The Color Red, in China

Red in China, then.

The Chinese have always favored the Red color and used it to symbolize happiness and celebration. It is used in the bridal wedding gown, known as the Qipao. Red, they believe wards off evil, so much that even the modern buildings are coated with Red. The number 13, being referred to as an unlucky number, many Chinese believe that by wearing Red colored clothing or accessories would ward of evil spirit or bad luck (Kirsi Kommonen, 2011).

“Red expresses happiness. In Chinese history, we seem to have never disliked red. The Chinese red is a yellowish red from cinnabar; this gives us the feeling of happiness. Consequently, red is used in celebrations; in the bridal wedding gown, in New Year’s celebrations.” quotes a color professional in the study by Kirsi. Colors are more of an art, than a science. Or is it? Could it be more of a science than an art? This becomes the realm of this post.

According to Satyendra Singh (2006), color Red is associated with increased metabolism and increased appetite. This could be the reason the Chinese People’s life expectancy is 73.5 Years (Wolfram Alpha, 2012) by enabling them to metabolize food faster and be healthier. Not to forget that state of mental happiness accounts to a much healthier life as well. Health also translates into reproductive health, which might explain the high population in China.

  • Is this color playing a deep role in everything that makes China what it is today? Can we safely extrapolate that it will continue to be a major influence in what China will be tomorrow, if the emphasis and importance they place on this color continues?
  • Are the businesses, marketers and advertisers using this color's full potential to sell?
  • How longer will this trend go on? Besides the fact that this has been going on for centuries!
  • Kirsi Kommonen, 2011. “Narratives on Chinese colour culture in business contexts”. Cross Cultural Management 18 (3) pp.366-383.
  • Satyendra Singh 2006. "Impact of Colour on Marketing". Management Decision 44 (6) pp.783-789.

The Present State

However with modernization, urbanization and globalization, there comes westernization and the color Red is starting to fade away into the international hues of grey and pink, which is not very Chinese. “The present society is high in tension. If all the colors are grey, we will not have the joy of Life”, notes one interviewee in the Study by Kirsi.

In this hue shift, we are seeing the rise of a modern China, whose youth are defining their own identities, by bending the values that have existed for centuries. What implications could this have, on health, culture, wealth and everything else that you can think of?

This article was originally written for an article submission in my management studies curriculum, and has been modified here and there for blogginess, with not much success! So if you are a regular reader of this blog, and find something fishy/academic/referenced/not-very-Ram-writing-style...You just have great observation skills. Cheers.