Color Symbolism in Chinese Culture

RED (红)

Red, corresponding with fire, symbolizes good fortune, happiness and joy. It is the color worn by brides, since it is believed to be an auspicious color for warding off evil. Red also represents vitality, celebration and fertility in traditional Chinese color symbolism.
Red is found everywhere during Chinese New Year and other holidays and family gatherings. A red envelope is a monetary gift which is given in Chinese society during holiday or special occasions as birthdays.
Red is strictly forbidden at funerals as it is a traditionally symbolic color of happiness.
In modern China, red remains a very popular color and is affiliated with and used by the Government.
If you are doing business in China, make use of bit of red in marketing, but not too much.

WHITE 白

White stands for the metal element and also symbolizes purity, brightness and fulfilment.
White is also the color of mourning. It is associated with death and is used predominantly in funerals in Chinese culture. Ancient Chinese people wore white clothes and hats only when they mourned for the dead.
Be judicious in using white in marketing and avoid wrapping presents in White paper when gifting them to someone.

GREEN 绿色

Generally green is associated with health, prosperity, and harmony.
There is not much difference in between Western Symbolism associated with Green and that of it in Chinese traditions. Green is used to describe organic things.
Separately, green hats are associated with infidelity and used as an idiom for a cuckold. A “man said to wear a green hat” means he has an unfaithful wife.
Thus, green should be used carefully as it could symbolize something totally different.

GOLD 金色

Like in Western culture, Gold also symbolizes wealth and riches in China but it also represents completeness, metal, and God consciousness.
You can see this color everywhere during celebrations as Chinese New Year.
One can easily use it and related colors in their marketing materials (though too much of it could make things a bit gaudy and even cheap-looking).

BLACK 黑色

Black, corresponding to water, is a neutral color.
The Taiji symbol uses black and white to represent the unity of Yin and Yang. Ancient Chinese regarded black as the king of colors and honored black more consistently than any other color.
But, Black color in Chinese culture is also associated with destruction, evil, profundity, disasters, cruelty, sadness and suffering. It is bad fortune and must not be worn to auspicious occasions like weddings. The Chinese word for black is ‘hei’ which itself stands for bad luck, irregularity, illegality etc. Avoid using black in your brand marketing.

YELLOW 黄色

Yellow, corresponding with earth, is an imperial color representing power, royalty and prosperity. It mainly represents late summer and central direction.
It is considered the most beautiful and prestigious color. The Chinese saying, Yellow generates Yin and Yang, implies that yellow is the center of everything.
Yellow also represents freedom from worldly cares and is thus esteemed in Buddhism. Monks’ garments are yellow, as are elements of Buddhist temples. Yellow is also used as a mourning color for Chinese Buddhists.
Yellow is also symbolic of heroism, as opposed to the Western association of the color with cowardice.
Today, yellow is also symbolic of pornography in publications in China. So, do be careful when using yellow, particularly for brand marketing.

 

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