Chinese Gifts – What to Avoid

Chinese New Year culture is a Gift culture. Every important meeting is made auspicious by the exchange of gifts. To be empty-handed when receiving the gift from Chinese host is not only mean, but will put you into the position debt in the mind of Chinese side.

While giving a gift is much appreciated and it’s the thought that counts, there are some gifts that are absolute no-no’s in China, Hong Kong,  Taiwan even in Malaysia. Below are some gift to avoid in Chinese gift-giving blunders.

1. Clock

All types of clocks should be avoid as a gift. The word 送鐘 (sòng zhōng, send clock) sounds like 送終 (sòng zhōng, the funeral ritual). Clocks also symbolize time is running out; therefore, the end of relationships and life are the messages that are sent when a clock is given as a gift.

2. Pears

Gifting fruit is a wonderful gesture, especially at festival time, but giving pears means you hope their family are separated as the word pear 梨 (li) sound like 离 (li) – separate.

3. Umbrella

Offering your friend an umbrella may seem an innocent gesture. However, it means you want to end your friendship with him or her. If it is raining and you are worried he or she will get wet, it’s better for both of you to huddle under your umbrella until you reach your friend’s destination. Then, take the umbrella back home with you.

4. Shoe

Giving shoes 送鞋子 (sòng xiézi, give shoes) sounds similar to break up. Also giving two shoes sends the message that you want the person to go his or her separate way; thus, ending your friendship.

5. Knife / Sharps / Scissors

Giving sharp objects that are used to cut things symbolize that you want to sever a friendship or relationship.

6. Yellow Chrysanthemums / White Flowers

This flowers are used at funerals or visiting graves. So never give as a gift.

7. Gift in Set of FOUR

FOUR FOUR sound in Chinese means Death, It is not good because 四 (, four) sounds like 死 (, death).

8. Green Hat

A green hat refers to the phrase in Chinese 帶綠帽 (dài lǜ mào, with green hat) which implies that a man’s wife is unfaithful. Why green? A turtle is green and turtles hide their heads in their shells, so calling someone a ‘turtle’ will get yourselves into trouble because it’s like calling the person a coward.

9. Mirros

There are several reason to avoid mirror as gift. Firstly , many Asian culture have superstitions that mirror attract malevolent ghost. Secondly, mirror easily broke, and ‘breaking’ anything is a bad omen for Chinese.

10. Thing in colour black or white

These colours are often used during funerals so presents, wrapping paper and envelopes in these colours should be avoided.



Not to worry, there are plenty of gift ideas on Her101. Here is some good recommended gift ideas though:

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