Colours In Chinese Culture: What Do They Mean And Symbolise

Colours are here and there, everywhere. In Chinese culture, certain colours play a more prominent role than others, some colours more auspicious than others.

Growing up, this sentiment was what my Chinese-Malaysian parents taught me – that some colours we should see more of as a Chinese person, and other colours we shouldn’t pay too much attention to.

Colours all around us, from past to present to the future | Weekly Photo Challenge: Delta.

Colours all around us, from past to present to the future | Weekly Photo Challenge. Delta.

Each colour has different meanings in each culture. Different cultures perceive different colours differently. Different colours speak differently to each community and individual over time, past and present.

The Five Elements Theory historically underpinned colours and their symbolism in Chinese culture. Originating around 700-460 BC, the philosophy describes the relationships between elements and their corresponding colours: wood (green), fire (red), earth (yellow), metal (white), water (black). These traditional five colours tend to be the more popular and are seen as the luckier colours among Chinese people:

Red

Red is an auspicious colour in Chinese culture, representing luck, happiness, celebration and prosperity. It often resembles boldness, a colour which is capable of warding off evil spirits – light over darkness. Chinese New Year decorations are awash with red packets and red firecrackers. Chinese brides typically wear red. Red lanterns are hung during the Mid-Autumn Festival. Red eggs are used to mark a kid’s first birthday. It’s a colour that’s forbidden at Chinese funerals.

Red has also long been associated with the notions of fight, flight and victory in Chinese history. During the Zhou Dynasty, a red raven was symbolic of the dynasty; the Red Eyebrow Rebellion restored the Han dynasty, led by peasant rebels who painted their eyebrows red to distinguish their tribe.

I’ve always been rather ambivalent about the colour red. It’s never a colour I like to wear or decorate my space with. As a kid, I thought a bright red shirt on me was hideous and screamed, ‘Look at me’ and I still do today.

Yellow (and Gold)

Traditionally yellow symbolises royalty, power and wealth among the Chinese. Centuries ago, it was a colour worn by emperors commanding dynasties, and the Yellow Emperor has been widely known to have founded China. Gold inglots were the currency in China up until the 20th century. The Yellow River runs through the prosperous golden regions of Northern China. Aside from red, yellow is also part and parcel of Chinese New Year decorations. In short, it’s a colour commonly associated with the higher echelons of society, a colour associated with an esteemed way of life.

These modern days in China, the colour yellow is associated with sexually explicit connotations and pornography, materials loosely called ‘yellow picture’. The fruit banana is predominantly yellow, and on a side note, in 2016 China banned erotic eating of the fruit on online live streams so as to tone down local online broadcasting.

Some colours speak louder to us than others.

Some colours speak louder to us than others.

Green

Green is commonly tied to nature’s surrounds among the Chinese community: growth, spring, harvest and health. In short, it’s symbolic of new beginnings and renewability.

Notably, the greenish coloured stone jade is highly popular among the Chinese, a stone often used to make jewellery and dragon sculptures, and used in exchange for 15 cities during the Warring States period. Confucius likened this stone to virtue and representing purity, loyalty and justice.

Green is one of my favourite colours. Not only is it the colour of my star sign Taurus, it’s a colour along with blue that immediately pulls me in visually and emotionally, making me feel a sense of peace.

White

On one hand white symbolises purity and innocence in Chinese culture. In line with feng shui, white cranes are often thought to fly high over dusty Chinese towns. The colour also represents the epitome of Chinese beauty: during the Tag Dynasty, makeup for women first involved powdering faces white with rice powder. On the other hand it’s symbolic of mourning, death and the colour worn at funerals and associated with ghosts festivals.

Black

Black represents destruction, disasters and evil to many typical Chinese. The colour is often used within phrases describing unfortunate situations: in terms of Chinese characters, black is written as 黑 (hēi). ‘黑心’ (hēixīn) means wicked heart. In Chinese history, the impartial judge Bāo Zhěng (包拯) was easily recognised by his dark skin and black moustache. However, black isn’t always seen in a negative way: it’s associated with black mythological dragons (Xuanlong /玄龍 or Heilong / 黑龍]) and the black tortoise/Dark Warrior was believed to have the powers to control rain, typhoons and floods.

When I was a teenager, my fashion sense was ‘punk edgy’ (and it still is today). I wore black jeans and a black shirt and had choppy black layered hair. Not only did I think the colour was cool, it was a colour which I felt made me blend into the background. My mum disliked this, complaining I looked like I was ‘going to a funeral all the time’ and I ‘dressed like a dead person’ with my long black fringe sweeping across my face.

Blue

Like the colour black, blue has contrasting connotations among the Chinese. Blue symbolises immortality, healing and calmness. It’s commonly mixed with the colour green, arising the amalgamated colour qing (青). Blue represents heaven: the Temple of Heaven’s roof consists of blue-glazed tiles, a place of peace, symbolic of heaven in the sky. On the other hand, blue is commonly worn by scholars; rumour has it the god of examinations Kuí Xīng (奎星) committed suicide and so considered an unlucky figure in Chinese culture.

Some colours hit closer to the heart than others.

Some colours hit closer to the heart than others.

* * *

As for other colours: brown represents the ground, similar to the earthly connotations of yellow in Chinese culture. Purple is a mark of healing, romance and associated with Chinese astrology. Orange is symbolic of strength, change and continuity.

The Yin and Yang philosophy – black and white Yin and Yang symbol – is steeped in Taoism and Chinese culture, dating back to around 3 BCE. According to the philosophy, everything in the universe consists of two opposing forces that complement each other, and life happens in cycles. For where there is yang, there is yin and vice-versa: just like how there is day and night and vice-versa.

Consequently, some colour combinations are luckier than others. Red and yellow are side by side, staple colours of Chinese New Year decorations, doubling one’s wealth and prosperity in the metaphorical sense. In the five elements chart, red (fire) is directly opposite black (water) – in typical Chinese homes, it’s auspicious to have the colour red representing invigoration and also earthlier, neutral colours to represent stability – generating good fengshui.

