Colors hold deep cultural significance in various societies, and China is no exception. Among the vibrant palette of Chinese cultural symbolism, the color red stands out as one of the most prominent and meaningful. From celebrations to daily life, red has been woven into the fabric of Chinese traditions for centuries, representing a multitude of concepts and emotions. In this article, we delve into the rich symbolism of the color red in Chinese culture, exploring its diverse meanings and the significant roles it plays in various aspects of Chinese society.
Red is a primary color that falls on the visible light spectrum with a wavelength range of approximately 620-750 nanometers. It is often described as a warm color and is commonly associated with feelings such as passion, love, energy, and power. Red is a vibrant and attention-grabbing color that can evoke strong emotions and create a sense of urgency or excitement.
In terms of color psychology, red is known to increase heart rate and stimulate the senses. It can convey both positive and negative meanings depending on the context and cultural associations. For example, in many Western cultures, red is often associated with love and romance, while in some Eastern cultures, it can symbolize luck and prosperity.
Red is widely used in various contexts, including art, design, branding, and communication. It is frequently employed to draw attention, create focal points, and evoke specific emotions. From traffic signs to warning labels, red is commonly used to indicate danger or alertness due to its ability to capture attention quickly.
Furthermore, red is often used symbolically in different cultural and religious contexts. For example, in Christianity, red can represent the blood of Christ or the Holy Spirit. In Chinese culture, red is associated with luck, joy, and celebration, particularly during important festivals such as Chinese New Year.
Overall, red is a powerful and versatile color that carries diverse meanings and influences human perception and emotions in various ways.
types of Chinese Reds
In Chinese culture, different shades and types of red are used to convey specific meanings and symbolize various aspects of life. Here are some of the notable types of Chinese reds:
Vermilion red, known as “Zhūshā” in Chinese, is a vivid and bright red color with orange undertones. It has been traditionally used in Chinese art, calligraphy, and lacquerware. Vermilion red is associated with vitality, good luck, and prosperity.
Imperial red, also known as “Palace Red” or “Gong Red,” is a deep, rich red color. It was historically reserved for the exclusive use of the Chinese imperial family and symbolized power, authority, and royalty. Imperial red is often seen in the architectural elements of imperial palaces, including doors, walls, and pillars.
Chinese Lacquer Red:
Chinese lacquer red, also called “Cinnabar Red” or “Lacquerware Red,” is a glossy and vibrant red color derived from the sap of the cinnabar tree. It has been used for centuries in traditional Chinese lacquerware, furniture, and decorative arts. Chinese lacquer red represents auspiciousness, longevity, and prosperity.
Lucky red, also known as “Jíhóng” in Chinese, is a bright, auspicious shade of red commonly associated with celebrations, festivals, and weddings. It symbolizes good luck, joy, and happiness. Lucky red is prevalent during Chinese New Year, where it is believed to bring fortune and ward off evil spirits.
Communist red, also referred to as “Party Red” or “Revolutionary Red,” is associated with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). It is a bold, vibrant red color that symbolizes revolution, socialism, and the struggle for equality. The red flag of the CCP became an iconic symbol during the revolution and remains an emblem of the party’s ideology.
Wedding red is a specific shade of red commonly used in traditional Chinese wedding ceremonies. It represents love, happiness, and the beginning of a new chapter in a couple’s life. Wedding red is seen in various elements of the wedding, including the bride’s dress, invitations, and decorations.
These are just a few examples of the different types of reds used in Chinese culture. Each shade carries its own significance and is employed in specific contexts to convey cultural, social, and symbolic meanings.
what is Red China called?
The various names for different shades of red in Chinese are:
Pink: Also known as “fěn hóng,” it can be further divided into shades like “fēi sè,” “yáng fēi sè,” “xiāng fēi sè,” and “fēi hóng sè.”
Other common terms: Deep Red, Water Red, Orange Red, Light Pink, Salmon Red, Crimson, Fresh Red, Burgundy, Rosy Red, Garnet Red, Wine Red, Ruby Red, and so on.
Red in Chinese culture
In China, there is a cultural phenomenon known as “Red Culture.” For example, during the Spring Festival, the color red can be seen everywhere. People hang red lanterns, red couplets, and window decorations. They give red envelopes with money to the elderly and children. People wear new red clothes and make various types of red-colored rice cakes. During weddings, there are large red wedding canopies, red wedding attire, and red bridal sedan chairs. During other festive occasions, red banners and arches are set up. In short, red is an essential element in Chinese festive celebrations, and these joyous occasions are often referred to as “red events.”
Each color carries its own symbolic meanings. For example, white represents purity and cleanliness, while black represents seriousness and calmness. Every country also has its representative color. In Chinese history, red has always been significant. It represents auspiciousness, prosperity, and happiness. Red is often used in major life events, and it is a common color during the Spring Festival.
Origins of Red:
Red is vibrant, eye-catching, and exudes endless energy. It represents passion, which is reflected in idioms such as “passionate as fire.” At times, red can also represent anger, making it a frequently used color in film and television to depict characters’ emotions. Red is commonly associated with joy and is often used in wedding ceremonies. It is also the color of the Chinese national flag, representing dignity and catching people’s attention.
Red during the Spring Festival:
In contemporary times, red symbolizes prosperity, joy, and good luck during the Spring Festival. Behind the preference for red during this festival lies a legend about the Nian beast, which was afraid of the color red. To ward off the Nian beast, people started using red couplets and hanging red lanterns. Over time, red came to represent auspiciousness, peace, and many other positive meanings.
Red also symbolizes harmonious family life and prosperous careers. In traditional Chinese weddings, red is the predominant color. Both the bride and groom wear red attire, and the house is decorated in red, symbolizing a joyful and auspicious life together. Although red wedding attire has gradually been replaced by Western-style white wedding dresses, the positive symbolism of red remains deeply ingrained in Chinese culture and is unlikely to change.
Overall, red plays a significant role in Chinese culture, symbolizing joy, prosperity, happiness, and harmony. It is associated with various celebrations and is deeply embedded in the cultural fabric of the country.
Red, as a cultural totem and spiritual devotion of the Chinese people, traces its origins back to the ancient worship of the sun god.
The sun symbolizes eternity, brightness, vitality, prosperity, warmth, and hope. Chinese red represents the soul of the Chinese people. The evolution of the tradition of valuing red reflects the journey of the Chinese people’s hearts. Passed down through generations, it has been refined, deepened, and adapted, gradually becoming the underlying color of Chinese culture. It embodies an indelible positive attachment to the world, symbolizing enthusiasm, progress, and unity as national characteristics. Chinese red assimilates the most vibrant elements of the morning sun, captures the most dazzling radiance of the evening glow, condenses the intense heat of a blazing fire, incorporates the most concentrated and active ingredients of blood, and is infused with the most mature imagery of autumn maple leaves. Chinese red (also known as crimson) is the bright red among the three primary colors, from which the Chinese red color series is derived: delicate pomegranate red, deep date red, luxurious cinnabar red, plain pottery red, weathered rust red, bright cherry red, bright rouge red, shy crimson, and warm orange red. Chinese red, along with blue and white, azure yellow, locust green, Great Wall gray, ink black, and jade white, forms a colorful traditional color landscape of China. Chinese red signifies peace, auspiciousness, joy, fortune, longevity, dignity, harmony, reunion, success, loyalty, bravery, prosperity, romance, sensuality, warmth, richness, and subtlety. It also represents smoothness in all endeavors, warding off diseases and disasters, turning bad luck into good fortune, and promoting the abandonment of evil and the promotion of good.
From the red walls and gates of the ancient mansions to red wooden chests and cabinets, from a child’s close-fitting bellyband to weddings with Chinese red as the theme, from zodiac belts and tassels on jade pendants to the festive clothing and peaches of the birthday star, from the red cloth strips hanging on the lintels during a child’s full month celebration to the “Full Moon Cake” made for the occasion, from the embroidered balls on the dragon lanterns to the ornaments of gongs and drums, from the red head ropes and sachets of young girls to the dancing silk ribbons of yangko, from the ribbon-cutting ceremonies for grand openings to the greeting cards for New Year’s wishes, from the ink seals engraved with authority to the embroidered banners recording merits, from lanterns hanging during Chinese New Year celebrations to the Spring Festival couplets, inverted fu (福) characters, and window decorations posted in every household, from the “lucky money” red envelopes given during the Lunar New Year to the firecrackers that bid farewell to the old and welcome the new, from the famous “red, green, and yellow” Tang Sancai pottery to the renowned “Ji Hong” porcelain of Jingdezhen… Chinese red, based on agricultural culture and centered around the concept of family, deeply embedded in the souls of the Chinese people through countless generations of influence, has become a well-deserved protective talisman for anchoring and guiding one’s life, guarding the ideal territory of the unity of Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism.
what does Red symbolize in China?
Red represents passion, liveliness, and assertiveness. It can easily inspire courage but also provoke anger and exhibit intense emotional fluctuations. In Western culture, it symbolizes sacrifice and warfare, while in Eastern culture, it represents auspiciousness, optimism, and celebration. Red can also carry a warning connotation. It evokes a warm sense of color, characterized by a strong and extroverted personality. It is a highly stimulating color that captures attention and can make people excited, nervous, and impulsive. In traditional Chinese culture, red corresponds to the element of fire in the Five Elements theory and is associated with the Li hexagram in the Eight Trigrams system. In Chinese mythology, the Vermilion Bird, one of the Four Symbols, is associated with the color red, representing auspiciousness. Red is often used to decorate celebrations in Chinese culture, symbolizing joyous occasions. Different shades of red convey different meanings:
Bright Red: Festivity, auspiciousness, liveliness, and eye-catching. In China, fireworks are often bright red and produce loud sounds. After they are set off, the ground is covered in red paper, creating a festive atmosphere and symbolizing the hope for a “red and prosperous” future.
Deep Red: Passion, maturity, depth, and warmth. Deep red is obtained by reducing the brightness of the original red color. It creates a darker and more melancholic atmosphere, conveying a sense of stability, maturity, and nobility.
Peach Red: Enthusiasm, freedom, generosity, and vibrancy. A slightly deeper shade of pink than light pink, peach red symbolizes feminine passion. Compared to the romance of pink, peach red is a more carefree and generous color.
Pink: Gentleness, tenderness, elegance, and romance. Pink is a color created by mixing red and white and is often described as a light shade of red. It symbolizes gentleness, sweetness, romance, and a stress-free state. Pink has the ability to soften aggression and soothe restlessness.
is Red a lucky color in China?
Yes, red is considered a lucky color in China. It is associated with joy, prosperity, and good fortune. In Chinese culture, the color red is believed to ward off evil spirits and bring luck and happiness. It is commonly used during festivals and celebrations, such as Chinese New Year and weddings, to symbolize good luck and blessings. Red envelopes with money are also given as gifts during these occasions. Additionally, red is associated with positive qualities such as vitality, success, and celebration, making it a highly auspicious color in Chinese tradition.
