Mandarin Colors

Red lanterns decorations for Chinese new year
Mongkol Chuewong/Getty Images

Learning the names of colors is essential in any language, but Mandarin colors give you more than just a tool for descriptions: They also have strong cultural meanings.

Cultural Meanings

Red is a lucky color, representing prosperity, goodness, and happiness. If cash is given as a present, it is placed in a red envelope. White envelopes are never used because white is associated with death.

The opposite of red is black, which represents evil and suffering. Although white is used in funerals, it is not associated with evil, but rather the absence of life, as during winter.

Yellow is the color of the soil and represents earthliness and centeredness. It is also a color strongly associated with China, as the Chinese are descendants of the Yellow Emperor.

Color Translation

Color Pinyin Traditional Simplified
white bái sè 白色 白色
blue lán sè 藍色 蓝色
yellow huáng sè 黃色 黄色
green lǜ sè 綠色 绿色
red hóng sè 紅色 红色
orange jú sè or chéng sè 橘色 or 橙色 橘色 or 橙色
brown kāfēi sè 咖啡色 咖啡色
black hēi sè 黑色 黑色
purple zǐ sè 紫色 紫色
grey huī sè 灰色 灰色