Chinese Whispers

Freud and China: a love affair

40 min listen

In This Episode

This episode of Chinese Whispers is slightly different – instead of taking a look at a theme within China, my guest and I will be seeing China through the eyes of the psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud. Professor Craig Clunas, chair of art history at Oxford University, has curated a new exhibition at London’s Freud Museum, which displays Freud’s collection of Chinese antiquities. On this episode, I talk to Craig about what these pieces – jades and figurines – meant to Freud, especially in the context of 20th century Europe, where there was appreciation of Chinese art but, as we discuss, not quite the matching level of knowledge. We’ll also chat about the reception of Freud’s theories in China, especially given the country’s turbulent intellectual history since the May Fourth Movement a hundred years ago. Craig sums up the love affair between Freud and China nicely:

‘Just like Freud is using his Chinese things to think with, Chinese thinkers are using Freud to think with.’

The exhibition itself is small but fascinating, and runs until 26 June.

As mentioned in the episode, here is the link to a previous edition of Chinese Whispers with Rana Mitter, for those who want to hear more about China since the May Fourth Movement:


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