Living authentically ~ Authentically living

EHI: The Literary Legacy of Existential Psychology: A Comparison of Lu Xun’s ‘Iron House’ and Rollo May’s ‘The Caged Man’

Presented by: Xuefu Wang, PhD

Date: Saturday, September 23rd, 2023

Time: 3:00 pm – 4:30 pm PDT /Sign in to waiting room at 2:45pm

Via Zoom

EHI’s International Existential Scholars Lecture Series

Overview and Description:

Imagine an iron house without windows, absolutely indestructible, with many people fast asleep insidewho will soon die of suffocation. But you know since they will die in their sleep, they will not feel the painof death. Now if you cry aloud to wake a few of the lighter sleepers, making those unfortunate fewsuffer the agony of irrevocable death, do you think you are doing them a good turn?

Lu Xun’s metaphor of the Iron House has very rich implications in terms of reflecting on Chinesehistory, society, and the Chinese psyche, which all have a deep relevance to feudalism. By thismetaphor, Lu Xun intends to bring forth the mental escapism deep-seated in the Chinese psyche ornational character. The metaphor can take various forms. For instance, the feudal history can be theiron house which manipulates or brainwashes people with so-called virtues and moralities. It can alsobe the psychological or mental symptoms people experience when they try to evade reality. It can bethe cultural backwardness that hypnotizes people. It can also be any of the forms whereinorganizations, groups, circles, parties, religions or all kinds of “isms” turn into a pursuit of self-interestand self-service while exploiting others. Dr. Wang will provide an analysis of Lu Xun’s Iron House bycontextualizing it within the Chinese culture from the perspective of Lu Xun’s Zhi Mian thinking as wellas the Zhi Mian approach to psychotherapy.

In comparison to Lu Xun’s Iron House, Dr. Wang will also explore Rollo May’s “the caged man”,originating from the story May wrote in his book, Mans Search for Himself. The story depicts anindividual being randomly selected by a king and put in a cage, which very possibly reflects on thehuman condition of living in an uncertain world and his psychological responses to the powers thathold sway over him – either those of uncertainty or of human manipulation – in a symbolic way. Theattitude of the individual with respect to encountering and responding to this manipulation of the kingreminds us of the dangers of and the responsibility to protect humanity from being alienated by thosein power. In a sense, it is a theme of human struggle to live as interconnected yet autonomoushumans rather than being alienated by destructive and decomposing powers.

Both Lu Xun and Rollo May are existential thinkers as well as existential literacy figures. They both usemetaphors to reflect on human existence. With Lu Xun’s reflection on the Chinese psyche or even theChinese nation as a whole, he advocates for the destruction of the Iron House to set people free to liveas individual humans with respect and dignity. Rollo May, in addressing the perspective of anindividual being persecuted by an alienating power, touches on a related fundamental theme ofhumanity.

Presentation Outline:

•    Lu Xun’s metaphor of the Iron House (handout and discussion)

•    Rollo May’s “The man who was put in a cage” (handout and discussion)

•    The allegory of the cave (handout and discussion)

•    Mental Escapism (Lecture: an introduction of Lu Xun, the background of the Iron House, the term ofmental escapism and its forms)

Who is This Workshop For?

Existential scholars, students, psychologists, MFTs, social workers, counselors, psychiatrists, nursepractitioners, and doctors are all encouraged to attend!

Our Presenter

Xuefu Wang, PhD Existential Scholar, Author and Psychotherapist

Dr. Xuefu Wang (China) is the founder and psychotherapist at Zhi Mian Institute for Psychotherapy, Nanjing. He has authored 13 books and numerous articles. In his extensive collaboration with existential psychologists across the world, especially in the US and UK, he has become a leading practitioner and promoter of existential psychology in China. He is an APA’s Charlotte and Karl Bühler Award recipient (2013).

Workshop Host: Existential-Humanistic Institute(EHI)

Existential-Humanistic Institute (EHI) offers trainings, workshops and education in Existential-Humanistic approaches to psychotherapy. Formed in 1997, EHI continues to offer experiential trainingretreats, certificate programs, workshops, consultation groups, theory courses and communitygatherings in the Bay Area with the goal of supporting existentially and humanistically informedpsychologies and psychotherapies: approaches that focus on and nurture subjective experientialreflection of life’s deepest joys and predicaments.


There is a required waiver for attending and participating in this workshop due to both the topic andthe format. This workshop in general, and the break-out groups in particular, will include experientialexercises that might be more likely to evoke emotional – including difficult emotional – reactions thanjust presentational techniques.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who is this workshop for? Interested scholars, students, therapists, psychologists, MFTs, social workers,counselors, psychiatrists, nurse practitioners, and doctors are all invited!

How do I get my Zoom link? We will not send a specific Zoom link – we will send you specific instructions to join.

Does this workshop have CEs?  This presentation will not be a continuing education event. EHI can provide adocumentation of attendance upon request for those who attend the full presentation- but will not be providingcontinuing education credit.

How do I get Zoom or a Zoom Account? Visit the Zoom Download page here to find the app/client that is right foryour device.

What if I have difficulty? We will have some tech help in the Zoom Chat on the days of the workshop. Please textMichelle at 415-689-1475 for assistance!

I cannot seem to register, is there a tip? Try in this order: 1) select the number of tickets you would like topurchase and 2) initial for the waiver, then 3) put in discount code if you have one. These need to be completedbefore continuing on to put in your info. Email us if you have difficulty: Michelle at

Do I need to give you my real email address? Will I get spam?  You do need to give a real email address asthat is how you will get your Registration Confirmation with access to the Event page or communication aboutContinuing Education. No Spam! We will send you only reminder emails, thank you discount codes, and emailsfrom us about upcoming events- but those will be created and initiated by us not the ticketing service. We will nevershare your info with a third-party.

I seem to be having difficulty registering with my card, is there another option? Yes, of course, we will findanother way to get you a ticket! Please email Michelle at to make other paymentarrangements.

For more information or to register for this event, please visit:


Sep 23 2023


3:00 pm - 4:30 pm