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


whitebái sè白色白色
bluelán sè藍色蓝色
yellowhuáng sè黃色黄色
greenlǜ sè綠色绿色
redhóng sè紅色红色
orangejú sè or chéng sè橘色 or 橙色橘色 or 橙色
brownkāfēi sè咖啡色咖啡色
blackhēi sè黑色黑色
purplezǐ sè紫色紫色
greyhuī sè灰色灰色