Clothing and the Color Red in Chinese Culture

Essay by chewvivienneCollege, UndergraduateA, July 2014

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Mei Chew

Professor Jesse Schwartz

ENG 101/Section 0757

December 6, 2012

Paper # 3 - Body Art and Ritual Research Paper

Clothing and the Color Red in Chinese Culture

Clothing is a form of body art. As Enid Schildkrout argues, "Body art takes on specific meanings in different cultures" (109). Clothing mainly featuring the color red is commonly worn throughout the New Year and in weddings in Chinese culture. According to legend, red is a color of good luck, therefore, red is the predominant color worn in Chinese traditions.

The tradition of wearing red clothing started with some myth and folk tales. A popular one involves a beast called the Nian. The Nian would appear on the first day of the Lunar year to eat crops, livestock and villagers, especially children. However, people discovered that the Nian was scared of the color red and loud noises. To protect themselves, villagers wore red, hung red lanterns and scrolls, decorated their homes and even painted their window frames the fortuitous color.

Adults gave out "angpow" (or "lucky money") to children in red envelopes, and they set off red-colored firecrackers to ward off the Nian. The Nian never returned. From then on, the Chinese believe that red coloring could cast away evil spirits and bad fortune. As Rosemary Gong writes, "Long considered the most auspicious of colors, red is a sign of good luck because of its symbolic association with fire, the sun, brightness, life energy (the yang of yin and yang), and the lifeblood that demons fear most" (10-11). Wearing red clothing is also believed to be able to protect the old from sickness and death.

In addition, people typically wear brand new clothes to symbolize a new beginning in the New Year. Wearing new clothes also symbolizes abundance, which means...