The art of giving to Chinese

By Sun Xiaochen ( China Daily ) Updated: 2015-02-24 07:45:46


1. Avoid sending gifts pronounced like something that is not auspicious: Chinese people avoid giving each other clocks or watches as gifts because the phrase "give a clock as a gift" is song zhong, which in Mandarin sounds like you are "wishing someone death."

· Don't send anything in sets of four. "Four" is seen as an unlucky number because it sounds like "death".

· "Pear" sounds the same as "leave", which is not auspicious.

2. Pay special attention to colors: In China, white represents great sorrow and poverty. Black is the color of calamity, grief and mourning.

· Never give white chrysanthemums, or any white flowers, as they are traditionally used for funerals.

· Don't send a green hat to your friend, especially to a man. If a man is "wearing a green hat", it means his wife is cheating on him.

3. Show respect for customs and religions: If you send a gift to people from ethnic groups, pay special attention to their customs. Don't send pork or anything related to pigs if your friend is a Hui (a minority group in China, who mostly follow Islam).

4. Gifts that may have a "hidden meaning": Do not give knives or scissors as they symbolize breaking a relationship. Nor should you send medicine to healthy people or undergarments to friends of the opposite sex.

5. Choose gifts within an appropriate price range: Don't give costly gifts, especially in the workplace. It may be considered a bribe or indicate you want something equally expensive in return.


1.Send gifts in even numbers. Chinese people tend to believe that "good things come in pairs", so when you prepare gifts for friends, pair them, if possible. For example, two bottles of wine is obviously better than one, not just to enjoy but symbolically. But again remember to avoid the number four, which is pronounced the same as death in Chinese.

2. Present the gift in person with a greeting: If possible, give gifts in person to show respect and sincerity.

· When presenting a gift, also wish the recipient well or have a card expressing good luck, which makes the gifts more meaningful.

·The Chinese have a saying; "The gift itself might be small, but the goodwill is deep."

3. Vary gifts to the individuals: Different people expect different gifts. The old may prefer a Tang suit which implies a long life, but a child may like a silver lock better which means a healthy life in Chinese culture. You get double the result with half the effort if you know the preference of the recipient.

4. Be sensitive to genuine refusals and gently persist: Chinese will often decline a gift, sometimes several times, before accepting, which is considered good manners.

·Do not give up on the first try, but insist on presenting.

·You can place the gift on a table when you leave.

5. Cash is the best gift of all, especially during Spring Festival, but only in a traditional "red envelope": If you are not sure what to give to your friends or relatives during the Spring Festival, a "red envelope" is a universal gift. You can give your friends or relatives' children red envelopes to express your greetings. As is Chinese custom, during the Chinese New Year, seniors will give children red envelopes with lucky money inside to express their love.

(China Daily 02/24/2015 page3)

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