In Ancient Chinese Legend, Black Is a Color of Honor

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Shi Huang-di was the first emperor of China. He was responsible for the unification of China. The Emperor was known to have a “dark side” as well as being a great leader. He also had a keen interest in attaining immortality, and his huge funerary compound contains 8,000 life-sized terra-cotta soldiers.

The Dragon is a symbol of ultimate power in Chinese philosophy /Photo wiki

When the Illustrious Emperor defeated the Zhou Dynety he chose the color black for his Dynasty. In Chinese philosophy water (associated with black) puts out the fire (red). The 5 elements in traditional Chinese philosophy are, jin (metal), mu (wood), shui (water), huo (fire), tu (earth). The 5 elements in daily life were regarded as the building blocks of everything in the universe and natural phenomena. They have their own unique characters and they can generate or destroy one other.

The Chinese Zodiac photo Lillian Irene Lovas

The Emperor’s successors in the Former Han Dynasty (from 206BC) let all of a hundred years elapse before they opted for the color red again.

According to the ancient teaching of the five permutations of the elements, black is associated with water, the North and a salty taste and its representative, a domestic animal, is the pig.

Black was chosen by later historians as the symbolic color of the first of the three ancient dynasties – Xia; the second – Shang – was symbolized by white.

As a symbol, the color black stands for darkness, death, and honor. In the Chinese theatre, 8 heroes with blackened faces represent men who are honorable, if rough and ready: The well known Bao-gong was one of them and is also known as the Chinese Solomon or Lord Bao in China’s Song Dynasty. 

Bao-gong is honored as the cultural symbol of Justice in Chinese society. During his 25 years in office, he gained the honorific title “Justice Bao.”

Justice Bao 2008 TV series

According to an anecdote, a man once reported that his ox’s tongue had been sliced out. Bao told him to return and slaughter the ox for sale. Soon another man arrived in court and accused the first man of privately slaughtering a “beast of burden”, an offense punishable by a year of corrective slavery. Bao bellowed: “Why did you cut his ox’s tongue and then accuse him?” In shock, the culprit had to confess.

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