Why Is Red A Lucky Colour In China?
From the perspective of primitive society, red is considered an auspicious and warding-off-evil color, and this belief has existed since ancient times. Red is associated with the sun, blood, and fire. Despite the changing times, the significance of red has remained unchanged. In traditional Chinese culture, red is used to enhance festive occasions, such as pasting red couplets during the New Year, the bride’s red wedding attire, red candles, and the red list for scholars. Regardless of when or where, people always use red to add joy and celebration. According to Chinese tradition, red is the first lucky color. According to an ancient legend, there used to be a wild beast called “Nian” that would invade every year. Eventually, a child blinded the beast’s eyes with red cloth and scared it away with firecrackers. Similar to the traditions of the Chinese New Year, red represents celebration and also carries the meaning of warding off evil spirits. This is a continuation of customs and the transmission of culture.
Whenever it comes to the Year of the Zodiac, there is a popular belief in Chinese folklore that wearing red is auspicious. Red is a color deeply loved by people, and from the perspective of feng shui, it is considered highly propitious as it can ward off negative influences. Every 12 years, individuals will encounter their own Year of the Zodiac, providing enough time to take appropriate measures.
Under normal circumstances, when the lunar New Year begins at midnight on the first day of the first lunar month, one can prepare red clothing in advance for the coming year. Red clothing is not limited to just garments; it can also include red strings, red socks, and even red undergarments. It is recommended to wear 1 to 2 red items, but not necessarily every day. One crucial point to note is that wearing red can be done in advance, but it should not be delayed, as it may not have the desired effect.
During the Year of the Zodiac, there are several things to be mindful of when wearing red. Throughout the entire year, it is essential to ensure that there is always red clothing on the body, whether it’s red socks, red underwear, or a red belt. Every day, it is necessary to wear at least one red item. If wearing red every day seems troublesome, one can opt for a red wristband to be worn continuously for the entire year, removing it only after the Year of the Zodiac is over. While wearing the red wristband, it is important to avoid staining it and keep it close to the body to achieve the desired effect of turning bad luck into good luck.
Red in Chinese history
Since the birth of human civilization, “red” has been defined as a symbol with special significance and has been widely used in various aspects of life. The ancient “Chinese red” carries the historical and cultural heritage of the Chinese nation for thousands of years, playing an extraordinary role in philosophy, religion, history, art, systems, and folk customs. As society develops and people’s thinking progresses, red has not been phased out by history but has instead played an even more important role on the stage of history, actively participating in various domains of social life. This article traces the development of “red culture” over five thousand years from a historical perspective, allowing us to appreciate the ancient charm of the East.
Use of red in primitive society
The Neolithic Age’s painted pottery culture is the earliest observable “red culture” with physical evidence. The “Yangshao culture” is particularly representative in this regard. In 1921, a batch of painted pottery was unearthed in Yangshao Village, Henan Province, exhibiting red and black colors. These colors were formed by the solidification of hematite pigments and manganese compounds through high-temperature firing. This solidified color remains unchanged over time and is not affected by external environmental changes. Similarly, the colored pottery in the “Qingliangang culture” in Huai’an County, Jiangsu Province, was also formed through the high-temperature firing of iron oxide and manganese oxide. Therefore, the colored pottery we see today is no different from the ancient ones. However, this color was not artificially created and cannot accurately reflect the preferences of the early people for colors.
The Pre-Qin period includes the Xia, Shang, and Western Zhou dynasties, as well as the Spring and Autumn and Warring States periods. As early as the Shang and Zhou periods, the slave system in China had gradually been established. With the development of social production and technology, people had higher demands for daily necessities and ceremonial objects. To meet the extravagant lifestyle of the aristocratic slave owners, bronze wares, carvings, lacquerware, textiles, and pottery making all experienced significant advancements in the field of arts and crafts.
During the Western Zhou period, the hierarchical system of the slave system was very strict, and colors were used as important symbols. The theory of the Five Colors had already formed during this period, stipulating that blue, red, white, black, and yellow were the five main colors, representing the east, south, west, north, and center directions, respectively. The five colors not only symbolized directions but also represented the nobility of royal authority. The prescribed colors were used in ceremonial costumes and strictly followed in rituals. In addition, a position called “dyer” was specifically designated in the Zhou Dynasty, requiring all kings, nobles, ministers, and the people to dress according to the regulations.
The color techniques and applications during the Western Zhou period were already recorded in texts. The “Kaogongji” records the application of red during this period. According to the “Kaogongji,” “In the work of drawing patterns, the colors used are mixed…red and black are used side by side; as for dyeing, spring uses the tan color, summer uses light red, autumn dyes to red, and winter presents merit; three times of entering is called ‘xun,’ four times is called ‘zhu.'” By this time, people had already mastered the extraction and dyeing techniques of mineral and plant dyes, including various shades of red such as red and light red.
The production of lacquerware during the Shang and Zhou dynasties had reached a high level. During the Warring States period, the variety of lacquerware increased, with red patterns being predominantly painted on a black background. Brocade weaving also achieved great artistic accomplishments, with colors such as vermilion red, dark red, brown, gold, and yellow being used.
Qin and Han Dynasties
During the Qin and Han dynasties, China entered the feudal society, maintaining a centralized and unified state. Murals became popular in palaces during this period, and red was widely used in the murals found in the Qin palace site and the Western Han Prince Liang’s tomb chamber. These murals featured red-colored horses, clothing in bright red, and images painted in vermilion red. The painted silk scrolls unearthed from the Mawangdui tombs in Changsha are particularly remarkable. The figures, animals, and various deities depicted in the paintings are lifelike, with a brown base color and a flat application of mineral pigments such as cinnabar. The decorative style of the paintings is rich, showcasing the development of decorative arts.
During the Qin and Han dynasties, with the large-scale cultivation of dyeing plants, dyeing techniques became more mature, resulting in rapid advancements in weaving, embroidery, printing, and dyeing techniques. The vibrant colors, including cinnabar red, found in the colored silk and other textiles unearthed from the Mawangdui Han tombs are still vivid to this day.
Han dynasty lacquer paintings became more colorful, with common methods including outlining red patterns on a black base and applying flat red, yellow, green, and gold colors.
Due to the aging of many practical colors from the Han dynasty, their colors have deteriorated. Many Han tombs have experienced changes in storage conditions and fluctuations in the temperature of the burial chambers, resulting in rapid color degradation and fading, making them difficult to study.
Wei, Jin, and Northern and Southern Dynasties
During the Wei, Jin, and Northern and Southern Dynasties, political power was fragmented, and ethnic minority invasions occurred in the Central Plains. Although this caused some damage to the socio-economic aspects, it promoted the exchange between Central Plains culture and minority cultures, injecting fresh vitality into Chinese culture.
Firstly, painting art experienced new developments, with famous painters and artworks gaining prominence. The most influential works include Gu Kaizhi’s “Admonitions of the Instructress to the Court Ladies,” “Illustrations of the Goddess of Luo,” and “Biographies of Exemplary Women: Virtue and Wisdom.” Although the scrolls may have become old and yellowed, the bright red clothing worn by the characters in the paintings still captivates with its vibrant appearance.
Secondly, Buddhism spread from the Western Regions to China. Combined with the prolonged periods of war and the hardships endured by the people, the Buddhist concept of “enduring humiliation in the sea of suffering and attaining enlightenment in the next life” resonated with the masses. As a result, grottoes, pagodas, and temples with Buddhist themes gradually emerged, with the Dunhuang Mogao Grottoes being the most famous. The murals in these caves primarily portrayed the concept of asceticism and were often adorned with rich and intense colors such as red, brown, white, black, and green, reflecting a strong sense of decoration.
Thirdly, due to prolonged conflicts in the northern region, silk weaving gradually declined, while Sichuan and Henan provinces experienced rapid development in silk production, with “Shu brocade” being the most famous. The use of red colors still primarily consisted of bright red and vermilion red.
Lastly, dyeing and printing technologies continued to develop during the Wei, Jin, and Southern and Northern Dynasties. One of the red dyes, safflower, was increasingly cultivated from the west to the east, gradually replacing madder.
Sui and Tang Dynasties
The Sui and Tang Dynasties marked the end of more than 300 years of division and brought about national unity and economic and cultural prosperity. The Tang Dynasty, in particular, witnessed frequent exchanges of economic and cultural ideas between China and foreign countries. It was the most glorious period of feudal society in China and had a profound influence on Chinese and even world culture. The Sui and Tang Dynasties saw advancements in sculpture, craftsmanship, architecture, painting, calligraphy, literature, and other art forms.
In Tang Dynasty painting, portrait painting and paintings of beautiful women became extremely popular. Representative works include Yan Liben’s “Procession of the Imperial Chariot” and Wu Daozi’s “Spring Outing of the Lady of Guo” and “Sending Off the Heavenly King.” These paintings are full of vitality, portraying emperors with extraordinary dignity and women with graceful charm. They are rich in colors, emphasizing decorative elements.
Decorative murals thrived during the Tang Dynasty and covered a wide range of themes, including Buddhism, royal hunting and outings, rituals, and games. The murals showcased rich and diverse colors, with an increase in the variety of red tones. In addition to bright red, vermilion, and dark red, new shades such as cinnabar, silver-red, and deep red were introduced. This not only reflected the prosperity of society but also demonstrated advancements in dye-making and printing techniques.
Porcelain in the Sui and Tang Dynasties was dominated by celadon and white porcelain. Additionally, Tang Sancai (tri-colored) pottery and painted porcelain were also prominent. The colors included green, white, brown, deep red, and bright red.
Silk weaving and dyeing techniques reached a high level of sophistication during the Tang Dynasty, and the products were exported both domestically and overseas. The imperial court established specialized departments for the textile industry to promote its development. More than 30 types of dyes were used in the Tang Dynasty, and in addition to traditional dyes like madder and safflower, red dyes were imported from foreign countries, such as the Suwood dye for red coloring.
Five Dynasties, Song, and Yuan Dynasties
During the Five Dynasties, Song, and Yuan periods, due to the luxurious lifestyles of the royal nobility, palaces, temples, and everyday objects were decorated elaborately. Emperors had a great passion for painting and calligraphy and established imperial gardens, while literati and officials also engaged in painting. Commercial paintings became prevalent. Decorative murals, ceramics, and textile printing and dyeing also achieved remarkable achievements.
In this period, painting transitioned from the earlier “coloring according to categories” to a more expressive style of “ink-wash painting,” emphasizing the portrayal of artistic conception. Scenery featuring green mountains, rivers, ink bamboo, and ink flowers became popular, while the use of red gradually diminished.
