Words representing various colors in Chinese and English are very rich. Different cultural and historical backgrounds, religious beliefs, and aesthetic psychology make the meaning of color words different. In the important occasions of China and the West, red and white as an important form of customs?, profoundly embody two? different cultural backgrounds. This article emphasizes the national identity of the color words in English and Chinese by the way of contrasting and analyzing the basic symbolic meanings of red and white, and explore the cultural and historical roots that caused this difference.
Key Words: red; white; colors; cultural differences
In human languages, the unique beauty of color words is impressive. According to the well-known BK hypothesis-Berlin and Kay think that all languages contain two to eleven basic colors: black, white, red, yellow, green, blue, brown, purple, pink, orange, and gray. Words in Chinese and English that express a variety of colors are rich. We must not only observe the basic meanings of them, but also pay attention to the symbolic significance of their profound meanings, because their symbolic meanings often have different characteristics in different ethnic languages, and some of the features even form the advocacy and taboos of color by interpretation. Since China is separated from most English-speaking countries by thousands of miles, geographical location, natural phenomena, historical background, and aesthetic psychology are very different, people's feelings and expressions about colors are not the same. In this way, the symbolism of color will naturally have a great difference between Chinese and Western cultures. In the important occasions of China and the West, red and white as an important form of customs, profoundly embody two different cultural backgrounds. This article emphasizes the national identity of the color words in English and Chinese by contrasting and analyzing the basic symbolic meanings of red and white. This study is to better understand the differences between ethnic cultures and avoid mistakes in cross-cultural communication.
The symbolic meaning of color in Western culture is often relatively straightforward. Generally, it uses the concrete color of objective things to symbolize certain abstract cultural meanings, so it is easier to trace its semantics and logic. For example, the red color in Western culture mainly refers to the blood color, while blood is the “Liquid of Life” in the minds of Westerners. However, in Chinese culture, the generation of color has a strong mystery. Its development is greatly influenced by the development of Chinese society and culture. For example, from the perspective of cultural anthropology, the red color in Chinese culture originates from the sun, because the burning sun is hot and its color is red. Taking white as an example, in the initial stage of mankind, our ancestors were weak, unable to resist attacks by vicious and fierce beasts, exposing them to the daylight, and there was a danger of being eaten by carnivorous beasts at any time. So people have instinctive fear to fear. This white has become a color imprisonment in Chinese culture. The symbolic meaning of visible colors is defined in the long historical process. As a part of culture, because of its different origins, it will evoke different emotional experiences and psychological effects under different cultural backgrounds. Below we describe the different symbolic meanings of red and white in Chinese and Western cultures.
2. Red's Cultural Connotation
Red is the earliest color used by the people of the world. At the beginning of human history, people used color as witchcraft. At that time, humans painted the red representing life on the body of the dead and conveyed the hope that the dead would resurrect. With the development of society, the ability of human understanding and time has also been further improved. The color gradually freed itself from the martial arts and confined to martial arts only. Humans have begun to turn to “coloring on objects” and began to consciously use color to serve themselves. It can thus be seen that with the development of social history, color is increasingly transformed from the symbol of a religious representative to an indispensable part of human life, and it expresses the message of human desire that can be conveyed.
2.1 Red's Cultural Connotation in China
Red is the basic advocating color in our country's culture. It reflects the Chinese people's spiritual and material pursuit.
It symbolizes extraordinary and dignity. The interpretation of red in the book "Shuo Wen Jie Zi" is: "Zhu, red heart wood, pine and cypress. From wood, one in it." In ancient times, red was also called "Red and Zhu, Dan, ", and China’s ancient name “Hua xia”, many scholars believe that “Hua” contains the meaning of red; “Historical Records” has the saying “China’s name is chi xian shen zhou” and it is also a habit to equip the disciples of the Chinese nation. Now we also have the argument that overseas Chinese are called red children. In the Tang Dynasty, officials ordered three or more servings of Zifu and five or more servings of Zhufu. In ancient China, red was also a kind of noble color, representing wealth and status. For example, there is a famous verse: "Jinmen wine and stench, road has frozen bone;"
It symbolizes auspiciousness and celebration. For example, the person who promotes a beautiful marriage for others is called the “matchmaker”. Red lanterns, red couplets, and red characters are to be linked to the festive days. When the bride is married, she wears red clothes, covers the red hijab, and posts the red word; the elders sent red envelopes to newlyweds; the excitement and prosperousness are called “red fires”; the prosperous and lively places are called “red dust”.
It also symbolizes revolution and progress. For example, the initial political power of the Chinese Communist Party was called the "Red Regime," and the earliest armed forces were called the "Red Army," and those who politically demanded advancement and diligently studied business were called "red and specialized."
