Bridging West and East: C.G. Jung and Richard Wilhelm, A Fateful Relationship



In his Memorial Address for Richard Wilhelm in 1930, C.G. Jung recognized that his friend’s work had had a major effect on him: “… [from Wilhelm] the spark leapt across and kindled a light that was to become for me one of the most significant events of my life” (CW 15, para. 74). Further: “Indeed, I feel myself so very much enriched by him that it seems to me as if I had received more from him than from any other man” (ibid., para. 96). Jung’s great and abiding interest in Chinese thought was due to its reliance on the principle of synchronicity rather than causality, which became clear to him largely because of the work of Wilhelm, whom he met at the School of Wisdom in Darmstadt, Germany and immediately recognized as a kindred spirit. Jung’s fascination with the I Ching was fanned by Wilhelm’s translation of the Chinese classic, which appeared in German in the 1920’s. Largely because of Jung’s encouragement, the book was brilliantly translated into English by Cary Baynes, and with Jung’s endorsement and Foreword it became a worldwide best seller in the 1960’s. Jung felt that the West had much to learn from ancient Chinese wisdom, and he regarded Wilhelm and himself as partners in a mission: “Fate seems to have assigned us the role of being two pillars that support the weight of the bridge between East and West.”

Now, some eighty-two years after Wilhelm’s death, his filmmaker granddaughter, Bettina Wilhelm, has released a masterful documentary about his life and work. Wilhelm was a Christian missionary to China from 1899 to 1920, and he confessed that he had never baptized a single Chinese because he felt the mission of Christians was to meet people where they are and minister to their needs, not to convert them to a foreign religion. In fact, Wilhelm fell in love with classical Chinese culture and in addition to the I Ching, translated many other works of Chinese philosophy and religion into German and introduced Jung to ‘The Secret of the Golden Flower’, a meditation manual that sparked Jung’s interest in alchemy as a resource for depth psychology.

In this seminar, Murray Stein presents important information regarding the relationship between Jung and Wilhelm and the significance of Chinese texts on Jung’s thought. Bettina Wilhelm discusses her film and her experiences in creating it (seminar participants are strongly encouraged to view the film before the seminar). Shiuya Sara Liuh, who was born and educated in Taiwan, presents her reflections on “The Secret of the Golden Flower” and Jung’s commentary on this work. All will answer questions from the audience.


Murray Stein, Ph.D. is a training analyst and president of the International School of  Analytical Psychology in Zurich, Switzerland (ISAP Zurich). He is the author of The Principle of Individuation and many other books and articles in the field of Jungian Psychoanalysis. He is a founding member of the Inter-Regional Society of Jungian Analysts and Chicago Society of Jungian Analysts. From 2001 to 2004 he was president of the International Association for Analytical Psychology. He is a highly sought after international lecturer and presently makes his home in Switzerland.

Bettina Wilhelm, born in Shanghai, China now lives in Basel and Berlin. She received the Postgrad. Diploma in Film & TV from Middlesex Polytechnic, London.
She is Co-founder of the Berlin Transformtheatre and acts there as director, actress and producer.

Shiuya Sara Liuh, a licensed psychotherapist in Taiwan, has taught at Tunkung University Graduate School of Counseling Psychology and is the founder of Shiuli Memorial Foundation, which offers seminars and training programs in various psychotherapies in Taiwan. She is currently a candidate in analytic training at the International School of Analytical Psychology (ISAP) in Zürich, Switzerland. Her essay “Chinese Modernity and the Way of Return” will appear next year in the volume Why We (Still) Read Jung and How, edited by Jean Kirsch.

Learning Objectives:

  1. To discuss the life and work of Richard Wilhelm

  2. To describe the importance of Wilhelm’s work for Jung

  3. To explain a critical view of Wilhelm’s and Jung’s understanding of Chinese culture

  4. To analyze what Chinese philosophy can teach us about the human psyche

  5. To promote and encourage further research into the possible dialogue between Western and Eastern cultures.

Outline of Talk:

  1. On the Relationship between C.G. Jung and Richard Wilhelm, by Murray Stein, with Q & A.

  2. Discussion of the film, “Wisdom of Changes – Richard Wilhelm and the I Ching” by Bettina Wilhelm, with Q & A.

  3. Concerning Jung’s “Commentary on ‘The Secret of the Golden Flower’” by Shiuya Sara Liuh, with Q & A.


Jung, C.G., “Commentary on ‘The Secret of the Golden Flower,” CW 13.

Jung, C.G., “Richard Wilhelm: In Memoriam”, CW 15.

The I Ching or Book of Changes, translated by Richard Wilhelm with a Foreword by C.G. Jung.

Stein, M., “C.G. Jung and Richard Wilhelm: Pillars of the Bridge between Western and Chinese Cultures”.


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