The Song Dynasty was renowned for its porcelain worldwide. Yue ware’s celadon and Jingdezhen’s white porcelain were particularly exquisite and famous. Jun ware also had a significant influence with its unique artistic effects. The firing process of Jun ware was distinct, with the addition of copper molecules in the glaze and a high-temperature reduction atmosphere, resulting in a unique purplish-red kiln color. The colors were incredibly diverse, including begonia red, rose purple, and purplish-red. In the Yuan Dynasty, porcelain included celadon, white porcelain, blue and white porcelain, and underglaze red. Among them, the underglaze red from Jingdezhen was particularly representative. It was a new variety of porcelain created in the Yuan Dynasty, painted with copper pigment on a white porcelain body and fired at high temperatures, presenting a bright red color.
In terms of silk weaving, Song brocade craftsmanship was the most exquisite. Song brocades featured elegant and delicate colors, with a wide variety of patterns, including red group flower brocade, true red brocade, and inverted immortal peony brocade. In the Yuan Dynasty, the invention of the gold-woven brocade brought about a rich and elegant color palette.
During the Song and Yuan periods, with the increase in the variety of dyes and advancements in printing and dyeing techniques, the range of red colors also expanded. Red color categories included bright red, peach red, flesh red, amaranth red, fallen leaf red, jujube red, dark red, plum red, gardenia red, rouge red, small red, and everlasting red.
Ming and Qing Dynasties
The Ming and Qing Dynasties were in the late stage of feudal society in China, during which there were significant changes in social, political, economic, and cultural aspects due to the emergence of capitalist tendencies. Chinese arts and crafts in this period were influenced by both Western scientific concepts and artistic ideas, bringing new elements to the realm of Chinese color art.
The prosperous urban economy and flourishing overseas trade during the Ming Dynasty contributed to the thriving porcelain industry of Jingdezhen’s folk kilns. Additionally, the Ming Dynasty established imperial kilns in Jingdezhen specifically for producing porcelain for the court and government. To meet the demands of the imperial court, porcelain production was conducted without cost considerations, leading to vigorous innovation and the emergence of new works. In addition to underglaze blue and underglaze red, there were also overglaze enamels such as doucai, wucai, su sancai, and yellow ground with red overglaze painting. In the Qing Dynasty, porcelain inherited and developed the varieties of previous dynasties while also introducing new innovations, such as fencai (famille rose) and falangcai (enamel) ceramics.
With the prosperity of commercial economy and handicraft industry, the dyeing and weaving techniques of the Ming and Qing periods experienced unprecedented development. Not only were there numerous surviving artifacts, but there were also abundant literary records. The book “Tiangong Kaiwu” documented dozens of types of dyes and over 20 chromatograms. For instance, in the chapter “Zhangshi Pian,” various shades of red were recorded, including dahong (bright red), lianhong (lotus red), muhong (wood red), taohong (peach red), yinhong (silver red), and shuihong (water red).
what is red used in ancient China?
In the Shang Dynasty, there was only one character to represent the color red, which was “赤” (chì). However, there were more than one type of pigment used to convey the color red. Apart from hematite, another commonly used red pigment was mercury sulfide, commonly known as cinnabar or vermilion. This red substance was relatively stable and only decomposed under high heat and intense light.
As early as the Neolithic Age, our ancestors began using cinnabar for writing. The earliest discovered character “文” (wén) in China was inscribed with cinnabar on the surface of a pottery jar unearthed at the Taosi site. During the Shang Dynasty, people often applied cinnabar on animal bones and turtle shells engraved with inscriptions, creating what is known as “tuzhu jiagu” or “cinnabar-coated oracle bones.”
There is a common misconception regarding writing during the Yin Dynasty, which was the time of oracle bone inscriptions (jiaguwen). It is often believed that people in the Shang Dynasty had to engrave characters on animal bones or turtle shells whenever they needed to write, but this is not accurate. The Yin Dynasty was actually the era of brush writing, where the brush was an important writing tool. Archaeological excavations have revealed instances of the Shang Dynasty people dipping brushes in cinnabar to write on jade. Scholars have discovered temple names of successive kings written by the Shang Dynasty people in cinnabar on jade tablets.
It can be said that this cultural phenomenon connected the color red with the ruling authority of the nation for the first time through the titles of the highest rulers in China.
It is worth emphasizing that, starting from the Yin Dynasty until the Han Dynasty, it was customary to write particularly solemn official documents using cinnabar to signify seriousness. In this way, from the distant era of the Yin Dynasty, the color red became associated with a solemn sentiment.
Muyeo was located around present-day Xinxiang in Henan Province. In the 11th century BC, a drastic transition occurred in Chinese history as the Yin Dynasty, which was fond of ghost and deity worship, was overthrown by the allied forces of King Wu of Zhou and the slaves who switched sides. The cruel rule of the Yin Dynasty, which lasted for five and a half centuries, collapsed and crumbled.
After the fall of the Yin Dynasty, there was a profound change in the spiritual outlook of the Chinese people. The mournful cries of those sacrificed and killed gradually faded away, replaced by the orderly sounds of ritual music and bells.
The Chinese people no longer fanatically worshipped elusive ghosts and deities but began constructing an entire society based on rituals and morality. As a result, secular powers suppressed religious influences across the Chinese land in the more than 3,000 years after the fall of the Yin Dynasty, and there was never again a nationwide political regime that fused politics and religion.
It was within this new spiritual realm of rituals that the color red once again found its place.
During the Zhou Dynasty, people believed that the world was composed of several fundamental elements that interacted with each other, namely gold, wood, water, fire, and earth, known as the theory of the Five Elements. Each of these elements corresponded to one of the five basic colors, with fire corresponding to “赤” (chì), which meant red. In the earlier oracle bone script, the character “赤” appeared to be a combination of the characters for “big” and “fire.” Some modern scholars, such as Mr. Wang Xiang, believe that the so-called red color refers to the color of a big fire.
The significance of brightness within the color red was particularly emphasized in the character “赤” (chì).
In the Zhou Dynasty, clothing became an effective medium for displaying the hierarchical structure of rituals. Red appeared in people’s attire and various textiles. The discovery of Western Zhou silk fabrics scraped and dyed with cinnabar at the Yu Family Village in Baoji, Shaanxi, serves as evidence of this practice.
In addition, we often come across depictions of monarchs in ancient artworks wearing suits where the upper garment is black and the lower garment is red. This particular combination of black and red was known as “玄” (xuán) during the Zhou Dynasty, with “xuán” referring to a black color tinged with red, a shade of light red. The “Zhou Li” states, “Xuán is the color of heaven and earth.” As the nominal supreme ruler of the Chinese land, the emperor, whether in the upper garment or lower garment, incorporated elements of red to symbolize heaven and earth. As a result, the color red was endowed with a dignified meaning during the Zhou Dynasty.
After the Eastern Zhou Dynasty, the land of Huaxia entered the imperial era, where the masses were dominated by one person for the first time, and the expansion of power was evident in all aspects, including the use of colors to display authority.
After the Zhou Dynasty, the rise and fall of dynasties were based on the theory of the Five Elements, which involved the interplay of mutually generating and restraining elements. The Qin people, who overthrew the Zhou Dynasty and established an empire, considered the Zhou Dynasty to represent the fire element, symbolized by the color red. Since they had replaced the Zhou Dynasty, they wanted to use the water element represented by the color black to restrain the former dynasty, in accordance with the cycles of heaven. As a result, black became the official color of the Qin Dynasty.
However, the Qin Empire was short-lived, and soon after, Liu Bang, known as the “Son of the Red Emperor,” led an uprising and established the Han Empire, which lasted for over four hundred years. From the legends surrounding the founding monarch, the Han Dynasty had a direct association with the color red.
In the extensive political discussions of the Han Dynasty, the destiny of the empire often became a focal point of contention. Some believed that the empire established by the “Son of the Red Emperor” should be associated with the fire element and represented by the color red, which may have influenced the empire’s aesthetics to some extent. However, it is more likely that the people of the Han Dynasty simply had an inherent fondness for the color red. Red lacquerware, which prominently featured red coloration, is a testament to this preference in Han Dynasty artifacts.
Lacquer is a resin obtained from lacquer trees, and when applied to wooden surfaces and dried, it forms a durable and corrosion-resistant protective coating. As early as around 6,000 years ago, the ancestors of Hemudu had learned to make red lacquer bowls by mixing lacquer with cinnabar. By the time of the Han Dynasty, lacquerware production techniques had become highly refined. Due to its remarkable practicality, the color red gradually entered people’s daily lives along with the popularization of lacquerware.
Red was not only present in everyday objects of the Han Dynasty but also found in other secular aspects, such as women’s makeup. An excavated cosmetic box in the Han tombs of Mancheng contained remnants of red powder, likely cinnabar. Han Dynasty women would mix cinnabar with animal fat and apply it to their lips to exhibit a vibrant and healthy appearance, but this was not the entirety of Han Dynasty women’s makeup.
In the movie “Schindler’s List,” there is a scene where women in a concentration camp prick their fingertips and apply the blood to their faces to appear healthy. Han Dynasty women did not have to endure such pain; instead, they had rouge.
The meaning of rouge is quite extensive, and a portion of the red color in some rouge was derived from plants such as safflower or sandalwood. Safflower, also known as honghua or red flower, was introduced on a large scale to the Central Plains society around the Western Han Dynasty. In the Western Jin Dynasty’s “Book of Natural History,” there is a record stating that “Zhang Qian obtained safflower seeds in the Western Regions.” In later history, high-quality safflower was commonly found in the Gansu region, giving rise to the saying, “The most vibrant red color comes from Liangzhou.”
During the reign of Emperor Wu, the Han Empire ventured northward to sweep away the Xiongnu. Under the pressure of ring-headed knives and powerful crossbows, the Xiongnu were forced to leave the Yanshi Mountain, which was abundant in safflower. Their lament, “We lost the Yanshi Mountain and our brides have lost their beauty,” vividly demonstrates the beauty-associated attributes of the color red in this lament from the northern desert.
After the Han Dynasty, China entered the period of the Two Jin and the Northern and Southern Dynasties, characterized by unrest and turmoil. It was during this time that Buddhism, which sought spiritual transcendence and tranquility, experienced unprecedented spread in China, finding its own meaning for the color red in the religious world.
The Mogao Caves in Dunhuang were excavated in the mid-4th century AD, and craftsmen extensively used a synthetic pigment called lead vermilion to create magnificent red hues in the Buddhist murals. Chemical analysis of pigments found in the Terracotta Warriors indicates that the Chinese had mastered the technique of producing lead vermilion as early as the Qin Dynasty. The process of making lead vermilion is not simple. In summary, craftsmen would heat lead in an iron pot and then proceed with grinding, washing, sieving, and oxidizing to produce lead vermilion. Artists used this red pigment extensively in Buddhist murals to imbue them with a grandiose aura.