Notably in 2011, Dulux Paints conducted a study involving participants from over 30 countries; it found blue was the overall favourite colour and among both males and females, and in Asia people tend to paint yellow, pink and light blue tones for their walls at home. Also, through a sample of 1,974 staff and students, a study on gender norms by The University of Maryland found blue was the favourite colour. In 2009, the Universty of British Columbia found blue helps us think outside of the box.

These days, blue is my favourite colour. Everywhere I go, I gravitate towards the colour blue and want to be surrounded by blue. At home, my bedsheets are blue. The clothes I usually wear to work and for running errands are blue top and blue jeans. I like taking notes on a blue coloured notebook at work. I like writing with a blue coloured pen. Some of my stuffed monkeys are blue in colour.

Some colours we simply just feel a connection to.

Some colours we simply just feel a connection to.

Different colour shades of a colour can give us a different feeling or different vibe in a moment in time. If we are colourblind, colours might probably not mean much to us. Research has demonstrated our cultural upbringing, personal preference and experiences often have an impact on how colours impact us individually. How we perceive colours is an extension of our personality, what we stand for and what we believe in.

Maybe the colours I like and dislike says something about how I feel about Chinese culture. When I was a kid, around 3-5 years old, my Chinese-Malaysian mum was fond of dressing me up in a bright red jumper and matching bright red pants for pre-school. I hated this. While I think red is an ugly colour on me, it doesn’t feel ugly or out of place at all come Chinese New Year. There’s something very inviting about the colours red and yellow whenever I pass by a Chinese temple. Or a Chinatown somewhere in the world.

Colours. They make you see. They make you feel.

What is your favourite colour and why?

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221 thoughts on “Colours In Chinese Culture: What Do They Mean And Symbolise

  1. Mable very interesting take on color which we take it for granted and which so much significance in our life. Colors are such an integral part of our life….Impossible to imagining life without color, it would have been just black and white, though in life we always want things in “black and white”, and the grey areas that keeps bothering us, that is just one side of the picture and the other side is how boring life would have been with no colors. Colors are what peeps up and festivity is where colors gets the space to manifest through such colorful celebrations. Indeed colors are part of different culture and community, and it represents the historical significance and one can see the multiplicity of color in one’s national flag…these are more at the national and universal level.

    These choice of colors have deep roots in history and the way the community or country has evolved and taken the center stage in the world map. But Mable as you have so rightly pointed out we all have our preferences and choices of color that comes with our upbringing and the way we have lead our childhood, we gradually but certainly develop a inclination for certain color and that sits strongly in our psyche and we develop our senses to respond positively or negatively to those colors. Our mood gets a lift or it shifts depending on the color we encounter…

    Red has always been a color of unbridled vibrancy and it reflects power house of energy, and festivals and celebrations cannot escape the energy of red. Yes have seen the red color in profusion in Chinese festivals. From a color combination stand point, red and yellow, the mix goes so well and is appeal to our eyes. Contrasting that to the color of green (color that you so dearly love and why not), the color so closely we relate to nature and it is soothing and it gives solace, as we can immediately relate the beauty and bounty of nature…white has been the color of purity and it is a color of peace lover. Yellow is color of gold and it genetically drives us to think of wealth and prosperity…though black symbolizes death, destruction, disasters and somber but when it comes to fashion in apparels it plays with such contrasting thoughts and many times black is the fashion statement it keep coming up in fashion events and we look colorful with the black dress code.

    The “Ying and Yang” philosophy has always been such a powerful thought and in a way it brings two different color into a perfect sync. I like this statement of yours “Different colour shades of a colour can give us a different feeling or different vibe in a moment in time…”

    Thanks Mabel for sharing such a lovely colorful thought…
    😀

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    • You said it, ‘colours are an integral part of our life’. Even black and white are colours. Colours, celebration and community. That is a great connection you made there, and a connection that is very much true – a connection that goes round in a cycle in fact. Not only do colours tell of stories of the past, they remind us of the past as we celebrate the old and new amidst the present looking towards the future.

      True. Our mood can determine whether or not we like a colour in a given moment. For instance, if we are cold and it’s cold winter season, we might welcome the sight of red hot fire. Maybe in summer, it’s a different story. So in a sense, colours are connected to the sense of the heart, in tune with our feelings.

      With fashion, a lot of the time any colour combination goes. With fashion and the field of art in general, there lies the concept of experimenting. With the creative mind, colours can be mixed and matched and even new colours will come around. On that note, the skies above us have an endless array of colour. Think about it. No two sunrises and sunsets are the same. Sometimes you’d get an orange sunset, sometimes pink, sometimes orange and then blue…amazing colour always around us.

      Thank you so much for your input again, Nihar. Wonderful chats as always and I hope you are doing well 🙂

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      • Yes Mabel, the subject of color has so many hues, we wonder the manifestation of color and the influence of color on our life…it is magical. Yes, our senses are so much connected with the type of color we associate ourselves and with diverse conditions that drives one color or the other, when in good mood our favorite color keeps us going and when not in mood, any color will disturb us and we get quickly irritated, after all what is color do with our mind, as mind and mood play hide and seek in life.

        The most prominent presence of color comes into play in fashion events and fashion though is about design but what matters is the color combination and the taste of color one generation have over other, how one event changes the standing of one color over other…the pattern of new color taking shape and catching our fancy depends on so many things that keep happening around us. Creative mind needs events and experimentation on things and that has a spirally affect on our conceptualization of new ideas and new perspective in life as artist or the occupation or profession we are in…creativity is everywhere and color is theme.

