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The Meaning of Colors in Chinese Culture

If you are thinking of sending flowers to a girlfriend, spouse, or business associate, there are a couple of things you should know.  Probably the most important thing is that color can have a much deeper meaning and is used to symbolize things much more commonly in Chinese Culture than in most Western cultures.

Red

Red is perhaps the most important color and carries the most meaning.  Whereas in the West, we use red as a symbol for danger or warning, in Taiwan, red is the color of luck, prosperity, and good fortune.  On a good day, the stock market boards are ablaze with fiery red, and it is a green board that sends people home in desperation.

Red flowers at a wedding in Taipei

There is an abundance of red at any wedding in Taiwan.

However, as in the West, red is still the color of love.  Wedding halls are festooned with red balloons, tablecloths, and carpets.  At least one of the bride’s wedding dresses, of which there might be up to 5 or more worn in a single 2-3 hour wedding reception, is sure to be red, and guests are expected to bring gifts of cash wrapped in red envelopes. (NEVER any other color.)

The proliferation of red is most obvious at Chinese New Year and when giving plants as gifts to congratulate a business on a new opening.  Westerners looking at flowers and orchids for Chinese New Year might feel all the red “bling bling” to be a little on the gaudy side, but around Chinese New Year the most beautiful orchid is sure to be returned without red danglies hanging all over it.  If you are sending a gift to a Taiwanese person, it is best to leave the extra decorations on and let the recipient take them off if they choose.  They are easily removed.

Purple

While red is recognized in Taiwan, as it around the world, as the symbol of love, purple is believed to symbolize romance in Taiwanese culture.  If you are sending a birthday, anniversary, or Valentines’ Day gift to your wife or girlfriend, and you want something a little more original than red roses, an arrangement with some purple in it is a good choice. You don’t very often see purple flowers, but they make a surprisingly nice arrangement. Here are some examples of flower arrangements with purple flowers. They are some of our best sellers.

White

White flowers can be used for many occasions.  Just don't send them as get well gifts.

White flowers can be used for many occasions. Just don’t send them as get well gifts.


White flowers can make beautiful arrangements, but it is important to consider the situation before giving a Taiwanese or Chinese person white flowers.  White is traditionally the color of death and mourning.  I mentioned above that when attending a wedding, it is imperative that a cash gift be presented in a red envelope.  When attending a funeral, a similar cash gift is traditional, but in this case, it is presented in a white envelope.  (NEVER get these two confused.)

White flowers can still be given for non-funeral occasions, but some thought must be given to the situation.  White flowers should never be given as a get well gift, especially to an older person or in a situation where the illness could be critical.

I don’t want to give the impression that white flowers should be avoided altogether.  They are beautiful either in pure white arrangements or mixed with other colors.  It is perfectly okay to give white flowers as a birthday or anniversary gift to a young woman or to use them as a home decoration, but if you are giving a gift to an older person, it might be better to play is safe and go with something with more red or yellow in it.

If you are considering sending flowers to Taiwan and have any questions regarding what is appropriate, feel free to send us an email or stop by our flower shop in Taipei and we will be happy to help you out.