However, lead vermilion, being a synthetic compound, had its limitations, one of which was its unstable chemical properties. Over time, with exposure to strong light and moisture, the main component of lead vermilion in the murals, lead tetroxide, would transform into black lead dioxide, causing the colors of the entire mural to become dull.
Although the physical color of lead vermilion might fade away, its emotional significance remained timeless. In the era of Buddhism’s radiance, the color red used in Buddhist murals was attributed with a sacred and grand meaning. This aesthetic was embraced by the Chinese for over a thousand years.
Following the turbulent period of the Two Jin and the Northern and Southern Dynasties, China once again entered an era of unified rule. During the Sui and Tang Dynasties, the power of the land of Huaxia was once again concentrated, and the color red flowed into the crevices of power, symbolizing hierarchy and order.
During the Sui Dynasty, the central government began to establish regulations correlating official clothing colors with the ranks of officials. However, the Sui Empire’s reign was short-lived and soon fell into chaos amidst the chaos of warlords. Later, the Li family established the Tang Empire, inheriting and developing the clothing color system left by the Sui Dynasty.
Building upon the color system of the Sui Dynasty, the central government of the Tang Empire introduced new regulations for official clothing colors: officials of the third rank and above could wear purple official clothing, while officials of the fourth and fifth ranks would wear scarlet official clothing, which referred to the color red.
Historical documents such as the “Tang Liudian” recorded various materials used for printing and dyeing during the Tang Dynasty. There were over thirty different materials used for dyeing silk alone, and among them, madder root was a long-standing red dye.
Madder root is a perennial climbing herbaceous plant, and its roots are rich in alizarin and purpurin. As early as the pre-Qin period, people in the Central Plains region began using this plant to dye clothing red.
However, it should be noted that directly dyeing clothing with madder root would only produce a light red or even yellow color. To achieve the deep red color represented by “scarlet,” craftsmen needed the help of mordants. Mordants are substances, such as metal ions, that help fix color onto textile fibers. Common mordants include tin salts, aluminum salts, copper salts, chromium salts, and iron salts, which can deepen the color obtained through printing and dyeing.
In the records of the “Zhouli Kao Gong Ji,” it is mentioned that the number of dyeing processes determines the depth of the color. However, modern scholars have shown through experiments that such records are not reliable, as even repeated dyeing does not significantly change the color of the fabric. To achieve a truly rich red color, mordants are still necessary.
Experiments have shown that with the help of tin salts, madder root can produce an orange-yellow color, while with the help of copper salts, a deep red color appears. It should be noted that this is not the only method for obtaining deep red color, as other dyes, such as holly leaves, can achieve similar effects.
During the Tang Dynasty, since the colors of clothing and the ranks of officials had formed a strict correspondence, the color red often implied the high or low status of an official. In this context, the color “red” played an interesting role.
Before his career took off, the calligrapher Yan Zhenqing felt uncertain about his future. One day, he invited a fortune-telling woman to dinner. During the meal, Yan Zhenqing expressed that he didn’t have grand aspirations and would be satisfied if he could reach the fifth rank and wear a red official robe. Instead of directly responding, the fortune-teller pointed at a piece of purple cloth beneath the tableware and said, “Yan Lang, your robe color will be like this.” (Yan sir, your future official robe will be purple.) This cryptic statement by the fortune-teller implied that Yan Zhenqing would undoubtedly rise to a high position because during Yan Zhenqing’s era, only officials of the third rank and above could change their official robes from red to purple. Later, Yan Zhenqing indeed received the title of Grand Preceptor of the Crown Prince, a first-rank position, and wore a purple official robe.
Some contemporary folk researchers believe that the saying “red turns purple” is derived from the historical color system of official clothing. However, this view has not been confirmed by ancient texts and may simply be an evolution of popular language.
After the Sui Dynasty, many Chinese dynasties used red as the color for officials’ uniforms. With the passage of time, the color red has increasingly been imbued with auspicious and happy connotations in Chinese culture. Now it is not surprising that “red” is often used as an adjective.
In the last two dynasties of Chinese history, the Ming and Qing periods, the color red was emphasized to the extreme. The palaces of the emperors were painted extensively in red to demonstrate the imperial authority.
Today, when people think of the Ming and Qing dynasties, the first image that often comes to mind is the solemn Forbidden City. Whether in the eyes of the common people or foreign visitors, the towering red walls and orderly red pillars of the Forbidden City represent the embodiment of “official” ambiance. According to historical documents, the emphasis on red in the Forbidden City’s color scheme may be traced back to the Zhou Dynasty’s ritual system, specifically the phrase “Li, Ying, Tianzi Dan.” The term “Ying” sounds similar to the word “win” and refers to the pillars in front of a house. Scholars interpret this phrase as meaning “according to the ritual system, the pillars in front of the emperor’s house should be painted red.” The word “Dan” was derived from the term “cinnabar” in the pre-Qin period, which referred to mercury sulfide, and the color “Dan” represents the color of mercury sulfide: red.
Liu Qiaochen, an engineer from the Department of Ancient Architecture at the Shenyang Palace Museum, explained that the paint for the red pillars of the Forbidden City was made by boiling tung oil with silver pearl pigment. The so-called silver pearl is, in fact, cinnabar, which is chemically mercury sulfide. According to the book “Tiangong Kaiwu,” cinnabar and silver pearl are essentially the same substance, with distinctions based on their refinement, coarseness, and age. Thus, the Forbidden City faithfully followed the concept of “Li, Ying, Tianzi Dan.”
However, the red color of the pillars is only a small part of the redness within the Forbidden City. The true display of redness in the Forbidden City lies in its palace walls. From an economic perspective, using the method of mixing tung oil with silver pearl to paint the extensive palace walls would result in exorbitant costs that even the central government found daunting. Therefore, the source of the red color on the palace walls must be something else.
The answer lies in iron.
In traditional craftsmanship, the primary component of the red color on the palace walls is red earth powder, which is relatively pure red earth. Additionally, it is mixed with some blood material and salt. This holds true for both the Shenyang Palace and the Beijing Palace. Nowadays, the Palace Museum is attempting to find breakthroughs in new techniques for wall painting, but that is a separate discussion.
The main component of natural red earth is iron oxide, so the red color on the high walls of the Forbidden City, imbued with an “official” aura, is still an interpretation of the iron element. It is a cultural legacy derived from the Great Oxygenation Event that occurred over 2 billion years ago.
In this way, with the end of China’s final dynasty, “red” accumulated a profound and rich cultural connotation throughout the history of this land for thousands of years.
Red Scarf Army
The Red Turban Army was the main uprising force against the Yuan Dynasty in the late Yuan period. It initially originated from the combination of various folk religions such as Mingjiao, Milejiao, and Bailianjiao. They were called the “Red Turbans” or “Red Army” because they wore red headscarves and carried red flags. They were also known as the “Incense Army” because they gathered people through burning incense. The background of the Red Turban Army can be traced back to the deteriorating political situation, heavy taxation, and continuous natural disasters in the late reign of Emperor Shundi of the Yuan Dynasty. It first emerged in the region north of the Yangtze River and south of the Yellow River.
In the 11th year of the Yuan Zhi Zheng era (1351 AD), dissatisfaction arose when Emperor Shundi employed a large number of laborers for the Yellow River management led by Jia Lu. Han Shantong, along with Liu Futong, Du Zundao, and others, decided to launch an uprising in Ying Shang (now part of Anhui Province). However, the plan was leaked, and Han Shantong was captured and killed. Liu Futong, along with Han Shantong’s son, Han Lin’er, managed to escape and occupied Yingzhou (now Fuyang, Anhui). Many people joined their cause, and the uprising gained momentum in Anhui and Henan provinces. Similar uprisings with the Red Turban banner also occurred in other northern regions, such as the uprising led by Zhi Ma Li in Xuzhou and Guo Zixing in Haozhou (now Fengyang, Anhui). In 1355, Liu Futong declared Han Lin’er, the son of Han Shantong, as the “Little Emperor of Song” and established the country with the name “Great Song.” People of the Ming Dynasty believed that these various Red Turban uprisings aimed to restore the benevolent governance of the Song Dynasty. According to historical records, Han Shantong claimed to be descended from the Song Dynasty and changed his surname after the fall of the country. The other uprisings carried the banner of restoring the Great Song. The phrase “Red Turban raising the flag to restore the Great Song” symbolized their aspirations. When the Yuan Dynasty collapsed and the Song Emperor’s son, Wang Weimu, was relocated to the west, the Red Turban Army feared being chosen as the leader. They used the deep reverence for the benevolence of the Song Dynasty as an opportunity to gain public support. Although they did not officially change their surnames, it was a phenomenon unprecedented since the Han and Tang dynasties.
After the rise of the Red Army in the north, uprisings under the banner of the Red Army also occurred in the Yangtze River region in the south. Figures like Peng Yingyu and Xu Shouhui led uprisings in Hubei, with Xu Shouhui declaring himself emperor and adopting the name “Song.” Additionally, the “Northern Locked Red Army” under Wang Quan in the Nanyang area and the “Southern Locked Red Army” under Meng Haiman in the Jingxiang area played significant roles.
The Mongol-Yuan Dynasty immediately launched a crackdown on the Red Turban Army. Ye Xiantie’er led the army to attack Liu Futong’s Red Army and achieved several victories. Zan Zhaiximuer supervised the attack on Xuzhou, leading to the death of Zhi Ma Li. Jia Lu attacked Haozhou (now Fengyang, Anhui), and Da Shiba Dululu attacked and destroyed the Northern and Southern Locked Red Armies. In the south, the Yuan army and Xu Shouhui’s forces experienced victories and defeats. In the 15th year of the Yuan Zhi Zheng era (1355 AD), the tide of the war began to turn, and the Red Turban Army launched a northern expedition. Liu Futong first declared Han Lin’er as the emperor and established the capital in Bozhou (now Anhui). After several battles, they defeated the army of Da Shiba Dululu and launched a counteroffensive, even approaching Dadu (now Beijing). In the south, the Red Army achieved victories in Hunan and Hubei. After the death of Guo Zixing, Guo Tianxu and Zhang Tianyou successively died in battle. Zhu Yuanzhang inherited the original army, crossed the Yangtze River, and occupied Jiqing (now Nanjing). Around the 17th year of the Yuan Zhi Zheng era (1357 AD), the northern Yuan generals, such as Chahan Temür, Belu Temür, and Li Siqi (who no longer followed central commands), began to counterattack the northern Red Turban Army. Simultaneously, internal conflicts and divisions emerged within the Red Army, weakening their power. In 1363, the northern Red Turban Army was defeated by Zhang Shicheng, who had recently emerged and surrendered to the Yuan Dynasty, in the Battle of Anfeng (now Shouxian County). Liu Futong died in battle, and Han Lin’er surrendered to Zhu Yuanzhang. He returned to Yingzhou in 1366 but perished when his ship sank in the river. In the south, Chen Youliang, a leader of the Red Army, declared himself emperor in 1360 after killing Xu Shouhui. From the moment Zhang Shicheng surrendered to the Yuan Dynasty, the various splinter factions of the Red Turban Army shifted from uniting to eliminating the Yuan Dynasty to fighting and merging with each other. Eventually, they were completely defeated by Ming Taizu Zhu Yuanzhang, who unified the Red Turban Army, overthrew the Yuan Dynasty, unified China, and established the Ming Dynasty.
how did they make Red in ancient China?
