The meaning of colors in Chinese culture

All the peoples of the world have their superstitions.

In the case of China, it could not be different: the question of sounds, and if two words have the same sound, and one of them is a ‘bad omen’ according to the Chinese, the other word fell out of favor!

The number four and the word death are examples of the famous; the buildings do not have the fourth floor, telephones with the number four are cheaper, the fourth doesn’t get married, and so on.

But in today’s text, we will explore the meaning of colors for Chinese culture.

The meaning of colors in Chinese culture

In the West, we also attribute ‘powers’ to colors, but what is intriguing about them is that the meanings in China are completely different.

The meaning of colors in Chinese culture

Based on Taoism, as well as medicinefeng shui, and other Chinese traditions, all part of the five elements, which are water, fire, wood, metal, and earth, in that order. 

Even the colors that, in the order above, correspond to black, red, blue and green (together), white and yellow

Chinese culture understands that colors feed the spirit and express the depth of human experience. 

Check it out below!

Red – Hongsè

The influence of the color red in Chinese culture is so strong that brides often wear red (even in western-style dresses) and babies wear ‘amulets’ and red clothes.

Red – Hongsè

The red color represents the notions of fortune, joy, brightness and summer

What is complicated is what color represents in our unconscious, with the meaning assimilated in the West, and what it represents in Chinese culture. 

Having to deal with this can create some confusion

For example, when shopping online and evaluating the product or the seller, the little red flower is the most beautiful, then the yellow one is not so happy, and finally the green one, all withered. In other words, the color red represents the highest standard of excellence, in contrast to the West, which generally evaluates from green (best evaluation) towards red (worst evaluation).

Yellow – Huangsè; Dourado – Jinsè

For the Chinese, yellow corresponds to the earth and is considered the most beautiful and prestigious color

Associated with, but classified above brown in ‘prestige’, yellow means neutrality and good luck. 

Yellow is combined with red in place of gold.

Yellow – Huangsè; Dourado – Jinsè

Kang Xi 康熙, second emperor of the Qing dynasty (1661-1722 AD). yellow represents the notions of empire, land and Chinese nationalism.

The Yellow was the color of Imperial China and is regarded as the symbolic color of the five legendary emperors of ancient China, decorating royal palaces, shrines, and temples. 

At the time of the Empire, only the emperor had the right to wear yellow in his clothes

Yellow also represents freedom from worldly things and is therefore used in Buddhism.

Blue – Lánsè; Green – Lüsè

In ancient China the colors green and blue were a ‘mixture’, grouped from blue to green under the name 青 (qing), which derives from the idea of ​​vegetables and represents nature and renewal, vigor, and vitality.

Blue – Lánsè; Green – Lüsè

Generally, green is associated with health, prosperity and harmony. 

However, in Chinese culture, the green cap represents infidelity and when used, it is ironically a sign of someone who has been betrayed by his partner.

Giving a Chinese person the traditional green caps of our football team is not a good idea.

White – Báisè
White – Báisè

For Chinese culture, white represents gold and symbolizes brightness, purity and fullness, but while in the West black is the official color of mourningin China this paper is white, associated with death and used predominantly in funerals

In the past, only white clothes and hats were worn when crying for the dead.

Black – Heisè

In China, black corresponding to water is a neutral color

The I Ching, or Book of Changes, considers black as the color of the sky. 

The Yin and Yang symbol uses black and white to represent unity. 

Before the Tang dynasty, black was considered to be the king of colors and honored more consistently than any other color.

Black – Heisè

This was even the color used in everything from clothes to utensils and until that time the Emperor had no exclusivity for the color yellow; he wore black. 

Today black is used like any other color, without the nobility, which lost to red, but also without the stigma of being the color of funerals.

The most important lesson here is that codes, signs, and habits are very specific to each culture

If they can completely change their meaning from the south to the north of Brazil, for example, imagine from Brazil to China.

Scroll to Top

Get a Quick Quote!