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  • Q&A - Global Color

Q&A-Global Color

Global Color Symbolism

Does color symbolism in different cultures matter?

Color symbolism in different cultures

Colors in China

Colors in Korea

Color in Africa

Red in Russia and China

The color red in American culture/education

Native American color symbolism


Does color symbolism in other cultures matter?

Color People, I'm confused. I've seen people looking at color and writing about it. Many are diligently investigating color - it's supposed meanings - associations - bla bla bla - in various cultures, in different corners of the globe...etc. But to what end? Where does the investigation lead to? If I took the word Red (or perhaps the word 'water'...any word) and looked at it in a dozen...a 100 different languages, I'd come up with the just as many different results. Red...in English, in French, in German, in Hopi, in Binary, in Octal, in any language, in any form. So (?) here I sit with mounds of paper ... Red in 100 languages. Even Red as spoken by some bleeding cave man that said "gRrEDdh" or some other gutteral grunting word. A bunch of guys on one dirt mound mumbled for a thousand years and poof...the French language popped up. (It's phonetically beautiful isn't it?) Another bunch of guys on another dirt heap yacked away and came up with English...and another recently started chatting in binary. All of the systems work fairly well. (All of them even include the word Red...how lovely.) And now I've compiled them all... But to what end? If I created 5 new cultures or found 7 new civilizations for you to investigate...and you compiled all of their color associations and 'meanings' what would that add to your work? Would it bring you closer to some goal? Any thoughts about all this effort? What is really being sought here? Anything? Mac

Mac, I can't speak for the other "color people" but for myself, if one understands a culture, then one can communicate better with it. I am an American, art director who is completing an MBA. I will use this component of my research, in conjunction with other research, to help create better advertising to the consumer in India.

Color symbolism in different cultures

I am doing an International Bacclaureate extended essay on the meaning of colors in different cultures around the world. Any information on the symbolism and/origins of color symbolism would be greatly appreciated. Carina Anderson

Jose Luis Caivano:
Look for articles and books written by John Hutchings, who is an specialist in the subject. You can find some of them in the three Proceedings of the International Color Association, published in Buenos Aires (1989), Budapest (1993) and Tokyo (1997). See also the color bibliography http://www.fadu.uba.ar/sitios/sicyt/color/bib.htm

Try reading The Primary Colors by A. Theroux.

Database of Color Symbolism

Colors in China

To the Chinese, color means a lot. Red, the most popular is an auspicious color. It help to keep evil away. Yellow connotes royalty, properity and luck. Green is bad. When Chinese says a person is wearing a green hat, it means that his wife is having an affair. Black is bad too. It connects with eviland death. So is white. White is pure but in certain circumstances, white connects with death as well.Hope this if of help to you. I am from Malaysia.

Colleen Platt:
The chinese mourning color is white. Also, chinese usually wear red wedding dresses

I have read mostly that white is the traditional color for mourning in Chinese culture, although in some southeast Asian countries black has become the funerary color. Blue, as noted in another reply, is often also a color for funerals. In Korea in the 19th century, the Emperor decreed that everyone in the country should wear white for a long stretch of weeks after the death of anyone in the royal family, but, since the family was so large and somebody from it was always keeling over, the peasantry got so used to wearing white that it lost all funerary implications and they white became everyday wear, and they took to wearing dark blue for mourning the death of someone they actually knew and felt bad about having died.

I do a research on colours in Chinese culture, and mourning colour in Chinese culture is vary, some of the colours have opposing connotation, e.g. blue denoted to mourning also denotes to hope, spring. Purple can denote mourning but also can denote a positive meanings. white can mean death, but also refer to purity. If you want to know the basic colour meaning in chinese culture try to read Eberhard's book " dictionary of chinese symbolism" also a book by sarah rosbach, i think the title is "living colour"

Colors in Korea

From the old time,Korean was called white-clad. Korean wears in white as soon as born and died.These white cloths express the buddish idea 'come empty,return empty'and the white color means assimilation with nature.

Korean people admire white color. They believed that the sun is a God and the Korean is a son of the God and they wear the white colored cloths standing out the glory of the sun with pride. This became a tradition for Korean.The white color in Korea means purity,innocence,morality.


Color in Africa

Kristy :
What is the effect of color to people in Africa.

In some research I did on this topic, I found much info that said that color on objects is a secondary consideration in many African cultures. Surface texture is far more important. Color having symbolic meaning is not as prevalent as in some other cultures. This is not to say that daily life is colorless, it's just that color's importance and significance can change from clan to clan and region to region. The peoples of southern Africa have a tradition of painting the exterior of their houses in elaborate geometric patterns, usually black and white on a colored background. Zulu beadwork bracelets and anklets (very much like AmerIndian beadwork) were once used to convey messages; each color and colors in combination having some specific meaning, but now are mostly decorative. There is a clan known as the red people because they wore red clothing, but I don't remember their name. In northern Africa, green will almost always signify Islam. This is less true the further south and west you get.


Red in Russia and China

The words for red and beautiful in Russian have the same root "kras". Perhaps that it relevent.

I'm sorry but I am just in the beginning stages of research,... The only thing I have found is that red is used in marriage ceremonies- both in Russian and Oriental cultures. The symbolism of luck. Sorry I can't be of more help to you.


The color red in American culture/education

I am interested in any references to the use of the color red in American/Western culture. Are there cultural/traditional reasons for Harvard's crimson academic robes? Why venerable books are red leather-bound/ Why the perfect expression of love is the red rose/ why red is so popular a color at Christmas/ why the traditional red apple to on's favorite teacher?Anita Steigerwald

US universities have color-coded faculties and disciplines since 1890s. Scarlet/regligion; blue/philosophy; white/arts and letters; green/medicine; purple/law; yellow/science. don't know why, or where crimson fits in, but maybe it's part of this coding scheme.


Where can I find information about Native American color symbolism?

If you're still looking for info on Native American color symbolism, try contacting the Museum of the American Indian in NYC. It's part of the Smithsonian. From my own research, I know that turquoise is very important and felt to be a special color because the stone would change color with age and if rubbed with different substances. This is true in every culture where turquoise is readily found.

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