Red ochre, also known as hematite, is a red iron oxide mineral. It is the earliest red pigment—more precisely, pigment—that primitive humans used in the late Neolithic period for cave paintings and applying on animal skins.
Madder, a true dye, has been used since the Shang and Zhou dynasties. It is a perennial climbing herbaceous plant in the Rubiaceae family, and its red roots are used for dyeing. The main component is alizarin, a dispersible dye similar in structure to modern anthraquinone dyes. It has poor water solubility and requires fermentation, hydrolysis, and high temperatures for dyeing.
Safflower, also known as Carthamus tinctorius, is not the popular saffron used today! It was introduced from the Western Regions (Central Asia) to China during the Western Han Dynasty, and by the period of the Northern and Southern Dynasties, safflower dyeing technology had become quite mature. Its pigment component is a derivative of flavonoids, making it a natural direct dye that produces true red color. The dyeing process is similar to various modern direct dyes. The famous Tang Dynasty poet Bai Juyi wrote in his poem “The Red Line Blanket”: “The red line blanket, select cocoons, boil them in clear water, pick the silk and spin the red and blue dyes…”.
Lac dye: Lac is the host plant of lac insects, and both the lac insect and the lac tree can secrete red liquid. In ancient times, it was also used as a red dye. The so-called “carmine red” (yanzhi hong) is suspected by some scholars to refer to lac dye.
Chinese Red Terracotta warriors
Red-colored terracotta warriors and horses are commonly found among the terracotta army. The bright red color has strong contrast, making them appear vivid and lifelike, with a vibrant hue. The red color reflects the authority and prestige of the royal and noble classes during the Qin Dynasty. It is said that soldiers of the Qin Dynasty had a preference for wearing red clothes, and this color gradually became adopted in the coloring of the terracotta warriors and horses.
The different shades and brightness of red in the terracotta figures represent varying levels of status and taste. Red-colored terracotta warriors and horses are primarily achieved through color printing, with red as the dominant color. The craftsmanship and materials used are similar to those employed for the bronze statues.
why is Red important in Chinese culture?
Red holds great significance in Chinese culture for several reasons:
Symbol of Good Luck and Auspiciousness: Red is considered the most auspicious color in Chinese culture and is associated with good fortune, happiness, and prosperity. It is believed to bring positive energy and ward off evil spirits. Red is commonly used in festivals, weddings, and other celebratory occasions to attract good luck and blessings.
Representation of Celebration and Festivities: Red is closely associated with celebrations and festivals in China. During major events like Chinese New Year, red decorations, lanterns, and clothing dominate the scenery. The color is believed to create a festive atmosphere and bring joy and happiness to the festivities.
Symbol of Wealth and Success: Red is also associated with wealth and success. In traditional Chinese society, red envelopes (hongbao) containing money are given during special occasions, such as weddings, New Year, and birthdays. It is believed that giving and receiving red envelopes will bring good luck, prosperity, and blessings.
Cultural and Historical Significance: Red has been deeply rooted in Chinese culture for centuries. In ancient times, red was associated with fire, the sun, and power. Emperors and high-ranking officials wore red as a symbol of their authority and status. Red was also used to paint important buildings and palaces.
Symbol of Love and Romance: In Chinese culture, red is associated with love and romance. It is often used in weddings, as the bride typically wears a red wedding gown, and red decorations are used to create a romantic atmosphere. Red is seen as a passionate and joyful color, representing deep emotions and affection.
Overall, red plays a prominent role in Chinese culture as a symbol of luck, celebration, wealth, power, and love. It carries strong cultural and traditional significance and is deeply ingrained in various aspects of Chinese society.
What are some Red flowers?
There are many red flowers that are commonly found and appreciated for their vibrant and striking color. Here are some examples of red flowers:
Roses: Roses are available in various shades of red and are popularly associated with love and romance. Varieties like red hybrid teas, red garden roses, and red spray roses are widely recognized.
Poppies: Red poppies, such as the Flanders poppy, have become symbolic of remembrance and are often worn or displayed to commemorate fallen soldiers.
Tulips: Red tulips are elegant and eye-catching flowers commonly associated with passion and love. They are a popular choice in gardens and flower arrangements.
Geraniums: Geraniums are known for their vibrant red blooms and are often used in containers, hanging baskets, or as bedding plants. They are low-maintenance and provide long-lasting color.
Hibiscus: Certain varieties of hibiscus feature large, showy red flowers. They are tropical plants that thrive in warm climates and are known for their beauty and symbolism in various cultures.
Poinsettias: Poinsettias are iconic holiday flowers with vibrant red bracts (modified leaves) surrounding the small yellow flowers in the center. They are commonly associated with Christmas and are used for festive decorations.
Dahlias: Dahlias come in a wide range of colors, including various shades of red. They are known for their intricate and diverse petal formations, making them popular in gardens and floral arrangements.
Carnations: Red carnations are classic and versatile flowers that are often used in bouquets and floral displays. They symbolize deep love and admiration.
Red Camellias: Camellias are elegant flowers that come in different colors, including various shades of red. They are associated with beauty and grace.
These are just a few examples of red flowers, and there are many more varieties and species that display stunning red blooms.
what are some red fruits and vegetables?
There are several red fruits and vegetables known for their vibrant color and nutritional benefits. Here are some examples:
Apples: Varieties like Red Delicious, Gala, or Fuji apples are well-known red fruits.
Strawberries: These small, sweet berries are widely enjoyed and are often associated with summertime.
Cherries: Both sweet and tart cherries come in shades of red and are popular in desserts and snacks.
Raspberries: Raspberries are juicy red berries that are rich in flavor and commonly used in various culinary creations.
Watermelons: While the flesh of watermelon is typically red or pink, the rind is green. Watermelons are refreshing fruits enjoyed during the summer months.
Tomatoes: Tomatoes come in different varieties, and many are red. They are used in various dishes, salads, and sauces.
Red Bell Peppers: Red bell peppers are sweet and crunchy, and they add vibrant color and flavor to dishes.
Radishes: These root vegetables are known for their crisp texture and peppery flavor. Red radishes are commonly used in salads.
Red Onions: Red onions have a milder flavor compared to other onion varieties. They are often used raw in salads or pickled.
Red Cabbage: Red cabbage has a distinct color and texture. It can be enjoyed raw in salads or cooked in various dishes.
These are just a few examples of red fruits and vegetables, and there are many more varieties available that add color, flavor, and nutritional value to meals and snacks.
Red in feng shui
In Chinese culture, the color red has long been regarded as a symbol of auspiciousness and beauty. In Feng Shui, different colors have different symbolic meanings and effects. However, the symbolism of red extends beyond celebration and happiness.
Firstly, red represents fire, which embodies warmth, vitality, and passion. In Feng Shui, red is associated with vitality and energy. It can provide people with more energy and inspire them to pursue higher goals.
Secondly, red is also associated with wealth. In traditional Chinese culture, red is the color of prosperity and abundance. Therefore, the use of red in commercial spaces or homes can attract more financial luck and abundance. Whether it’s the wealth corner, the main entrance, office desks, or store signs, incorporating red can bring smooth financial fortune.
Additionally, red is believed to have a protective effect against evil spirits. According to folklore, red can ward off disasters and negative energies. Therefore, using red ornaments or red door and window frames in homes can help prevent disasters and safeguard the family’s safety and happiness.
Finally, red is also a symbol of joy and blessings. Red is commonly used in weddings, festivals, and other celebratory occasions. It brings joy, celebration, and allows people to enjoy moments of happiness and bliss.
In summary, in Feng Shui, red represents auspiciousness, blessings, and joy. However, it’s important to note that excessive use of red can create an overly intense and excited atmosphere. Therefore, when using red, it’s advisable to balance it with other colors appropriately.
Red in yin and yang meaning
According to the theory of yin and yang, red also has yin and yang attributes. Yang represents daytime, movement, and the most typical manifestations of “yang” in the world are the sun and fire. Red represents the sun and fire, giving it a clear position in the yin and yang system – symbolizing yang energy, rising, and radiance.
is red lucky in Chinese?
Yes, red is considered lucky in Chinese culture. It is often associated with good fortune, joy, and happiness. Red is commonly used in celebrations, festivals, and special occasions, such as Chinese New Year, weddings, and birthdays. Red envelopes containing money are also given as gifts during these festive occasions to bring luck and blessings. Red is believed to ward off evil spirits and bring prosperity and success. It is a color that symbolizes positive energy and is highly valued in Chinese culture for its auspicious connotations.
Red in Chinese new year
During the Spring Festival in China, there are several prominent red elements that symbolize auspiciousness, joy, and good fortune. These include red lanterns, red couplets, red hanging decorations, red New Year paintings, red lanterns, and red “福” (fú) characters.
Red Lanterns: Also known as flower lanterns or colored lanterns, they are traditional crafts representing family reunion, prosperity, and happiness. They are hung on doors or inside houses during festivals, illuminating the night and bringing harmony and blessings to the whole family.
Red Couplets: Also known as Chunlian or door couplets, they originated from peach charms and became a custom of posting couplets during the Song Dynasty. They consist of neatly written, concise, and exquisite words that depict beautiful imagery and express good wishes. Couplets symbolize bidding farewell to the old year and welcoming the new one, adding a festive atmosphere.
Red Hanging Decorations: These include red paper cut-outs hung on door lintels called “挂钱” (guàqián) and red window flowers called “窗花” (chuānghuā). During festive occasions, clean and tidy windows adorned with window flowers exude a joyful and celebratory ambiance.
Red New Year Paintings: Red New Year paintings, originating from ancient “door god” paintings, often depict themes of warding off evil, praying for blessings, and bringing good fortune. With their vibrant colors, they are believed to pray for bountiful harvests and auspiciousness, adding prosperity and joy to countless households.
