To read this content please select one of the options below:

Narratives on Chinese colour culture in business contexts: The Yin Yang Wu Xing of Chinese values

Kirsi Kommonen (Department of Communication, Aalto University School of Economics, Aalto, Finland)

Cross Cultural Management: An International Journal

ISSN: 1352-7606

Article publication date: 2 August 2011




This research is interested in how dynamics in negotiating cultural meanings in the globalizing market place in China become visible in one particular aspect of culture: colour culture. The purpose of this paper is to explore the provenance of some of the many potential meanings invested in colours in contemporary China, and how and why these influence international business, communication, design and marketing management in particular.


A qualitative empirical study with ambition for an emic cultural approach to Chinese colour culture. Narrative analysis of accounts by Chinese colour professionals participating in a focus group interview, and by individually interviewed managers with extensive experience in Sino‐Finnish business are reported in narrative format.


The findings support the proposed existence of a phenomenon which the author has named “Colour culture” – a cultural set of meanings that are invested in colours. Unexpectedly, the empirical study proposes a strong tendency towards these meanings being value based in China. Visual manifestations of cultural values appear to be dynamic and dependent on context.

Research limitations/implications

The current study does not offer generalizable prescriptions for contextual colour usages. The explorative, qualitative nature of this study serves as a basis for contextual and quantifiable future research on the phenomenon.

Practical implications

Since, for the Chinese, colours manifest cultural values and are highly emotional, not only linguistic, but also visual translation of communication is needed. For international communication, design and marketing managers, this further implies a need for contextual understanding of local colour culture.


Recognizing the existence of colour culture and its value‐based proposition in China opens up new research avenues and practical considerations for cross‐cultural studies.



Kommonen, K. (2011), "Narratives on Chinese colour culture in business contexts: The Yin Yang Wu Xing of Chinese values", Cross Cultural Management: An International Journal, Vol. 18 No. 3, pp. 366-383.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Related articles