09 November 2010

Colors in Chinese Culture

Colors also carry much superstition in China. The meaning of certain colors is completely different from their western interpretations.
Red (hóng)
Red is the cultural color of the Chinese people. It symbolises fire, vitality, happiness and celebration. It can be seen everywhere during Chinese New Year and other important holidays


Yellow (huáng)
Yellow is the color of beauty and nobility. I suppose this another instance of Sino-ethnocentrism, calling themselves a “yellow people” is like calling themselves beautiful. Yellow is a color of power and wealth because it is the color of gold, the Emperors throne was often decorated with yellow.


Green (綠 lǜ)
Green is the color of health, well being, springtime and harmony. Not too different from the west.


Blue (lán)
Blue is a symbol of immortality or long life.

Black (hēi)
Black in Chinese culture is very odd. In the west, black is associated with evil, darkness, and depression. But in China it is actually associated with water and heaven. In the I Ching, water corresponds with the color black.

Pink (粉紅 Fěnhóng) or just (粉 Fěn)
The characters literally mean “powder red”. Pink is not a gendered color in China. Pink is seen as a shade of red, which as stated above, is a good color.

White (白 Bái)
White is the color of death and mourning. Referring the paleness of a dead body. In contrast to the west were it is seen as a color of purity and innocence. Never I repeat NEVER wear white in China. White is only to be exhibited during a funeral and when mourning the dead.

In general, brighter colors are usually good (except for white). Darker colors tend to be neutral to negative in meaning.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          


  1. It's funny how colors take different connotations in different cultures. I'm going to see what my foreign friends say about colors in their home cultures.

  2. "calling themselves a “yellow people”"

    That's important for Westerners to note. They often assume that we, like them, think calling someone yellow is an insult. I've often seen well meaning Westerners declare East Asians are not yellow at all, thinking yellowness is something racist white people imposed on East Asians.

    For the Chinese, that couldn't be more wrong. Yellow skin is a fundamental part of our ethnic identity. To call us not yellow is like a slap in the face. I can't speak for other E. Asians since I dk what their cultures say about yelllow skin tone.

    1. I like your comment, but I am pretty sure most of 21 century Chinese wouldnt like to be called Yellow people.

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