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Pure White in Chinese Culture

Updated: Jan 3, 2019


Pure white is an ambivalent color in Chinese culture. The Chinese character of white, from Oracle Bone Script to current one, has been used to describe the shining sun. Therefore, pure white is representative of the rising sun, glorious and bright.


Oracle Bone Script for Character White

But since Zhou Dynasty (1046 B. C. — 256 B. C.) in the history of China, pure white had been widely used in mourning apparel, until today.


In Chinese astrology, White Tiger is the mythical creature guarding in the west section of heaven, which represents war, autumn, cold metal and death.



In addition, white was one of the earliest colors that had been discovered and widely used in history. So the plain and simple pure white mourning apparel shows fear of death and revere to ancestor.

Mourning Apparel of Ming Dynasty

Interestingly, many words involved white contain negative meanings like stupidity, mediocrity, failure or uselessness in Chinese Culture. Contradictorily, white is also color of beautiful snow, bright sun, beautiful moon, plain truth, honest and innocent character.


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