Colors are important in Chinese culture and some colors come with lucky meanings. For instance the three main colors considered lucky in people’s daily lives as well as on special occasions are red, yellow, and green.
However, it isn’t that simple.
Allegravita.com reports, “While every world culture has its own unique symbolism and taboos, it’s fair to say that the ancient and very complex Chinese culture is the big daddy of cultural symbolism. Highly resonant symbolic memes run so old and deep that it’s impossible to summarize them into one blog post, or even a hundred posts.”
Associated with but ranked above brown, yellow signifies neutrality and good luck. Yellow is sometimes paired with red in place of gold. Yellow was the emperor’s color in Imperial China and is held as the symbolic color of the five legendary emperors of ancient China.
Nations Online says, “Historically, people actually worshipped the color yellow during the reign of the legendary Chinese sage king, a chief deity of Taoism, Huang Di or Huang Ti, better known as the Yellow Emperor. He is the emperor that is said to be the ancestor of all Han Chinese people and is believed to have reigned around 2697 BC to 2598 BC.
“Huang Di was coined the name Yellow Emperor because his army tribe honoured the value of the ‘Yellow Earth’ which was the symbol of farming and the ‘Yellow River’ of the central land (China).”
Nations Online also lists the colors and what they mean. For instance, RED: “traditional bridal color, expansive, blooming, dynamic, enthusiastic, reaching upwards, good luck, celebration, happiness, joy, vitality, long life; red purple brings luck and fame, money, recognition, propriety, creativity, joy vs. over excitation.”
In the West, North America, and Europe, white is usually the traditional bridal color.
Today in China
“Yellow is still reserved for royalty. Clothing and objects that are yellow in color still resemble a higher social status. Although each dynasty designated each official rank with their own color, yellow is reserved for the emperor himself.
“The color yellow and its shades are also the main color of Buddhism; thus it represents being free from worldly cares.
“Red is still used for happiness and joy. In fact, after the Ming Dynasty, only the Emperor’s close relatives could have homes with red walls and yellow roof tiles. Peasants could only live in homes made with blue bricks and roof tiles. Today though, most houses are made of black tiles and white walls.
“Blue-green is still a symbol of spring when everything is filled with vigor and vitality. Therefore, someone that is hoping for longevity and harmony will decorate with blue-green colors.
“White is a symbol of the unknown and purity. The color white is used during the time of mourning, death, and during ghost festivals. Therefore Chinese people will wear white during a funeral or while summoning ghosts.
“Black is used as the symbol of winter and the westerly skies which behold the heavens. It is used for times of the unknown and for the winter months.”
Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.
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