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Colors in Chinese Culture

Can color, a common aspect of our daily lives, tell us the story of the history of China? Are those colors we are seeing everyday representations of some fun facts about Chinese culture?

The answer is yes!

Colors in Chinese Culture

In ancient Chinese Mythology, the sky had been divided into five sections, each section has a mythical and powerful creature guarding.

They are Cyan Dragon in East, White Tiger in West, Red Bird in South, Black Turtle-Snake in North and Yellow Dragon in the Middle.

Mythical Creatures in Ancient Chinese Mythology
Mythical Creatures in Ancient Chinese Mythology

Gradually, Cyan became representative of wood, White is metal, Red is fire, Black is water and Yellow is earth. This is the Theory of Five Elements, which was also primitive colors that generate all the other colors in ancient Chinese culture.

According to Confucius, the hierarchy should be strictly followed, in which colors were obvious representatives of people's social classes. Therefore, in thousands of years of history of China, certain colors were strictly limited in specific classes, while each dynasty has their own honorable color.

Nowadays, people could wear whichever color they like. It is no longer the representative someone’s social status.

But in Chinese culture, each color has a beautiful name, as well as some poems or fun stories.

Chinese colors


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