Chinese Colors and Meanings
Do you think knowing Chinese Colors and their meanings is important?
To my horror, everything on the screen was marked red!
I asked him “gǔshì bēngkuìle ma?” (股市是否崩溃?) Is the stock market crashing?
He turns to me laughing “hóngsè hěn hǎo”( 红色很好).
“Red is good” – Anonymous Commuter
Chinese Colors and their meanings
One way you could really impress your Chinese colleagues is to show off your understanding of Chinese colors and meanings. Also when buying your Chinese partner any gifts it’s probably a good idea to know lucky Chinese colors and unlucky Chinese colors.
Let’s go through them now:
Black in Chinese – 黑色 hēi sè
Black colour in Chinese represents water. Ancient Chinese people regarded black as the king of colors. Today, Chinese culture associates it with evil and sadness.
It represents bad fortune and must not be worn to auspicious occasions like weddings and funerals.
The Chinese word for black is ‘hei’ which stands for bad luck, irregularity, and illegality.
Maybe don’t wear that really cool black shirt on a first date with a Chinese person.
White in Chinese – 白色 bái sè
Here is something you should definitely know before you attend a Chinese funeral.
Wear White! White is the color of mourning and is associated with Death.
White color in Chinese is also associated with metal, representing brightness, purity and fulfilment.
Quick before you read on. Why not learn how to speak all these colors in our new HOW TO series on Youtube?
Red in Chinese – 红色 hóng sè
Red not surprisingly corresponds with fire. It symbolises good fortune and joy.
You’ll see red everywhere during Chinese New Year.
Warning: do not write names in red ink!
In ancient times, a death row criminal’s name was written in chicken blood, later this evolved to being written in red ink.
Some people use red ink in a break-up letter, a curse for someone to die, or the news that a friend or relative has passed away. So just stick with your black and blue pens for your love letters.
Pink in Chinese – 粉色 fěn sè
Pink is considered to be a shade of red. Thus holds all the same meanings of good fortune and joy.
Fun fact: In Chinese society, during holiday or special occasions they exchange a red envelope with money inside.
The red color of the envelope symbolizes good luck and is a symbol to ward off evil spirits.
Green in Chinese – 绿色 lǜ sè
Does your business sell green hats?
Well, I’ve got some bad news if you’re hoping to break into the Chinese market. Starting in the Yuan Dynasty (1279–1368) family members of prostitutes were forced to wear green hats.
Today, if you see someone wearing a green hat they wish for you to know their partner had been unfaithful.
Aside from the odd green hat rule. Green in Chinese otherwise stands for clean and contamination free and is used on organic products.
Yellow in Chinese – 黄色 huáng sè
Yellow in Chinese represents the element of earth.
Yellow signifies neutrality and good luck and that’s why it’s common to see it paired with red.
Yellow in China traditionally symbolised power, royalty and prosperity. In Imperial China, yellow was the Emperor’s color.
Warning! Today, yellow is symbolic of pornography in publications in China.
Try to use as little yellow in your publications to avoid the wrong crowds reading your articles.
Blue in Chinese – 蓝色 lán sè
Despite Chinese people’s feelings on blue cheese (see video)…
Blue in Chinese represents healing, trust and calmness.
Ironically, we lost all trust with our Chinese teachers after making them do this.
Blue in China represents wood and also symbolizes spring, immortality and advancement.
Purple in Chinese – 紫色 zǐ sè
Purple in China represented divinity and immortality in ancient times.
That is still true to this day.
Today purple in Chinese is more associated with love or romance particularly with younger generations.
Gray in Chinese – 灰色 huī sè
Grey in Chinese symbolises humbleness and unassumingness.
In ancient times, ordinary people wore grey clothes and had grey houses.
Today, Grey in Chinese can be used to describe something dark, tarnished or represent gloomy weather and emotions.
Olympic Colors in Chinese
China has come a long way since Xu Haifeng won the nation’s first ever gold medal in the 1984 Olympics’ ’50m pistol’ shooting event. The olympic medal colors, however, have a much longer history in China. Read on to find out to say these colors and find out about their significance through China’s history.
Gold in Chinese – 金色 jīn sè
Gold is traditionally the color of prosperity and fortune in China.
You will often see it paired with red for special occasions and gifts. Yellow or Gold is traditionally considered the most beautiful in Chinese culture.
Gold also represents freedom from worldly cares which is why it is also often used in Buddhist temples.
Gold represents the color of a winning Olympian!
Silver in Chinese – 银色 yín sè
Silver is generally considered to be part of the ‘white’ family of colours.
It symbolises the idea of purity and wealth.
In Chinese the word for this color is literally 银 “silver” 色 “color”.
Silver represents a 2nd placed finish for an Olympian.
Bronze in Chinese – 古铜色 gǔ tóng sè
As in English, the word for Bronze color refers directly to the metal that inspired the name.
In Chinese the word for Bronze is 古 “ancient” 铜 “metal” 色 “color”.
In museums across China you can find many ancient Chinese tools, pots and other artefacts made out of the metal.
Bronze represents the 3rd placed finish for an Olympian.
More Obscure Colors in Chinese
Maybe your thinking of sprucing up your Hutong apartment by giving it a lick of paint or choosing a vibrant new wallpaper. Or perhaps you just like talking about things with a certain amount of precision.
If so, you might want to learn the words for some of these extra, more obscure colors in Chinese. Of course there’s a whole catalogue of color names to get through, but here are some to start off your rainbow journey:
Azure in Chinese / Saffron in Chinese
Turquoise in Chinese / Cerise in Chinese
Maroon in Chinese / Lilac in Chinese
Tan in Chinese / Indigo in Chinese
Beige in Chinese / Violet in Chinese
Chinese Colors – FAQ’s
Gold in Chinese is 金色 jīn sè.
Red is. Red symbolises fortune and joy and is seen widely across China, not least the Chinese flag. Red in Chinese is 红色 hóng sè.
Black represents bad fortune and must not be worn to auspicious occasions like weddings and funerals.
Yes they do. White is the color of mourning and is associated with Death. Something very important to note in Chinese culture if you happen to ever go a Chinese funeral.
Wearing a green hat is something you should avoid at all costs. Here is why. Starting in the Yuan Dynasty (1279–1368) family members of prostitutes were forced to wear green hats. Even to this day, if someone is seen wearing a green hat, you might be thought of in ways you least expected!
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