The colors of traditional culture

We live in a colorful world with each ethnicity or country having their own unique traditional colors. These colors carry the historic undertone of the nation.

Modern people consider red to be China’s traditional color and is the most auspicious color. This is a wrong notion.

China’s traditional culture tends to be peaceful and introverted. Since ancient times, different era’s base colors were either solemn, or peaceful, or ancient, or elegant. But red is highly stimulant and has never been compatible with China’s cultural heritage from different eras.

Traditionally, red never was a symbol of good fortune either. In Shang Dynasty, red was a symbol of blood and death. So, red was used in funerals. Army general’s robe was also red, because it means killing.

What is China’s traditional color?

Different dynasties have different favorite colors. Qin dynasty saw black as noble. Qin emperors’ official attires were in black. Tang Dynasty regarded yellow as the exclusive color of the emperor. Ming dynasty liked red. But the red in ancient times was not the same as today’s bright red, it had a dimed and gentle tone to it.

People in different eras wore different colors in weddings. It could be black, white, dark color, light color, green, or red. Even when red was used, only one person in the wedding wore red. People emphasized the differences between male and female, it reflected on the attire also.

The criteria of determining the nobility of the colors differs from era to era. It has to do with the mutual generation and mutual inhibition theory, which we won’t get into the details. What we want to say is that red has never been the main color scheme in ancient China. It was only decorative.

How did ancient people regard red?

In ancient culture, the color red also had an unlucky connotation. It is said that the wallet should not be red, otherwise it will break the fortune. This is because in theory of five elements, the red color diminishes gold. The saying “red colored letter is inauspicious” means that letters written in red ink is not good. In ancient times, when the court used red ink to record the names of the death row prisoners. Folklores say that the guardian of hell, or King Yan, uses cinnabar ink to write in the book of life and death. Many people believe that writing someone’s name in red ink means cursing that person to death. And the ghosts and monsters described in ancient Chinese texts were all red.

Not only is red not an auspicious color in traditional Chinese culture, but in Western traditional culture, large swaths of red are reminiscent of either a blood-soaked battlefield or a burning inferno. The ancient Roman god of war, Mars, corresponds to the color red, therefore, red symbolizes war. Whatever the meaning, it has nothing to do with celebration.

Of course, red also has some positive connotations. Some people use red to express unyielding determination. But in general, it is a color that needs to be used with caution.

What color is the noblest?

Gold is the most universally revered color in the traditions of all nations. This comes from the reverence for God. In various beliefs, the body of the Buddha is golden. The Buddhist scriptures say that the heavenly world, even the flowers and trees, are shining with gold. The ancients also believed that gold was a substance that came directly from the heavens and could not be made by man. Even with today’s advanced science, mankind is unable to create the same material as natural gold. Therefore, gold has been considered to have the power to ward off evil spirits since ancient times. At the same time, gold has extraordinary stability and a soft texture, which also gives it the meaning of eternity.

Color analysis finds that gold consists of many different gradients of colors, rather than a single color. Because of its overall yellowish hue, people easily associate yellow with gold. Yellow also becomes a noble color.

The ancients believed that yellow also represents the color of daylight, the sun’s shining rays bring vitality on earth. Therefore, yellow is considered the most beautiful color as it carries the virtue from the heavens. The dragon robes of Chinese emperors slowly adopted this auspicious color, especially from the Sui and Tang dynasties onward, yellow dragon robes became a tradition.

We can’t mention yellow without mentioning its corresponding color, purple. Taoists like purple, as it represents nobility. Taoists call the residence of noble people the “purple palace.” They call Taoist scriptures the “purple book.” When divine beings come down to earth, there is usually a purple cloud hanging over their heads.

Purple is also a noble color in traditional culture. The palace of Sui and Tang dynasties in Luoyang city was called the “purple city.” The palace of Ming and Qing dynasties is called the purple forbidden city. Purple means noble and extraordinary.

Purple is also liked in western culture. Cezar loved to wear long purple robes. Traditionally, purple and nobility are connected.

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