(Minghui.org) (Continued from Part 1)

Because various dynasties favored different colors, one cannot claim that red is the traditional color of festivity. The Shang Dynasty was a good counterexample. At that time, people considered red the color of blood and death and reserved it for funerals.

The color of the wedding dress in ancient times also varied. Depending on the era, it could be black, white, green, red, or others. It rarely happened that both the bride and groom in ancient times wore red on their wedding day like today. Even if red was used, it would be just one person, not both. This is because a man and a woman are different, and the ancient people were very cautious about it.

Another example is the couplets used as decorations for the Chinese New Year. They went through a long history before becoming what we see today. In the beginning, red paper was not used for couplets and some Asian countries which had been influenced by ancient China still follow the ancient traditions today. The couplets in South Korea, for example, often use white paper with words written in black.

In China, people began to use red paper for couplets in the Ming Dynasty. Scholars tended to choose light red paper at the time. From the perspective of chromatics, such a color only serves the purpose of embellishment.

Moving into the Qing Dynasty, people stopped using red paper for couplets. According to Qing Bai Lei Chao, couplets in the palace were written by imperial scholars (Hanlin) on white silk. When visiting the Forbidden City, some people were surprised to see the couplets were not written on red paper as they thought.

In addition, in traditional religious settings such as ancient temples, couplets were usually written on light yellow paper, not red.

A Color of Taboo

From history books, one can find that red was not a favorite color throughout the ages. The bright red used today was especially rarely seen in the ancient dyeing process. Although considered a symbol of auspice among some folk customs, red was also viewed as a taboo under some circumstances.

Some folklore claimed the wallet cannot be red; otherwise, one may lose money. There are all kinds of interpretations. Some cited the theory of Five Elements, saying that fire (red) defeats metal (money). Some connected with accounting, in which deficit is normally marked in red.

Even feng shui masters are against placing too many red objects or pictures in residence, as doing so may disrupt the balance of the Five Elements. Many psychologists are cautious about red since excessive red tends to make one agitated. Some doctors oppose red as the main color tone in decoration as it may lead to visual fatigue and other illnesses.

Such caution against red has also expanded to daily life. Traffic and road signs marked red are often connected with stopping or danger. In nature, plants and especially animals with red color are likely to be poisonous.

There are also similar situations in literature. There was a saying in China that letters in red may be a bad omen. In fact, breakup letters are often written in red.

This tradition also goes back to history. In ancient times, government officials often recorded names in red for people on death row. It was said that the god of hell often uses a red pen to check the names of people who would die.

Some folklore says the red color is associated with ghosts. As a result, some elderly are against people wearing red in the evening. We do not know if it is the case. But it does bring up something that many people are unaware of – many ghosts described in ancient Chinese books were red.

Fayuan Zhulin, a Buddhist book from the Tang Dynasty, described a ghost that was “red and tall.” Ling Gui Zhi, a book from the Jin Dynasty, also mentioned “a red ghost about 10-foot tall.” Lun Heng, a book from the Han Dynasty, also wrote, “people who see ghosts often say they [ghosts] are red.”

Not only that, ghosts also seem to like to wear red. Taiping Guangji (Extensive Records of the Taiping Era) recorded a story in which a man was surrounded by over 400 ghosts “all dressed in red and over 20-foot tall.” When the person recited Taoist verses, the ghosts found him upright and left.

Besides clothing, the weapons of ghosts are often red. Lun Heng wrote that “ghosts and toxins have the same color” and “both bows and arrows [used by the ghosts] are red.”

Unlike the way it is portrayed by the Chinese Communist Party culture, the color red was not so popular in ancient times in China. Of course, as a color itself, red should not be discriminated against either. Furthermore, what we have discussed here is limited to the human level. In other dimensions including the divine world, the red color there could have a totally different meaning.

(To be continued)