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What does "red colour" mean in chinese culture?


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#1 General_Zhaoyun

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Posted 15 February 2007 - 11:27 AM

Check out chinese new year, hongbao (red packet), chinese marriage custom having red colours decoration, bride's costumes..they are all in red. It seems to be representing something auspicious, rowdiness, celebration, happiness and beauty in chinese culture. This is very different from western culture whereby red is often related to 'bloodshed' and war.

Why is red color considered 'auspicious' or a 'colour of celebration' in chinese culture?

Also, white is often the colour of funeral/mourning/death in chinese culture. One will have to be dressed in white in chinese funerals. Why is this so?

Any reply is appreciated.
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"夫君子之行:靜以修身,儉以養德;非淡泊無以明志,非寧靜無以致遠。" - 諸葛亮

One should seek serenity to cultivate the body, thriftiness to cultivate the morals. If you are not simple and frugal, your ambition will not sparkle. If you are not calm and cool, you will not reach far. - Zhugeliang

#2 Yun

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Posted 15 February 2007 - 11:45 AM

I have been wondering about this too. Red does not seem to figure as an auspicious color in the ancient classics and dynastic histories, where red is usually just one of the colours in the Five Phases cycle. In fact, according to the cycle the season of spring should be represented by green, not red (red is for summer), so it is curious that red has long been the colour of the Chinese New Year. I am also not sure when the color for weddings was standardized as red.

My guess is that the liking for red started as part of what is often called popular culture or the Little Tradition, and actually spread from the grassroots to the elite.
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#3 General_Zhaoyun

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Posted 16 February 2007 - 12:11 AM

I've checked up the internet source at http://zhidao.baidu....70371.html?si=1

The following provide some clue to the historical origin of red colour seen in chinese celebrations.

本命年的红色讲究应该是源于中国汉民族传统文化对于红色的崇拜。红色辟邪,红色吉祥,这种观念早在原始社会就已经存在,红色是太阳的颜色,是血的颜色,是火的颜色。随着时代的变迁,这种尚红思想却没有变,新年贴红对联,汉族的旧式婚礼中新婚的红嫁衣、红盖头、红蜡烛、新科的红榜等等,不论何时何地,人们都要用红色来增添喜庆。汉民族把红色视为喜庆、成功、忠勇和正义的象征,尤其认为红色有驱邪护身的作用。因此在大年三十,人们便早早地穿上红色内衣,或系上红色腰带,有的随身佩带的饰物也用红丝绳系挂,来迎接自己的本命年。认为这样才能趋吉避凶,消灾免祸。这些为本命年辟邪的红色什物就是什么常说的"本命红"。


Translation:

The emphasis of red colour in chinese culture originated from the han-chinese culture's veneration towards red colour. The red color wards off anything evil, red is auspicious. This view had already began in pre-historic times. Red was the colour of the sun (symbolizing power), the colour of blood (life) and the colour of fire (used against beasts, symbolizing warmth/celebration). As time passes by, this veneration for red colour did not change. In the ancient marriage custom of han-chinese, one must wear red clothings, red head-scarves, burn red candles. In any occasion, people uses 'red' color to increase the atmosphere of 'celebration' and 'happiness'. Han-chinese regarded red as a colour symbolizing celebration, success, loyalty, bravery and righteousness. Of particular feature is that red is viewed as a colour that wards off evil.

That's the reason why in occasion of celebration such as chinese new year, chinese marriage, 60th year birthday banquet were red colour used.
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"夫君子之行:靜以修身,儉以養德;非淡泊無以明志,非寧靜無以致遠。" - 諸葛亮

One should seek serenity to cultivate the body, thriftiness to cultivate the morals. If you are not simple and frugal, your ambition will not sparkle. If you are not calm and cool, you will not reach far. - Zhugeliang

#4 Zeng Xiu Wei

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Posted 04 April 2007 - 06:12 AM

Personally I think that red is liked by the Chinese because it is the color of fire.

"Black" remind us of Darkness, although to the Chinese take this as the colour of water, it is a colour to be fears thousands of years ago. "White" in the western world represent purity but it also look lifeless and colourless. To the Chinese this is the colour of "metal" that is cold, cut and kill.

Red is the colour of fire. This is the only colour that give you heat and the colour give you light that drive away the darkness of the night.

You might want to argue that the Chinese should use "Green" as that represent the tree that growth and wood that make fire. However, do remember that it is the light that give "life" to the tree.

:ph43r:

Edited by Zeng Xiu Wei, 04 April 2007 - 06:14 AM.


#5 fcharton

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Posted 04 April 2007 - 07:26 AM

"Black" remind us of Darkness, although to the Chinese take this as the colour of water, it is a colour to be fears thousands of years ago. "White" in the western world represent purity but it also look lifeless and colourless. To the Chinese this is the colour of "metal" that is cold, cut and kill.

Red is the colour of fire. This is the only colour that give you heat and the colour give you light that drive away the darkness of the night.


If we stick to the five phase theory, black was the colour used by Qin, and red by Han. As Yun has noted, ancient texts (ie pre-Qin) do not seem to associate special meaning to colours. On the other hand, the five phase theory became very influential under the Western Han, when a lot of classics began being compiled, commented, etc... So, one could wonder whether the idea that red is auspicious and black is feared is a survivance, in popular culture, of Western Han intellectual justification of the lawful Han, vs the unlawful Qin.

I think some interesting research could be done on the impact of this western Han "new thinking" in popular culture. I wouldn't be surprised if it were great, even though it probably is a much later construct.

Francois

Edited by fcharton, 04 April 2007 - 07:27 AM.





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