Culture Matters: Different Colors in Chinese Culture and What It Symbolizes

Tue, 08 Sep 2020

Different color embodies a different meaning all over the world, and China is no different. Colors are important to Chinese culture as they are endowed with profound meanings. You can’t simply give your Chinese colleague gifts without understanding the color implications behind it. 


Why does color matter that much in China? Known as a country abundant with culture, Chinese culture plays a significant role when it comes to associating symbolic or hidden meanings with colors. 


One prominent philosophy that became the basis of Chinese customs and beliefs is the Five Elements theory, which consists of metal, fire, water, wood, and air. The most popular colors in China correspond to these five elements.


Furthermore, in China, colors are heavily tied within every ceremony, ritual, or festival. There is a reason why Chinese people wear white for funeral and red during Chinese New Year. The same thing goes for what Chinese people believe as lucky colors and unlucky colors.


When you’re a foreigner wanting to work or study in China, learning the language alone won’t be enough. You also need to understand their culture. To help you, here we have provided an insight into different colors in Chinese culture and the meaning it implies.


Red - 红色 hóng sè

Corresponding with fire, red symbolizes joy, happiness, and good fortune. There is a reason why Chinese people celebrate Chinese New Year basking in red. There is a tradition to put money in a red envelope during special occasions or celebrations as well.


The color also represents vitality, fertility, and usually incorporated in Chinese brides’ dresses to ward off evil. 


Black - 黑色 hēi sè

Representing the water element, black color in Chinese is known as the king of colors. However, nowadays people perceive it as a symbol of grief, evil, and bad fortune. Therefore, it is forbidden to wear black to felicitous occasions such as birthday or wedding.


White - 白色 bái sè

Associated with death, white color in Chinese symbolizes mourning, purity, fulfillment, and brightness. It also corresponds to the metal element.


If you happen to be invited to a Chinese funeral in the future, make sure to wear white to respect the passing.


Before we head on, have you ever wondered how to pronounce the hanzi characters? Register to LingoTalk Chinese class through this link and get fluent in the language and culture in no time.


Yellow - 黄色 huáng sè

Representing the earth element, yellow is regarded as the symbol of good luck and neutrality, hence why you see a lot of red-yellow color combinations. It can also be understood as the color of power and prosperity since back in the Imperial days, the Emperor is always seen with yellow color.


If you want to attract good fortune and luck, you might want to incorporate more yellow in your life.


Blue - 蓝色 lán sè

The color of calmness, healing, and trust, blue brings a positive meaning to your life. It represents the wood element as well as the Spring season. 


When someone is using a blue color, Chinese people will immediately regard it as a way to induce growth and optimism in one’s life. You’ll often find blue color in Chinese people’s houses as their way to bring harmony and longevity into their home.


Green - 绿色 lǜ sè

Possessing a similar meaning both in Western and Chinese symbolism, green stands for harmony, growth, and eco-friendliness. Chinese culture, in particular, regards green as a representation of purity and cleanliness, away from dirt and contamination.


Chinese people also use green to describe organic things, for example saying “green milk” instead of organic milk and “green veggies” for pesticide-free vegetables.


Gold - 金色 jīn sè

Who doesn’t recognize this royal color? Used as a symbol of prosperity and fortune amongst Chinese people, gold is regarded as the most beautiful color in Chinese culture. You will often see it being combined with red since it possesses the same symbolism. 


Have you ever seen Buddhist temples and their gold statues? Gold also means freedom from worldly delights, hence representing a Buddhist way of life.


What Color Should You Wear When You Attend a Chinese Funeral?

You’re right, the answer is white since it represents purity, brightness, and fulfillment of life.


What about black? Can you wear black to a wedding?


Bingo, the answer is no. Black represents death and grief, which will create a bad omen if worn to a wedding.


Now, do you realize how important it is to immerse yourself in a culture in which language you’re learning?


Fortunately, in LingoTalk, you won’t only learn about the intricacies of the Chinese language, but also its wonderful, rich customs and beliefs. Accompanied by an array of fun, engaging tutors, LingoTalk provides conversation-focused classes that are specifically designed to achieve your goals.


To make it better, everything is conducted online, which means you can learn straight from the comfort of your home.


So, what are you waiting for? Sign up to LingoTalk language course and we’ll see you very soon in class!


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