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Knowledge Bank - Chinese Culture

Home > Knowledge Bank > Chinese Culture > Introduction of Colors of Clothes along the History

Introduction of Colors of Clothes along the History

2012.08.14


The color of clothes is an indicator of some particular things in particular culture. Its meaning differs according to different places and times. For example, the students taking volunteer programs in China may know that the color white implies funeral in China while purity in Japan. The color yellow was forbidden to appear in the ordinary people in ancient China for yellow was the symbol of the royal family. The colors of the clothes in the course of history are different and refer to different connotations as well as reflect the different periods of dynasties. Now let’s see the colors of clothes in different dynasties.

The first colors used in Chinese history were black, white, latericeous and ochreous. The first popular color used among the public was red. When China entered the Slavery Society period, green, red, white, black and yellow were considered as the five kinds of colors which represented the east, south, west north and middle as well as wood, fire, gold, waster and soil. In the feudal society, the color yellow symbolized holiness, authority and solemnity and was the symbol of wisdom and civilization. It became the special color for the emperors and any ordinary people could not dress in yellow. Those who had taken the Mandarin learning courses in China might know that the color yellow was the indicator of nobility.

In Xia Dynasty, the color black received much affection. During the period of Yin Dynasty, the color white was popular. The color red was prevalent in Zhou Dynasty. In Spring and Autumn period, people in Qi liked to dress in purple. When Lord Huan of Qi wore in purple, the price of the textiles goods increased dramatically. The great giant Confucius disliked purple for he thought it replaced the noble status of vermillion in Zhou Dynasty.

Qin Shi Huang, first emperor of Qin Dynasty, advocated to use the color black. However, Han Gaozu, the founding emperor of Han Dynasty, promoted to wear red. In Sui Dynasty, the color white was matched with the color green and cyan, which reflected the calm and gentle quality of people. In Tang Dynasty, people used different kinds of colors in accordance to the prosperous society. People in Song Dynasty preferred cyan and green. The Yuan Dynasty saw a lot colors like golden and silvery. 

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