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“Yellow is a color capable of charming God” -----Vincent Van Gough

INTRODUCTION In ancient culture, the color yellow has its significance, especially in eastern countries. As we all can see from those movies and pictures based on eastern culture, the iconic color of Buddhism is yellow, the monk’s cassock is yellow, and the staves are yellow as well. Many eastern myths have strong relationship with yellow. For instance, in chinese legents, the story of dragons and the source of human beings both set yellow as thier simbolic color. Also, yellow

was used as the unique color of Chinese empire after the Song destiney, only the royals can use it. Because yellow was the most special and meaningful color in ancient China, lots of art works, garments and architectures of the empire use yellow. For example, the roofs of imperial palace are yellow; the utensils for empire are golden (yellow); the king’s robe has a pattern of yellow dragon as well. Now, please follow this color book to discover the secret of yellow.

Color Story

When I was young, my grandpa told me, we are the offspring of dragon, a yellow dragon. He said in ancient times, there was no people live in this continent, because there was no water. But one day, a huge yellow dragon fallen down from the sky. It laid down on the ground, head to the west, tail to the east. After many years, the dragon turned to a river, a long river. Because it

was a yellow dragon, so the water in the river was yellow, and it was named Yellow River. Then people started to come to this land, and lived by the Yellow River. They are the chinese originals. So we called ourselves "the children of the yellow dragon", and that is also why our skin is yellow. Because dragon was seen as the god of water in China, there were a lot of dragon temples

for them. Ancient chinese immolate them to seek the raining. The sun is sacred, it shines golden light, disperses darkness, and brings lifes. That is the greatest thing. In ancient China, people thought it was givent by a god with yellow halo, but it would be returned in the nightime. There was a giant named Kuafu, he was borned taller than mountains. He decided to chase the sun, so that he can bring the sunlight to human. So he chased the sun day by day. He drinked out all the water on earth, but until he died, he still not catched the sun. The sun still far away, shining the yellow light from the sky. Long long time ago, there still no human on earth. A deity named Nuwa, thought the world was too empty and silent. She fallen to earth, used yellow soil and mixed with water, began to create dolls.

Year after year, she created a lot of dolls, and gave the dolls lifes. Then the clay dolls changed to earliest human beings. Nuwa thought it was too slow to create every single doll by herself, so she created a relationship called marriage, so that human could generate by themselves. Therefore, in the Chinese culture, we believe that human is from the yellow earth. So when a person died, people will bury him into the earth, which means he goes back to where he comes from. Yellow is the source of Chinese culture.

Analogous Color Harmony

In ancient legends, evil creatures and demons are always created, which are powerful and horrible. The photo on the left was one of the war god in ancient China. He has three faces and six arms, each arm holds a holy weapon. His skin is dark orange. He wears golden armour, and holds golden weapon. These represent the analogous colors in this photo.

The photo above is a ghost’s mask. Ancient witches always wear this kind scary mask to do witchcraft. They believe it can bring them power, and demonstrate their identity. This mask has a forehead with golden color, face with orange color and lip with red. These are all beautiful analogous colors that holisticly combine to this ancient artwork.

Triad Harmony The triad colors of yellow are red and blue. The blue color in the picture beneath is green blue instead of a pure one. It is an asian traditional mascot called Lucky Cat in the picture. It is orginally from Japan. Many commercial stores put it on

the front table. They believe by doing that the Lucky Cat can brings good luck and attracts more customers for them. The Lucky Cat has gold surface, red ears and blue green neck. These three colors are triad harmony colors.

This is a Chinese dragon sculpture. The dragon skin is shining golden color. The dragon has very long beard with blue green color and a pair of huge paws with green. Also, it has red and shinning fins which looks like fire. These colors combine to triad harmony.


I found this little buddha sculpture in a store of New York China town. It has a beautiful shape and great colors. Buddha is a very important symbol in traditional asian culture. It has a great impact in the history. It repersents the hightest authority in Chinese legend. The body of buddha was painted with special yellow

pigment, in order to shine with high reflection. The buddha is fat. In ancient China, fat means healthy and beautiful. The gown of the buddha is red purple, it is the complementary color of yellow. The yellow is so bright and the purple is dark, which shows a high contrast in the image.

