Why is red considered a lucky color for the Chinese?

Chris Lee
Chris Lee
Apr 10, 2017 · 3 min read

3 popular ‘red’ practices you must know

To non-Chinese, the color red reminds people of fire and blood. But in Chinese culture, the color red has a different meaning. Red is an extremely auspicious color.

Chinese flag in red
Forbidden City in Beijing painted with the color red

Two mythologies are linked to the origins of Chinese using red as a lucky color.

Mythology 1:

The founder and first emperor of the Han dynasty (202–195 BC) was said to be “the son of RED emperor”*1. Since then, people decided to honor red color. Red symbolizes the authority and the privileged.

A mythical beast called 年兽 (nián shòu) would come to devour livestock and people around Chinese New Year.

Mythology 2:

Long time ago, a mythical beast called 年兽 (nián shòu) would come to devour livestock and people around Chinese New Year. Luckily, nián shòu was sensitive to loud noises and afraid of the color red. Hence, it became a new year tradition to light firecrackers, hang red lanterns and red scrolls on windows or doors and perform Chinese Lion Dance. Tada! Nián shòu never appeared again.

3 ‘red’ practices that are still popular today

hóngbāo (红包, red packets)

Red packets are given to children during Chinese New Year. There is money called ‘压祟钱 (yā suì qián)’ inside the red packet.

hóng jīdàn (红鸡蛋, red eggs)

Chinese red eggs are served during an important birthday (such as the first month or first year). Handing out these eggs to family and friends symbolizes joy and renewed life.

gǔpiào (股票, stock)

In the US, declining stock prices are reflected with red color but in China, Korea, and Japan, rising stock prices are indicated in red. Red is associated with wealth and stock gains.

Cultural tips

1) Traditionally, white clothing is symbolic of the dead, while red is strictly forbidden as it indicates happiness.

2) Although Chinese culture uses colors symbolically in every ritual, ceremony, festival, and in business, not all Chinese people like red, which is just a culturally symbolic color. Young generation might even prefer to wear white wedding dress!

Information from Chat to Learn Chinese Apps on Google Play Store or IOS App Store.

*1 References: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emperor_Gaozu_of_Han

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