Last updated on November 6th, 2015
Gift giving is a huge issue when it comes to the Chinese culture. A gift can signify a well-wish of luck, money, health or spirituality; but can also wish bad fate, bad business, illness, even death.
If you are to build a relationship (either personal or for business purposes) to a Chinese person, you have to take a look at this list, since gift giving is phenomenal in creating ties with a Chinese.
What NOT to Give to Chinese
In essence, the Chinese believe it is bad luck to receive something that signifies mourning, loss or evil AND anything that sounds like those in Chinese. Here are some of the bigger ones:
- Anything That Comes in Sets of Four. Number 4 in Chinese sounds like the Chinese word for death. In fact, the buildings in China omit the 4th floor (just like Westerners omit the 13th floor).
- Shoes. Shoes (鞋 xié) in Mandarin sounds like the word for evil (邪 xié) or heretical. Shoes also signify that you want them to “walk away” from your current relationship with them. This is a real no-no especially if you are in a romantic relationship with a Chinese person.
- Clocks. Just like the items above it sounds like a negative word. The phrase “to give clock” (送钟 sòng zhōng) in Chinese sounds like the term the use for a funeral ritual ( 送终).
- Pears. Fruits are a good gift to give to a Chinese person, but avoid pears. Pears in Chinese sound like “to part from” in Chinese.
- Handkerchief. Handkerchiefs are given after the funeral, and it means “goodbye forever”.
- Anything Sharp. Cutting instruments imply you want to sever your relationship with the recipient.
- White Flowers (and Chrysanthemum). White flowers are usually offered to the dead. The Chinese also traditionally give Chrysanthemum to their dead, so avoid anything Chrysanthemum, in any color.
- Mirrors. Mirrors attract ghosts, as well as easily break which is a bad omen to the Chinese.
- White or Black Gift Wrapper. These colors are usually used in funerals, so avoid giving gifts wrapped in these colors.
- Food (When You are Attending a Dinner). For them, this implies you think the host is incapable of feeding the guests well.
What to Give to Chinese
- Wine. It signifies a toast to the recipient’s health! This is one of the best gifts a Chinese person can receive, especially if the wine is from your home country.
- Peaches. Peaches signify long life, because according to Chinese mythology, peaches are always present in the banquets of the gods.
- Other Fruits. Aside from peaches, other fruits like oranges, pomegranates and other sweet and juicy fruits are heartily appreciated. Just avoid pears, as discussed in the first section.
- Cash Gifts in Red Envelopes. Means well wishes in all intentions. Red is a lucky color and the money inside becomes lucky.
- Anything That Comes in Sets of Six or Eight. The Chinese believe that 6 and 8 are the luckiest numbers, and giving items in sets of six or eight (especially in business) is good luck.
- Red Wrapping Paper. Red is the luckiest color, so wrap your gifts in red wrapper.
- Red Dates, Peanuts, Longan and Lotus Seeds (Together in One Gift) (When Attending Weddings). The Chinese words of these food items sound like “have a baby soon” in Chinese.