Naturally, the significance of various hues vary based on where you are, and China is no exception. The meanings of colors in China are complex and have evolved through time, making them quite different from Western understandings. The present and historical significance of Chinese colors are explained here.
For the ancient Chinese, the combination of black and white represented ynyáng (dark—bright). Numerous ancient academics and martial artists made use of the now-famous emblem. Darkness and light are both complementary and complementary opposites in the natural world, which is symbolized by the yin and yang symbol.
Elements of the Five-Element Theory
The Chinese rulers of the Shang, Tang, Zhou, and Qin dynasties all believed in and encouraged the usage of the Theory of Five Elements, which posited the existence of five primary colors. Water, fire, wood, metal, and earth—each of which has its own color—are the five elements taught in Chinese physics and Traditional Chinese Medicine.
Water is associated with the color black in the Theory of the Five Elements. Imperial officials were expected to wear this hue. Not only was it venerated more often than any other hue in ancient China, but it was also considered the king of colors.
Black is typically linked with formality in contemporary China, much as it is in the West. The term for "mafia," hi shèhu (), literally means "black society," but it may also mean anything more nefarious or concealed. On the other hand, many Chinese people wear black since it is seen as a neutral hue.
According to the Five Elements theory, fire was the next color on the spectrum. Close relatives of the Ming emperor lived in bright red homes topped with yellow terra cotta tiles. The rest of us could only use blue blocks. The color red has always been associated with good fortune and happiness.
The color red retains its traditional patriotic meaning in today's culture. The government now regularly employs and is closely associated with it. White is a popular choice for wedding dresses in China because of the positive connotations of prosperity and good fortune. We must not overlook the custom of giving and receiving hóngboo (red envelopes) filled with money during Chinese New Year and weddings.
In the conventional method, green stands in for wood and denotes peace, wealth, health, nature, and the start of something new.
But in today's China, "green" isn't exactly a success story. These days, it usually has a pejorative connotation. You're either furious or envious if your "face is green," and a guy whose "hat is green" is being cheated on by his wife. Men in China hardly seldom, if ever, wear green caps. (Those army-green Mao hats seem to be disqualified.)
White, which stands for metal, is the fourth hue. It has long been used to represent perfection, success, and brilliance. In China, white is also the color of sorrow, which results in a very diverse aesthetic for funerals.
While white is often worn in contemporary China, its significance remains unchanged. Since lighter skin is connected with social status in China, many Chinese people, particularly women, place a great priority on achieving and maintaining a fair complexion. This, however, is a topic for a different post.
Lastly, yellow represents Earth in the Theory of the Five Elements. When first created, it was reserved only for emperors since it was thought to be the most beautiful and dignified hue, reflecting harmony, happiness, and grandeur. According to the Chinese proverb, "Yellow creates Yin and Yang," the color yellow is pivotal to the universe.
However, yellow now has a completely different connotation in modern China. Like the color blue in the West, it is now associated with sex and pornography. While in the West the color yellow is associated with weakness, in Eastern cultures it represents bravery and valour.
Varieties of Colors
Of course, modern Chinese culture has a wide range of hues, many of which have special significance.
Brown is the color of the soil, therefore it shares with yellow the connotations of being down-to-earth, productive, and fruitful.
Gold, which is often connected with monetary success, also stands for divine perfection and fullness.
Silver is not just a sign of romance and reliability, but also of metal, and hence of riches and prosperity.
The color orange stands for transformation, spontaneity, and flexibility.
Purple, like red and pink in the West, is a symbol of love and passion in contemporary China. Mental and spiritual enlightenment are also linked to it.