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Is red a lucky color in Chinese culture?

Is red a lucky color in Chinese culture?

Red is arguably the most culturally significant color in China. It permeates Chinese traditions, customs, festivals, architecture, fashion, and more. The prominence of the color red in Chinese culture has led many to wonder – is red considered a lucky color in China?

The Symbolism and Meaning of Red in Chinese Culture

In China, red represents luck, joy, success, happiness, prosperity, vitality, celebration, fertility, passion, and good fortune. The color is associated with life, energy, blood, and fire. Red is believed to ward off evil spirits and bring protection, warding off bad luck. The color has symbolic significance tied to ancient beliefs and philosophical principles in China.

Red’s place in Chinese culture originated from cosmological and philosophical Chinese beliefs. In Taoism and traditional Chinese medicine, red relates to the fire element, summer season, the heart, and circulation. Ancient Chinese people believed red would summon the dragon, an important and auspicious symbol in Chinese mythology. Red also represents the southern direction, which according to feng shui brings good fortune.

Red plays an important role in Chinese astrology and zodiac beliefs. People born in a red year are believed to have the traits associated with red – energetic, enthusiastic, and thriving. In fact, in Chinese astrology the year you were born helps determine your lucky colors.

In many Chinese traditions, the color red symbolizes joy, fertility, and vitality. Red decor was used historically during weddings, births, and holidays like the Spring Festival. Red paper lanterns are often hung during Chinese New Year celebrations. Red is also considered the standard color for bridal gowns in traditional Chinese weddings.

Red in Modern Chinese Culture

Red maintains cultural significance and symbolism in modern Chinese traditions and customs. While less Chinese people believe in the cosmological properties of the color red, it remains prominent in holiday celebrations, architecture, names, product packaging, and more throughout China.

Red retains a festive role, used predominantly during holidays and other celebrations. Major Chinese holidays like Lunar New Year, Mid-Autumn Festival, and the Double Ninth Festival heavily incorporate the color red through lanterns, banners, decorations, gifts, clothing, and more. Red is also seen during weddings and birthdays.

Chinese names using the character ??? (h?ng), meaning red, remain common. Some examples of popular red-inspired Chinese names are:

  • Xiaohong (Little Red)
  • Hongli (Red Plum)
  • Hongwei (Red Prestige)

In architecture, major civic buildings, monuments, temples, restaurants, and homes frequently incorporate red through painted accents, pillars, window frames, furniture, and structural colors. Red is also pervasive in Chinese product packaging and advertising.

Is Red Lucky in Feng Shui?

In feng shui, red carries some mixed connotations. The feng shui associations with red influence whether it’s considered lucky or unlucky in different contexts.

Feng shui considers red a powerful and lively color, as red’s yang energy activates chi. Red attracts attention wherever it’s used. Red has the following positive feng shui associations:

  • Stimulates energy and activity
  • Strengthens the fire feng shui element
  • Improves enthusiasm and passion
  • Attracts excitement, action, and profit
  • Wards off negative chi

However, in some feng shui applications, too much red can be overstimulating and counterproductive. Red has the following negative associations:

  • May promote aggression and impulsiveness
  • Can overstimulate to the point of exhaustion
  • Stimulates hungry ghosts in spiritual feng shui

Feng shui experts advise using red in moderation, avoiding placing it in certain areas like bedrooms and home offices. Balancing red with other colors is recommended.

Is Red Lucky in Chinese Astrology?

In Chinese astrology, luck and fortunes vary by zodiac year. Red is considered lucky specifically if you were born in a red year, known as a Fire year.

The Fire years in the 12-year Chinese astrology cycle are:

  • Dragon Years: 1928, 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012, 2024
  • Snake Years: 1929, 1941, 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989, 2001, 2013, 2025
  • Horse Years: 1930, 1942, 1954, 1966, 1978, 1990, 2002, 2014, 2026

People born in a Fire year exhibit Fire traits – energetic, passionate, and assertive. For those born in Fire years, red can help enhance their natural energetic lucky strengths.

However, for people born in other element years like metal, red may not offer the same boost in luck and fortune. Only those born in red Fire years are really lucky to claim red as their fortunate color in Chinese astrology.

Is Red Unlucky or Taboo in Some Contexts?

Despite its mostly positive associations, red has some inauspicious and taboo ties in Chinese culture as well.

Red is traditionally associated with funerals, death, and mourning. White, by contrast, represents purity, reverence, and mourning.

Red envelopes or packets are given out during holidays and special occasions like weddings, symbolizing blessings and well wishes. However, presenting a red envelope at a funeral is seen as in poor taste.

Gifting items in red that relate to funerals, death, condolences, or separation is considered offensive. Examples include red umbrellas, handkerchiefs, candles, clothing, or thread.

Red is also sometimes seen as a taboo color in broader East Asian culture. In certain contexts, red can represent anger, danger, aggression, and violence. Red won’t necessarily bring bad luck, but it does have some cultural taboos.


Red holds major symbolic meaning in Chinese culture as a whole. It represents prosperity, happiness, vitality, protection, fertility, and all things auspicious. While less Chinese today hold the cosmological beliefs about red’s properties, the color retains cultural significance.

Red brings good fortune to those born in Fire years in the Chinese zodiac. However, it may not hold the same luck for people born in other element years. Red should also be used carefully in feng shui arrangements.

While red is widely considered lucky, it has some inauspicious associations with death and taboo gift-giving situations. Overall, red is arguably the preeminent color representing luck and positive symbolism in Chinese culture.