If you were asked what the favourite and lucky colour for the Chinese, red is probably the common answer by most western people. However, does it mean that you put red in everything, then you will get good luck? What colour to wear when you meet with your Chinese clients? What colour to print your name on the name card? What colour wrapping to wrap your gifts with?
No doubt red (红) is a colour for celebration, prosperity and good luck for Chinese. However, be careful when you are wearing red clothing. We Chinese believe that red clothing means that person is asking for trouble. The same with red door and this red colour will bring trouble and bad luck to the person or the family or the company. Moreover, your name on your name card should never be red because only dead people’s name on the tomb’s headstone or criminals on the death roll have their names in red in China. It is considered bad luck to have your name in red.
Black (黑) and white (白) are very unlucky colour in China because their association with funerals. The door of the house should never be painted black because it will bring bad luck to the person or the family or the company who stay in the house. It does not mean that you cannot wear black and white, it just means you have to be very careful when using the two colours. When you celebrate something or give gifts to Chinese clients, simply do not wrap them in black or white wrappings.
Another colour to pay attention is the colour of blue (蓝). It is the colour to cause trouble and lose money. So when you are wearing blue, be aware of the occasion and try to use some other colour to offset the blue and avoid bring bad luck to your business and your negotiation with your Chinese clients.
Khaki and yellowish brown (土黄色) is also another colour to watch out. According to ancient Chinese, sickness and bad luck are associated with this colour. Only pure yellow can negate the impact and bring good luck and prosperity. That is why the Emperors in Chinese history always wear yellow and this is the colour for royal family only.
Do you give a Chinese man a green cricket hat as a gift? Think twice before you do it. Green is considered the colour for the lowest class in ancient China and in Yuan Dynasty, the husbands of prostitute were forced to wear green scarf on their head so green is good for everything else but not for hat. “绿帽子”( green hat) usually refer to a cuckolded man in China so never give a Chinese man a green hat.
So what is the best colour considered by the Chinese? According to ancient Chinese, there are five elements in the world: metal, wood, water, fire and earth. (五行：金木水火土) When all the five elements are in harmony, then you will live in a peaceful and prosperous world. The same rule applies to colour. The neutral colour and fits in with the five elements would be the ideal colour for Chinese.
Colour is very personal and has its different cultural connotations. It is also subject to different interpretations and different occasions. However, be sensitive to choose the right colour for your Chinese clients will definitely appreciated by your Chinese clients and make your journey with the Chinese a smooth sailing. Which colour is your business going to pick when you are going to China or meet with your Chinese clients?