Failure of Root-Searching in Chen Kaige

  • Hong Zeng
Part of the Semiotics and Popular Culture book series (SEMPC)


This chapter examines Chen Kaige’s cultural exile in the national root-searching movement. Shortly after the Cultural Revolution, the root-searching movement was one of the major movements during the cultural fever in the 1980s. The historical catastrophe created an artificial cultural blank that was eagerly filled in with the influx of Western ideologies. The philosophies of Arthur Schopenhauer and Friedrich Nietzsche, Existentialism, black humor, the theater of the absurd, the French new novel, the stream-of-consciousness novel … these schools of philosophy and literature that had brewed in the West for a hundred years poured into China in ten short years. The influx of Western ideologies also created an identity crisis among Chinese intellectuals. Flooded by Western thoughts, intellectuals began to ponder the indigenous identity of Chinese civilization. Thus, countering the movement of westernization, a root-searching impulse appear as a way of rediscovering the ancient indigenous Chinese culture before the intervention of the May Fourth movement, communist ideology, and the Cultural Revolution. During the root-searching movement, Confucianism, Neo-Confucianism, Taoism, and Zen Buddhism were among the most examined ancient Chinese thought.


Cultural Revolution Historical Reality Chinese Natural Philosophy Army Officer Willful Ignorance 
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© Hong Zeng 2012

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  • Hong Zeng

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