Double Complementary

In picture on the left is a traditional chinese pot. The body of pot is yellow, and it has colorful patterns with many other colors. The color of these flower patterns are purple, green, red and blue. They are painted with perfect color proportion.The image on next page shows the banners of Buddhism in Tibet. There are four banners with different colors combined together. The colors are light, and the banners are transparent.

Split Complementary

This photo is about the carving under some traditional Chinese architectures. It combined by a lot of different color hues with pretty matches. The main components are painted with yellow and blue, others painted with red and purple.

COLOR PROPORTIONS This image is about a huge Chinese traditional light. The shot shows a part of it. The red orange light occupies half space of the photo, but it is not the most bright part. The lights at the bottom are yellow and green. There are a lot of colors with different color proportions in this picture, which make a beautuful color combination.

This photo shows a chinese traditional light being turned on at night. The yellow light looks the most bright part in the picture, but only occupies a small space. The background is dark blue sky, occupies the largest space.

The contradiction is obvious. Viewers will focus more on the yellow. The roof was dark orange and it occupies half space of the photo. The brightest part is in the middle of blue and yellow . Those make the picture harmony.

Neutrals and Metallics

In ancient China, silk is a type of expensive material. Only nobility and rich people can afford it. Also, only the royals and thier relatives can wear yellow colors. Therefore, a lot of yellow clothes are made by silk. Silk is a type of material with high reflections under light. In the photo on the left, we can easily see the reflection on its surface.

The lovely pigs on the picture beneath are symbolic money boxes. The surface of them is painted with very shining yellow pigment. So that they all has bright bodies, and highlights on the head. The paint makes the money boxes looks with metallics. However, the red parts are painted by different type of pigments, which does not have much reflections.

Dragon Skin

Dragon is an creature by imagination. It only appears in myth and legend stories. Asian dragon is different from those in western culture. Most of them are related to water instead of fire. They have great power to control water and species live in water. They looks similar as snakes. Therefore, the dragon skin is designed similar as fish or snake, but with shining and high reflection.

With admire of the beatiful dragon scale pattern, I tried to paint a texture to simulate the dragon skin. I found a type of meterial that could make similar effect as the dragon skin, such as a cloth that has small bumps on it. Then I painted yellow on it. The picture above is my dragon skin artwrok.

Pattern Design

Dragon is a symbol of power and nature. Some dragons are controller of cloud, and some dragons are god of water. According to the appearance of dragon in traditional China, I designed an abstract dragon pattern. As shows above, it is a curly dragon holds a fireball in the middle, looks like the dragon is protecting the fireball.

Also, I designed a single fireball pattern, it is more simple than the dragon pattern, which looks like a symbol of ancient religion.


I use traditional Chinese color style for the pattern design. Pale yellow to be the background, and bule, red, green and black as the color for dragons. I found out that many chinese traditional porcelains used double complementary colors, I decided to use them as well because they are beautiful and creative. I attach the pattern to cloth, chinese fan, and a lamp to create a

combination of traditional elements and modern fashion.


This single pattern is an abstract fireball. After I combined six single pattern to a group, I found that each group of fireballs could be seen as an abstract cloud. Then, I duplicate them and apply them on a black background. They looks like traditional elements in modern design style. I chose a phone cover, a vase and a tissue box to fit the pattern. I think people may love them.

CONCLUSION Yellow is not only meaningful in asian culture, it also a symbolic color in western culture and many other regions. In Islamic culture, golden yellow stands for wise and good advice; pale yellow is the color of sulfur, which belongs to the devil’s

realm. The maya of ancient Mexico used the word Kan, yellow, for the god who held up the sky. Yellow is not only a traditional color, but also a color that could be apply to modern designs and artworks with beautiful shine.

ACKNOWLEGEMENT Pratt Institute Communication Design Prof. Michelle Hinebrook

Yellow Gold  

Color Studio, 2014 Pratt Institute, Prof. Hinebrook