In addition, in the Chinese culture, the red symbolizes success and success. If the situation of a person is well-known as “becoming popular” or “red-hot”, he is praised by the boss as a “red person”, and the profit assigned to the partnership is called “dividend”. "" Give people bonuses called "send red envelopes", etc.
It also symbolizes beauty and beauty, such as "red outfit", "red sleeve", "red face", etc.
In the Peking Opera of China, the features of the red mask are loyal, brave, etc., and the representative characters are related to Guanyu.
2.2 Red Symbolism in the West
"Red" is indeed more representative of bad meaning in Western culture. Because "red" in the concept of English culture mainly refers to the color of blood, and blood is the "liquid of life" in the minds of Westerners. Once the blood flows down, human life will end. So red associates and links Westerners to "danger" and creates a color taboo. There are "dangerous", "radical", "bleeding", etc. In addition, in ancient Rome and ancient Greece, Western painting art often used colors to express religious beliefs. Red symbolizes flame and blood, while dark red symbolizes tyrannical and killing. Red symbolizes brutality and bloodshed, such as The red rules of tooth and claw, red revenge, a red battle; symbolizes radical and violent revolutions, such as red hot political campaign, a red revolution, red activities; symbolizes danger and nervous, like red alert, a red adventure story, a red flag; a red symbol of revolution and socialism, is synonymous with communism or the Communist Party in English dictionaries, sometimes with derogatory meaning, even with awkward meanings, such as: refers to both the history of the Soviet Union or China. The Red Army also refers to a terrorist group formed by Japanese militants, or to West Germans, Nazis, and terrorist groups. It also symbolizes bad meanings such as debauchery, obscenity, pornography and so on.
2.3 The same place in Chinese and Western cultures
Of course, with the development of the times and the intermingling of ethnic cultures, the English and Chinese nations also share the same understanding of red, and American scholar Althheimer said in his Color Theory: “Color can express emotions powerfully. It is thought to be exciting because it reminds us of the meaning of fire, blood, and revolution." In English, "red-letter days" generally refer to Christmas or festive days. "roll out the red carpet for somebody" The red carpet solemnly welcomes someone. Red has the meaning of revolution in both Chinese and English languages. For example, the "Red Army" in Chinese; "a red battle" and "red hands" in English. At the same time, red can express certain emotions in English and Chinese. Such as "become red-faced" (her face turned red).
3.White cultural connotation
3.1 Chinese white fear
In Chinese culture, the opposite of white and red is a basic taboo word that reflects the material and spiritual abandonment and disgust of the Chinese. At the beginning of the history of humankind, our ability to lead the weak and not to protect ourselves cannot fight against wild beasts and cruel laws of nature. The daylight exposes them to danger, and there is a danger of being spotted and swallowed by beasts at any time. Our ancestors had an instinctive fear of whiteness, and white therefore became an ominous and jealous color from ancient times. White is a dry, bloodless, lifeless manifestation, symbolizing death and omen. For example, since the deaths of their loved ones, their families have to wear white mourning clothes to do “white stuff”. They should set up a white mourning hall and fight for white mourning when they go out. In ancient Chinese mythology, “black and white impermanence” is the two The ghosts of an overcast place. The psychological function of white is affected by political functions in its development process, symbolizes decay, reaction, and backwardness. It is regarded as a "white special road"; it also symbolizes failure, stupidity, and unprofitability, such as failure in war. The party always surrenders with a "white flag" and calls it an "idiot" for people with low intelligence. It calls the "white busy", "white effort", "white dry", etc. without any benefit or effect. Sin evil, sinister, such as "singing a white face", "white face" male; in the end, it also symbolizes shallow knowledge, no fame, such as the famous verse "Laughing with Confucianism, no dinning in the past" in the civilian population as "white D" "White" and "white body" refer to the literati lacking in exercise and experience as "white-faced scholars," etc. It can also refer to people's good health conditions, such as "turning their faces."
3.2 Westerners' White Story
The understanding and symbolic meaning of white in Western culture mainly comes from concrete things. For example, the “white” in English is similar to the “wheat”, and the “Weiß” in German is similar to the “Weizen”, with a rich original meaning. In other languages, white is similar to light and sparkle. It is the color of the sun, which is the most perfect color.
Westerners have also intuitively deepened their positive understanding of white from many beautiful white things, such as the color of fresh snow, fresh milk and lilies. Westerners think white is pure, so Westerners admire white and like white.
It has legal and malicious meanings, such as white market, white list, a white lie. There is also a pale meaning, such as a face white with fear, white-lipped, and white can also be used to represent hypocrisy, such as white sepulcher. White can also mean "cowardly, timid," and has a reactionary meaning, A white area, a white army, and a white party. White can mean no effect, no cost, such as a white night, white elephant; white can also be used to describe psychological emotional changes, such as white—hot, white—livered, white feather; white symbolizes pure innocence, such as a white soul, White wedding; symbol of integrity, honesty, such as a white spirit, white men, white hand (integrity, honesty); symbol of luck, auspicious, such as one of the white days of one’s life, white magic; symbol of national rights, such as white- house, White paper, white market: It can also mean economic related, such as white goods, white sale, white coal.