        So true, we don’t have the same sunset everyday and the colors around the sunset changes and changes from place to place with the background of the sky and also the weather, the mix of orange to pink…one can see fascinating combination and it is a wonderful delight to our eyes.
        Things are fine and what about you, it seems you are bit busy at your work front…
        Have a lovely weekend. Take Care!!!
        😀

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        • Colours are magical indeed, and you are absolutely spot on in saying that our senses are connected with the colours that speak to us. That is a fascinating thought – any colour can disturb us when we are not in a good mood even our favourite colour. I suppose when we are angry, sometimes colours can’t even calm us down – sometimes the mind is a powerful thing.

          ‘mind and mood play hide and seek in life.’ A winning line from you 😀

          So true that shades of colours and patterns of shades of colours change over time. That’s creativity happening right there. Colour is theme, rightfully so. Sometimes colours sing the song of who we are and what we stand for – like through what we wear and through the colours gravitate to in our everyday life. With every one colour, there are hundreds of shades…and so that means a million colours can arise out of all shades from all over from all colours mixed together.

          Again, spot on. Weather plays a big part in the colours of nature. No sky is every the same, no day is every the same. And yes, been busy here, busier than ever before. But it’s all good. Looking forward to popping by soon and be enlightened by your words of wisdom, Nihar. Take care my friend 😀

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          • “Color and Creativity” has such strong relationship generally undermined, we unearth their fascinating facets as we keep exploring and expanding our horizon and the way we look at life. In order to make our life more vibrant and to make our thinking more creative we need to move away from these dull colors of life and we need move away from these works which are monotonous and mundane, and keep ourselves engaged in things that are manifestations of multiple thoughts and ideas, an array of colorful thoughts and ideas that are weird and may make us wonder…in the cusp of color convergence or divergence different color we discover the beauty of life…

            Some topic keep us going and we can make our thoughts have a multiplier affect on us and this is one topic has so many spirally affect and keep churning ideas and afters and connecting things that were apparently disconnect without the role of color.

            Thanks always Mabel for trigger such intriguing thoughts and make us think deep and wide…
            😀

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            • ‘in the cusp of color convergence or divergence different color we discover the beauty of life…’ Again, so well said, Nihar. Colour is the essence of so many of us, the essence of life. Nothing like a colour to jolt our memory, give us a bit of energy, make that hear of ours beat.

              Always love chatting, Nihar. Hope to pop by over to yours soon for more words of wisdom 😀

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  2. I really learnt a lot reading this post of yours Mabel. I really like red but I’m not fond of yellow. I love black and white. I have mixed feelings about blue.
    Should I ever own a home again, I would have everything in a very clinical white, not least because the light would also help with indoor food photography!
    My daughters always comment that all my device related accessories are in black. My iPhone and iPad are black. I have a black plastic case for my MacBook and it also has a black neoprene sleeve too.
    At this time of year, blue is the colour of the enemy so I can’t be sympathetic, I’m sorry Mabel 😂 My favourite colours are maroon and purple.

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    • I agree with you on white and good photography. Always need to make sure I have a white table and white wall somewhere at home to set up photos 😂 Though I must say if I do have a clinical white home, I’d probably be cleaning it very hard every week 😂😂

      You sound suave in black with all your black gadget,s Gaz 😂

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      • The apartment I rent has cream coloured walls and ceiling so it’s not too bad. If I owned a place, I would like to hang some art on the wall but only in certain rooms.
        Would you ever buy a mirrorless or DSLR in a colour other than black? I just can’t see myself buying a white, or candy red camera. I even put gaff tape over the brand and model of my camera. No one else needs to know what I use.
        My current car is black but I’ve previously chosen cherry red and maroon for my old V8 Falcons.

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  3. The “Yellow River” is in China … OF COURSE IT IS.
    (Switching to Powerpoint lecture mode):

    However, the “Yellow River” of China has nothing to do with the complexion of the population.
    (A few in the audience groans)

    The Huang He (Yellow River) river cuts through a region known as the “Loess Plateau”. Loess particles ares fine grain silty sediments deposited by wind — often blown from dry climates or glaciated regions. These silts have an “interlocking” characteristic, in that the particles can latch together. Unlike sand, You can dig into a seam of loess and create a cave, as the tunnel will support itself. In fact the Chinese had built intricate cave-like dwellings in the region for hundreds of years. Unfortunately, earthquakes had occurred periodically, — thus killing many in China’s history..

    The river system picks up the yellow silts as it dissects the region. This gives the river its yellowish murky tinge. Eventually the Yellow River flows out to The YELLOW SEA which is named — yes — because of the silty deposition into the sea.

    (Audience falls asleep)

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  4. I also wore a lot of black when I was younger. Heck, I still own a lot of black t-shirts today, and all my pants are either black or dark blue (I think my ass is too big to wear light colored pants xD).

    I love red in clothes, I think it looks good on us dark hair and eyes girls. However, red top and pants is a bit too much, haha.

    I used to hate pink until I was 20 or so. Now I’m ok with it and I have several pink clothes.

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  5. Fascinating post Mabel. I have learned a great deal. Can I ask what may seem a silly question. I understand that at least here in Canada, Chinese people will sometimes paint the front door red. Have you heard of that?
    Of course it is of no surprise to me that blue is your favourite colour. I seem to have gone quite colourless these days. My wardrobe has a strong gray theme going on.

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    • No question is a silly question, Sue 🙂 I’ve heard of that, and some Chinese believe that by painting their door red (especially during the Chinese New Year), you’ll invite lots of happiness and good luck into your home.

      Grey and colourless 😂 I’ve actually had a few grey jumpers and knits in my wardrobe this winter. I still need to work on the blue 😂

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  6. I loved this post Mabel!! I learnt so much about different colours according to Asian culture. It was interesting to learn that White is worn to mourn not black and that yellow can be seen as explicit. Blue as you know is also my favourite colour. It’s calming and peaceful. It’s so versatile in its range of blue hues. I agree with you about the red. As a fellow introvert I always thought red was too in your face and I wanted to stay behind the scenes not the spotlight. Missing you a lot, can’t wait to see you when I get back!

