What Do Pearls Symbolize In Chinese Culture?

In Chinese culture, pearls symbolize wealth, prosperity, and good luck. They are also seen as a symbol of wisdom. Pearls are believed to have the power to attract good fortune, and their spherical shape is seen as a representation of perfection and completeness. Additionally, pearls are associated with femininity, purity, and innocence and are often given as gifts for weddings and other special occasions. To discover more about pearls in Chinese culture, stick around to the end of this post.

What are Chinese pearls?


Chinese pearls, also known as freshwater pearls, are a type of pearl farmed in rivers and lakes in China. Unlike saltwater pearls, typically produced in the ocean and take years to form, freshwater pearls can be produced in as little as a few months. This has made them a popular and affordable alternative to other types of pearls. These pearls are also known for their unique and diverse range of shapes, colors, and sizes. They can range from perfectly round to baroque and can come in a variety of hues, including white, cream, pink, lavender, and even black. They are also known for their luster and iridescence, which can make them a striking and eye-catching addition to jewelry.

Chinese pearl history

When were pearls discovered in china?

The use of pearls in Chinese culture dates back thousands of years, with some of the earliest references to pearls found in ancient Chinese texts. Pearls were highly valued in ancient China and were often used to symbolize success and status. Emperors and high-ranking officials would wear pearl jewelry to show their power and wealth, and pearls were also given as gifts to symbolize luck and affluence.

In the 19th century, the Chinese began to farm freshwater pearls, which made them more accessible and affordable for the general population. The rise of freshwater pearls also led to a new tradition of pearl appreciation, with pearl exhibitions and contests becoming popular events.

During the Cultural Revolution in China, pearls fell out of favor and were seen as a symbol of the old, traditional way of life. However, in recent years, there has been a resurgence of interest in pearl culture, with the production of freshwater pearls once again thriving in China. Today, pearls continue to be a popular and highly valued gemstone in Chinese culture, with their symbolism and beauty still deeply appreciated.

Why Chinese pearls were invented

The invention of Chinese freshwater pearls was driven by a combination of factors, including a growing demand for pearls, advances in pearl farming techniques, and the availability of suitable freshwater habitats for mussels. The success of Chinese freshwater pearls soon led to the development of other freshwater pearl-farming industries around the world, making pearls more widely available and accessible to people everywhere.

Who discovered pearls?

The discovery of Chinese freshwater pearls is credited to Chinese pearl farmers in the late 19th century. These farmers were experimenting with cultivating pearls in freshwater mussels and discovered that they could produce pearls much more quickly and efficiently than in saltwater environments. The discovery of Chinese freshwater pearls revolutionized the pearl industry and made pearls more accessible to people worldwide.

What are Chinese pearls used for?

Chinese pearls

One of the most common uses for Chinese freshwater pearls is in jewelry, where they are often used to make necklaces, earrings, bracelets, and other accessories. In addition to jewelry, Chinese pearls are also used in various other applications, such as interior design, where they are used to decorate objects such as lamps, vases, and picture frames. They are also sometimes used in traditional Chinese medicine, as they are believed to have various healing properties. They are often given as gifts to mark special occasions, such as weddings and graduations.

Types of Chinese pearls

Some of the most common types of Chinese pearls include:

  • Round Pearls: These are the most classic and traditional pearl shapes and are highly prized for their symmetry and uniformity.
  • Baroque Pearls: These are irregularly shaped pearls that are prized for their unique and organic beauty.
  • Keshi Pearls: These are small, round pearls created as a byproduct of pearl cultivation and are highly valued for their luster and iridescence.
  • Coin Pearls: These are flat, round pearls that resemble coins and are often used in jewelry making and other decorative applications.
  • Biwa Pearls: These are large, irregularly shaped pearls found in freshwater mussels in the Biwa Lake region of Japan.

Pearl symbolism in Chinese culture

In Chinese culture, pearls are highly valued for their symbolic meaning. The Chinese word for pearl, “zhen zhu,” sounds similar to the word for “precious,” adding to the cultural significance of the gemstone. In traditional Chinese medicine, pearls are believed to alleviate skin and eye conditions. They are also used as a remedy for various ailments, such as indigestion and anxiety.

In Chinese folklore, pearls are often associated with the dragon, a symbol of power and good fortune. According to legends, dragons would bring pearls to the surface of rivers and lakes, and those who were lucky enough to find them were believed to be blessed with opulence.

How to tell a natural pearl from a cultured pearl

Natural pearls and cultured pearls are similar in appearance, but there are several key differences between the two that can help you tell them apart.

  • Shape: Natural pearls are often irregular in shape, whereas cultured pearls tend to be more uniform in shape.
  • Size: Natural pearls are typically smaller in size than cultured pearls, which can be grown to a much larger size.
  • Surface: Natural pearls tend to have more blemishes and imperfections on the surface compared to cultured pearls, which are often treated to improve their appearance.
  • Nacre thickness: The nacre (the iridescent layer covering the pearl) of natural pearls is often thicker than that of cultured pearls, giving them a more luminous and lustrous appearance.

If you are in doubt, a gemologist or other trained professional can help you determine the authenticity of a pearl.


Pearls hold a significant cultural meaning in Chinese society. They symbolize riches and success, and healing. Pearls are also associated with the dragon in Chinese folklore, further emphasizing their cultural significance. These gemstones are highly valued for their beauty and cultural significance. Overall, Chinese pearls are an essential part of the cultural heritage of China and continue to hold a special place in the hearts of the Chinese people.

1 thought on “What Do Pearls Symbolize In Chinese Culture?”

  1. Many thanks for your infirmative article.
    My sister was given a string of flat ended pink cultured pearls as a thank you some years ago.
    In our culture and younger days we were only used to very expensive pearls given rarely for extremly significant reasons.
    Today cultured round pearls are more common.
    We had never seen these flat ended pink pearls.
    From your article I understand that pearls of any value are given to those that you wish well , wish to thank, admire, etc.
    Regards CCR.
    NEW zealand.

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