Scroll Top

Shadow and Individuation in China


Shadow and Individuation in China

Dialogues with John Beebe

Yin Fang , Yu Meng and Heyong Shen , June 5, 2013

Wu Li, Green Mountains White Clouds, 1668In 1998, John Beebe and Shen Heyong co-organized the first International Conference of Analytical Psychology and Chinese Culture. This essay summarizes presentations that Dr. Beebe gave in the first conference’s keynote address and at subsequent conferences. Beebe has also given online weekly seminars to students of City University of Macau for the Shanghai Developing Group.

Beebe has observed that, “China may be the most appropriate country for the development of Analytical Psychology.” The growth and flourishing of Analytical Psychology in China has confirmed this. Partly because analytical psychology has historically learned from Chinese wisdom and philosophy, especially Taoism, analytical psychology has developed well in China since the 1990s. So far, in total, five international conferences of analytical psychology and Chinese culture have been held, sponsored by the International Association for Analytical Psychology and the Chinese Federation for Analytical Psychology: (1) On December 16-20, 1998, at South China Normal University, Guangzhou, on “Psyche: Analysis and Experience;” (2) in Guangzhou, in 2002, on “Psyche: Image and Synchronicity;” (3) in 2006, at the conference center of Tian Lu Lake, Guangzhou, on “Psyche: Ethics and Wisdom;” (4) On April 7-12, 2009, at FuDan University in Shanghai on “Image in Analytical Psychology: the Transformation of Active Imagination in Culture and Psychotherapy;” and (5) on June 6-12, 2012, at Macao University, on “Dreams, the Symbolic Language of the Psyche, Nature and Culture.”

The following is drawn largely from a 2005 interview with Dr. Beebe on listening to the Shadow rather than being ashamed of or hiding it. Beebe has written that, “Integrity is found not only in the courage to stand up to shadow, but in the emotions of uncertainty which force one to admit there is a problem in the first place” (Integrity in Depth, 1992, p. 35). We may deny what we did wrong, or become angry and easily irritated, but we are also trying to attain a feeling of moral relief. “Jung called this process facing and integrating the shadow. It has become … an everyday part of decision-making in many of our lives … Only then do we feel secure in figuring out what we must do”(p. 33).

As Beebe puts it, “A proper starting point for the discovery of integrity is the experience of anxiety” (p. 33). After we have acted, we self-examine what has happened and contemplate the results of our actions. Then, we may find out that what had happened is not what we intended. This may be the cause of our anxiety. For the purpose of recovering from the uneasiness, we can only try to figure out what we must do to make the situation right again. Integrity is found not only in the courage to stand up to the Shadow, but also in the emotions of uncertainty which force one to admit there is a problem in the first place. Shadow is like the darkness, and the attitude of facing and integrating the Shadow is like shining a candle, leading us out of the darkness and toward individuation.

Shadow and Light in China valleyThe Chinese character for shadow is “陰景”. Superficially, “陰”means side hill which is in the shade. From the ancient Chinese point of view, “陰” indicates the northern side of the mountain and the southern side of river water. To understand the meaning of this character, we should consider the right part “侌” which implies that the sun is covered by cloud layer. The character “侌” can be divided into two parts. The upper “今” signifies keeping silent in ancient Chinese, the primitive image of “今” corresponds to the earth matrix of the god of fear, embodying no light and also representing occlusion and emptiness. However, the lower part “云” has a pronunciation similarity with ”孕” which means pregnancy and formation. Therefore, the combination of two parts, “陰” implies hidden pregnancy and nutrition. And in “陰景”, the shadow, there exists not only darkness, but also brightness and the power of creation and transformation. Through the process of being in shadow, we can gain the power of pregnancy and nutrition, which is the only way to individuation.

Traditional China type chartBeebe suggests that the predominant historical consciousness of Chinese culture has been INFJ, introverted intuition (Ni) with extraverted feeling (Fe). The shadow functions for China would be Ne–5th, Fi–6th, Te–7th, and Si–8th. Even if we know our type, we are always vulnerable to the activation of the inferior function or of the functions that are in shadow. For instance, Beebe describes the relationship between China and Japan in 1937-1945 in the following way: The predominant consciousness of Japanese culture has been ISTJ, so that the Japanese shadow contains Se and Ti (Se–5th, Ti–6th, Fe–7th, and Ni–8th). He uses a film, directed by Japanese director Ozu Yasujiro, called “What Did the Lady Forget?” to vividly represent how a Japanese woman who suffered in the war had become too aggressive in her family. This is what Beebe calls the activation of the Opposing Personality archetype, which is opposite in gender to the archetype associated with the superior function. Accordingly, Japan’s superior introverted sensing (Si) in a patriarchal country would be masculine. The opposing Se function would be symbolized by a wife who can only criticize, disagree, and do battle with her husband. In Beebe’s view, “What Did the Lady Forget?” portrays the natural type of the lady’s country, Japan, which fell into an aggressive complex and went to war on others. In other words, Japan had become possessed by its Opposing Personality (Beebe, 2006).

