The Art Symbolism of Colors in China – Understanding of Five Main Colors

May 16, 2012 by  Filed under: Advertising 

Throughout enriching history to today, colors pose great impacts to the existence of the Chinese people for their art symbolism and metaphoric functions. Their history can be traced back to about 2697 BC to 2598 BC when Huang Di was in power. At that period of time, the color yellow was greatly worshiped as it had the same pronunciation with Huang, and Huang Di was also known as Yellow Emperor for his army attached great importance to the value of yellow earth, the symbol of farming.

During the ruling period of Yellow Emperor, he made great contributions to his people as his tribe made silk weaving clothes, bronze coins, develop medicine, etc. At the last moment of his life, it was said that a yellow dragon appeared and set him off to the heaven with the invitation from God.

At that time, according to Chinese Feng shui, five elements including water, fire, wood, metal and earth were considered to govern life, and there are five colors corresponding to these five elements, mainly black, red, blue-green, white as well as yellow. These colors pose different meanings in Chinese’s life even to today.

1. Yellow is still regarded as a symbol of royalty. Although in different dynasties, different colors are designated for different official ranks, yellow is restricted to the emperor himself. Yellow is a noble color related to a higher social status. In addition, yellow is also a color dominating Buddhism. Therefore, it also refers to keeping away from worldly cares.

2. Red is usually related to happiness and joy, and it is a color for festival days. Indeed, red walls and yellow roof tiles are only allowed for the Emperor’s close relatives after the Ming Dynasty. For those who are of inferior social ranks, they can only live in their homes with blue bricks and roof tiles. Even to today, a large part of the houses are manufactured of black tiles as well as white walls.

3. Blue-green reminds people of Spring when everything is full of vitality. As a result, for people who want long life and harmony in the family would like to decorate their houses with blue-green colors.

4. White is a color of purity and unknown. On the contrary, it is also a color of death. Therefore, white is usually worn during a funeral or while summoning ghosts.

5. Black is a traditional color for clothes mainly because the color makes the wearer appear more sophisticated and slimmer.

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