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    • Blue is such a beautiful colour, and I feel that it is such a summer colour! For me, even wearing a bit of red is too eye catching for me. haha. I will stick to the blues and more muted tones. Missing you a lot too my friend and so looking forward to seeing you some time soon 🙂 ❤ ❤ ❤

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  7. The Chinese are a rather superstitious bunch aren’t they? There’s also the colours for each generation at funerals – or at least my family carries on that tradition. Black and white for the children, blue for grandchildren and green for great-grands. Consequently, we aren’t allowed to have blue at our weddings!

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    • Yes, the colours and generation at funerals. It is still a tradition that lives on in many Chinese families. I’ve vaguely heard blue also meant unhappiness in Chinese culture, so maybe that is why your family doesn’t wear blue at weddings. Very interesting, but haven’t heard about not wearing blue at weddings in my family.

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  8. Fascinating post, Mabel. It was interesting to read how the different colours are considered in Chinese culture. I think they are very similar to the way they are considered around the world. I guess it’s not surprising that we would perceive colour in similar ways. I agree with you about red. I would never wear it, but it certainly looks festive in the right place and at the right time. Blue is my favourite colour, followed by its friends on either side, green and purple. I especially love sky blue. I think it is joyous and peaceful at the same time. We are so lucky to have the magnificence of blue skies above us most days. I was interested to see that although blue is probably the world’s most favoured colour, that it indicates scholars and the ability to think outside the box. Most of us must think we are original thinkers. 🙂

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  9. Another fun and informative post!! Some of these colors go hand in hand with Vietnamese culture as well. The color yellow made me laugh because it’s my favorite color. Lol. But it symbolizes something a little different in Vietnam. Mostly prosperity, wealth, happiness, etc.. Nonetheless I enjoy reading posts like these. About favorite colors and or things that symbolizes our personalities.

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    • That is true given that Chinese and Vietnamese culture have so many similarities. I once heard someone say Chinese is Vietnamese and Vietnamese is Chinese, but who knows. Asian cultures have their similarities.

      Yellow is an upbear colour in my opinion – and it matches your upbeat personality so well 😀

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  10. personally, when it comes to clothes, i gravitate towards black. it’s a subconscious pull that i consciously fight because i wanna change things up a bit and go for more festive colors.

    in short, i’m trying not to look boring anymore. easier said than done. lol.

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    • I used to be always black because it’s a colour that will make you look at the very least a bit formal. Always works for work.

      I’m shorter than you. I’m even more boring, blending into the background 😀

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      • True. The good thing with black is that it goes with everything so you don’t really have to worry too much about what to pair it with. And it’s slimming too so that helps. Lol.

        I have the feeling we have the typical asian height (read: short!). Do you usually wear heels? I don’t.

        I’ve seen some of your outfits on instagram and you have nice dresses that aren’t black. I reckon non-black colors suit you really well coz you look very youthful.

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        • No heels for me at all and I don’t own a pair of heels. My feet and back are problematic and I only feel comfortable walking in well-cushioned sport shoes (that cost $$$). Even then, I want my shoes to be black or dark grey in colour. So choosy.

          Haha. I also think you can pull off non-dark colours, especially in the summer when the weather is warmer – with that nice smile on your face 🙂 😀

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  11. Hi Mabel, a very colorful post, if I may say so 😀 And of course very interesting – the Chinese Yin and Yang philosophy has always intrigued me and here you decoded the entire color code 🙂 Interesting how colors are by and large interpreted similarly across cultures. Black is evil but in India, black is also used to ward off the evil eye. Red is considered a symbol of fertility and a must for weddings. I hadnt known about the live streaming popularity and that article on gone bananas was quite an eye opener! 😀 Taurus eh? Nice! My brother’s a Taurus too. And like you both the men in my house are very pro blue 😉 Thankfully one is pro light blue and the other darker shades 😀 Green is my favorite color though I am trying to diversify! Cheers to another enjoyable, entertaining and informative post 🙂

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  12. Hi Mabel. I so agree that colors make us see and feel. How boring life would be without colors!
    Very interesting to read about the significance of colors in Chinese culture. In Nepalese culture (where I am from) the meanings are somewhat similar: red is an auspicious color that signifies fertility and victory and is a must at weddings as well. White is used at funerals and denotes peace, calmness and serenity. Blue and green I am not sure – but I think they have to do something with nature. Black is not a favored color at all.
    Yellow’s meaning in Chinese culture is interesting! 😀 I like all colors, but lately I love white. My apartment is furnished with mostly white things and I love it! 😀 It’s simple and soothing I think. I’ve also been wearing a lot of whites in the recent years..

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    • I’ve always wondered about Nepalese culture, and now I know more thanks to you 🙂 Sounds very similar to Chinese culture, and perhaps we are similar in many more ways than we know it.

      Your apartment sounds very sparse and light. I like it the sound of it! My apartment has white walls and white tables, but light blue bedsheets. I wouldn’t have it any other way 😀

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  13. very interesting Mabel. my grandmother was from China and we grew up wearing red (preferably polka dots) on new year’s day for prosperity and wealth. yellow/gold is a bit let down as to what it connotes in modern days; from royalty and power to sexuality and pornography. i’m now more favored to green for nature and blue for water. very soothing and relaxing both for the mind and body. great post as always. 🙂

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    • Thanks for sharing, Lola. It is interesting to see how the meaning of the colour yellow changes over the decades. Might have to read more into it to find out more…

      Agree. Blue and green are both very soothing colours – the colours for nature. Upwards for sky, all around and down for green 🙂

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  14. Enjoyed this immensely. Yes, I pick different colors for different days and needs emotionally, physically, spiritually, mentally–mostly almost without thinking. I just gravitate to one or two over others each day. I prefer teal and the deep rich blue that the deep lakes in certain light shows us. But I enjoy all colors in various contexts and find myself wearing brighter combinations as I age.

