Two sides of the same coin

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English: Chinese funeral Nederlands: Foto. Chi...

Image via Wikipedia

The color of happy brides, innocent babes, cleanliness, and new beginnings, white is associated with all things untainted, safe, and peaceful.  But, did you know that in Eastern parts of the world, white is the color of death and mourning?  In Japan, a white carnation symbolizes death.  In China, Vietnam, and Korea, white is worn instead of black at funerals.  Why?  Because white is associated with the winter time, during which nature is dead.  The cold snow blankets over everything, snuffing out life.  Nothing survives in the winter, everything must die and come to an end.

Color symbolism varies dramatically between different cultures around the world who see colors in different ways, and have come to prescribe different meanings to it due to the completely different situations and environments that a culture is part of.  What one culture might see as the color of harmony and trust, another might see as the color of greed and evil.  Below is what I thought was the most interesting difference in connotations of color in non-Western cultures I picked from about.com’s page on the topic.  (You can check out the full list of other colors’ meanings by clicking on the link.)

Green:
  • China: Green hats indicate a man’s wife is cheating on him
English: Fedora hat green

Image via Wikipedia

After doing some research, I found that the reason green hats have this meaning is because the term for “cuckold” in Chinese, dai lu mao, literally translates to “wearing a green hat.”  Pretty simple, huh?  But there’s a story that goes behind this, dating back to the Ming dynasty, which is told on this language blog:
“there was a businessman with a very beautiful wife. The businessman travelled often, and missed his wife. Unbeknownst to him, while he was away, the beautiful wife kept herself entertained with other men. When he came home, he told her how much he missed her. She made him a green hat, and told him to wear it to remind him of her. He went off happily, wearing the hat, while she and all the neighbours knew what was really going on.”
Another blog’s opinion differs a little bit, and it says that the story is from the Yuan dynasty instead.
This goes to show how big of a part language plays in cultures and if you come across some curious oddity or superstition, there’s almost definitely a reason and a history behind it.  Do any of you guys have funny or interesting superstitions in your own cultures?  Let me know by commenting below!
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