A Chinese character for colour is 顏色 (yán sè). Before the Five Elements Theory was used and according to Daoists’ believe, there were only two colours: opposing, yet complementary principles, black and white, yīn (阴) and yáng (阳).
According to Chinese calendar system, the Ten Celestial Stems(shí tiān gān 十天干) are connected with the Five Elements or Phases (wǔ xíng 五行) representing five states of forces of expansion or condensation (the plus energy, or , expansion; the minus energy, or , condensation) and their corresponding colours are:
Four of these colours and elements are likewise connected to the four seasons:
- wood and green – the spring
- fire and red – the summer
- earth and yellow – the autumn
- water and black – the winter
Yellow – yún (熉) in China correspond with earth and is considered the most beautiful colour. The Chinese saying, yellow generates yīn and yáng, implies that yellow is the centre of everything. Yellow signifies neutrality and good luck and alsonourishing, supporting, stabilizing, ripening, grounded, solid, reliability, sunbeam, warmth, clarity, royalty, good faith, empathy vs anxiety.
Yellow was the colour of Imperial China and is held as the symbolic colour of the five legendary emperors of ancient China. It is still reserved for royalty.
The legendary ruler – first emperor of China was known as the Yellow Emperor or Huáng Dì (黃帝) which is synonymous with the father of Chinese civilization (2.698-2.598 B.E.).
The “Yellow Dragon Flag” is the Qing Dynasty flag with blue dragon on plain yellow background, with a red pearl at the upper left corner.
Although each dynasty designated each official rank with their own colour, yellow is reserved or the emperor himself. Qin dynasty chose water as their element and black as their imperial colour. That’s why you will see that most of the Qin costumes (Emperor’s cloths, Soldier’s Clothings) and army flags are in black. Han dynasty chose fire as their element and red as their imperial colour. That’s why you will see many of the han costumes (Soldier’s clothings) and army flags are red.
Yellow often decorates royal palaces, altars and temples, and the colour was used in the robes and attire of the emperors. Clothing and objects that are yellow in colour still resemble a higher social status.
The Yellow river (huáng hé 黄河) is the second-longest river in China after the Yangtze (cháng jiāng长江) and it is called “the cradle of Chinese civilization”.
Yellow is an important colour in China and directly connected to leadership.