It would be a dull world if all we could see was black, white, and gray, right? As a Chinese learner, you must have learned several words about colors even from HSK2. Well, let’s add more colors to your Chinese studies. Below are some of the most common “color” words in Chinese:
|粉红||fěnhóng||rosy, pale pink|
|栗色||lìsè||reddish brown, chestnut color|
|青||qīng||green (blue, black)|
|银色||yínsè||the grade of silver in coins|
Though these are some of the basic words of color, in China, people also use color to describe other words, which then becomes figurative in meaning. To know these words and expressions, you would have a deeper understanding of Chinese culture.
|淤青||yūqīng||black and blue (bruise)|
|黄牌||huáng pái||yellow card|
|红红火火||hónghónghuǒhuǒ||red red fire fire|
|绿色食品||lǜsè shípǐn||green food|
|青衣||qīngyī||qing colored costume|
|青花瓷||qīnghuā cí||qing pattern porcelain|
In ancient China, the color red gained its meaning from fire. Unlike many other countries where fire has long been regarded as a symbol of danger or destruction, fire is generally considered to be a good thing in China. The Chinese people have a saying, 红红火火 (hónghónghuǒhuǒ), meaning the life of someone expands, prospers, cracks, and rockets like red flame. Red is the symbol of prosperity and happiness. More importantly, it’s also the primary color for celebrations, especially the Lunar New Year and wedding ceremonies. During the Lunar New Year, elders give 红包（hóng bāo） or red envelopes to children. To wish them a “Happy New Year”, you can say:
(Sòng gěi nǐ hóngbāo, zhù nǐ xīn de yìnián hónghónghuǒhuǒ！)
Give you red envelopes, I wish you a prosperous New Year!
Red, however, can also mean a warning. In a sports match, the referee can give you a 红牌 (hóngpái)or red card, which means you can’t participate in the game anymore. When you get a 黄牌 (huángpái) or yellow card, it means the referee has warned you about your behavior.
(Tā yǐjīng ná dào yí gè huángpái le，rúguǒ zài fànguī，jiùyào ná hóngpái tíngzhǐ bǐ sài le.)
He has already got a yellow card and if he fouls again, he will take a red card and have to stop playing.
In China, green means “clean” or “free of contaminants”. When people talk about “green technology” or “green energy”, they mean “sustainable” or “eco-friendly”. So when you go to buy food, you can suggest this to the shop assistant and say:
(Wǒmen xiǎngyào mǎi lǜsè shípǐn.)
We want to buy green food.
Green can also mean “go” or “to pass”.
(Guò mǎlù de shíhòu zhùyì ānquán, yídìng yào kàn hónglǜdēng.)
Pay attention to your safety when you cross the road. Be sure to look at the traffic lights.
（Tā zài Měiguó gōngzuò wǔnián，zhōngyú ná dào le lǜkǎ.）
After five years of working in the United States, he finally got his green card.
青 (qīng) green (blue, black) is an interesting color that doesn’t appear in the standard set of colors commonly identified in western cultures. Technically, qing is a color that sits anywhere between blue and green, and should not be thought of as odd. 青is closely linked to historical buildings and clothing, like 青砖or qing bricks, and青花瓷or qing pattern porcelain. Also, there is a type of female character in Peking Opera called a “青衣 (qīng yī) or qing colored costume, because they usually wear costumes in this interesting color.
(Dāng nǐ lái Zhōngguó yóulǎn de shíhòu，yídìng yào qù kànkan qīngzhuān，qīnghuā cí hé qīngyī.)
When you visit China, be sure to see qing bricks, qing pattern porcelain, and qing colored costumes.
When a person’s skin turns blue or black from the impact of an external force, we call this 淤青（yū qīng）or a black and blue bruise.
(Wǒ de xīgài yūqīng le.)
My knee is bruised.
In addition, we also have the terms blue-collar and white-collar workers, just like in the west.
(Tā guòqù shì yī gè lánlǐng, tōngguò zìjǐ de nǔlì, xiànzài shì yī gè báilǐng le.)
He used to be a blue-collar worker, but now he is a white-collar worker through his own efforts.
Life is certainly more fun if it is more colorful. Learn these Chinese words of color and use them in your conversations for a more colorful way of expressing yourself.