Ruin in the films of Jia Zhangke

Research output: Journal PublicationArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


This article explores the reflection, representation and psychogeographic affect of the ruins in the films by the Chinese filmmaker Jia Zhangke (b. 1970). During the Maoist period, ruins were signs of developmental progression; as Mao Zedong proclaimed, ‘there is no construction without destruction … Put destruction first, and in the process you have construction.’ The author argues that the ruins are not just the effects of China’s fast-paced modernization, but are also symbols of the destruction of Maoist society. Furthermore, by recording the state and act of destruction, these films enhance the phenomenological and affective aspects of the ruin. Finally, when construction is realized in the films (the construction from destruction), it is either threatening or ‘futuristic’; thus, both the ruin and construction estrange the previous residents from their environment by rejecting them from the places that they once lived and chronologically estrange them from the projected utopian future.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)439-460
Number of pages22
JournalVisual Communication
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Chinese film
  • Chinese visual culture
  • Heygate Estate
  • Jia Zhangke
  • affect theory
  • phenomenology
  • psychogeography
  • ruin
  • solastalgia
  • time and temporality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts


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