Red “福” (fú) Characters: The most popular character during the Spring Festival is the red character “福” (fú), which symbolizes “blessings” and “good fortune.” It is often written and pasted on doorways and walls, expressing people’s aspirations for a happy life and conveying wishes for a bright future. The character is sometimes meticulously crafted into various patterns. Writing and displaying “福” (fú) characters is a common practice in every household during the Lunar New Year.
Red Firecrackers: Firecrackers are commonly used during festive celebrations and are a significant form of expression in Chinese culture. As an old poem goes, “Amidst the crackling sound of firecrackers, a year is ushered out while the spring breeze brings warmth.” Setting off firecrackers signifies the expulsion of evil spirits, ensuring smooth family energy, and symbolizes a prosperous and abundant year ahead.
Red Envelopes: “红包” (hóngbāo), or red envelopes, are a traditional custom during the Chinese New Year. Chinese people have a fondness for the color red as it represents vitality, happiness, and good luck. Giving red envelopes to younger generations is a way of conveying blessings and good fortune to them. The money inside the envelopes is meant to bring joy, but the primary significance lies in the red paper itself, symbolizing good luck. It is considered impolite to open the envelope in front of the giver. The act of giving red envelopes is also known as “派利是” (pài lì shì), and the term “利是” (lì shì) conveys the wish for financial success throughout the year, represented by the red and auspicious color.
Red chili peppers： During the New Year, hanging red chili peppers is usually done on the balcony or on both sides of the door frame. When hung on the balcony, they receive ample sunlight, making it less likely for the dried chili peppers to spoil. Hanging them on both sides of the door frame signifies the auspicious meaning of a “red and fiery” arrival at one’s home.
Red Chinese Knot: The Chinese knot represents unity, happiness, and peace. With just one or two colors, it achieves simplicity without being plain, creating a realistic three-dimensional effect. It gives a sense of home, being grand and beautiful. Full of classical charm, it is fashionable and exquisite, deeply influenced by traditional culture, particularly imbued with the festive atmosphere of the Lunar New Year, where joy and prosperity abound and every path is clear.
Red at a Chinese Wedding
In traditional Chinese culture, the color red symbolizes joy, harmony, passion, and happiness. Therefore, red is highly significant in weddings. Here are some common red items in Chinese weddings:
Wedding Dress and Traditional Gown: The bride’s wedding dress and the groom’s traditional gown, known as the “Dragon and Phoenix robes,” typically feature red as the primary color.
Red Flower Bouquets and Garlands: Red-colored flower bouquets held by the bride and bridesmaids, as well as floral garlands worn on the head, are commonly seen in weddings.
Red “Xi” Character and Couplets: Red “Xi” characters (meaning “double happiness”) and couplets are often displayed at wedding venues to express joy and blessings.
Red Firecrackers and Fireworks: In some regions, firecrackers and fireworks are set off during weddings to enhance the festive atmosphere.
Red Envelopes and Gift Money: In Chinese tradition, when giving gifts to the newlyweds, it is customary to use red envelopes or packages, symbolizing wishes for their happiness and prosperity.
In summary, red is a highly important color in Chinese wedding culture, representing joy and blessings. In addition to the mentioned items, red may also appear in elements such as the wedding cake, decorations on the wedding car, and venue settings.
Red Chinese painting
In ancient China, the color red was initially represented by the character “赤” (chì), and “牛胶火赤” described the color of ox glue resembling fiery red. The sun was referred to as “赤乌” (chì wū) or “赤鸦” (chì yā), and many auspicious objects in legends were associated with the character “赤” (chì), such as “赤兔” (chì tù, red hare), “赤鲤” (chì lǐ, red carp), “赤鸟” (chì niǎo, red bird), and “赤草” (chì cǎo, red grass).
The ancient people worshiped the sun, fire, and blood, as well as anything related to the color red.
During ancient battles, riding red horses was favored, and red cattle and horses were chosen for sacrifices. Emperor Liu Bang of the Han Dynasty designated red as the exclusive color of the royal family. The clothing worn by emperors and empresses predominantly featured red, and even the soldiers’ battle robes were red. Palace pillars were painted red, and the doors of nobles and officials were proudly coated in red lacquer. As a result, “朱门” (zhū mén, vermilion gate) became a symbol of wealth and nobility.
During the reign of Emperor Taizong of the Tang Dynasty, regulations were implemented to prohibit common people from wearing red and yellow clothes. In the Ming Dynasty, even the emperor’s surname was “红” (hóng), further elevating the status of the color red. Each dynasty regarded red as a symbol of nobility and power, considering cinnabar, a red mineral pigment, as a national treasure. Official documents and the marking of top scholars were done using a vermilion seal.
This adoration for the color red gradually formed a unique culture of auspicious colors in China, using red not only to express joy and blessings but also for self-protection and warding off evil. The color red has been widely applied in painting.
In Chinese painting, “赤” (chì) has always been regarded as the primary color, with cinnabar being the most widely used form.
Cinnabar was known as “丹” (dān) in ancient times and was one of the earliest pigments used aside from ink. When combined with the color blue, it formed the term “丹青” (dān qīng), which became an elegant name for Chinese painting.
Cinnabar is available in both natural and synthetic forms. Natural cinnabar, known as “丹砂” (dān shā), is a red mercury sulfide mineral ore, while the synthetic version is called “银朱” (yín zhū), a magical elixir produced by Taoist alchemists.
Natural cinnabar has been extensively mined and utilized since the Xia and Shang Dynasties. The best quality natural cinnabar was found in Chenzhou, Hunan Province, and thus, the mineral was also known as “辰砂” (chén shā) after the place. The saying “丹可磨也，而不可夺赤” (dān kě mó yě, ér bù kě duó chì) refers to the ability of grinding cinnabar into powder without losing its original vivid red color.
During the Western Han Dynasty, alchemy techniques were developed to create two synthetic pigments. One was “银朱” (yín zhū), made from mercury and sulfur, and the other was “铅丹” (qiān dān), also known as “黄丹” (huáng dān), made from lead. The alchemical process aimed to obtain highly purified cinnabar, and these “magical pills” were among the earliest substances synthesized using chemical methods. They became important export products, reaching countries such as Japan and Arabia, and later spreading to Europe through Arabia, becoming the earliest known “Chinese red” in the eyes of the West.
The color brilliance of silver vermilion was stunning and could replace cinnabar, but it had the disadvantage of being unstable. Its color would change over time due to erosion, so it was primarily used for mural painting.
During the Qin and Han periods, cinnabar was extensively used in alchemy, painting, dyeing, weaving, architectural decoration, warding off evil spirits, and making lacquerware. In the Jin and Tang Dynasties, cinnabar started to appear more frequently in traditional Chinese painting.
The painting “女史箴图” (Nǚ Shǐ Zhēn Tú), “历代帝王图” (Lì Dài Dì Wáng Tú), and “簪花仕女图” (Zān Huā Shì Nǚ Tú) all used cinnabar extensively for coloring.
The “女史箴图” (Nǚ Shǐ Zhēn Tú) employed simple colors, and the main figures were rendered using four colors: red, black, white, and blue. It demonstrated the color application within the range of “赤” (red), “青” (blue), “黄” (yellow), “黑” (black), and “白” (white). The red color in the painting is light, transparent, elegant, and stable. Despite enduring thousands of years, the color remains fresh even though it has slightly faded.
Yan Liben’s “历代帝王图” (Lì Dài Dì Wáng Tú) followed the traditions of previous dynasties, showcasing the transitional period from the Wei and Jin Dynasties to the Tang Dynasty. If “洛神赋图” (Luò Shén Fù Tú) represented early color painting, where color served the purpose of lines, “历代帝王图” (Lì Dài Dì Wáng Tú) marked the beginning of an independent focus on the color language and expressive techniques of figurative paintings. The coloring in “历代帝王图” (Lì Dài Dì Wáng Tú) primarily used the contrast between red and black, with various shades of vermilion, such as light red, orange-red, bright red, and dark red, representing the different identities of the figures. The colors used to depict the main characters’ clothing are rich, bright, and stable, likely achieved using cinnabar.
The overall color tone of “簪花仕女图” (Zān Huā Shì Nǚ Tú) is more vivid and vibrant than “虢国夫人游春图” (Guó Guó Fū Rén Yóu Chūn Tú) and “捣练图” (Dǎo Liàn Tú). This is partly due to the ancient silk background presenting a slightly lowered color range, as well as the use of large mineral pigments such as cinnabar, which result in a saturated and vivid color effect.
During the prosperous Tang Dynasty, the coloration in painting became luxurious, witnessing the further development of aristocratic aesthetics.
Starting from the Song Dynasty, cinnabar played an even more prominent role in painting. Its presence could be seen in figure painting, landscape painting, and flower-and-bird painting. Various techniques such as flat application, partial dyeing, dotting, layering, and underpainting were employed.
During the Yuan, Ming, and Qing Dynasties, the use of cinnabar reached its peak. It was used not only in meticulous flower-and-bird paintings and figure paintings but also in freehand brushwork. Many painters depicted bamboo using cinnabar. Even in modern times, many famous artists have enjoyed painting bamboo using cinnabar.
During this period, cinnabar ink cakes were developed, greatly facilitating the use of cinnabar pigments and breaking the conventional belief that ink is always black.
The intensity and solemnity of cinnabar found their full expression in modern landscape painting. Li Keran’s “万山红遍” (Wàn Shān Hóng Biàn) series, primarily using cinnabar as the main color, created a new aesthetic realm of red landscape.
Cinnabar is the core red mineral pigment in traditional Chinese painting. It has been the most widely used pigment throughout the long history dominated by mineral pigments. Despite the rise of organic pigments and foreign pigments after the Tang Dynasty, cinnabar, with its vibrant color and serene luster, has remained the embodiment of “Chinese red.”
Red in Taoism
Taoism does not necessarily avoid the color red, but in certain specific circumstances, red may be seen as an inauspicious color. This is because in traditional Chinese culture, red is often associated with fire, blood, warfare, and disease, which are considered inauspicious. Therefore, in some Taoist rituals or traditional festivals, the use of red may be avoided.
However, Taoism also has some positive associations with the color red. For example, in Taoist mythology, some immortals and deities such as Nüwa and Chisongzi are depicted wearing red clothing.
In the Five Elements theory, red belongs to the element of fire. Fire represents ceremony, and its nature is both urgent and respectful. During Taoist rituals, advanced practitioners often wear red clothing while offering prayers and seeking blessings.
