Words for colours in Mandarin Chinese (普通话 / 國語 / 華語) with notes and colour-related expressions.
Colour is 颜色 (yán sè) or 色彩 (sè cǎ). The word 色 (sè) - colour - is often attached to colour words to indicate that you are talking about a colour, rather than anything else.
黑色 (hēisè) = black, dark, secret, wicked
Black is considered a neutral colour, and is associated with the north, Mercury, Winter, cold, and also death and mourning. It was formerly worn at funerals, but white is currently more common on such occasions.
Black-related words and expressions
漆黑的 (qīhēi de) = pitch black
黑色喜剧 [黑色喜劇] (hēisè xǐjù) = black comedy
黑带 [黑帶] (hēidài) = black belt (in martial arts)
黑市商 (hēishìshāng) = black market
黑洞 (hēidòng) = black hole
白色 (báisè) = white, clear, bright, plain, to state, in vain, free of charge
White is associated with metal, the west, Venus, Autumn, and symbolises brightness, purity and fulfilment. It is a colour of death and mourning and commonly worn at funerals. In ancient China, white was only worn when mourning the dead.
Red is associated with fire, summer, the south, Mars, good fortune and joy. Gifts of money are given in red envelopes at Chinese New Year, weddings and on other occasions. Traditionally Chinese brides wear red dresses.
Red-related words and expressions
深红色 (shēnhóngsè) = crimson, incarnadine, ruby, carmine (“deep red colour”)
鲜红 (xiānhóng) = scarlet, vermillion, bright red
朱红色 (zhūhóngsè) = vermillion
红色的头发 [紅色的頭髮] (hóngsè de tóufǎ) = red hair
红军 [紅軍] (hóngjūn) = Red Army
红酒 [紅酒] (hóng jiǔ) = red wine
红楼梦 [紅樓夢] (hónglóumèng) = Dream of the Red Chamber - one of China’s Four Great Classical Novels, first printed in 1791
丹 (dān) = red, pellet
赤 (chì) = red, revolutionary, sincere, bare
赤卫队 [赤衛隊] (chìwèduì = Red Guards
绛 (jiàng) = crimson
朱 (zhū) = bright red
黄色 (huángsè) = yellow, pornographic, yolk, gold
Yellow is associated with heroism, emperors, neutrality, good luck, Saturn, the changing of seasons and the earth. It is considered a beautiful and prestigious colour. It was used on royal palaces, altars, temples, and was worn by emperors. To Buddhists yellow represents freedom from wordly cares and mourning.
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