Afterimage in Mainland Chinese Films: A Theological and Religious Dialogue

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This dissertation explores how mainland Chinese films depict their filmmakers’ spiritual imagination of their tradition, and a yearning for Transcendence as "afterimage". These films also show the possibility of God’s divine revelation through the lens of Christian theology.

Chapter One draws on Richard A. Blake’s concept of “afterimage” and discusses the salient aspects within Confucianism and Daoism that are identifiable as "afterimages" of Chinese directors and their films. This chapter also establishes the spiritual discernment of the Chinese as “More in Life than Meets the Eye”, (or the “More”), a notion of Transcendence/the Divine that relates to Chinese religious traditions.

Chapter Two further expands the conversation of the “More” by placing it within the larger framework of Paul Tillich’s phenomenology of religion. It explains how the Tillichian notion of "ultimate concern" offers a framework to interpret Chinese yearnings for Transcendence as “ultimate concern”.

Chapters Three and Four focus on drawing out the afterimages of filmmakers of both the Fifth and Sixth Generation whose films encapsulate representations of what ultimately concerns the human person as “spiritual”.

Chapter Five examines the possibility of a East-West cross-cultural dialogue by juxtaposing Jürgen Moltmann’s theological views of the Spirit’s immanent-transcendence, and Robert K. Johnston’s concept of God’s wider Presence as dialogue partners to the Chinese notion of “More” in Chinese films and Christian theology.

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Theology (PhD in Theology)

First Advisor

Johnston, Robert K.

Document Type





God in motion pictures, Immanence of God, Motion pictures, China, Christianity in motion pictures


Missions and World Christianity


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