Could someone clarify the different ways of how to say "Something symbolizes something else"? (In a literary sense). I know that we could say

”白色象征纯洁。“ But could we use 象征 as a noun?

ex。 “作者用“白色” 来做象征“ (or is it 比喻?)

I Hope the question is clear. My man goal is to figure out the proper way to describe symbology in literature in Chinese!

  • 2
    象征 can be a noun, but 作者用白色来做象征 sounds a little informal. "白色是纯洁的象征" (象征 is a noun), "作者用白色来象征纯洁" (象征 is a verb) are more natural. Maybe just like English, use something to do/make a symbolization (做象征) for something else sounds worse than something symbolizes something else.
    – Stan
    Nov 6, 2014 at 16:14

2 Answers 2


basically 象征 has lots of meanings, in which you have mentioned two important.

  1. 象征 can be used as a verb, and means symbolize or signify. In this case, 象征 uses some concrete things to describe some abstract concepts. In 白色象征纯洁, 白色 is concrete, and 纯洁 is abstract. Another example can be "白鸽象征和平" (The white dove symbolizes peace).

  2. 象征 can also be used as a noun, and means symbol. For example, 青鸟是快乐的象征 (the bluebird is the symbol of happiness). And 作者用“白色”来做象征 usually doesn't appear individually. In common cases, the writer will firstly describe something, at last he will use that sentence. For example, 她的最大特点就是纯洁,而作者用“白色”来做象征. (And here 比喻 cannot be used.)

I don't know if I have answered your question...


@FengWang 's explanation is basically right, just adding something.

In a sociology/literature sense, symbol is termed 符号.

  • What is there difference then between 符号 and 象征?
    – Stephen
    Nov 10, 2014 at 17:13

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