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The Reintegration of the Past as Self-Realisation: Zhao Tao in Jia Zhangke’s Films

Authors: Haotian Wu


This article examines the figure Zhao Tao in Jia Zhangke’s films in light of Carl Jung’s psychoanalytical theory. Zhao is a recurring aesthetic trope in Jia’s films, and the characters she plays often have an intimate relationship with the past. Nevertheless, this relationship has not been systematically investigated, especially its symbolism of the typical relationship between the past and the self in post-social China. To fill this research gap, the article will explore how Zhao’s characters discover, preserve, and adapt the past in I Wish I knew (2010), Mountains May Depart (2015), and Ash Is Purest White (2018). Through a Jungian lens, these three levels of engagement with the past will be demonstrated as corresponding with Jung’s psychoanalytical theory of self-realisation, which entails the confrontation with the shadow, the embodiment of the archetype, and individuation. Thus, by articulating a film-philosophy dialogue between Jia and Jung, this article will develop a philosophy of self-realisation based on the symbolism of Zhao. Through the reintegration of the past, the individuals can overcome the fragmentation of temporality and selfhood in the postmodern world and achieve self-realisation.

Keywords: Jia Zhangke, Jung, psychoanalysis, self-realisation.

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