Color symbol in Zhang Yimou’s films


Zhang Yimou,he is a Chinese artist who has been successful in creating global art.As a filmmaker with high reputation, he is not only a Chinese director, but also a global one who is expert in telling Chinese story using significantly representative traditional cultural elements such as color (red/blue…), music (Chinese traditional opera/Chinese folk music), scene (similar with Chinese ink painting), props (red lantern/red cloth…) He has created a way to convey Chinese culture through film language which can be accepted globally.

Color symbol

“…Symbols are supposed to have evolved from the advantageous use of signs. They are representative signs, that help to retain things for later reference, for comparing, planning, and generally for purposive thinking.” Langer said in her book Philosophy in a New Key. Based on this, a multiple of profound meanings usually spring from one symbol. Colour, as an indispensable expression way and element of film art, plays several roles such as creating layout and structure of scene space, rendering visual atmosphere, picture composition and so on. The motion of colour make audience feel deep meaning beyond story itself. Colour is symbolic expression of emotions, it fully permeates filmmaker’s subjective mind making audience produce passion.

In zhang yimou’s film, red is a kind of red colour with ethnic cultural psychology. Diderot, a French philosopher,assumed that: “Any nation, any time, any place, there is a general name —–colour.”When it comes to zhang’s film colour artistic appeal, we can’t ignore a colour, that is red. Red is a kind of special existence both for zhang yimou film and our national culture. Zhang yimou uses a series of “red film”, in this mastery of red, to demonstrate director’s aesthetic ideas and artistic characteristics of performance incisively and vividly in a symbolic way.

Someone once said that the majority of Zhang yimou’s films can be called as “red”; because his excellent use of “China red”. His film visual language makes “China red” filled with flesh, blood and soul. Red is regarded as a way of telling story. To an extent, symbol, as token of culture, is also an independence sign that people separate from nature.

Red associates with instinct of a man. The red is a symbol of hatred and anger, crazy and war, danger and fire in many more films and art works. Red has endless energy and upscale image. From the concretely perceptual emotion perspective, red is a connection of fire, blood, the red light signal; From abstract perspective, enthusiastic, strong, happy, warm, dangerous, and sexual desire, etc., these in zhang yimou’s film can profoundly understand and feel.

Colour is the shell of director’s subjective consciousness.Utilization of colour is accordingly varying from different value of colour and psychological comedy content.Colour empathy, a subjective emotional reflection,is formed through following three elements: personal experience, knowledge reserve and self-cultivation. ”




6 Comments Add yours

  1. ghadeeralsh4 says:

    I love the red color. I think that it’s the strongest color between all. A lot of feelings are hidden in this color.

    1. judithdandan says:

      Personally speaking, the red is also my favorite color because of its power.

  2. jodyleylax says:

    Even though I personally hate the colour red, I have to say that it has some very strong meanings which it make it very powerful.

    1. judithdandan says:

      I totally understand your opinion. Some colors has several meaning, we can like it all the time.

  3. reemkulaib says:

    I like the red color. It has powerful meaning. It gives a speacial toutch in every where you see it.

    1. judithdandan says:

      I like red too. When I was a little girl, I had lots of red hat and dress. I thought dressed red was a so cool things.

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