“Exploding Red”- Three Auspicious Uses of 红

In China, red is king.

Used to describe everything from money and politics to modern internet memes and ancient artistic imagery, red is the undisputable national color of the Middle Kingdom.  

Today, lets look at 3 different words with (hóng) related to popularity or good fortune.

走红 vs. 爆红 vs. 红火

1.  走红 ( zǒuhóng)- become popular

(zǒu)  – go, move, transport (as in 往前走)
(hóng) – red, popular

This word is formed by combining “to go, to move” with .  Thus, by “going red”, something becomes popular, fashionable, or favorable in the public eye.  It can be used for public figures, companies, products, fashion trends, or even ideas.

Lets take a look at a few examples in the wild:

Example Sentence A


cǎogēn rénwù “ wényì hóngshǔ gē ” de zǒuhóng , bùjǐn xīyǐnle wúshù wǎngyǒu yǔ méitǐ de guānzhù , yě zài shèhuì shàng zàochéngle hěn dà fǎnxiǎng

The popularity of grassroots character “artistic sweet potato brother” has not only attracted the attention of countless netizens and media outlets, but also created a large reaction in society.

Example Sentence B


zhèngshì cóng zhège shíhou qǐ , tā de biǎoyǎn shēngyá cái zhēnzhèng kāishǐ zǒuhóngle

It was at this point that her acting career really took off.

2.  爆红 (bào hóng)- Go viral, spread rapidly

(bào) – explode, burst
 (hóng) – red, popular

Similar to 走红, here the emphasis is on the , or explode.  By “exploding red”, something rapidly spreads (goes viral as western internet users would say) through social networks and word of mouth.  It is usually in reference to a specific internet meme or sensation which spreads rapidly through Chinese social networks and blogosphere.

Example A

仓鼠装死视频网络爆红 “演技”精湛媲美奥斯卡影帝

cāngshǔ zhuāngsǐ shìpín wǎngluò bàohóng “ yǎnjì ” jīngzhàn pìměi àosīkǎ yǐngdì

A rat who can “play dead” goes viral: its acting skills rival Oscar winners.

Example B

美吃货主持人爆红 从狮子口中抢吃生斑马肉

měi chī huò zhǔchírén bàohóng cóng shīzi kǒuzhōng qiǎng chī shēng bānmǎ ròu

American television host goes viral: snatches, eats live zebra from lions mouth

3.  红火 (hónghuǒ)- flourishing, prosperous

(hóng)- red, popular
(huǒ) – fire

In combining and , we get the word “flourishing” or “prosperous”.  红火 is typically used to describe a flourishing business, market, industry, or economy.  Yes, its a good thing if your Chinese business partner tells you your joint-venture is “red fire!”

Example A


juéduì búyào gǎnshímáo , shénme shēngyi hónghuǒ jiù wǎng nǎlǐ zuān

Definitely don’t chase what’s fashionable, jumping into any business which looks to be flourishing

Example B


zài jīngjì kùnnan shíqī kǒuhóng zhēn de mài de hěn hónghuǒ ma

Is it true that even in times of economic difficulties, sales of lipstick flourish?

What other distinctive uses are there for 红 in Chinese?  Check back in coming weeks!

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