This Car is (Technically) Red: Beliefs about Colors in Thailand
Compared to other animals, humans possess a significantly superior vision, and our survival depends disproportionately on this bodily sense. It is not the sense of smell that allows a lost puppy to find its way home, not the reception of sounds or echoes that guides bats at night, but it is the sight that helps us perceive and evade dangers. Taking into account the fact that our eyes can distinguish up to a million colors, it is no surprise why we have attached such a great importance to vision and colors, and from there emerged a great many beliefs and folklores.
In many societies, including Thailand, colors can influence our lives in many other ways outside the realm of aesthetics. Picking the right colors for the right occasion is unquestionably the right thing to do, but the ability to pick the right color for “you” can make or break your day. And this involves some mysterious work that goes far beyond what the eyes can see. Let’s take a look on what Thai people have to say about this.
Color schemes from Hinduism
The supreme divinity in Hinduism is called the Trimurti or the Hindu Trinity. In this concept, the supreme Lord can manifest himself in three forms: Brahma the Creator, Shiva the Destroyer, and Vishnu the Preserver. Brahma, who created the Earth, bestowed three characteristics upon all creatures: purity represented by white, movement represented by red, and weight represented by black. In the caste system of India, white is the color of the clergy, red of the royal, and black of the working class. Not only in the country of Taj Mahal, this interpretation of colors spilled over to the Southeast Asia through the dissemination of Hinduism. Collided and merged with Buddhism which had long been established in the area, the Hindu colors later influenced the appearance of the Buddha images. Today, the images need to be made of gold or silver or precious gemstones. If made of other materials, like wood or plaster, they will need to be covered in gold leaves or painted in gold or white to represent purity.
Lucky colors for your outfit of the day
After Brahma had given us the Earth and the tricolor, Shiva was next to take the center stage as the creator of the remaining celestial bodies in the solar system.
- The lucky color for each day of the week
As the god of destruction, Shiva would not have created the solar system without sacrificing something. What he did was to turn some living things or beings into dust, cover them with a cloth of a specific color, sprinkle holy water on them, and from the ash materialized the star and planets. The color of the cloth is considered the auspicious color of that day.
|Star and planets||Beings turned into dust||Color of the cloth|
|Sun (Sunday)||6 Lions||Red|
|Moon (Monday)||15 Angels||Yellow|
|Mars (Tuesday)||8 Buffaloes||Pink|
|Mercury (Wednesday)||17 Elephants||Green|
|Jupiter (Thursday)||19 Hermits||Orange|
|Saturn (Friday)||21 Cows||Purple|
|God of Rahu (Wednesday night)||12 Ghost heads||Black|
Some Thais, when they go out, love to dress in the color of the day. However, when this dress code starts to grow boring or mundane, they opt for another color scheme determined by the day of the week on which they were born.
- Auspicious color schemes based on your birthday
|Birthday||To wear||Not to wear|
|Sunday||vivid green, dark green, white, and pink||light blue, blue|
|Monday||vivid green, light purple, purple||red|
|Tuesday||purple, orange, and red||yellow and white|
|Wednesday||green, light yellow, and dark yellow||pink|
|Thursday||blue, light blue, vivid green, red||any shade of purple|
|Friday||yellow, orange, and light pink||dark green|
|Saturday||red, yellow, blue, light blue, pink, and brown||any shade of green|
|Wednesday night||black, red, and dark brown||orange|
Feng Shui and colors in design
As Thailand is ideally located between two great civilizations of Asia – India and China – we get to enjoy the best of both worlds. While our dress code is inspired by the Hindu gods, the design and decoration of our residences rests on the ancient wisdom of Feng Shui from China.
Feng Shui is believed to branch out from Taoism which centers on the balance of forces that constitute life, or Chi. Chi itself is made up of Yin (negative, passive, female) and Yang (positive, active, male). These two are inherently opposite and complementary, in other words – inseparable. Finding the right order and balance for these powers will ensure tranquility and induce growth and prosperity of life. Feng Shui is a way to apply this principle on architecture and design regardless of scales, from a large environment like a town, a village, and a building to much smaller elements like a garden, trees, furniture, and colors.
