Unvelling Red Culture in Zhang Yimou’s Films Through a Semiotic Perspective


From "Red Sorghum" (1987) to "Full River Red" (2023), Zhang Yimou's illustrious career spanning over four decades has been marked by a distinct emphasis on color, particularly the vibrant shade of red. In Zhang Yimou's films, red transcends its role as a mere color, birthing a visual language that masterfully conveys his creative concepts. This study aims to redefine the signified of red within Zhang Yimou's cinematic repertoire, considering it as a pivotal element embedded within the traditional Chinese cultural and spiritual system. Employing case studies, historical analysis, and textual analysis, this research offers a nuanced interpretation of this aspect of Zhang Yimou's films by integrating the theories of film semiotics, psychoanalysis, visual culture, and feminism. By comparing and analyzing the utilization of red imagery across different countries' films, we highlight the paramount role of red in Zhang Yimou's works in the shaping of national and ethnic imagery and cultural identity. Ultimately, as a carrier of ideological texts, Zhang’s use of red must be understood within the socio-cultural fabric of the depicted periods, taking into account its meaning in the context of national propaganda. Engaging in a discourse with the intertextual relationship between the film's narrative and the socio-historical context, this study illuminates the gradual emergence of the cultural significance associated with the color red. By unraveling the rich tapestry of red culture in Zhang Yimou's films, we gain deeper insights into the profound implications and evocative power that this color exerts within the realm of cinematic storytelling.

Author Information
Fang Xie, Jiangsu Ocean University, China
Hao Zhang, Xihua University, China

Paper Information
Conference: KAMC2023
Stream: Film Studies

This paper is part of the KAMC2023 Conference Proceedings (View)
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To cite this article:
Xie F., & Zhang H. (2023) Unvelling Red Culture in Zhang Yimou’s Films Through a Semiotic Perspective ISSN: 2436-0503 – The Kyoto Conference on Arts, Media & Culture 2023: Official Conference Proceedings https://doi.org/10.22492/issn.2436-0503.2023.37
To link to this article: https://doi.org/10.22492/issn.2436-0503.2023.37

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Posted by James Alexander Gordon