What a Colorful World
Post by Eva


Let’s recap, in Chinese language colors carry their own meanings: red (红色 HóngSè) is obviously good, white (白色 BáiSè) is bad and green is eco (绿色 LǜSè). Well, green has only recently become eco, so there is not yet a place for greenhouses or green thumbs, and we shall have to instead make do with “warm rooms” 温室 (WēnShì) and with “having gardening skills” 有园艺技能 Yǒu YuánYì JìNéng).

colors and their meaning in Chinese

Back to red, the ultimate good doer: when you’re going to a wedding, you’re actually attending a “red event” or 红事 (HóngShì), but don’t worry too much about the wedding gift, you’ll be fine just carrying a red envelope  (红包 HóngBāo). And you’re not supposed to show up empty handed for a funeral either; red envelopes are a standard for both “red and white happy events” (红白喜事 Hóng Bái Xǐ Shì), so, wedding and funerals.

Like in English, there are also numerous set phrases that contain a color, but be careful of “false friends”, many of these phrases cannot be directly translated from English:

Let’s say you went to the store wanting to buy some black tea, brown bread and brown sugar. I’m sorry to disappoint you, but none of these things exist in China, instead you’ll have to look for red tea (HóngChá), black bread (HēiMiànBāo) and red sugar (HóngTáng).

Jealous of your friend’s new Iphone? Green with envy, even? Not in Chinese, in Chinese your eyes are red (眼红 YǎnHóng) and you are inflicted by that horrible disease called red-eye disease 害红眼病 (Hài Hóng YǎnBìng) – and all this time I thought people around me were saddened by the sight of my beautiful phone.

What, you got into a fight? Don’t tell me! You must be black and blue all over, or as we say it in China: with a patch of blue and a patch of purple (青一块紫一块 Qīng YīKuài Zǐ YīKuài)? Well, you should know better, fighting won’t get you anywhere. Oh my, was it because your girlfriend gave you a green hat to wear 戴绿帽子  Dài LǜMàoZi? I’m sorry for telling you this, mate, but you’ve been taken for a ride, you’ve been handed a pink slip,  and your girlfriend is no longer just yours.

What to do, what to do… Feeling blue, in need of distraction? Out of the blue and idea strikes; there is nothing wrong with going to see a blue movie, once in a blue moon, is it? Except, you can’t find any in China, so you’ll have to check the yellow pages again, and head for the yellow movie (黄色电影 HuángSè DiànYǐng) instead.

You are ready now to use some colorful idioms in Chinese, so go and try them out, and don’t worry about making a mistake: even if you come out red-faced and embarrassed (脸红 LiǎnHóng), you’ll be victorious.

One Comment

  1. hayim wrote:

    succulent, a pleasure to read your pages, wo aihao guoyu, xiexie nimen.

    Thursday, April 3, 2014 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

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