Red in Confucianism
Confucianism early on designated red, yellow, blue/green, white, and black as the “proper colors” or “superior colors,” and believed that “white should be pure white, black should be pure black.” This set the stage for the establishment of a color system based on rituals and maintaining the purity of individual colors. The essence of Confucianism advocates benevolence as the guiding principle of politics and emphasizes ritual as a symbol of hierarchy. Therefore, the color concept in Confucianism strongly upholds the color regulations established during the Zhou Dynasty, designating the five colors as proper colors and assigning them symbolic significance in terms of status and hierarchy, representing the relationships between ruler and subject. Color decoration should not be mixed or reversed, reinforcing the elevated status of the color red in ethical and moral terms. Because red has positive symbolism, from the perspective of Confucianism’s worldly-oriented ideology, there is an inherent connection with the color red. From the perspective of the abstract composition of color and form, red is harmonious with regular square shapes, to some extent aligning with the Confucian ideology that held a dominant position in feudal society for a long time.
Red in Buddhism
In Buddhism, the color red is a sacred symbol that represents a crucial belief within the Buddhist tradition. This red color can be considered one of the core elements of Buddhist culture, as it helps transport people into the world of Buddhist philosophy and moral principles.
Firstly, in Buddhism, the color red symbolizes “Buddha’s compassion.” There is a famous saying in Buddhism: “The Buddha’s compassion is boundless, may all sentient beings attain liberation.” This statement highlights Buddhism’s emphasis on compassion, loving-kindness, benevolence, tolerance, and universal love, with red representing the embodiment of Buddha’s compassion. Therefore, when people see the color red, they associate it with the universality of Buddha’s compassion and may be deeply moved by this compassion.
Secondly, the color red in Buddhism symbolizes the “Dharma” or “Buddha’s teachings.” There is a saying in Buddhism: “The Tathagata’s true essence is hidden and cannot be known.” This statement emphasizes the importance of adhering to the teachings of the Buddha, which form the core principles of Buddhism. Red thus becomes a symbol of the Dharma or the teachings of the Buddha. When people see the color red, they are reminded of the significance of the Dharma and may be inspired by its teachings.
Furthermore, the color red in Buddhism symbolizes “wisdom.” There is a saying in Buddhism: “The wise discern, the enlightened comprehend.” This statement underscores the importance of wisdom and insight within the Buddhist tradition, with red representing the embodiment of wisdom. Consequently, when people see the color red, they associate it with the importance of wisdom and may be touched by its essence.
In conclusion, the color red in Buddhism is a sacred symbol that represents a crucial belief within the Buddhist tradition. It symbolizes Buddha’s compassion, the Dharma, and wisdom, helping to transport people into the world of Buddhist philosophy and moral principles.
Red at Chinese funerals
Firstly, in Chinese funeral customs, it is highly taboo to wear red. There are several explanations for why wearing red during funeral rites is considered inappropriate:
Firstly, it stems from a subconscious instinct that has been ingrained in human behavior since ancient times. Our ancestors discovered the two essential substances for sustaining life: the flowing blood within our bodies and the warmth provided by fire. These concepts have been passed down through generations and are deeply imprinted in the hearts of every individual.
Blood, needless to say, is responsible for transporting nutrients within the body. A significant loss of blood can result in the loss of life, so it represents vitality.
Fire, on the other hand, brings light in the darkness, provides warmth in the cold winter, and transforms raw food into cooked meals. Each of its functions is essential for human survival.
These two elements have one common factor – their color, which is red. Hence, subconsciously, people associate red with vitality and warmth, which are diametrically opposed to death.
Secondly, it is rooted in Chinese customs and traditions. Throughout Chinese history, red has been extensively used to represent joyous occasions. It is a color associated with inner excitement and happiness.
A typical example is weddings, where the bride and groom wear red garments, and the surroundings are adorned with red decorations, such as red “double happiness” characters and red candles. Red is the dominant color, and other colors are rarely used in such celebrations.
Another significant example is the Spring Festival (Chinese New Year). Red couplets are pasted on doors, red lanterns are hung, and red paper-cut decorations are displayed. All these customs employ red as the primary color. These practices demonstrate people’s inclination to use red to express excitement and joy, which contrasts with funeral ceremonies.
However, it is worth noting that in ancient China, red-colored coffins were considered auspicious, although they are rarely seen nowadays. Red coffins were regarded as highly fortunate because red traditionally symbolizes joyous occasions. It was permissible to use red in weddings or during the Lunar New Year. In ancient times, it was not uncommon to use red coffins in funeral ceremonies, which were believed to bring good luck. Red coffins represented a “peaceful end” and were considered one of the “Five Blessings,” denoting a happy passing. Generally, only elderly individuals over the age of 80 were eligible for such red coffins, and their descendants would conduct the funeral in a joyful manner.
what does the Red Chinese dragon symbolize?
The red dragon represents power, nobility, and honor, as well as being a symbol of luck and success because of its association with the color red and good fortune.
The symbolic significance of the red dragon is interconnected with various aspects of Chinese culture and all things in the world. In traditional Chinese culture, the dragon symbolizes power, nobility, and honor, and is seen as a symbol of luck and success. The dragon is widely recognized as an auspicious creature in China, and for thousands of years, the Chinese people have placed numerous hopes and dreams upon it. In ancient times, the dragon represented auspiciousness, justice, prosperity, and strength.
what does a red panda mean in Chinese culture?
The red panda (scientific name: Ailurus fulgens) is a species of mammal belonging to the family Ailuridae and the genus Ailurus. The males and females are similar in appearance, lacking sexual dimorphism. They have a cat-like appearance but are larger in size, with a reddish-brown coat. They have a round face, a short muzzle, and white markings on their cheeks. Their ears are large and upright. They have short and stout limbs that are blackish-brown in color. The tail is long, thick, and fluffy, with 12 alternating red and dark rings, and a dark brown tip. They are plantigrade and have five toes on both the front and hind limbs. They do not exhibit sexual dimorphism. The skull is high and round, with relatively flattened auditory bullae. The postorbital process is incomplete or absent. The sagittal crest is low, and the ethmoidal crest is present. The palate is high and arched, with a central depression. The pterygoid processes are reduced. The coronoid process is well-developed and hook-shaped.
Red pandas inhabit temperate climates in deciduous and coniferous forests at elevations ranging from 2500 to 4800 meters. They dwell in large tree hollows, rock crevices, and caves. They are primarily crepuscular, being active during the early morning and evening, and tend to rest in the shade of trees or in their dens during the day. Adult red pandas have limited interaction outside the mating season. They feed on berries, flowers, bird eggs, bamboo leaves, and other small plant parts. Bamboo leaves are their primary food source. They grasp the food with their forepaws and bring it to their mouth while sitting, standing, or lying on their back. The food is held on one side of the mouth, bitten into smaller pieces, extensively chewed, and then swallowed. They are found in the Himalayas in northern Myanmar, Nepal, the Indian state of Sikkim, as well as western Sichuan and Yunnan provinces in China, at elevations ranging from 2200 to 4800 meters.
The red panda is also known as the lesser panda. Many languages use terms such as red panda, splendid, or small to name this species. For example, in Bulgarian, it is called “червена панда” (chervena panda); in French, “panda roux”; and in Spanish, “panda rojo,” all of which mean “red panda.” As early as 1855, one of its French names was “panda éclatant” (splendid panda). In Finnish, it is referred to as “kultapanda” (golden panda). It has various other names, including “petit panda” in French, “panda menor” in Spanish, “kleine panda” in Dutch, “малая панда” (malaya panda) in Russian, “애기판다” (aegipanda, meaning “young panda”) in Korean, and “レッサーパンダ” (lessāpanda) in Japanese. Other related names include “fire cat,” “bright panda,” and “common panda.”
Origin: During the Xuanzong reign of the Ming Dynasty, Emperor Xuanzong suddenly desired to use a set of bright red porcelain to offer sacrifices to the Sun God. Therefore, an edict was issued to the imperial kilns in Jingdezhen to intensify the firing process. However, despite numerous attempts, the kiln workers were unable to produce the desired sacrificial wares that satisfied the imperial court. The eunuchs overseeing the kilns daily pressured and whipped the workers, and even imprisoned some, threatening to kill them if they failed to produce the red-glazed porcelain demanded by the emperor. Cui Lan, the daughter of an elderly kiln worker, heard the news and became extremely worried. She ran to the imperial kilns and discovered that her father had also been thrown into the dungeon by the eunuchs. In a fit of grief and anger, Cui Lan leaped into the raging kiln fire, sacrificing her own life to protest the tyranny of the eunuchs. Two days later, when the kiln workers opened the furnace where Cui Lan had been incinerated, they were astonished to find that the fired clay had taken on a vivid red color resembling fresh blood. The red sacrificial wares were successfully produced, and people attributed the red color to Cui Lan’s blood, thus naming this type of red ceramics “Ji Hong” (祭红, meaning “sacrificial red”). To commemorate Cui Lan’s sacrifice, the kiln workers later constructed bricks in the shape of a young girl when sealing the kiln doors, a custom that has continued to this day. Since then, successive emperors spared no expense in producing sacrificial red wares, but this deep red porcelain, like a mythical treasure, remains exceptionally rare.
Naming: In order to revive the tradition of sacrificial red wares, in 1985, researchers in Hunan province took on a task: to develop a highly heat-resistant large red ceramic. In March 2002, a sample of the red glaze material was placed in a high-temperature electric furnace, and the results excited the experts greatly: a very pure and vibrant red color remained without significant decomposition at a high temperature of 1250°C. The large red glaze was officially recognized and approved by an expert panel. This type of porcelain was given a meaningful name, “Chinese Red.”
Copper red glaze is achieved by using copper as the coloring agent and firing it once at a high temperature in a reducing flame. Red glazes appeared as early as the beginning of the Northern Song Dynasty, but the color stability was not very reliable. The truly pure and stable red glaze was developed and fired by the Jingdezhen kilns in the early Ming Dynasty, known as “Xianhong” . During the Jiajing reign, a red glaze called “Fan Hong” was created using iron as the coloring agent. Copper red glaze is a high-temperature glaze, while iron red glaze is a low-temperature glaze. There are many types of high-temperature red glazes, including “Baoshihong” , “Jihong” , “Jiangdouhong” , and “Langyao Red” . In terms of their development, the most famous ones are “Yongle Xianhong” , “Xuande Baoshihong” , “Jiajing Fanhong” , “Kangxi Langyao Red” , and “Jiangdouhong” .
what dynasty that worships red?
The historically recognized Zhou Dynasty was associated with the color red rather than black. This is because the Zhou Dynasty was considered to be aligned with the “Fire Virtue” element. Ancient Yin-Yang scholars classified the five elements of metal, wood, water, fire, and earth as the Five Virtues. Each dynasty represented one virtue, and they successively alternated based on the order of generation and control between the five elements. According to written records, during the reign of the Yellow Emperor, the dominant element was earth, hence the preference for yellow color in clothing and attire. The Xia Dynasty represented the virtue of wood and favored the color green. The Shang Dynasty represented the virtue of metal and favored white. The Zhou Dynasty, associated with the virtue of fire, favored the color red. During the Qin Dynasty, which was associated with the virtue of water, black became the preferred color, and people began dyeing their clothes black. Qin Shi Huang even renamed the Yellow River as “De Water” to showcase his legitimacy. Therefore, the Qin Dynasty favored black, and clothing, flags, and objects were all in black.