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  15. How interesting about the colours. I knew a bit about the colours and their meaning in China but never thought too much about it.
    In the green section you could perhaps also add “Wearing a green hat” ! 😀
    Anyhow my favorite colour seems to be blue but that could be also the result of my mother telling me often in my childhood that her favourite colour is blue…

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  16. Mabel, this is so interesting. I grew up in a white house with black and white paintings. These colors feel sterile to me, not at all inviting.

    I used to have a deep aversion to wearing blue or using it in my home. Red certainly wasn’t my favorite color. Green, green, and more green suited me fine. Tans and cocoas, yes. Now I have painted our living room taupe with a deep rich blood red wool rug and red lacquered tansu, mahogany stained cabinets my husband built and a heavy teak table, teak accent tables – all red/browns. (Furniture consists of mossy greens and corals with aquamarine accents that tie in an exquisite original oil painting hung on the wall.) The earth here in Hawaii is red/brown. My office is light gray with a lovely Indian cobalt blue printed futon, teak table and bookcase. Red/browns again. And blue! I wear it all the time now. Of course the kitchen and dining room are a lovely saturated green with taupe accents, so I get my green fix.

    I think what changed things for me was a)moving to a colorful island paradise and b)going through design school which ‘gave me permission’ to use saturated colors everywhere – as opposed to my New England self that dared not breach the pastel kingdom. Feng shui definitely works in my world. As does Chinese 4 elements – my daughters are both TCM practitioners. And most importantly, the concept that everyone can ‘do’ every color – but certain shades of that color are The key. The reds you were dressed in when young are hideous when worn by me. But blood red, burgandy, maroon even – these work well for me. All of the primary colors actually do not appeal to me at all. But gold or reds mentioned, peacock blue, turquoise, periwinkle … you get the idea. In the designers’ world, these are ‘shades’ or ‘tints,’ resulting from combining adjacent colors on the color wheel.

    So back to 4 element? Red=heart, and everyone who enters spaces I have designed immediately feels warmth and comfort. But again, one must explore the shade of certain colors that works best for the occupants. I know of a famous designer that swears that every room in a home should have a little red in it. If that means ‘a little heart in it,’ I’m all over that 😉

    Cheers, Mabel. Great post, as usual❣️

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    • Interesting to hear black and white is sterile to you these days. I suppose after a while, being exposed to something so often, we fall out of meaning and connection with it. Your red/brown decor at home and the green furniture brings to mind a very cozy forest image – and it all sounds very earthly and connected to nature. It seems that nature is quite an influence on your the way you decorated your house – or maybe it is just called being in tune with yourself and nature, knowing what makes you happy and speaks to you 🙂

      Such an interesting thought you bring up there, that all colours work for us – and it really is just dependent on the shade that we choose. I like that thought. A shade or a different tone of colour can sometimes change how we feel about the colour in one moment. ‘peacock blue, turquoise, periwinkle’ Love all these not-so-in-the-spotlight colours you speak about. They are always there, everywhere around us – and probably more than we think.

      I LOVE that designer’s thought of having a bit of red in every space. A bit of red, a bit of heart, a lot of love 🙂 Now I’m all over that myself 😍 Beautiful and insightful comment, Bela. Thank you so much for sharing ❤

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  17. Very interesting and enjoyable post, Mabel! When I look back at my photos from two trips to China, I see loads and loads of red and yellow, and now I know why! I fall into the majority on my favorite color overall – blue – but other colors please me in different arenas at different times. I find yellow to be a sunny, warm color that makes me happy, green reminds me of the great outdoors, and black, gray, white, and khaki are neutrals that I turn to again and again for my wardrobe and my decorating at home. Like you, I am not a fan of red (or any of its variants) at all; I think I look terrible in it, and I could not imagine having that color in my house!

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    • It sounded like every bit the colourful trip to China. I like how you find positive in so many colours. Seems we all like blue. Maybe it’s because no matter where are in this world, there’s bound to be a bit of blue sky somewhere – hence so many of us have some sort of innate connection to the colour.

      I also can’t imagine having a house in the colour red. Though I must say in parts of Asia, brick red tile houses – or brownish -red tiled roofs – are quite popular.

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  18. Beautiful read learned a lot thanks for this❤️ my favorite color is aqua blue it’s been my fav since I was a baby I guess it’s not that girly and how is has this brightness to it and how I loveeeeeee the beach in the islands which is crystal clear aqua blue color 💙 do check out my two new blog post about my trip to the Barbados and let me know what you think would love that❤️

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  19. ” . . . China banned erotic eating of the fruit on online . . .” What does this mean? Were people actually being obscene by licking bananas?

    My top three favourite colours are black, scarlet red and olive green. I still also wear a lot of black. Drives my mum nuts!

    Being black, wearing a lot of actual black and growing up in North America has it challenges when the perception of the colours black and white are even polarized in common language and dictionary definitions:

    black
    1
    a : of the color black (see 2black 2) a black sweater a black dog as black as coal
    b (1) : very dark in color his face was black with rage (2) : having a very deep or low register (see 1register 4b) a bass with a black voice (3) : heavy, serious the play was a black intrigue
    2
    a : having dark skin, hair, and eyes : swarthy the black Irish
    b (1) often capitalized : of or relating to any of various population groups having dark pigmentation of the skin black Americans (2) : of or relating to the African-American people or their culture black literature a black college black pride black studies (3) : typical or representative of the most readily perceived characteristics of black culture trying to sound black tried to play blacker jazz
    3
    : dressed in black (see 2black 2) playing for the black team
    4
    : dirty, soiled hands black with grime
    5
    a : characterized by the absence of light a black night
    b : reflecting or transmitting little or no light black water
    c : served without milk or cream black coffee
    6
    a : thoroughly sinister or evil : wicked a black deed
    b : indicative of condemnation or discredit got a black mark for being late
    7
    : connected with or invoking the supernatural and especially the devil black magic the black arts
    8
    a : very sad, gloomy, or calamitous black despair
    b : marked by the occurrence of disaster black Friday
    9
    : characterized by hostility or angry discontent : sullen black resentment filled his heart
    ______________________________________

