Color and Culture

Today, Manhattan is covered by dense fog and we cannot see Empire State Building. The view is like Black-and-white movie. When we express white as "pure white", we image bright white. It is different from foggy white.

The other day, I read about the world of "GENJI MONOGATARI" (It is the oldest novel in the world written by court lady in Japan) and it mentioned about Heian-era’s color sense.
She is author of "GENJI MONOGATARI". She was wearing twelve layered kimono.

Now when we say "Ao(青)" in Japanese it means "blue". But in Heian-era, "Ao" means color between red and black. So “Ao” included variety of color. For example, yellow, green, brown, gray etc...Their color concept was fewer than now. Now Japanese call "blue heron" as "Ao-sagi(heron)" and this name called since Heian-era. Actually, blue heron is not blue. It is white big bird.

Sometimes we call white horse as "Ao-uma(horse)".
In china, theory of Yin-Ynag and the five elements says, "To remove the negative vibes of the year, it is better to see yang thing in spring". They defined spring color as blue(青) and yang animal as horse(馬). And Chinese had a new year event to see "青馬" in the spring. In Japan, white is the top of the color. So Japanese write white horse as "(Ao-uma)" and they cannot change reading so we sometimes call white horse "Ao-uma". Strictly speaking, white horse is "Hakuba(白馬)". "Haku(白)" means white.

Three years ago I saw white horse at Kamogamo-jinjya (It is famous shrine in Kyoto) for new year event. The picture was taken at shrine in Kyoto.
I thought color imagination come from not only from the color itself but from culture background and our own experience.
In Heian-era, court ladies enjoyed their fashion “twelve layered kimono” using variety of colors, even though their color concept was fewer than now. They were sensitive to color combination. Sometimes they made beautiful color gradation and sometimes they present season or their rank or their character by color. Color is important ways of express themselves.

When I was writing the blog there was a thunder and after that the rain stopped and saw the fog burned off.

I saw the stars in the night sky and re-realized the beauty of Manhattan.


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