In the world of Feng Shui, all colors belong in one of these five categories: water, wood, fire, earth, and metal. With the right combination and arrangement, home owners can improve the Chi of their surroundings, bringing forth luck and fortune.
|Water||Black, light blue, blue||Calmness, relaxation, and concentration|
|Wood||Green||Growth and motivation|
|Fire||Red||Movement, fun, love, and desire|
|Earth||Yellow||Stability, warmth, and safety|
|Metal||White, silver, steel||Care, cleanliness, and hygiene|
Other mixed colors, such as purple, pink, and brown, that are not in these primary groups will be classified based on their dominant tones.
- Paint your room with the right colors
To perform each activity well, you need to inspire the corresponding kind of energy. You want to feel motivated while being in your workroom, peaceful and relaxed when lying on your soft and warm bed, and creative and experimental in the kitchen. For this reason, you may want to take colors a bit more seriously.
What is better than falling asleep in a dreamy bedroom and waking up with a pleasing shade of color being the first thing you see in the morning? A bedroom should feature colors from the water, metal, and earth categories. You can avoid black, but not necessarily. In a workroom, everyone needs to feel energized. The appropriate colors are those from the wood and fire groups. The kind of work you do can be the deciding factor. If your job requires creativity, colors from the wood category are nice choices. For work that needs clarity and sharpness like engineers or lawyers, you can choose red or anything symbolizing fire. The next one is bathroom. Strongly associated with water, a bathroom should be painted with the colors from the water group or those that are complementary to water, like white or silver. Avoid red. Contrary to the bathroom, a kitchen can never function without fire, so red makes the top of the list, but the wood colors, like green, or even white are also suitable.
This approach is just one way of deciding on the interior colors of the house. Homeowners may use other principles or simply go with their tastes. In any case, the heart of Feng Shui is balance. It is better to factor in the practicality of the room and your preference than to rely exclusively on Feng Shui and get a house that looks unattractive, uncomfortable and unsuitable for living.
Traffic in Thailand and its color game
We have arrived at the highlight of this article: the colors of cars. On the streets of Thailand, Bangkok in particular, a stream of candy-colored taxis is a common sight, but don’t be fooled by the colors you see. Next time when you find yourself trapped in the streets of the land of smiles and if you are able to read some Thai words, look for the stickers at the back of the cars. On some white cars, the stickers may say they are red! Why is that?
For some people, only after they had bought the car did they realize that the color was inauspicious. For example, people born on Tuesday are incompatible with the color white because it can induce bad lucks, but unfortunately they have a white car. Since buying a new vehicle is not an option for everyone, the Thai put a sticker saying “This car is red,” or whatever color, on their car, believing that it can neutralize the jinx of the inauspicious tone.
However, putting on these stickers is just something that gives car owners a peace of mind than something that can actually effect any changes because the truth that will always stay is that the car they drive every single day is white not red. A simple sticker cannot fool anyone, be it a demon, an angel, or even the car owners themselves.
- So what should I do?
Instead of focusing on the exterior, you can balance it out by changing the color of the passenger room. Changing the colors of the headliner and the covers of the seats, steering wheel, and seat belts is a very effective shortcut.
As in the case of Feng Shui, it is better to choose the color of your choice, the shade that makes you feel happy and comfortable, not what the book says. Still, if you are concerned about choosing the wrong color and want to play it safe, you can choose neutral colors like silver or gold which represent wealth and make you visible when driving at night.
These colorful beliefs are not in any way a standard value in the Thai society. You can find believers and non-believers everywhere. But no matter where you stand on this spectrum, one thing that cannot be denied is that these beliefs are a reflection of the cultural richness of the Thai society, a melting pot of two great Asian cultures – Hinduism from India and Taoism from China – seasoned with the creativity and a sense of humor of the Thai who manage to incorporate the new influences into their lifestyles and come up with fun tricks.
The next time you go out and want to do some fun experiments, put on your lucky color and see how your day goes!
- Feng Shui
- Auspicious colors for cars
- Auspicious colors for outfits