The influence of Chinese culture on British art and design

By Jo Phillips

The influence of Chinese culture on British design is understated. As a society known for borrowing bits and bobs from other cultures, Chinese influence on art has happened almost naturally under the radar. So, without further ado, let’s take a look at how Chinese culture has impacted art and design, particularly when it comes to interpretations of symbols, motifs, and colours. 

Symbolism and motifs

Over the years, elements of Chinese design and culture have inspired a wide range of British media, including TV shows, books, music, fashion, films, and even online casino games. As Chinese culture has a wide variety of motifs that symbolise luck and fortune, it is no surprise that these elements have become heavily incorporated as ‘good luck charms’ within such media. In fact, some of the most popular online slots are themed around traditional Chinese beliefs regarding good luck, such as Fortune House, Chinese Treasures, Fortune Fest, and Golden Offer, just to name a few. These games incorporate elements like fortune trees, Buddhas, dragons, shiny turtles, fans, lions, koi carp, and fireworks into their graphic design for an authentic take on Chinese culture, making for immersive gameplay. 

Although these symbols are more meaningful and ingrained into Chinese culture, British audiences will understand these elements to symbolise good luck and fortune, thanks to the gradual integration of Eastern society into the West. Let’s look at a citrine money tree, for example – in Chinese culture, the use of citrine symbolises the manifestation of abundance. The tree is said to attract wealth and prosperity, as well as balance the chi energies. Whilst British audiences might not immediately understand the symbolism of the money tree to this extent, we still recognise the tree as a symbol of good luck, which shows the proliferation of Chinese symbolism in wider art, design, and imagery.


Colour schemes are arguably one of the most important – if not the most important – elements of design work. Not only will the right colour allow artists and designers to portray their subjects more accurately and realistically, but colour can also influence the mood of the overall design. The ability of colours to evoke specific emotions and influence mood is explained using the study of colour psychology. Put simply, this field of research explores how different colours can trigger certain emotional – and even physical – responses. For example, red typically makes us think of passion and love, purple of nobility, yellow of hope, green of nature, and blue of peace. 

However, colours also play a massively important role in Chinese culture and therefore take on different meanings that can be leveraged in artworks. With this in mind, artists can play around with the different meanings of colours in order to evoke two interpretations or further the depth of the emotion they are trying to achieve. For example, whilst red might make us think of romance, in Chinese culture it is the symbol of good fortune, happiness, and success – the use of red can therefore provide a double meaning, perhaps to show that the subject will have good luck in love. On the other hand, green symbolises healing and health in Chinese culture, which, combined with the inference to nature, can bolster those looking to evoke the feeling of springtime and rejuvenation.  Though the influence of Chinese culture on British art and design has been subtle, the integration has allowed for broader interpretation and more nuanced symbolism

Verified by MonsterInsights