Symbols index


Have you ever wondered what a bee is doing in a painting with a boy on the back of an elephant? These symbolic elements have for centuries been well understood by Chinese people. It is still important to understand them as an inappropriate reference may cause offense while understanding adds a new dimension to appreciation of Chinese art.

Here are all the subjects we have covered in this large index of Chinese symbols and art motifs. As there are so many we have grouped them into birds, animals, colors, flowers & fruit, nature and assorted categories.

Amber Amulet Ancestral tablet Animal Ant Ao Apple Apricot Aubergine Ax Azalea Badger Ball Bamboo Basket Bat Bean Beard Bee Bell Bird Black Blue Book Bottle gourd Bow Box Bridge Broom Butterfly Cabbage Canopy Carp Cat Centipede Cherry Children Chrysanthemum Cicada Cinnabar Cinnamon Cloud Cockerel Coin Color Crab Crane Creeper Crow Cypress Deer Dew Dog Donkey Dove Dragon Dragonfly Duck Eagle Earth Elephant Endless knot Fan Filial piety Finger lemon Fish Flowers Flute Fox Gall bladder Gecko Ghost Ginseng Glow worm Gong Good luck gods Goose Green Hair Halberd Hare Hawk Heart Heaven Hell Heron Horse Immortals Imperial Insignia Isles of the Blessed Jade Jujube Kingfisher Lacquer Laozi Lily Lion Longevity Lotus Luohan Lute Magnolia Magpie Maple Meander Mirror Monkey Moon Mountain Mulberry Narcissus Numbers Opium Orange Orchid Oriole Owl Ox Pagoda Pan Gu Panther Parrot Pavilion Peach Peacock Pear Pearl Peng Niao Peony Persimmon Pheasant Phoenix Pig Pine Plum Pomegranate Purple Quail Rain Rat Raven Red Rose Ru Yi Saddle Scroll Seasons Sheep Shoe Snake Spider Stone Sun Swallow Swastika Sword Tai Ji Tao Tie Thunder Tiger Toad Tortoise Tripod Umbrella Unicorn Vase Walnut Wave White Willow Wine Wolf Wood oil tree Yellow

If you are looking for a motif to convey a particular meaning it can be tedious to look through all the symbols. So here is a list of the symbols arranged by meaning, note that some of these can take multiple meanings so appear more than once.

Lucky Bats

Lucky Bats


Bats are commonly used in handicrafts, paintings and artwork to give a wish for good luck. This is because 'bat' and 'good luck' sound the same in Chinese.

Beauty terms

Symbols portraying beauty usually in the form of beautiful flowers.

Apple Apricot Azalea Cherry Glow worm Jade Kingfisher Lily Magnolia Orchid Oriole Peach Pear Pearl Peony Pheasant Phoenix


These animals and mountains portray firmness of resolve and fearlessness.

Hawk Monkey Mountain Peacock Quail Tiger


Symbols that generally express a wish for children.

Ball Lily Pomegranate Toad Unicorn

Examination Success

Success in the Imperial Examinations was a passport to power and wealth and it was customary to wish candidates good luck with symbolic gifts.

Apricot Carp Crab Halberd

Appointment to an official post

Allied to success in examinations was the wish to be appointed to a position in government with an annual salary and great prestige.

Aubergine Bee Bell Cinnamon Cockerel Crane Halberd Lute Maple Peacock Wave cicada


Creatures that are considered bad omens.

Owl Crow Wolf

Family Values

These creatures are considered paragons of filial piety - respect for parents.

Crow Raven Sheep

Good Luck

There are a wide range of symbols in Chinese art that all have a general wish for good luck and good fortune.

Bat Bell Cabbage Carp Cloud Cockerel Coin Deer Fish Good luck gods Lion Lute Magpie Mirror Narcissus Orange Pheasant Plum Red Ru Yi Spider Swastika Tai Ji Tripod Unicorn Amulet


All these symbols portray a wish for happiness and are suitable portrayed on gifts for friends and family.

Ax Badger Bat Chrysanthemum Duck Fan Finger lemon Lion Magpie Monkey Oriole Phoenix Plum Spider Unicorn

Happy Marriage

These symbols are associated with wishing for a long and happy marriage, and children soon to come along.

Ax Crane Duck Fish Goose Lotus Peach Phoenix Pomegranate Shoe Sun Wood oil tree crouching tiger

Job Promotion

Wishes for someone to receive a work promotion.

Cypress Maple Pomegranate

Long Life

Almost as many symbols are used to wish for a long life as there are to wish for good luck.

Bamboo Butterfly Cat Cicada Crane Creeper Cypress Deer Dove Dragon Endless knot Finger lemon Hare Jade Laozi Longevity Mountain Narcissus Peach Pear Pine Plum Stone Tortoise


These things symbolize being loyal in some way or another.

Dog Dove Duck Glow worm Goose Pine Quail Wood oil tree
Feng Shui

Feng Shui


The ancient tradition of Feng Shui has been far reaching for thousands of years. It is still practiced today, particularly for choosing the site for buildings and graves. With the goal of harmony and balance with nature, it has excellent environmental credentials.


The virtue of modesty is attributed to some plants and also the qilin.

Bamboo Lotus Orchid Pearl Peony Unicorn Willow

Path through Life

Symbols that reflect upon destiny and overall aims in life.

Heron Persimmon Bridge


Wishes for peace and contentment.

Apple Box Chrysanthemum Crab Crane Lotus Mirror Phoenix Quail Saddle Shoe Vase


These symbols in some manner offer protection from evil and strife.

Bottle gourd Jade Sword Tai Ji Tao Tie Tiger Willow


The province of Qinghai is named after the lake that stands on its eastern edge. It is the largest lake in China and is at a high altitude of 10,500 feet [3,200 meters]. Its name means blue-green lake. The salty waters of the lake (it has no outflow) is home to many birds.
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Arrive quickly

Often combined with other things, this set adds the meaning that 'good fortune', 'exam success', 'children' etc. should happen soon.

Horse Peng Niao Jujube

Happen again

These can be added to a design to give the meaning that 'happiness', 'good fortune' etc. should be repeated year after year.

Lotus Meander Swastika


These symbols are closely associated with romance and love. There are many other symbols that relate more specifically to marriage and general good fortune.

Butterfly Mirror


This set of symbols give the attribute of strength and fortitude to the meaning of a scene.

Beard Dragon Eagle Mountain Ox Pine Sword Tiger Tortoise

Hong Kong

The Chinese name for Hong Kong is Xiāng Gǎng meaning fragrant harbor. Hong Kong island was a British possession from 1842 until 1999 and runs on a semi-autonomous basis until 2049.
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A wish for wealth was often tied up with success in examinations as this led to a lucrative government post.

Basket Cabbage Carp Cinnamon Coin Deer Dragon Fish Magnolia Peony Toad


These symbols have a general theme of good wishes and may be combined with something to give a specific meaning for example good wishes on a marriage.

Bamboo Elephant Orange Ru Yi Unicorn
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Citation information: Chinasage, 'Index of Chinese Symbols', last updated 1 Dec 2016, Web,

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