A religious wrote to ask if we know anything about Chinese decorative knots. “They are red, and come in various designs and I believe go back hundreds if not thousands of years. I’ve read they can signify different things like luck, romance, love, etc. We have received, from a Chinese Priest, holy images of Our Lord and Our Lady which are decorated with these knots. Is there anything to be concerned about there? Should we remove the decorations?”
There is no need to remove these decorative knots. This is a cherished Chinese handcraft that is purely ornamental. It was popularized thousands of years ago during the Ming and Qing dynasties and includes more than a dozen basic knots which are named according to their shape, use or origin. Normally made of silk in a variety of bright colors, these knots are used to decorate the home or to adorn articles of clothing and jewelry.
Interestingly, they are always made of one continuous piece of thread or rope and always look the same from front and back.
Although they are made in a variety of colors, red is favored in China as being a color that signifies good luck. Culturally, some knots were said to ward off evil spirits or attract good luck, but for the most part, they are simply made to express a sentiment such as wishing a newly married couple long life and abundant joy.
The word “knot” in Chinese, actually means love, friendliness, warmth, marriage, which is why these intricately tied knots have long been used as an aesthetic expression of good wishes among the people.
Some may use them in a superstitious way, but from what I have read, they have always been used primarily for decoration, which appears to be the case with the holy images described in sister’s e-mail.