The word “red” as a symbol in the Chinese language carries a profound culture and needs to be studied carefully as a second language. The color “Red” also known as pinyin “Hong” in Chinese has unique symbols regarding its metaphorical usage, idiomatic expression, and figurative meaning in the Chinese language. The color red is always associated with good fortune and happiness and it’s always the preferred choice of color in Chinese celebrations and occasions such as the New Year. It is the Chinese national color and quite popular since it is extensively used in everyday’s life.
The Symbols of Red in Chinese Culture
A symbol of happy events
In China, red reminds them of the red sun, the source of life on earth. The sun brings warmth, vitality and life on earth and the Chinese people have regarded the color red as a color of warmth, happiness, auspiciousness, life and so many other positive things. Most often than not, red is connected with respect, celebrations and praises in the Chinese culture. For instance, “hong bang-red honor roll’ which means “honor roll written on red paper.” There is also a red silk band put on somebody’s shoulders as a token of honor especially granted to an exemplary person or hero. The Chinese people also write invitations to happy events such as birthdays and betrothal on the red paper. Also, names of distinguished guests are written on a red paper as an indication of respect.
Red is also symbolized of joyfulness. During most of the Chinese traditional customs such as the Spring Festival or even some paramount days, most of the civilians do wear red clothes and hang red lights. Also, the seniors give some money to newlyweds in a red envelope. Red is also primarily involved in the Chinese cultures involving marriage. It is usually regarded a symbol of joy and luck, and the red woman is a matchmaker who goes between the connection of marriage. The Chinese god of marriage has the red cord that binds the betrothed couples for life. The guests will give a red bag to the married couple to express their wishes and show celebration, and when their baby was born, they would celebrate with a red egg and red sugar.
Just like any other countries, the red carpet symbolizes special treatment given to a guest of honor or an important guest. It is used to indicate a grand reception and in welcoming distinguished guests. A red-letter day in China would mean a very important day just like in western culture.
A symbol of revolution
In China, red can also symbolize socialism and revolution. It didn’t exactly originate from China but was adopted from the French Revolution (1789-1794) where they used the bonnet rouge and the red flag. The Chinese Communist Part gave it a much stronger sense of revolution with the Chinese flag being red which was in honor of the blood of the revolutionaries. The expression of red heart would mean profound loyalty to the party of even subscribing to socialist virtues while the red flag signifies setting a good example in social construction.
Red area means, the base area established during the second revolution civil war by the Communist Party. During the revolutionary war years referred to as Red evolution, such terms were used red power, red-document, red guards, red guards and red-tasseled spear. Also, during the Great Chinese Revolution, red was politically used. Chairman Mao was called the red sun and his works red treasured books while the country was called red territory and the ruling power referred to as red political power. During this era, people loved painting their doors red and wrote a political slogan. Red was the fad, and the whole country was synonymous to the red sea. This hasn’t augured well with most westerners and has had a bad understanding of “Red China” hence it has since been deleted.
The Association with a Certain Emotion
In China, red-faced would mean somebody is embarrassed or angry. The color can also easily catch attention thus it’s used as a signal of emergency or danger. It can also be associated with excitement and exuberance. Red can also symbolize restraining or warn as a reminder to people to guard against. Hong Deng or red light is a signal asking you to stop at crossroads. A red alert would mean an emergency and red flag means the area is under construction.
Symbol of Youth, Health, and Beauty
In China when you say a baby is red-faced it means that she/he is beautiful while rue-faced, and ruddy means somebody that is spiritual and healthy. They use red girl’s apartment to refer to a girls bedroom and red gem to mean the color of a beautiful woman. The westerners have never associated red with a woman hence this is quite strange.
A symbol of Fortune, Fame, and power
Red is associated with benefit and fortune. Historically, red quotation meant the price of goods the first day after Spring Festival Day. There was also the red benefit to mean bonus, divide the red to mean dividend, full hall red to mean successful in business. In China, the rise in the stock exchange is represented in red during the decline in green but the opposite in the western stock market.
Other phrases include the color red to become famous, red luck to mean somebody has gotten lucky and is successful. Red also signifies high ranking and power, and red door a symbol of high status and wealth. Rich people, nobles and high officials dress up in red to symbolize power and success. The red loving customs in China are traced back during the worship of fire which shelters people with safety and warmth.
Chinese New Year and Color Red
Legends and folktales say that Chinese New Year beginning was marked with a fight against a mythical beast called Nian or Year. Nian used to come to every New Year and attack crops, livestock, and even villagers. As a way of protecting themselves, they would keep food by the front door so that it would it and wouldn’t attack them. But once people realized that Nian was scared away by a little child putting on red, they knew he was afraid of red during New Year; they would hang on the windows red lanterns to scare him away or use firecrackers.
New Year Practices in China
The color red is used in all decorations liberally and red packets are given to the juniors and children. The red packets always contain money which should be in even form. Fireworks, during the ancient times gun power was filled with bamboo stems then burnt to create small explosions used to wade off evil spirits but in modern times, firecrackers are used instead. Most of the people dress up in color red because it’s believed it will scare off bad fortune and evil spirit. The lanterns used are red in color and oval shaped.
The color red is quite commonplace and important in China both traditionally and in the modern world. It is the color of choice for brides and if you are doing business in China try and incorporate a bit of red in marketing. Understanding Chinese culture will help you efficiently communicate with them, and color terms form an integral part of cross-cultural communication. Considering the above color red cultural connotations, we realize how profound it is in the Chinese language. When you correctly understand the metaphor of color red as represented in the Chinese culture, then you will easily get to communicate with the people.