We at MYKU love discovering the hidden meanings and little stories behind the things surrounding us. Just as we do with the stones we use in our timepieces or the colors, we thought it is time to take a closer look at the symbolism of red in China. With Chinese New Year just around the corner, let us share with you why this color, with its abundance of meanings all around the world, is so immensely popular and often symbolic of China.
First off, just like in the West, in China red is strongly associated with life, warmth and the source of all that: the sun. In Chinese meaning, this traditional custom can be traced back to the ancient belief that everything in nature evolved from the five basic elements of water, fire, wood, metal and earth. The color red is associated with the element of fire.
The Scroll of the Nine Dragon Sons was painted by Chén Róng (陈容, 1210-1261AD) and depicts nine dragons as they chase each other across the sky.
Until today, many Chinese believe that red will bring good fortune being a symbol of fire and warding off evil. For special occasions, like Chinese New Year, birthdays or marriages, decorations and clothing are created in red color to bring good luck. Especially during Chinese New year, elders often give red packets as a sign of good blessings.
So much for why red is a crucial component of Chinese New Year. While being on it, let us look as some other theories around the color red with regards to China.
A depiction of Parisian sans culottes during the radical period, 1793-94.
Talking about China and red, it is not only Chinese New Year that comes to our minds but as well revolution and socialism. Interestingly, the root of this thought does not actually originate from China, but from the “red flag” and bonnet rouge, that was used in the French Revolution in the 18th century. The Chinese communist party adopted this meaning and built a great deal of its ideology around the virtues associated with red and political history linked to it (think China’s national flag, the red guards etc.)
The Forbidden City
Beyond its political connotation, red symbolizes a variety of emotions, is a symbol of youth and power in Chinese meaning. In ancient China, the doors of high-ranking officials were lacquered red, indicating the wealth and power of the people living behind the gates. Have you ever wondered why the walls of the Forbidden City in Beijing are painted red?
Last but not least, could you imagine the Oscars or any other important event with a green carped? We can’t either. The color red marks important occasions and celebrations all around the world, in the West and in China. In this very festive spirit, we at MYKU would like to wish all everyone a very happy and prosperous Chinese New Year of the rooster.
Xīn Nián Kuài Lè! 新年快乐! Happy New Year!