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.
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.
红色 [紅色] (hóngsè) = red, popular, successful, bonus
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.
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.
蓝色 [藍] (lánsè) = blue, clear (day)
Blue has the same associations as green (see below).
绿色 [綠色] (lǜsè) = green
Green is associated with the east, Jupiter, Spring, wind, health, prosperity and harmony. A green hat is traditionally associated with infidelity.
褐色 (hésè) = brown (colour) 棕色 (zōngsè) = brown (eyes)
粉红色 [粉紅色] (fěnhóngsè) = pink
橙色 (chéngsè) / 橘色 (júsè) = orange (colour)
灰色 (huīsè) = grey, melancholy
紫色 (zǐsè) - purple
银白色 [銀白色] (yín báisè) - silver
金色 (jīnsè) - gold (colour), blond, fair (hair)
Some details provided by Zhang Zhichen
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