    white
    whiter; whitest
    1
    a : free from color
    b : of the color of new snow or milk; specifically : of the color white
    c : light or pallid in color white hair lips white with fear
    d : lustrous pale gray : silvery; also : made of silver
    2
    a : being a member of a group or race characterized by light pigmentation of the skin
    b : of, relating to, characteristic of, or consisting of white people or their culture
    c
    [from the former stereotypical association of good character with northern European descent]
    : marked by upright fairness that’s mighty white of you
    3
    : free from spot or blemish: such as
    a (1) : free from moral impurity : innocent (2) : marked by the wearing of white by the woman as a symbol of purity a white wedding
    b : unmarked by writing or printing
    c : not intended to cause harm a white lie white magic
    d : favorable, fortunate
    one of the white days of his life — Sir Walter Scott
    4
    a : wearing or habited in white
    b : marked by the presence of snow : snowy a white Christmas

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    • Think of it this way. Banana is a phallic symbol in some contexts. Eating banana often connotes sexual innuendo so to answer your question, yes. Or at the very least giving off obscene vibes.

      Those are some very particular definitions of the colour black and white coming from a dictionary. Poloarizing definitions indeed, and interetsing to see they draw a lot on the typical status quo train of thought. Colours may be a more sensitive subject than we think, especially when we talk about colours of our backs or even the colours that we wear. A certain colour to someone can certainly mean the opposite of that to another person altogether. As a Chinese kid growing up in a predominantly white neighbourhood in Australia, I always got teased in the playground. I always wore red, which was what my mum dressed me in. I was the only kid at school dressed like that, and til this day I wonder if the kids were laughing at what I wore or the way I was. Maybe both.

      Liked by 1 person

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  21. Hi Mabel, thank you for always providing such educational posts! I did not realize the significance of black or blue colors for the Chinese culture. I knew about the red and gold colors. It is great that you explain that which we may not even know to ask about! I wouldn’t want to wear black then if I wanted to impress a traditional Chinese family then. It will be interesting to see if this color association changes for the next few generations, and how much so. Wishing you a wonderful weekend ahead 🙂

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    • I think it’s okay to wear black in ‘moderation’ when visiting Chinese families. For instance, black pants with a nice coloured top would be okay most of the time 🙂 It will be interesting indeed to see if the we’ll still think of colours in the more traditional sense sometime down the track. These days a lot of Chinese and many parts of Asia are keen on jumping on the globalisation bandwagon 🙂

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  22. Wow! What an interesting read, Mabel. I knew about red because I visited China and had read it somewhere. Didn’t know about the others. Coincidentally, a friend was visiting Seoul the other day and we discussing colours of the N-Seoul Tower. The N-Seoul Tower indicates the air quality in Seoul and changes from blue, green to red. 🙂 It’s interesting how colours are used to depict a variety of different things.

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    • So interesting to hear about the N-Seoul tower and its connection to the air quality. I’m guessing red means the air is very polluted…with blue being the cleanest and freshest. A thoughtful environmental scheme from an iconic tower 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  23. I like your detailed description and interpretation of colors Mabel…cultural connection with colors defines our personality.
    Red has been my favorite color… how it got associated with danger, fear and anger is difficult to understand as red roses symbolize love and passion. It is the most vibrant color that helps us thrive, the color of our blood, symbolic of life and energy. As you have rightly mentioned, a bride in Asian countries wears Red, which is the color of celebrating new sensitivities and relationships.
    If you want to see a riot of colors, visit India. Some of the states like Rajasthan, Punjab and Gujarat are a living example of the brightest outfits, worn without any second thought. White may be a color of purity, faith and innocence but it has been assigned for widows for times immemorial albeit the tradition has been changing slowly since women stepped out of oppressive cultural bindings.
    Thanks for sharing a well-researched post interspersed with personal experiences. 🙂 Have a wonderful weekend dear friend.

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    • I like how in your profile pic you are wearing a bright colour, Balroop. It suits very well and your smile goes along with it too. True that red symbolises anger and fear. But like you, I usually see it as love, passion and something positive. Though red does heighten my anxiety levels, I don’t particularly think negative of it – I just try to minimise the presence of the colour around me.

      ‘If you want to see a riot of colors, visit India.’ I would love to see that, and thank you for the recommendations of places to visit. Sounds like different parts of India have different kinds of colourful outfits, and it would be lovely to see how different colours work with different patterns and Indian fashion, traditional and modern. One time in primary school my class did an Indian dance performance for a talent show. I had to dress up in a saree, and I chose to wear a bright purple one, complete with gold bangles and red bindi 🙂 Thank you for the kind words m lovely friend. You have a wonderful weekend and week ahead 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  24. Imagine the world without colors…! Not possible.
    I can’t understand people who wear only black, day and night and all the days of the year. It feels they are mourning their own life. Your said it right, color makes you feel and see.

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  26. Can’t imagine you looking like this at all,. Mabel … ‘When I was a teenager, my fashion sense was ‘punk edgy’ (and it still is today). I wore black jeans and a black shirt and had choppy black layered hair’ 😀, and the description of your mother’s reaction parallels mine during my early black is beautiful and fasbionable phase, but it did not change anything, i still wear black quite a bit these days.

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    • My sense of fashion has always been edgy, rock and roll. It really is me 😀 Sounds like you are confident in black. Wear the colour like you own it, and that camera shining in your hand 😀

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  27. I did not know about yellow and pornography! That’s a new one, and the banana-banning bit is hilarious. The red symbolism I did know, and I was determined to fit some red into my western wedding, even though it’s a terrible color on me personally. But since no one can see your undergarments if you’re wearing an enormous white dress, my husband and I figured out a way.

