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Unraveling Colors of Asia - August 2008 Newsletter

 

The splendor of color is placed in the limelight of this month' newsletter as Mrs. Lin' Kitchen attempt to introduce the meaning and significance of color in various Asian cultures. Depending on the culture we grow up in, colors have different meanings behind them. Color in Asian customs influences many aspects of life and traditional values and when compared with western culture, we may see some resemblance and at times, contradictions in the profundity of these colors.

Black and white is the most oppositional colors and they have quite an impact on occasions. In the United States, black is worn in funerals and white is typically worn at weddings, whereas in many Asian societies, such as Chinese, Vietnamese and many other Southeast Asian groups, mourners wear white to pay homage to the death. White is also worn in other ceremonies and the sacredness can be quite astounding.

Comparably, Japanese associates the color white with the concept of “beginnings” or “ends” which can be translated into birth or death. To pay respect to her new family and parents, Japanese brides are required to wear a white kimono robe called “shiro-maku” (meaning white and pure). The white signifies the death of her home life with her parents and a new foundation of existence with her husband. Kimonos became especially popular in the Heian period (894-1185CE) amongst Japanese women, which also identified ages, ranks and ceremonies. Noble women wore short white kimono tops back then and white eventually became a wedding color.

Marriage in Asian cultures distinct a woman' place—as a wife or daughter. Once a husband and wife communion is formed, the couple has more responsibilities and obligations to their families.

Married Chinese and Vietnamese couples distribute red envelopes filled with money, to children and other family members during Chinese NewYear, or “Tet”-Vietnamese New Year, which is intended to bring them wealth and a prosperous year to come. It is common that the envelopes are red.

Red is especially a dominant color with Chinese tradition and is known to chase away evil spirits. Legend has it that an evil monster named Nian was intimidated by the color red, which became a crucial concept in religious ceremonies today. Red symbolizes good luck, fortune, prosperity, festive holidays such as Lunar New Year, and happiness. Red is also seen in many joyous events such as birthdays, weddings, etc. During the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), only the most royal families could possess homes with red walls, leaving peasants only an option of a blue-wall home.

Because colors classify social status, Chinese identify the color yellow with royalty or power. During the sovereignty of Huang Di or Huang Ti, also known as the “Yellow Emperor”, the people of China actually worshiped the color yellow. Huang Ti is the emperor that is believed to be the ancestor of all Han Chinese people, whose time of reign was around 2697 BC to2598 BC. Legend has it that after his death, a yellow dragon took his spirit and flew it to the heavens. Yellow has become a color of nobility through time, spreading through other Asian cultures.

Vietnamese also categorizes yellow with royalty. Because back in time, only emperors were allowed to wear yellow, which weaved its way to political influence as the Vietnamese flag is yellow with three red stripes, designed by Emperor Thành Thái in 1890 and was used by Emperor Bảo Đại in 1948. But today, yellow also represents happiness and change. During Tet, homes of Vietnamese families are adorned with Hoa Mai, yellow blossoms symbolizing the arrival of a new season of spring and joy.

Different key occasions require specific colors. For instance, Koreans givehigh regard to colors during tea ceremonies, which date all the way back to the year 661, where a tea offering was made to the spirit of King Suro, the founder of the Geumgwan Gaya Kingdom (42-562). Tea offerings were, and still is a religious practice in Korean families-- tea is offered to the monks and spirits. The colors are very crucial to remember when preparing tea for religious purposes. Celadon or jade green, "punchong" or bronze-like weathered finishes are proper for Buddhist tea rituals. The purest white colors with soft designs in porcelain are appropriate for Confucian tea rituals and cruder porcelains along with ash-stone glazes for animist tea rituals.

All across Asia, colors are proven to be very significant in customs and beliefs, which vary from country to country. Colors make meaning to the perception of life, emerging from the past until today, to bring upon tomorrow.

In Thailand, multiple colors are embraced, celebrating everyday of the week. There is a color assigned for each day of the week: yellow for Monday, pink for Tuesday, green for Wednesday, orange for Thursday, blue for Friday, purple for Saturday and red for Sunday. Many Thai people sport yellow on Mondays to celebrate the King' birthday and blue on Fridays tocommemorate the Queen' birthday. These colors were selected to according to the day of the sovereigns’ birthdates to honor them.

As we have observed, colors have evolved to be a very important part in everyday life including birthdays, holidays, weddings, religious ceremonies, etc. In most Asian cultures, especially in China, Vietnam and Japan in particular, when gift-giving, red wrapping paper is considered an appropriate since it signifies luck.

Mrs. Lin' offers a multitude of gift ideas for just about anyone for any occasion. We feature several colorful and uniquely crafted items for the color-enthused. For a housewarming party, home decors and collectibles in red, orange or brighter colors might be a thoughtful color to wish the new homeowners good luck and fortune with their new habitats. Mrs. Lin' kitchen offers an assortment of colors and designs for many items, such as our collectible chopsticks, wallets, plates, tea and sake sets, and so on. Don’t limit yourself to just one color, remember, they might have more meaning than meets the eye.

 

OUR 2008 NEWSLETTERS

Simple Feng Shui Remedies

Guide to Economical Holiday Shopping

Utamaro: Master Printmaker and Painters

Three Easy Eastern remedies

Unraveling Colors of Asia

Hiroshige: Following in the Footsteps of Hokusai

Hokusai: The Man behind the Art of Block Printing

Throw an Asian-Themed Party

Celebrating Cherry Blossom

The Seven Lucky Gods of Japan

Chinese New Year 2008 : Year of The Rat

Valentine's Day Gift Guide

All Hail the Sumo Wrestler

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