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Taboos of gift-giving in Chinese culture


According to Chinese culture, there are some taboos which you should bear in mind when you choose gifts for others. As the Chinese New Year is drawing near, which is also a gift giving season; it’s necessary to review these taboos.

1. No or clocks for seniors

 Chinese Culture

Clock pronounced as “Zhong” in mandarin, means “the end”. Therefore, giving someone a clock implies “your time is up”, a serious slight, especially for the elders.

2. No umbrellas or pears for lovers

 Chinese Culture

Umbrella pronounced as “San” and pear pronounced as “Li” in Chinese, both mean”separation”. So it’s inappropriate to give lovers umbrellas and pears, because it will seem like you want them to be separated. Also, don’t give your friends umbrellas as a gift; it is not a good symbol of friendship. Of course, the timely act of giving someone an umbrella ona rainy day can be an exception.

3. No green hats for men

 Chinese Culture

Hats are not a good choice for gifts. Particularly, green hats for males are especially bad. In Chinese saying a man wears a”green hat” means his wife is having an affair, which is a serious insult to the man.

4. No medicine for the healthy

 Chinese Culture

Giving someone medicine as a gift implies that the receiver will get sick or you want them to get sick. Even health care products are inappropriate for others if they are not very familiar friends or relatives of yours.

5. No shoes for non-family members

 Chinese Culture

Shoe, pronounced “Xie”, is a homonym for “evil” in mandarin, is considered an unlucky item to give as a gift. If the shoes you give are much smaller than the wearer’s feet size, it means”give someone tight shoes to wear”, which bears the meaning of “make things hard for somebody”.

6. Gift packages should avoid the colors white and black

 Chinese Culture

In Chinese culture, black and white are colors associated with funerals or unfortunate things and considered unlucky colors. Therefore, it’s better to make gift packaging red or other warm colors, symbolizing happiness and harmony.

7. Red envelopes with money for the kids, especially during Spring Festival

A boy shows the red envelopes he received during Spring Festival.
 Chinese Culture

If you are not sure what to give as a gift, a “red envelop” can be a universal gift. Red envelops are red paper packets packed with money. You can give your friends or relatives’ children red envelops as a way to express your greetings. As in Chinese custom, during the Chinese New Year, seniors will give children red envelops with lucky money inside to express their love.

by Xiao Xiao xiaoxiao@interactchina.com

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Aileen & Norman co-founded Interact China in 2004 with specialization in fine Oriental Aesthetic products handmade by ethnic minorities & Han Chinese. Having direct partnerships with artisans, designers, craft masters and tailors, along with 10 years solid experience in e-commerce via InteractChina.com, we position well to bridge talented artisans in the East with the rest of the world, and bring you direct finely selected products that are of good quality and aesthetic taste.

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