    But now I wonder if we should have been wearing yellow thongs instead. 🙂

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  28. Mabel this was such an interesting post, as one who would at do Auragraph paintings.. ( they can be found on my blog using the search ) I would give interpreting the colours as well as the theme of the painting . Red would be bold too, also representative sometimes of Anger.. Yellow was intellect.. SO interesting to read about the sexual connection there.. Orange was more on communication.. and courage.. Pink was love.. Purple was more spiritual. Blue was healing and green was growth, learning knowledge etc..

    So I was extremely interested in your views and cultures meaning of them..
    Wishing you a Peaceful weekend Mabel.. Love and Hugs my friend xx ❤
    Sue xx

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  29. Great post Mabel! 🙂 I am currently reading a book by Kassia St Clair title ‘The Secret Lives of Colour’ and in it it has a very interesting observation about the colour blue – a German philosopher, Lazarus Geiger, studied Vedic chants from India and discovered that all the wonderful colours of sunsets and forest were mention, however, if you didn’t already know, you wouldn’t learn from these chants that the sky was blue… the colour is never mentioned? Odd eh. I always look forward to your post Mabel and his one is one of my favourites – I love colours and what they mean to others – my favourite colour is Orange by the way, and interestingly, in English, the word ‘orange’ only became the word for the colour, in the sixteenth century. Apparently the word originated from China and slowly worked its way west through varying forms – nārang, naranja, orenge and then orange 🙂 Stay warm Mabel, snuggle up with a nice warm, red blanket 🙂

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    • Sounds like such an interesting book you are reading there, Andy. Hmmm. The colour blue not being mentioned. Perhaps we all know blue exists and it has a special space in the subconscious – we just know it’s there, like how we all know the sky is there but we don’t think about it.

      I too like orange. Once I went through a phase where I wore this orange shirt a lot, lol. Interesting history behind that word. There’s something I heard, that nothing rhymes with the word orange. ‘Strange’ would be closest rhyming word in my opinion…

      You stay warm too, Andy. It is cold here, zero degrees and below. No fun but that means summer is every a day more closer 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  30. I’d heard some of this while in China but really enjoyed seeing all of the colors laid out with their meanings Mabel. Some of my favorite colors, like yellow and red both, look just awful on me while others, like blue and rose, work much better. As always, a thought-provoking post with terrific photos

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    • That is so true – colours we may like won’t usually look good on us. It’s like how pink apparently looks good on my but I am not a huge fan of the colour. Terrific photos – what a compliment from you, Tina. Thank you 😀 Take care and give your camera a workout again 🙂

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  31. I read this last night and was thinking of a response, but then, I got sidetracked by life hereabouts.

    When I was growing up, chinese culture was just that -something of people with Chinese heritage/ancestry practice. With the advent of more television and big malls promoting every celebration for both commercial and educational purppses, Chinese culture became more mainstream. Red and gold would be all around during big celebrations. I particularly like the red envelop idea, ampaw as it is called back home. Because of that, red envelops has become associated with momey gifts and such. Before that, red, with reference to China, would mean cimmunist China.

    I was surprised about white though. I think because if the Chinese practice, some Filipinos adopted white asourning color with a little black ribbon or something.

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    • Such an important point you bring up there – that for a long, long time, the colour red was associated with communist China. Perhaps for some of the older generation or those who have fought in the wars, this is still the case. True that colours have become commercialised, but I think that has the potential to bring us together and learn about each other’s culture.

      Interesting to hear that Filipinos adorn why with a black ribbon. Thank you for stopping by again, Imelda. Really appreciate it and hope all is well on your side 🙂

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    • You are right. Spot on.Those are the colours that are generally associated with Chinese weddings. Dark colours should be avoided, and some even say blue. In Chinese culture, a ‘green hat’ means infidelity.

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  32. I’m a bit of a jeans person, Mabel, and I tend to wear white and cream tops a lot. I don’t really like dark colours on me but I love plums and contrast colours in decor. (my living room has cream wallpaper with a dark pink poppy print and a dark pink contrast wall on the stairs 🙂 ) Happy weekend to you!

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    • Me too, Jo. I am every bit the jeans person and am currently redoing my jeans wardrobe 😦 It sounds like you know what looks good on you and wear what makes you feel confident, and what you like in your home. Have a good week, Jo 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  33. Another great topic, and I loved reading all the responses too — Several years ago there was a fad of “having our colors done” – which involved having a color consultant say which colors were the most flattering for an individual’s skin tones. They made up little packets of color chips to use when shopping, and the theory was that our wardrobes would be coordinated so that everything went together. (Yes, I found my little color packet when cleaning out dresser drawers!) Black was not among my colors, but I love wearing it. That way I feel like I’m always ready to zip off to New York or London (as if I really could) — and by the way, on the house, I’m proud to have a red front door.

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    • So interesting to hear about the colour chip packets. It must have put shopping for you into perspective those years ago. I’ve never heard about them before, and I don’t think we have them here in Australia.

      Black can certainly make us feel a little bit more classy. When I wear black, I tend to feel more like a rebel 😀 Hope a lot of good luck has been rushing through your font door, Sandy. Thank you for stopping by, and for reading the comments too. You’re very much appreciated 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • I just remembered “Warning” by Jenny Joseph —

        When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
        With a red hat that doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me,
        And I shall spend my pension
        on brandy and summer gloves
        And satin sandals…

        Here, there are lots of “Red Hat Societies” in honor of this poem.

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  34. Mabel,

    I just want to take a moment and honor your writing as a way to develop a deeper conversation with the people you are connected to. Your approach invites the reader to reflect on their own experience and to integrate the information and observations you write about into their thinking. It’s wonderful!

