In Chinese culture and language there are many fascinating traditions which have been passed on down the generations. Among others, these include colours and clothing.
In Chinese culture there are three main colours: red, black and white.
Red, as the colour of blood, represents the good aspects of life such as joy and prosperity. Red is always linked to good fortune.
Black, as the colour of faeces is linked to dirt, evil, misfortune, despair, cruelty and suffering as well as a number of other negative connotations. Black represents bad fortune and cannot be worn at festivals, weddings etc. or utilised in household adornments. Black represents an absence of civilisation and a lack of progress. But traditions linked to this colour are quickly fading, and among younger people black can often be seen as a clothing colour.
White represents the mother’s milk and is a mediating colour between red and black, balancing the two shades. It represents moderation, purity, integrity and life, but is also utilised at funerals as it is thought it can harmonise every element. It can be present in all rituals and traditions as it is mainly neutral. Other colours are ordered according to their darkness and lightness and associated importance.
There are no particular regulations in Chinese custom governing dress. Traditional costumes are scarcely worn and clothing is normally chosen for comfort or abiding by modern fashion.
This website is all about China and Chinese culture – including the language, traditions and food.
The most significant festival in China is Spring Festival, more usually referred to in the West as Chinese New Year. Like many Chinese festivals, the date is decided by the lunar/solar calendar rather than the Western (Gregorian) calendar, so the holiday changes from late January to mid February.
The Spring festival is about the earth returning to life, and the beginning of the agricultural period. In the past, feudal heads of dynasties put great importance on this event. Ceremonies to usher in the new season took place. Many people travel to China to see the festivities.
Preparations for the New Year festival begin during the remaining days of the last moon. Houses are properly cleaned, debts repaid, hair is cut and new garments are purchased. Doors are adorned with vertical scrolls of characters on red scrolls whose texts offer good luck and celebrate nature. This practice stems from the hanging of charms to ward off evil spirits. In several houses incense is burned, and in the temples as a representation of respect to ancestors.
On New Year’s Eve houses are vividly decorated and a large family meal is provided. In the south of China glutinous rice pudding named nian gao is served. In the north the dumpling jiaozi is popular. Most celebrating the event stay up till the middle of the night when fireworks are lit, to ward off evil spirits. New Years day is normally spent going to see neighbours, family and friends.