The mysterious Chinese colour “qing”

The colour qÄ«ng 青, which we’ve encountered once before, popped up again recently in a story book our daughter’s preschool teacher was reading to her class. It made characters out of each colour, and showed what new colours were created when they touched. All the usual suspects were there — red, yellow, blue, green, black, etc. — plus “qÄ«ng.” See if you can figure out how to describe it.

This is “Little Black” 小黑 xiÇŽo hÄ“i:

heise_black

And this is “Little QÄ«ng” 小青 xiÇŽo qÄ«ng:qingse_qing

You can see on Little Qing’s fingers, the shirt near the fingers and the water drops, that they’ve tinged black with green and blue.

Our dictionaries aren’t super helpful, with entries like, “nature’s colour,” “green or blue,” “greenish black.” I wonder if the iridescent green of some beetles, for example, would be called qÄ«ng by my students, rather than green 绿 lÇœ.

It’s curious that our daughters are growing up with a slightly different colourscape than we did.

There’s more about qÄ«ng here: Language, perception and the Chinese colour “qÄ«ng”

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