3.3 The same place in Chinese and Western cultures
Of course, "white" in Chinese and English also have similarities. In Chinese culture, because white is the same color as white clouds, white snow, etc., people in history often use white to symbolize purity. In Chinese idiom, white can be seen as a jade. In our modern society, the working-class people engaged in mental work are called "white-collar workers." Nurses are called "white angels," and "white" can also mean simple, uncomplicated, such as boiling water without tea and other things called "boiling water"; especially in ancient China, some white animals such as "white "Deer," "White Crane," "White Wolf," "White Goose," and "White Swan" were seen as signs of wealth and luck.
4.Causes of these differences
In Sections 2 and 3, we compared the different symbolic meanings of red and white in Chinese and Western cultures. Cultural phenomena are based on cultural influences. The following is a brief discussion of the causes of the above differences.
4.1 The influence of geographical environment differences between China and the west on red and white
4.1.1Differences in geographical environment between China and the West
Earth is divided into northern and southern hemispheres. The southern hemisphere is more sea and land, oceans account for 81% of the total area. In comparison, the Northern Hemisphere has more place, less sea and 39% land area. China is located in the northern hemisphere where the northern hemisphere has a large land area. Western countries are mostly located in the southern hemisphere, where the ocean area is large. Different geographical conditions have caused ancient Chinese people to use land as their means of production and adopt a way of farming on the land. Westerners live in areas where there is less land, use oceans as means of production, and live on the ocean for fishing. Therefore, China, which uses land as its means of production, has produced farming civilization, while Western countries that use oceans as means of production have developed marine civilization. In addition, in European countries, people there often see snow-white, so they respect white and believe that they represent purity and light.
4.1.2 China's Geographic Environment Creates Farming Civilization
When science and technology are not yet developed, the geographical environment plays a decisive role in the formation of culture. “Geographical environment is topography, climate and hydrology, and sea and land distribution.” According to Mr. Zhou Songbo’s description of the concept of geographical environment, we By analogy, most of China's land is inland, with a large area of plains and suitable soil for farming. It is worth mentioning that China's climatic and hydrological conditions are relatively excellent, and the monsoon brings abundant rainwater to agriculture. All kinds of natural conditions conducive to “living to the earth” make farming civilization, the first form of civilization in human history, originate in China.
4.1.3 The Influence of Farming Civilization on Red
The saying “eat by heaven” fully reflects the lifestyle of working people in a farming society. When the sun rises and falls, and the rain comes and goes regularly, the crops of the peasants can germinate, grow, and harvest, and they can enjoy a happy life. Therefore, the farmers always expect to see the morning sun in the early morning when it is not rainy season. At the same time, in people’s hearts, the sun is colored and it is red. Or to say, people use the red as a symbol of the sun in order to make the “sun”, a remote and intangible thing, closer to their daily life and easier to “communicate.” Therefore, people expressed their expectation of the sun by the love of red.
With the passage of time, red is no longer merely representing the sun. It also has more symbolic meanings and has become an incarnation of prosperity, auspiciousness, joy, richness, and strength. In times when technology has not yet been developed, many natural phenomena cannot be properly explained by science. It is difficult for people to have a clear understanding and judgment of the nature of things. Often, they can only rely on superstition to expect something from the future. Because red has been given so many beautiful meanings, it has naturally become the standard color used in major celebrations such as weddings and the Spring Festival. People use red to place a good vision for the future and look forward to a smooth and safe future. For example, at the time of marriage, the elderly hope to borrow red sheets, red quilts, red clothes, and red hijab to promise their children a bright future.
4.2 The Influence of Western Christianity on Westerners' White Passion
4.2.1 Religious differences between China and the West
Ancient China has always been an authoritarian and centralized country. The rulers hope that the people will be ignorant and ignorant. This will make it easier for them to enslave the people from generation to generation. When Buddhism was introduced to China in the Western Han Dynasty, it was advocated that people evade cruel reality, learn self-liberation, and negated struggle. Although this is a negative aspect of Buddhism, it is in line with the ruler’s intentions and is therefore respected in the Eastern Han Dynasty. Under the oppression of realistic conditions, Buddhism is advocated and it has become an excuse for people to escape from the world.
Westerners are different from us. Although the political doctrine of the Western Europe in the Mid Ages had a certain status, it advocated using God as the core to use Christianity to rule the civilians, and thus cast a sacred coat on feudal politics. But Western people's belief in Christianity does not come entirely from the will of the ruling class. It is the faith they accepted from the moment they were born, because they always believed that they were God-given and believed in God. On the contrary, it can be said that the ruling class used their faith in Christianity to consolidate their rule because the ruling class understood the significance of Christianity for people.
