What do the colours of the Chinese dragons mean?

Written by bethany marroquin
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What do the colours of the Chinese dragons mean?
The red dragon is a favourite at traditional Chinese festivals. (Digital Vision./Photodisc/Getty Images)

Unlike dragons of Western lore, fearsome symbols of evil and chaos, the Chinese dragon represents nobility, wisdom and prosperity. Eastern dragons are intricately connected to the seasons and the elements and are often associated with one of the four cardinal directions. They also can be categorised by colour, as each colour bears a symbolic meaning and has associated connotations within Chinese culture.

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Blue and green

In Chinese culture, the colours blue and green are associated with nature, serenity, growth and health. Blue and green dragons symbolise the approaching spring, evoking the clear skies and new plants that the season brings. These colours also are representative of the East and indicate Eastern dragons. Other Chinese associations with blue and green include healing, rest, prosperity and harmony.

Black and white

Black and white are key colours on the Chinese spectrum, representing the balance of the black yin, which is negative, passive and feminine, and the white yang, which is positive, active and masculine. Black dragons are associated with winter and the North, while white dragons represent autumn and the West. In China, the colour white is associated with purity as it is in Western cultures, but it also symbolises mourning and mortality, suggesting that the white dragon functions as an omen of death. The black dragon is known for its power and vengeance and is often connected to storms.

Yellow and gold

Yellow dragons have been called "superior" and "the most revered of the dragons" because they represent the Emperor and the imperial family. Even in the 21st century, yellow is a colour associated with solidity, reliability and warmth, and it is set aside for royalty and those of higher social class. Gold dragons share many of these assets and are recognised as symbols of wealth, wisdom and compassion.

Red

In China, red is the traditional colour of good fortune and happiness, and it is often used in large celebrations, such as weddings. The red dragon is associated with luck, fire, passion and the heart. It is the dragon of summer and the South. Other Chinese associations with the colour red include vitality, enthusiasm and creativity.

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