“The yellow is the finest.

…Reams and reams of letters could I write in yellow ink to her, the little schoolgirl of my dreams. I'd scrawl something that looks like Japanese, then try a bird, most intricately scrolled.” – Dezső Kosztolányi wrote this in the poem I dream of coloured inks. If you look up to the sky, you see the sun yellow, but its colour is white actually, which means it contains all the colours. Colour depends on the wavelength of light: humans perceive the light yellow between 565 and 590 nanometres wavelength.

Skoflek István diaképei - Kuny Domokos Múzeum, CC BY-NC-NDThe relation between yellow and green is very interesting because the yellow is a primary colour according to the subtractive colour scheme and you get green by mixing yellow with blue. But according to the additive colour scheme: adding red to green yields yellow. Thus, yellow is a bit out of the line when talking about primary colours.

The five rings of the Olympic flag represent the continents, the yellow stands for Asia. In China, the yellow dragon indicated the starting point among the compass points, but it was one of the luckiest omens as well. Yellow was a significant colour in the empire age. The emperor’s decrees were written on yellow silk, the emperor’s clothes were mainly yellow and nobody else was allowed to wear the imperial yellow. The Buddhist monks of Tibet broke this rule by wearing yellow clothes, too.

Mindszenti templom freskó fotódokumentáció 22 - Takács István Kulturális Alapítvány, CC BY-NC-NDAnother interesting thing is that the underworld was called the ‘Yellow Springs’, but might there be a connection between this and the (yellow) sulphurous hell appearing in the Bible? Anyway, the yellow colour often turns up in the Bible and in Christian imageries. Yellow symbolises the light, the power, the mediation between gods and people. The light and golden yellow represent faith, goodness and intellect, while orange stands for the divine love and wisdom. Nevertheless, the yellow can also mean negativity: dark and greenish yellow symbolise envy, treason and death. The Death among the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse sits on a yellow (pale) horse, and Judas Iscariot was often painted in yellow coloured clothes on murals and paintings.

The choleric type of people (extroverted, impulsive, and hot-tempered) was also identified by the yellow colour. The word ‘chole’ comes from the word chol or choler because the chole was thought to be the starting point of anger in the Middle Ages.

Sárga csillag - Holokauszt Emlékközpont, CC BY-NC-NDAccording to the Nuremberg laws, all the people with Jewish origin had to wear a yellow star on their clothes since 20 August 1941. They had to wear the yellow star that was similar to a six-pointed Star of David, otherwise they risked a fine or internment in more serious cases. People in the labour service also wore a yellow armband, and maybe few people know the fact that the yellow colour was used for discrimination even as early as in the Middle Ages.

Although the yellow is basically a happy and warm colour, it is normally used for calling the attention to danger on boards and signs, similarly to the red. For example: nuclear dangers, health damaging materials, contagious diseases, quarantine areas. This colour also appears in the names of certain diseases, and sometimes some parts of the human body actually turn yellow due to an illness.

Budapest. Felszabadulás tér - Balatoni Múzeum, CC BY-NC-ND‘Red lorry, yellow lorry’ – try to say it three times quickly – it is a difficult tongue-twister in English language. ‘We all live in a yellow submarine, yellow submarine, yellow submarine…’ – as the Beatles sang it. The yellow colour occurs in the logos of most European liberal political parties as well. And finally, take a piece of good advice: don’t turn up on your rendezvous with a yellow rose, because some say it is the symbol of platonic love and friendship.


Translated by Zita Aknai


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