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Taboos in gift-giving

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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 watches or clocks for seniors

Clock pronounced as "Zhong" in mandarin, means "the end", is considered the same thing as a watch. Therefore, giving someone a clock or a watch implies "your time is up", a serious slight, especially for the elders.

If you really want to buy someone a good-looking watch, you can let him or her select it, and then you pay for it.

2. No umbrellas or pears for lovers

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 on a rainy day can be an exception.

3. No green hats for men

Hats are not a good choice for gifts, in old China there were too many bad things linked to hats. For example, when elders pass away, their descendents had to wear a "filial piety hat". 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

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

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 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

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

7. Cash is the best gift of all, especially during Spring Festival

If you are not sure what to give to your friends or relatives during the upcoming Spring Festival, 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.


China Daily


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