By the same token, Beebe observes that, if Ni is really the superior function of historical Chinese culture, then Ne which envisions future developments and opportunities would carry the energy of the Opposing Personality archetype. Every country wants to develop, but if the focus is only on development and not on the meaning of our lives and of the big changes we are experiencing, then this narrow focus could lead Chinese culture away from its natural strength. Beebe believes that the bad ending of the Boxer Rebellion activated the inferior function of Se in Chinese culture, so that China has wanted to show the world that it can be more prosperous than the West and can do without its intervention. Therefore, as Beebe puts it, the country is trying harder to demonstrate the most economic progress—an overcompensation of an extraverted sensation (Se) kind, with perhaps some Ne as well, that has been obviously successful.

Such an over-compensation should not go on indefinitely. America, he points out, has likewise become too enthralled with an Se function that is not entirely natural to its culture. China has emphasized Se and Ne, leaving itself at present with a relatively weak Ni, even though Ni is China’s natural superior function and its historical birthright. A strong Ni, for example was the consciousness that gave birth to the three great Chinese religions: Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism, all of which anticipated Jung’s notion of the Self. That superior Ni may benefit today from the strengthening of Jungian analysis. At least, Jungian Ni would be naturally healing whenever applied, because it would restore a natural strength. Beebe mentions with compassion that it was the invasion of China by western countries in the 19th century and by Japan in the 20th that produced a certain shame in China’s Anima, the site of the inferiority complex, in which the inferior function tried to overcompensate for the failure of Chinese Ni to prevail. That is also to say that when the crisis is over and the overcompensation has worked, it’s important to go back to the superior function, Ni for China, and not continue to neglect it. In Beebe’s opinion, China’s auxiliary function, extraverted feeling (Fe), is currently its greatest natural psychological asset, since a strong country will stay strong if it uses its natural superior and auxiliary functions.

34 Ta ChuangWhen the inferior function and the shadow Opposing Personality function are used instead of the superior function, the ego-self connection, or transcendent function, is weakened. When Ni is the superior function, the connection to the Self is especially important, which is what Jung’s psychology speaks to. So the development of the inferior function will work over time only if the superior function has been already working well. Otherwise, such development of the inferior function becomes an overcompensation in the direction of power, which Beebe reminds us is the way of “the inferior man” who according to Hexagram 34 of the I Ching, “works through power” exclusively and sooner or later gets stuck in the stubborn pursuit of power for its own sake.

19 LinBut if the “superior man,” in Hexagram 19, “Approach,” line 4, is used, there can be a union of high and low, which is the critical thing. This line reads, “Here is shown the open-minded approach of a person of high rank to a man of ability whom he draws in to his own circle, regardless of class prejudice” (Wilhelm, 1950). This is exemplified in Hexagram 11, “Peace,” where line 5 shows “a truly modest union of high and low that brings happiness and blessings,” which Beebe applies to the union of superior and inferior functions in the psyche.

Beebe also compares the union of superior and inferior functions to the marriage of a couple. The Anima develops because the ego is humble, but the Anima also has a humble husband who keeps her from getting inflated. Neither ego (superior function) nor Anima (inferior function) is inflated, and neither is ashamed or weak.

11 TaiAs for the “consciousness of China,” that is, the personality type of China, Beebe says the soul of China is oriented toward doing business and notes that the Chinese do that well, especially when the ego of China is humble and spiritual, as when Ni is strong enough. But if Ni, the superior function, is too weak, then Ne, the Opposing Personality function, takes over, and the development of Se becomes mere materialism; then, there is no connection between the healthy business of Se and the spirit of Ni. By losing this connection between the superior and inferior functions, China may lose the possibility of exploring the unconscious and regulating the Shadow. Although the Ni part of the ego is a little bit weak in China today, Beebe says, it can correct this more easily than it realizes by strengthening Ni, meaning recovering its traditional spirit and connection to underlying meanings, to the unconscious and to the Tao. This should be and will be the way to develop soundly in China without loss of power, loss of face, and loss of ability to help the rest of the world realize its humanity.

