Rosso di Cina e Cina rossa

Termini di base per il colore rosso nella cultura cinese

Marco Ceresa    



The Chinese language, both classical and modern, contains a number of potentially synonymous terms for the colour ‘red’. The analysis traces the diachronic trends of such terms and discovers which term, if any, is the favoured term for this colour; it also determines when it became established as such. I t considers, then, the frequencies of all potentially basic colour terms for red in a wide corpus comprising authors representing a span of over two millennia, and examines the most relevant specimens from an etymological point of view. The initial hypothesis was that hóng 紅 was displacing chì 赤 as the basic term for red according to the criteria first formulated by Berlin and Kay (1969). The hypothesis that hóng 紅 was displacing chì 赤 proved to be accurate; hóng 紅 increased from occurring only incidentally in pre-Qin and Han texts to being the dominant term for red in Ming and Qing dynasty vernacular fiction and in the modern Chinese language, although it did not completely displace chì 赤 until well into the twentieth century. However, it seems that the reason for its becoming the dominant term for red is not linked to its fulfillment of Berlin and Kay’s criteria; it is, rather, most likely a result of its predominance within the northern dialects, which formed the basis for written vernacular language.


Keywords: EtymologyChinese colour termsCultural studies

Copyright: © 2015 Marco Ceresa. This is an open-access work distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction is permitted, provided that the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. The license allows for commercial use. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.