Each dynasty in China’s long history gave its own significance to various colors. In every dynasty, the clothing for each official rank had their own color.
To support the Zhou Dynasty’s ceremonial rituals, Confucius defined yellow, blue-green, white, red and black as standard colors. He related them to benevolence, virtue and kindness and incorporated them into formal ceremonies. People of the Zhou Dynasty honored red.
During that time, people incorporated colors when naming seasons and directions. A blue-green sun represented spring. Its main guardian god was a green-blue dragon, and its direction was east. Summer’s color was red, guarded by a red sparrow, and its direction was south. Autumn was white, guarded by a white tiger with a westerly direction. Winter was represented by black, guarded by a black tortoise, and its direction was north.
Qin Shi Huang unified China in 211 BC and began the Qin Dynasty. He followed his ancestors’ traditions, distinguished black from white, respected the virtue of water and “decided that October was the beginning of winter and its color was a superior black.” When he ascended the throne, “the color of his clothing and flags was black.”
Because of its association with gold, yellow began to symbolize the royal court after the Han Dynasty. The emperor’s subjects could not wear yellow clothing.
Although regarded as a secondary color, purple signifies a propitious omen and solemnity. Among the Chinese people, there is the saying “purple sparrows in beams, carries mud in pairs, coming and going.”
However, during the Han Dynasty, bright purple was often regarded as an extremely precious and rare color. In the Tang dynasty, officials above the rank of Fifth Class as well as member of the royal court wore purple clothing. A purpose border on clothing often made an elegant touch in apparel.