Three Legged Feng Shui Frog. If you believe that it can help you to accumulate money, this belief can get imprinted in your sub-conscious over time. The sub-conscious then affects then affects the conscious mind which in turn affects out action. We go out to make and accumulate more money!

Let’s take another example of the drawing of carps. Carps, in Chinese sounds a bit like abundance. Having a drawing of carps hanging on a wall in the dining area gives the message to the sub-conscious that there is abundance. This in turn can influence the conscious mind and tell it that there is abundance which is a positive emotion.

Feng Shui? No. But does it work? Maybe.

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Dragon and Pi Xiu

In eastern society, the dragon is regarded as a source of natural energy, authority, prosperity and longevity. They symbol of the dragon was also frequently used by past Chinese emperors to signify status and prestige. Many dynasties use the dragon to symbolize invincibility. Obviously it did not work for them.

Chinese Dragon
Chinese Dragon

Nowadays, many people place the dragon symbol or image in their homes as a decorative item with the hope that it will intensify the positive energy within.

Unlike the Western dragon which is a fire breathing animal, the Chinese dragon is a water animal. Therefore the best place to put the dragon is near a water features such as a water fountain or aquarium. Placing them in a dry location will be disastrous (so they say).

Some people also believe that the dragon can be placed in the north as the north sector is associated with the element of water.

In the combination and clash of the earthly branch, Chen (dragon) clash with Xu (dog). This has lead many people to believe that those born in the year of the dog should not have dragon symbols in their home.

I have a good friend who is born in the year of the dragon and she happens to be a successful dog trainer. Maybe the other around is okay!

What about the Pi Xiu (Pi Yao)? Is it a dragon or a dog?

The Pi Xiu is a mythical animal and has the head of a dragon and the body of a lion (or dog). It is a fierce animal and is believed to be able to gobble up all types of demons and evil spirits. In ancient China, they are used to guard the tombs of the emperors!

Aside from gobbling up demons and evil spirit, it also absorbs wealth from all directions. It signifies inflow without any outflow and this is why businessmen placed them in the office and home facing the door with the hope that it will bring in wealth in abundance.

Aside from ‘proper’ wealth, the Pi Xiu (Pi Yao) is also believed to bring windfall or ‘improper’ wealth which is why it is often seen in at money lender’s office, massage parlours, gambling joints and other similar centres.

Finally the Pi Xiu is also regarded as capable of absorbing ‘sha’ and this is why many dwellers located at a T or Y junctions, place a pair with their heads facing the front door.

Note: As a rule I do not use Chinese Good Luck symbols in my Feng Shui practice but this should not stop you from placing them for your own enjoyment.

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Music Therapy & The Five Elements

A lesser known alternative treatment in Chinese Medicine is music therapy. The ancient Chinese did a considerable amount of research in it and with the growing acceptance of alternative treatment traditional Chinese music therapy has gained much exposure.


There are five notes in ancient Chinese music namely Gong, Shang, Jiao, Zhi and Yu. They roughly match with the tones of do, re, mi, la and so respectively.

Each of these notes is also match with an element from the Five Elements and an organ (zang) in the body.

The note Gong (do) is associated with the earth element and the spleen. It is mediating in nature and gives a sense of calm and seriousness. The notes can be used to treat someone who has been given a fright.

The note Shang (re) is associated with the metal element and the lungs. It is clearing in nature and gives a sense of quietness. The notes can be used to treat someone suffering from anxiety and irritability.

The note Jiao (mi) is associated with the wood element and the liver. It is soothing in nature and gives a sense of comfort and relaxation. The notes can be used to dispel anger.

The note Zhi (sol) is associated with the element fire and the heart. It is invigorating in nature and gives a sense of excitement and passion. The note can be use to treat someone suffering from depression.

Finally the note Yu (la) is associated with the element water and the kidneys. It is cooling and moistening in nature and has a sedative effect. The note can be use to treat insomnia caused by excessive joy or sorrow.

Try playing the notes above and see if it gives you the senses described above. You may be pleasantly surprises.

The ancient Chinese believe that music can shape a man. Conversely, it is possible to read a person’s character based on the music that he plays or listen to!

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Meaning of Dreams in Chinese Medicine

Do dreams have meanings? Does it foretell a future event? Is there a meaning in dreams, especially recurring bad ones? What about sweet dreams or fearful dreams?


I get asked this quite a bit but I am unable to help as this is not my area of expertise. In fact dreams interpretation is a separate discipline by itself.

Recently I read a book on Chinese Medicine and there is a part on how dreams can assist in medical diagnosis. It is from the Yellow Emperor’s Medicine Classic – Miraculous Pivot. I find it extremely interesting and I would like to share some of their findings with you.

According to the classic, fearful dream is a result of deficiency of qi in the heart and gallbladder. It can also be due to a prolonged illness or excessive anxiety.

Angry dream is due to stagnation of qi in the liver and gallbladder or hardening of the liver. It can also be due to the presence of gallstones. On the other hand, happy dream is due to the smooth flow of qi and indicate quick recover even if you should fall ill.

Sad dream is due to deficiency of qi in the heart and lung, deficiency of yin in the liver as with chronic liver disease and tuberculosis. Melancholic dream is due to imbalance in the liver and spleen.

What about dreams where you are continuous striving for something? This is due to reverse flow of qi in the liver and gallbladder and rising of yang in the liver for example with hypertension and poor food digestion.

Floating and falling in dreams are amongst the most common type of dreams. Floating dream is due to excess in the upper part of the body but deficiency in the lower parts like deficiency of the kidneys, excess phlegm or coronary heart disease. Falling dream is due to deficiency in the upper and excess in the lower part. This is often seen in water retention in the kidneys and deficiency of yang in the heart.

What is the meaning of the dream of looking for food and water? Looking for food dream imply a weak spleen and deficiency of yin in the stomach. Looking for water dream imply excessive yang and depletion of bodily fluids for example due to high fever or dehydration.

What about looking for toilet dream? According to the classic, this dream is often caused by painful urination, inflammation of the intestines, poor digestion or diarrhoea.

Finally what is the cause of the most serious form of dreams, sleep walking? It is usually due to stagnation of qi in the liver or distractions!

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