    The story of your mom dressing you in bright red when you were a toddler sounded painful! It reminded me of a similar challenge in my childhood. When I was a teenager (in the 1970s), my mom was totally into polyester pantsuits (yuch), for herself, but also for me and my younger sister. I remember dreading opening birthday presents for fear of what she might have bought me. There was one afternoon she took us with her to go shopping at a department store, and my sister and I decided to “disappear” while she was shopping in the women’s department, thinking if we were not around to try things on, she wouldn’t buy those dreadful polyester outfits for us. Wrong – she just guessed our size and announced her purchases after we got home.

    Thankfully, she eventually listened to us and stopped buying these outfits for us. I think I started the conversation one afternoon, about how since we weren’t going to wear them, it would be a waste of money. To her credit, she seemed to get the point and stopped clothes-shopping for us.

    I felt so sensitive about wanting to feel well-dressed as a child and teenager (as an expression of my own personality, not someone else’s), that I gave my oldest son a “clothing allowance” when he was 12-18 years old, so that he could buy things he really wanted, not that me or his dad “thought” he should wear. He told me many times how much that meant to him.

    I loved your description of the color blue. It has such a soft feeling, that color. I think I read that blue, used in prisons or psychiatric hospitals, can provide a soothing effect. I also liked your mentioning that you like red as a decorative color, just not to wear. I’m attracted to red for things like my cell phone case color, and we have a little red bistro table and chairs on our porch, too – I think it cheers me up! I like to say green is my favorite color, it reminds me of the natural environment and living things. I was happy to see that’s what it connotes in Chinese culture, too. My youngest son really likes black – he also prefers to fit in and not stand out and be noticed by other people. My daughter enjoys a dark pink, sometimes called “mulberry,” as a favorite color, though she likes a lot of different colors – she does all that knitting, spinning, weaving, and other textile work. Thank you for a lovely and thought-provoking post!

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    • Polyester playsuits sounded like a painful look for you. Your mum sounded very insistent on getting them for you and your sister. They must have been very affordable back then, or maybe your mum did think they were all the fashion rage 😀

      It is very nice of you to give your son clothing allowance when he was a teenager. Hope he didn’t buy anything too outrageous. Then again, we’re always experimenting with fashion and different colours on us, and we go through phases when we feel something’s more right for us in a certain moment. He must think you are a cool parent 😀

      Agree with you that blue is soft, and I also think that it has a soft sense of confidence about it. Your red little bistro table sounds like a very welcoming table when the weather is nice and warm enough for a meal outside. I bet it has seen some social occasions and created memorable memories.

      Thank you so much for the kind words, Theresa. You leave the most heartwarming comments.

      Liked by 1 person

  35. I no longer have 1 favourite colour. I like and wear certain shades of plain turquoise with ie. silver highlights if it’s a scarf or silver jewellery. I like and red certain shades of red –meaning clear, not too bright reds that is 1 colour. Overall, my preference for colour against/near my face is clear, jewel colours..not muddy, dull colours. It’s not good against yellow cast skin tones. Unless one wears lots of makeup..which I gave up over a decade ago.

    Believe me as one ages, colour shades by your face, becomes more important.

    As for interior home finishes..I don’t match stuff because I’m slightly lazy. But again I like calming, clear colours. Only bright accents here and there. Right now, there’s piles of painted canvasses and clothing all over the couch…air conditioner needs fixing. ;(

    I gave up ages ago on the Chinese cultural associations with colours except when I buy gift cards for my mother…I make sure the flowers are red, pink or purple. Not white. She likes gold mum flowers. 🙂

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    • Turquoise is such a lovely colour. On a side note, I love turquoise stones, and love wearing turquoise rings, be they blue or green. It is true that our skin changes colour over time. When I was younger and lived in Singapore, my skin was dark and tanned. Now living in Australia, I have become so many shades lighter as we don’t have strong sunshine all year round – and these days in winter I get into and leave the office when it’s dark. I’ve found blue was/is a colour that has alwas looked good on me all my life.

      Hope you get those clothing sorted and the air-conditioning fixed. Sounds like you are enjoying lots to put chores aside, and very thoughtful of you to think carefully about your mum 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  36. In general, blue is my favorite color. I also like turquoise a lot, and I like green if it’s not too dark. One of my daughters is a lawyer/prosecutor. She had a trial last week. She said she wore a blue suit every day. Lawyer research has found that blue makes you appear honest.

    I don’t think there’s any color I dislike. In fact, having been an artist, I just love color. Right now, the sun is beginning to set, and everything is changing color, and every color is beautiful.

    There’s one thing I find different about the Chinese understanding of color. For me, and I think for most Americans, there is a very hard distinction between red and pink. Even a bright, dark pink is not red. Almond Roca, a product that’s made in my state, is sold in a dark pink tin. I’ve read that it sells well to Chinese shoppers because they like to give things in red packaging as gifts. I, on the other hand, would never have considered the Almond Roca tin as even related to red. Pink is quite different in my mind.

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    • I like turquoise a lot, and am obsessed with turquoise stones be they blue or green. That is an interseting tidbit – that blue makes you appear honest. ‘I just love colour’ What a wonderful thing to say, Nicki. Embracing all cultures sounds like something so postive – no colour left out, all colours compliment each other in some way.

      I googled Almond Roca. The time does look like a dark pink colour…but at the same time it also appears to be red to me. We all see colour differently, and I’m pretty sure most of our computer screens project colour to us differently as well. That said, I haven’t actually heard many Chinese go crazy over the colour pink, but it is associated with being less masculine and more feminine., girly in short.

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  37. Such a fascinating post! My mother used to dress me in red all the time as a kid. Perhaps she had heard from her Chinese friends of the power of the color?! These days I try to steer away from red and prefer blue. Blue suits my skin color the best and it reminds me of the sea. However, I don’t like light blue! At home I don’t have that many blue things, except our upstairs sofa is dark/denim blue! Everything is mostly different hues of grey. 🙂

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    • Maybe your mother did think red was good luck. I like different shades of blue, but I don’t think light blue pants or jeans look good on me. I’m sure blue looks good on you any day, any kind of blue. My sofa at home is actually a middle shade of blue 😀

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