During the Han Dynasty, Liu Bang, also known as Emperor Gaozu of Han, favored the color black. He did not recognize the legitimacy of the Qin Dynasty and directly transitioned from the fire virtue of the Zhou Dynasty to the water virtue, favoring black. However, Liu Che, the descendant of Liu Bang and Emperor Wu of Han, did not like black. He favored the color yellow and declared that the Han Dynasty represented the virtue of earth and favored yellow. During the Eastern Han Dynasty, the color changed again to red. Liu Xiu, also known as Emperor Guangwu of Han, embraced Liu Xin’s new theory of the Five Virtues, which stated that the Han Dynasty should be aligned with the fire virtue and favor the color red—”Establishing auspicious signs in the southern city, officially embracing the fire virtue, and cherishing the color red.” After the Eastern Han Dynasty, the primary color became bright red, which was then followed by the Tang and Song Dynasties. Even during the Ming Dynasty, wearing red was still considered prestigious, while white clothes were mostly worn by the lower class.
The Song Dynasty, also known as the Yan Song, believed that they represented the fire virtue among the Five Virtues, and as fire virtue favored the color red. Therefore, the rulers of the Song Dynasty highly esteemed the color red, which is one of the reasons why the emperors of the Song Dynasty were depicted wearing red dragon robes in their portraits.
In addition, although the Song Dynasty promoted the fire virtue, the attire of the Song Dynasty emperors varied depending on different occasions. In fact, there were instances where the Song Dynasty emperors wore yellow dragon robes. The red dragon robes, generally speaking, were used in two situations:
Firstly, when the Emperor of the Song Dynasty held court, he would wear a red dragon robe.
Secondly, when the Emperor was studying in the rear palace, he would wear a red dragon robe.
For the Emperor, holding court was the most common and important activity, and the standard portraits of the Emperor would naturally depict him wearing a red dragon robe, which became a lasting tradition.
The Ming Dynasty was founded by the Zhu family, and “Zhu” in Chinese means red. During the uprising against the Yuan Dynasty, Zhu Yuanzhang named his rebel army the “Red Turban Army.” As a result, the Ming Dynasty emperors had a strong affinity for the color red. The imperial attire of Ming Dynasty emperors had three levels of hierarchy. The highest level consisted of a fully red dragon robe, followed by a yellow dragon robe, and the lowest level was the everyday casual wear—either a green or black dragon robe.
Plain Red Banner
The “Plain Red Banner” refers to one of the Eight Banners, which were administrative and military divisions of the Qing Dynasty in China. It was associated with the color red, which symbolized nobility and power within the Qing Dynasty. The Plain Red Banner played a significant role in the military organization and governance of the Qing Dynasty. Its soldiers and officials held influential positions and enjoyed various privileges within the imperial system.
Bordered Red Banner
The “Bordered Red Banner” is another one of the Eight Banners of the Qing Dynasty in China. Like the other banners, it served as an administrative and military division within the imperial system. The Bordered Red Banner was also associated with the color red, which represented power and authority. It was one of the Manchu ethnic banners and held a significant position within the overall structure of the Eight Banners system.
Dream of Red Mansions
“Dream of Red Mansions,” also known as “The Story of the Stone” or “The Red Chamber Dream,” is one of the Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese literature. It was written by Cao Xueqin during the Qing Dynasty and is considered a masterpiece of Chinese fiction. The novel tells a sprawling and intricate story of the decline and fall of a wealthy aristocratic family, focusing on the love triangle between Jia Baoyu, Lin Daiyu, and Xue Baochai.
The novel explores themes of love, desire, family, social status, and the inevitable decay of worldly pleasures. It is renowned for its complex characters, richly detailed descriptions, and profound insights into human nature and the society of the time. “Dream of Red Mansions” is considered a classic work of Chinese literature and has had a significant influence on Chinese culture and literary traditions.
Red vs cyan
In Chinese culture, red and cyan also hold significant meanings and symbolism. Here’s how they are perceived in Chinese culture:
Red (红色 – Hóngsè):
Auspiciousness: Red is considered the most auspicious color in Chinese culture. It represents good luck, happiness, celebration, and prosperity. Red is commonly used in festivals, weddings, and other joyful occasions.
Festive Symbolism:Red is associated with traditional Chinese festivals such as Chinese New Year, where red decorations, lanterns, and clothing are prevalent. It is believed to ward off evil spirits and bring good fortune.
Joy and Vitality: Red is associated with fire and is believed to bring energy, enthusiasm, and passion. It symbolizes vitality, power, and success.
Cyan (青色 – Qīngsè):
Tranquility and Balance: Cyan, often referred to as “qing,” represents tranquility, peace, and harmony in Chinese culture. It is associated with nature, particularly water and the sky. Cyan is seen as a calming color that promotes a sense of balance and stability.
Wisdom and Spirituality: Cyan is also linked to wisdom, insight, and spiritual growth. It is associated with meditation, introspection, and a connection to the spiritual realm.
Cultural Significance: Cyan has historical significance in Chinese art and poetry, symbolizing the beauty of nature, mountains, and rivers. It is often used to depict landscapes and evoke a sense of serenity.
In traditional Chinese culture, the use of red and cyan together can create a harmonious balance between auspiciousness, vitality, and tranquility. Red represents active energy and celebration, while cyan represents calmness and introspection. The combination of these colors can signify a harmonious union of joy, prosperity, and peace.
It’s important to note that color symbolism can vary across different cultures and contexts, so interpretations of red and cyan may differ based on specific cultural beliefs and traditions.
Red vs green
In Chinese culture, the colors red and green also carry significant meanings and symbolism. Here’s how they are perceived:
Red (红色 – Hóngsè):
Auspiciousness and Celebration: Red is the most auspicious color in Chinese culture. It symbolizes good luck, happiness, and prosperity. It is associated with joyous occasions such as weddings, festivals, and other celebrations. Red is believed to bring positive energy, ward off evil spirits, and attract good fortune.
Festivals and Traditions: Red is prominently used during Chinese New Year and other festive occasions. Red envelopes (红包 – Hóngbāo) containing money are given as gifts to symbolize blessings and good wishes for the recipient’s prosperity and well-being.
Green (绿色 – Lǜsè):
Nature and Renewal: Green is associated with nature, growth, and vitality. It represents the color of plants, trees, and the environment. It signifies harmony, balance, and freshness. Green is believed to bring tranquility and promote a sense of well-being and renewal.
Health and Prosperity: Green is also associated with health, healing, and abundance. It is believed to have a calming effect on the mind and promote physical and emotional well-being.
Environmental Consciousness: In recent years, with the increasing awareness of environmental issues, green has also become a symbol of eco-friendliness and sustainability in Chinese culture.
The combination of red and green can represent a harmonious balance between auspiciousness, vitality, and nature. It signifies the celebration of joy, prosperity, and growth while being grounded in the natural world. This combination is often seen in festive decorations, traditional costumes, and auspicious symbols used in various cultural contexts.
It’s important to note that color symbolism can vary across different cultures and contexts, so interpretations of red and green may differ based on specific cultural beliefs and traditions.
Red vs Purple
In Chinese culture, both red and purple hold significant meanings and symbolism. Here’s how they are perceived:
Red (红色 – Hóngsè):
Auspiciousness and Celebration: Red is considered the most auspicious color in Chinese culture. It symbolizes good luck, joy, and prosperity. Red is associated with celebrations, festivals, and special occasions. It is believed to bring positive energy, happiness, and ward off evil spirits. Red is commonly used in weddings, Chinese New Year, and other festive events.
Purple (紫色 – Zǐsè):
Royalty and Nobility: Purple has long been associated with royalty, nobility, and wealth in Chinese culture. Historically, purple was a color reserved for emperors and high-ranking officials. It represents power, prestige, and authority.
Spirituality and Mysticism: Purple is also linked to spirituality and mysticism in Chinese culture. It is associated with the heavens, divinity, and the cosmos. Purple can symbolize wisdom, enlightenment, and the pursuit of spiritual growth.
Elegance and Luxury: Purple is often regarded as a color of elegance, sophistication, and luxury. It is frequently used in high-end products, fashion, and decorative items.
When comparing red and purple in Chinese culture, red is more commonly associated with good luck, joy, and celebration, while purple carries connotations of royalty, spirituality, and elegance. Red represents active, fiery energy, while purple represents a more mystical and contemplative energy.
Both colors can be seen in various cultural contexts, including traditional clothing, festivals, art, and symbolic representations. The choice between red and purple may depend on the specific meaning or message that is intended to be conveyed in a particular context or situation.
Red dream meaning
A person doing business dreaming of red shoes indicates a slow start to the year but smooth financial gains in autumn and winter.
Dreaming of wearing red clothes and red shoes, according to the analysis of the Five Elements in Chinese metaphysics, suggests that the lucky number is 8. The peach blossom position is in the southwest direction, and the wealth position is in the due west direction. The auspicious color is red, and the lucky food is shrimp.
For women dreaming of the color red, it signifies being pursued passionately by the opposite sex.
For individuals in a romantic relationship dreaming of red tomatoes and red oranges, it indicates mutual understanding and sincere treatment, leading to a successful marriage.
For individuals in a romantic relationship dreaming of a red umbrella in the rain, it signifies compatibility and a prosperous three-year period, indicating a perfect match in marriage.
Dreaming of the color red for women also signifies being pursued passionately by the opposite sex.
Dreaming of red tomatoes and red oranges suggests that the auspicious color is yellow, the wealth position is in the southwest direction, the peach blossom position is in the due north direction, the lucky number is 6, and the lucky food is sweet potatoes.
For individuals in their zodiac year, dreaming of a red dragon and red fish indicates emotional and physical balance, smooth and successful endeavors in agricultural, mountainous, and real estate industries.
A person doing business dreaming of a red umbrella in the rain suggests that although there are earnings, it is not conducive to accumulating wealth, and it is advisable to stick to the existing business.
In Chinese culture, the color red holds a multifaceted symbolism that spans various aspects of life. It represents celebration, joy, good luck, prosperity, vitality, romance, and political power. From traditional festivals to daily rituals, the presence of red is deeply ingrained in Chinese customs and beliefs. Understanding the cultural significance of red enhances our appreciation of Chinese traditions and the rich tapestry of symbolism woven into the nation’s history and daily life.
 Huang, G. (2001). Color Design Studies. Beijing: China Textile Press.
 Qiu, X. (2017). On the Development History of Chinese Red Culture over a Century. Red Culture Journal, (02).
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