Words, phrases, gestures, all have different meanings in different cultures. And so do colors. We will even answer why Tiger Woods always wears a red shirt on Sunday’s at every golf tournament, and why Chinese colors have different meaning than in Western cultures.
In the Chinese culture:
White (in Chinese it’s pronounced “bai”) symbolizes bereavement, bad luck, death, failure and stupidity
Since time immemorial, white has been the dominant color displayed at Chinese funerals, the so-called “báishi”, literally, white affairs, while those of lower intelligence, more colloquially known as idiots, are referred to as “báichī”. When hard work achieves no results and all one’s efforts prove to be in vain, Chinese people often say – “báimáng” or “báifèilì”.
Red (hóng) — symbolizing enthusiasm, fervor, and luck.
During a traditional Chinese wedding, it is considered auspicious for the bride and bridegroom to dress in red, in anticipation of a blissful, argument-free union. Red lanterns, red couplets and red papercuts blanketed with the Chinese character “xǐ”, bliss are ubiquitous. Red even makes its way into the lexicon in a term used for female matchmakers, “hóngniáng”, literally, Red Ladies.
Tiger Woods wears red on Sunday’s, honoring his Asian side, for luck. And you have to admit that it’s worked out pretty well for him.
Traditional Chinese banquets also end their meal by serving red bean soup. It’s a sweet concoction, served cold, for luck.
A hóng bao, or red envelope is traditionally given, with a crisp dollar bill, to all Children and unmarried relatives on the Chinese New Year. Children ask for hóng bao by saying “Gong Xi Fa Cai, Hong Bao Na Lai!” It means Happy New Year! Give me a red envelope! Don’t be shocked though, everyone’s prepared for this and the givers make arrangements in advance so that when they go visiting, they have the red packets at hand for such occasions.
Yellow (huáng) — symbolizing royalty, solemnity and sacredness.
The dragon robe, the official garb of the feudal emperor in Chinese society, is yellow, and the color’s symbolism extends to representing imperial power and sovereignty. Chinese people boast that they are the “yánhuángzǐsūn”, or the offspring of the ancient Chinese Emperors, Yan and Huang, who are regarded as the ancestors of the Chinese people. Moreover, days on which it is considered auspicious to do business are dubbed “huángdào jírì”.
Black (hēi) — symbolizing sublimity, equality, righteousness, and solemnity.
In traditional Chinese plays and dramas, actors whose faces are painted black are playing the role of righteous and just characters. “bāozhēng”, renowned as the most impartial judge in Chinese history and a frequent , is easily recognized by his black face.
Green (Lǜ) — symbolizing life, peace, vitality, and youth.
Green has similar connotations in both Chinese and Western culture. The color appears in agriculture-related Chinese phrases, such as “lǜzhōu” — oasis, and “lǜyě” — green field. “lǜmàozì”, literally, green hat, is an exception. Most men are afraid to wear a green hat — as to do so suggests their girlfriend or wife is cheating on them.
Now even Lovey Howell will know what colors to wear when she dresses to go out for Chinese food.
Humbly submitted for your consumption,
—Mee Magnum (“Chop! Chop!”)