4.2.2 Christian influence on white
"In Christianity, white is the most holy color. Angels are always white, and pastors often use white robes to symbolize spirit and light." As the saying goes, Westerners love white and like to wear brides when they are married. White wedding dresses, grooms wearing white suits, white horse pull carts, and even invitations all need to be white. This is because in Christianity, white is a symbol of holiness. Westerners believe in Christianity. They use everything that is regulated in Christianity as a code of conduct in their lives. What God asks believers to do, believers will do their best to do, so Christianity believes that white is a symbol of purity, Westerners will regard white as the main color of major occasions. At the same time, “Westerners are like children.”  The child's heart is pure, no scheming, and white is a symbol of innocence and purity. This therefore constitutes the reason why Westerners prefer white.
4.3 The Influence of Differences between Chinese and Western Mentality on Red and White
In addition to the above two factors that constitute the influencing factors of Chinese and Western attitudes towards the difference between red and white, the different attitudes of the Chinese and Westerners are also responsible for this phenomenon. As we all know, Chinese people love lively relative to Westerners. During the wedding and Chinese New Year celebrations, the Chinese hope that everyone will know that their family has a happy event, or that their family’s life is very successful this year, and people are thriving, so they need bright colors to attract attention. force. From this point of view, the red satisfies the dazzling features of the eye and makes it easy to attract the attention of others. Therefore, it is easy to explain why the Chinese love to use red as the main color on major occasions. Although Westerners do not have the Chinese introverted, they all want to express their emotions, grief and joy, but this is precisely because Westerners are very real. Westerners do not need to express themselves indirectly through any external forms to attract the attention of others. They express their ideas directly. Therefore, Westerners do not need to tell people around their home what is happening through such dazzling colors as red. On the contrary, the clean and unabashed color of white is very much in line with Westerners' feelings. Even if Westerners have exaggerated elements in the expression of emotions, everything that happens around them is within the scope of the individual. There are no factors for others to look at, so white is the main thing for Westerners to take on major occasions. The preferred color of the hue.
4.4 The Influence of Different Chinese and Western Perception Ways on Red and White
The physiological mechanisms of people's perception are the same. The information obtained from the external objective world is interpreted and evaluated by the brain. These activities may be affected by the experience. For example, in the English version of “the white dress” and in Chinese “white clothing”, the former refers to the white dress worn by the bride at the wedding ceremony, and the latter refers to the mourning clothes or civilians and uncultured people; the “black tea” in English. The reason why the "black tea" in Chinese and Chinese is different is that people in China and the West have different ways of perceiving the external material world. The Chinese people pay attention to the color of tea - red, while the westerners pay attention to the color of tea bags - black;
4.5 Chinese and Western Understanding the Influence of Source Differences on Red and White
In the pre-Qin period, color words were already associated with ancient world views and philosophical thoughts. The color connotation and symbolic significance in Chinese culture are very rich, and the symbolic meaning of color is also diverse. China's understanding and understanding of the world does not come from concrete things, but from the philosophical thinking of the ancient five-element doctrine of the East. Oriental thinking is abstract and originates from reason rather than image.
There are many other reasons, such as the influence of philosophy, or people's inertial use of color words. Fundamentally speaking, in Chinese culture, the symbol of color is based on the feudal rule, feudal superstition and its primitive and backward science and education of China in the past. Therefore, the symbolic meaning of color has a very strong politicization and mystery. Tendency. The color symbols in Western culture benefit more from the openness of Western nations and the popularity of science and education. Their symbolic meaning is less mysterious and more rational, making their semantics and semantics more easily traceable.
Humans have a long history of understanding and using colors. Color words are an indispensable and important part of every ethnic culture and language. Due to the differences in geography, folk customs, religion, and values between different ethnic groups, the symbolic meaning of color is very different in different cultures. Western color science is based on a relatively objective and intuitive basis, while Chinese color science is more rooted in metaphysical philosophical thinking. Their different sources have led to their very different cultural connotations. However, in the long history, the development of the culture itself and the exchanges between the parties have not been interrupted. For example, the white wedding in the west has impacted and affected the red Chinese wedding ceremony. All kinds of exchanges and learning have intensified the integration of cultures. Therefore, when we learn and understand color words in English and Chinese, we must not only grasp the transmission of its surface semantic information, but also pay attention to the transmission of deep cultural information. Through continuous comparative research, we can understand and grasp the different cultural meanings of Chinese and English color words. This will not only help improve the level of English learning, but also have a certain guiding significance for promoting and strengthening the exchange and integration between Chinese and Western cultures.
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