Several initiatives have been launched in China that show evidence of re-integrating superior Ni with inferior Se. The “Garden of the Heart-Soul,” founded by Professor Shen Heyong, is a public welfare program, started in the Welfare Center for Children, in Guangzhou in 2007. It aims to help the one million orphans in China, many of whom are physically handicapped (Cheng H. Chen, He Y. Shen, 2010). So far, with the assistance of the Chinese Federation for Analytical Psychology, more than 50 “Garden of the Heart-Soul” stations have been established in most areas of China. More than a thousand volunteers have participated in this project. As Beebe says, maybe now China feels the need to compensate for the way others can take advantage of an INFJ, and so China may be using its inferior function, Se, in a way that ignores the values of its inner spirit. However, the “Garden of the Heart-Soul” mainly focuses on nourishing and developing the heart, not the mind. Its participants believe in the psychology of the heart and the heart of psychology. The methodology of the “Heart” explores the inner world and nourishes the heart. Perhaps the “Garden of the Heart-Soul” can compensate for the weaker superior function of China by developing the auxiliary function, Fe, to assume greater social responsibility.

Love is the most important principle for the work; through love, the Garden’s team intends to gain a better understanding of others and arouse the potential power of transformation in children’s hearts. This may be the way of individuation for the Chinese, the way to integrate the shadow of China’s cultural psyche, with the aid of analytical psychology (Shen, 2001).

Shen Heyong and students in post-earthquake SichuanAccording to Beebe’s sequence of archetypal complexes, the auxiliary function carries the Good Parent archetype, so China’s auxiliary function Fe should be a caretaker. China has begun to show evidence of development of this function. Recently, more and more Chinese female psychotherapists have begun to participate in the field of psychotherapy and in the “Garden of the Heart-Soul” project, helping balance the psyche in China. Beebe observes that women’s natural wish to be as strong as and equal to men may reflect a stage of Anima development in the national psyche, in which the feminine aspect—the Anima archetype—gains strength and acceptance. There always is an Anima in men’s inner world, and in finding the inner Anima or the help of women, men can be in better relationship with others. That feminine contribution is also part of the individuation journey for men. Beebe believes that a female psychotherapist can be a role model for taking the feminine seriously in patients of both sexes. To make this more clear, Beebe takes himself as an example: He sometimes needs to display his Anima and his maternal side, in order not to seem like just another intellectual man. Female psychotherapists, by contrast, don’t need to be the Anima or the mother; they can just stand up for the feminine figures that appear in their patients’ dreams. This understanding, Beebe acknowledges, has helped him understand the unique role that female psychotherapists can play (2007).

Women, perhaps because they carry the possibility of giving birth, can be the special containers, on the side of “陰”, providing nourishment to the psyches of others; in other words, they can be mothers not only physically, but also spiritually. So the growing power of women in China is also an advantage for the development of analytical psychology in China. Correspondingly, we can see the development of the “Garden of the Heart-Soul” itself as the female container, offering nourishment and care for children in need of special healing care. For China, the auxiliary function Fe and Anima Se can co-nurture Chinese people together, raising them up.


We wish to express our gratitude to John Beebe and Adam Frey for their help with this article, and for allowing us to present Dr. Beebe’s views. We are deeply appreciative of what they have done for us. Their work has made a marvelous contribution to the growth of analytical psychology in China.


Cai C., Shen H. (2010). “Garden of the Heart-Soul” in the earthquake area of China: Creativity and transformation. Jung Journal: Culture & Psyche 4:2 / Spring, 5-15.

Beebe, J. (1992). Integrity in depth. College Station, TX: Texas A&M University Press.

Beebe, J. (Summer, 2005). Evolving the eight-function model. Typeface, 16:2.

Beebe, J. (October, 2007). Type and archetype Part 1: the Spine and its shadow. Australian Psychological Type Review, 9:2, 11-20

Wilhelm, R., Ed. (1950). I Ching (C. F. Baynes, Trans.). New York, NY: Bollingen Foundation.

Shen H. (2001). Psychology of the heart & the heart of psychology. Beijing: People Press.

Header Image

Wu Li, “Green Mountains White Clouds” (1668)


Yin Fang

Yin Fang

Yin Fang, Ph.D., is a faculty member at Dali University, China, and a member of the Chinese Association for Analytical Psychology, CAAP. Having studied analytical psychology for several years, she has published several articles on analytical psychology in Chinese.

Yu Meng

Yu Meng

At the time of publishing here, Yu Meng was a Master's candidate in the School of Psychology at South China Normal University in Guangzhou.

Heyong Shen

Heyong Shen

Heyong Shen is a member of the International Association of Analytical Psychology, IAAP, and of the International Society for Sandplay Therapy. He is the president of newly formed C.G. Jung Institute of China, a developing group of the IAAP, and also the Dean of Institute of Analytical Psychology at the City University of Macau. With the support of IAAP, he was the leading organizer of the five Conferences on Analytical Psychology and Chinese Culture in Guangzhou in 1998, 2002, 2006, and those in Shanghai in 2009 and in Macao in 2012. He has authored several books on analytical psychology in Chinese, which he relates to the Chinese psychology of the "heart." He has also edited a series of translations into Chinese of books by Jung and Jungian authors.

Related Posts

Leave a comment